Saturday, September 17, 2005
Big ups to Josh Marshall for framing this correctly and pounding it relentlessly.
Readers may recall that after the Great Flood of 1927 hundreds of thousands of Americans (most black) were put into concentration camps. Many suffered virtual "re-enslavement" in 1927, working days and nights at gunpoint without compensation to rebuild levies, roads and towns.
So. One of the first directives President Bush signed was to allow companies to cut the wages of those who will actually rebuild New Orleans. Many of the working poor who bore the brunt of this storm and had the courage to come back to New Orleans, will suffer a wage cut. This courtesy of the president who said, two nights ago, that we are duty-bound to "confront poverty with bold action".
Friday, September 16, 2005
Bush's speechwriters did a decent job last night.
I liked the parts about New Orleans being indispensable to the nation, and the confidence that the city will rise again just like the musical notes at the end of a jazz funeral. It wasn't entirely corny.
There was also this aside:
As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.
"Sounds pretty good Duhbya, but Ah still can't believe you asked
your Secretary for permission to take a piss."
More selected quotes and images here.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Dubbed "Project Pelican," the plan was developed by all nine Republicans and Democrats in the House-Senate delegation...
Senator Mary Landrieu says an overriding principle of the plan is that the reconstruction should be directed by Louisiana officials and carried out as much as possible by Louisiana businesses and workers.
The plan calls for $20 billion to speed up the repair and enhancement of New Orleans' levees; $14 billion to restore wetlands to reduce future damage from storm surges; and the dedication of a share of Gulf Coast oil revenues to long-term coastal restoration and infrastructure redevelopment.
In the economic development area, the plan would provide incentives for employers to hire displaced workers and local businesses. It also would provide loans and tax relief for small businesses in the state, and federal assistance to help state and local governments meet payrolls and restore tax bases.
Waiting until less than 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina hits the coastline, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin finally tells anyone who can leave the city that they should. Governor Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding. Acknowledging that large numbers of people would be unable to leave, the city set up 10 places of last resort for people to go, including the Superdome. Even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, neither the mayor nor the governor chose to use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded.
-- The Times-Picayune New Orleans, Louisiana
I believe this is a misleading cut and paste job, which fits together a news story with an editorial, and then intentionally and wrongly attributes it to the Times-Picayune.
Right now, I can only confirm that the second sentence in this paragraph is from the T-P at nola.com (link expired). The concluding sentences, however, beginning with "Even though the city..." are lifted (inaccurately) from an Opinion Journal piece. (Btw that "12,000 citizens per fleet run" phrase is one of the stupidest things I've read in the past two weeks-- and that's saying something. I'll explain why later.)
Perhaps my intrepid and gifted readers can search out the other sources for this lame, amateurish, excuse for online activism. This site claims some of their material was lifted without proper attribution, as well.
More later. If I'm in error on this one, please let me know.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I was talking about the men and women of CA Task Force 5, who saved Mr. Edgar Hollingsworth yesterday. This inspirational story occurred just 4 blocks from my house in the Broadmoor.
The O.C. Register says:
The National Guard team of searchers was about to call in a "DB," or dead body, at 1927 Lopez St. in the Broadmoor district when Lt. Frederick Fell decided to investigate.
In the past few days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has ordered searchers not to break into homes. They are supposed to look in through a window and knock on the door. If no one cries out for help, they are supposed to move on. If they see a body, they are supposed to log the address and move on.
But Fell broke the rules and ordered his men to bash open the door, launching a series of events that would save a man's life and revitalize California Task Force 5 from Orange County. In the past two days, the 80-member task force had identified seven dead bodies in the same neighborhood, and they had rescued no one.
The Broadmoor greatly appreciates Lt. Fell's decision-making.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
President Bush said Tuesday that "I take responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and said the disaster raised broader questions about the government's ability to respond to natural disasters as well as terror attacks.
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.
"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.
Flanked by Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Bush said the federal government is prepared to offer whatever assistance Louisiana's leaders require but that the design and implementation of the Hurricane Katrina recovery plan would be led locally.
"This great city has ample talent and ample genius to set the strategy, to set the vision," Bush said at Cleveland and South Claiborne avenues, a spot that until late last week was still under water and where the smell of the septic glop now coating much of New Orleans was noticeable.
"My attitude is this," he said. "The people of New Orleans can design the vision. They can lay out what New Orleans ought to look like in the future, and the federal government can help."
Longtime members of the White House press corps said they could not remember the last time they saw the president riding in an open car in an American city, calling the exposed journey nearly unprecedented.
About that last line. Yes. "Nearly".
