Posts about neworleans

Damn them

There is so much so terribly wrong in this lead to today’s Washington Post report on the government scandal of New Orleans:

Tens of thousands of people spent a fifth day awaiting evacuation from this ruined city, as Bush administration officials blamed state and local authorities for what leaders at all levels have called a failure of the country’s emergency management….

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. “Quite frankly, if they’d been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals,” said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly….

Yesterday, Mayor Ray Nagin said he told the governor and the president to sit down and get their acts together. This is precisely what he meant. Note also that the mayor said he’d be happy to hand over authority to Gen. Russel Honore if that would get things done.

They should be ashamed of themselves. No one is in charge. And people are dying because of it.

: There is hard work and heroism everywhere. There is tragedy everywhere. And there is shame in too many places. Here‘s N.O. Mayor Nagin in the breaking news blog:

Nagin’s ire began to rise anew as he recalled a foiled strategy to send able-bodied refugees over the Crescent City Connection to the high ground of the West Bank.

“We were taking in people from St. Bernard Parish,” he said. “If we had a bottle of water, we shared it. Then when we were going to let people cross the bridge, they were met with frigging dogs and guns at the Gretna parish line. They said, ‘We’re going to protect Jefferson Parish assets.’

“Some people value homes, cars and jewelry more than human life. The only escape route was cut off. They turned them back at the parish line.”

: It’s not just about politics and greed. It’s still about incompetence and bureacracy. Another Washington Post story asking what went wrong:

The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.

Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.

Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government’s highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe “an incident of national significance,” the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.

: The Post does have a great package today. Another explains why so many could not leave.

: Doc calls the Katrina Scandal the War on Error.

Covering the coverage

A friend wishes someone would blog the coverage of Katrina — the best, the worst, the surprising. Any takers?

The new 0p-ed

David Wallace-Wells of Slate summarizes the discussion around the Should New Orleans Be Rebuilt post from comments and from other blogs. Who needs an op-ed page?

Good news but…

The New Orleans Convention Center is cleared, thank goodness — and thank the U.S. Army and Coast Guard. They used helicopters to get those poor people out of there. But I wonder whether they should have used busses or trucks for that job and helicopters for the many people who are still trapped all around the city in their homes. What I really wonder is whether they put their resources behind getting rid of this PR nightmare. I hate to think how many people are still trapped on roofs and in attics; I hate to think how many are dying; I hate to be cynical but after this week watching New Orleans, how can you help it?

: Says the AP:

Thousands more bedraggled refugees were bused and airlifted to salvation Saturday, leaving the heart of New Orleans to the dead and dying, the elderly and frail stranded too many days without food, water or medical care.

No one knows how many were killed by Hurricane Katrina’s floods and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating among the ruined city, crumpled on wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

And the dying goes on — at the convention center and an airport triage center, where bodies were kept in a refrigerated truck….

Three babies died at the convention center from heat exhaustion, said Mark Kyle, a medical relief provider.

For those of you in the comments who smugly say I’m overreacting to this scandal, read that sentence again and again.

: Speaking of cynicism: The Arab News reports:

Inside the stadium, several reporters noted that lawyers already were circulating among the storm victims, promising to find compensation for them with a class-action lawsuit against city and state officials.


The New Orleans Saints already thinks about leaving New Orleans.

: More from the T-P: The Astrodome has its own zip code. The New Orleans diaspora.

No one is in charge

I’ve started writing a post under that headline a half-dozen times this week. But new evidence to back up that line keeps pouring in.

The leaders we have give us pap (from Bush, who didn’t have the guts to set foot in New Orleans itself, and Blanco), excuses (from Chertoff and Brown), or anger (from Nagin). But none of them gave us action commensurate with this terrrible tragedy. They didn’t give us decisive and effective management. No one is in charge.

Where is Rudy when we need him? (And I’ve said long since that he should have been appointed head of Homeland Security.)

I agree with what Fred Wilson said today about government and management:

I hope and believe that we are on the cusp of a new political order. We’ve had the liberal excesses of the democrat’s run from the depression through Vietnam. We’ve had the conservative excesses of the republican’s run from Vietnam through Iraq.

It’s time we get back to electing people to govern who know something about leading, operating, and managing. We need pragmatic moderates who make the hard decisions without caring about the political impact. We need civil servants in the mold of George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. We need people who care about the details of governing rather than the details of getting elected.

I don’t want elected officials who think they are moral leaders — because they are not and because that’s not their job. I don’t want leaders who are driven by ideology — when they should be paying attention to their job.

The job of government is to keep us secure. The job of officials in charge of government is to manage that. Period.

I wish I were as optimistic as Fred, but I agree that we must return to standards of civil service and management. The criteria for election is competence. But, of course, that’s up to us. It is also up to media, who goad politicians into fighting over the bullshit that doesn’t matter.

Katrina is a scandal more profound than any ‘gate. It isn’t about cheating or lying or ideology or infighting. It is a scandal of incompetence.

We can only hope that this changes the way we govern.

: LATER: Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times of London:

Like many seismic events, Katrina’s true impact might take a while to absorb. What started as a natural disaster soon became an unforeseen social meltdown and potential political crisis for the president. The poverty, anarchy, violence, sewage, bodies, looting, death and disease that overwhelmed a great American city last week made Haiti look like Surrey.

The seeming inability of the federal or city authorities to act swiftly or effectively to rescue survivors or maintain order posed fundamental questions about the competence of the Bush administration and local authorities….

There seems to me a strong chance that this calamity could be the beginning of something profound in American politics: a sense that government is broken and that someone needs to fix it….

: And David Brooks in tomorrow’s NY Times:

As Ross Douthat observed on his blog, The American Scene, Katrina was the anti-9/11.

On Sept. 11, Rudy Giuliani took control. The government response was quick and decisive. The rich and poor suffered alike. Americans had been hit, but felt united and strong. Public confidence in institutions surged.

Last week in New Orleans, by contrast, nobody took control. Authority was diffuse and action was ineffective. The rich escaped while the poor were abandoned. Leaders spun while looters rampaged. Partisans squabbled while the nation was ashamed.

The first rule of the social fabric – that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable – was trampled. Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield. No wonder confidence in civic institutions is plummeting….

As a result, it is beginning to feel a bit like the 1970’s, another decade in which people lost faith in their institutions and lost a sense of confidence about the future….


Homeland Security boss Chertoff just said regarding the slow move-up of military to New Orleans: “We don’t ask them to pack up in 24 hours unless it’s a real emergency.” Incredible.

Censoring the news

It’s shocking — it’s downright obscene — that journalists acting as self-appointed nannies censored New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s angry speech demanding help for his city. The New York Times did it. TV did it. Journalists charged with reporting accurately bleeped “ass” and “goddamn” and they wouldn’t let him say “BS.” That is bullshit.

What makes them think they should tone down his anger? He said these words for a reason. These words need to be said. Anger is justified. Shock is needed. These words are part of the story. But in our nannified culture today, in the era of the FCC and the PTC thinking they should control our speech, in this age of offense, these people think they need to protect us from words — and thus from anger, from bluntness, from honesty. That is dishonest.

The word “bullshit” is not indecent. We are watching people die because our government has not gotten them water. That is indecent. That is obscene.

Go listen to Nagin’s interview without the bleeps and dashes. [via Winer] I can’t find transcript but here are excerpts:

It’s politics. They