Greg P. says: "The levees in New Orleans did not breach or break. The levees are intact.... What did break in NOLA were canal floodwalls, much smaller, steel-and-concrete structures much more likely to be damaged by some [kind] of impact or extreme pressure."
Hurricane Katrina first impacted me while I was taking photos of my New Orleans home for insurance purposes. It was the Saturday evening before the storm, and the weather was eerily serene. Though Katrina's squalls were still in the Gulf, I began to understand her potential consequences, and started worrying. Somehow, things just "felt different" this time around. Many neighbors who had never previously evacuated for a storm, were evacuating for Katrina. Time was running short, and my family would evacuate early the next morning along with tens of thousands of others. I also realized many others would be left behind, but I tried not to think about that.
So, I took a few exterior photos of my house, and then turned around to survey my neighborhood. It was sunset, and I was forced to confront the chance that everything in my view might vanish in 48 hours: the old homes and oaks, the swingset my daughter adores, the blooming crepe myrtle which had grown into a small tree... all these daily commonplaces suddenly seemed very fragile. The wind picked up a bit, so I snapped a few extra pictures of my street for posterity while the sunset winked through the tree-leaves. Then I went inside to start packing.
The next morning my wife and I watched in awe as Hurricane Katrina became a churning, Category Five monster, and we left town.
Like most New Orleanians, we knew the details of the ultimate "disaster" scenario for our sunken city. A typical news story described it like this: "The worst-case scenario for New Orleans -- a direct strike by a full-strength Hurricane... could submerge much of this historic city treetop-deep in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants, and the inundation could last for weeks, experts say." These images were so extreme and gruesome that my wife and I would laugh them off, rather than treat them seriously. My personal coping device was to make fun of the dreaded "fire ants" portion of the "expert's" scenario. I'd say: "If you're already up to your neck in toxic sewage, isn't a floating ball of ants somewhat 'over the top' at that point? I mean, there's hundred year-old buildings all over New Orleans; those science guys are just being Cassandras."
But while evacuating Sunday morning, I remembered that Cassandra had been right.
For those with cars, the Interstate "contraflow"-- where all lanes become outbound from the city-- worked fairly well under the circumstances. Still, it was mainly stop-and-go traffic for the first forty or so miles out of town. There was no shortage of broken down cars, with distressed families standing on the side of the road. We passed many of them slowly, which was painful, but I had to assume someone else would stop to help. I told myself that we had waited as long as we could, and that the margin for error was quickly diminishing. Tense and nervous, I just wanted to get to our hotel and make sure our reservations weren't "misplaced".
Then I remembered my friend David. David is an older man who lost his sight a number of years ago. He had been a stevedore at the Port of New Orleans for 30 years, and we met via our mutual fascination with local politics. He'd often call me for rides to different events, and he relished telling me his next "big idea" for improving New Orleans. Thoughtlessly, I hadn't phoned him prior to leaving town, and now all the wireless towers in New Orleans were jammed with calls. I'd been so focused on my own family that I forgot to think about a blind man living in a one story house just blocks from the Pontchartrain levees. I looked back at the empty seat in our car, and I started to stew in self-loathing. He'll be alright, I soothed myself. Maybe the storm will turn at the last minute, like several others have done.
As everyone knows, the storm didn't turn. The levees burst and all the outlandishly bad predictions came true. The poor of New Orleans were trapped in an urban bowl filling up with liquid death. Thousands may have perished.
Once the extent of the damage was clear, my wife and daughter and I drove to Ormond Beach. I grew up here, and am profoundly fortunate to still have a support network of family, friends and church . It appears Katrina's aftermath totally flooded our street and neighborhood. But what we lost doesn't compare to how lucky we feel to have such earnest support from this community, my old home. So many people we didn't know have gone out of their way to assist us.
Despite this horrible catastrophe, we plan to go back and participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans. One day I hope to see my neighborhood revived and picturesque. It will be extremely difficult, and I already dread the future hurricanes we'll have to endure. No doubt, at some point another mandatory evacuation will be ordered. Hopefully, by that time the lessons from this disaster will be seared into the consciousness of a new generation of leaders. After forgetting to call my friend David (and to this day I still don't know whether he is ok or not) I'll share with you a simple formulation of a lesson I learned last week.
My new evacuation motto: NO EMPTY SEATS.
Monday, September 12, 2005
If you're suffering news overload about the storm, just mark the series for later reading. Here are parts I and II.
We're so ahead of the curve here at YRHT that it isn't even funny. I've heard that some have actually experienced time travel while viewing this site.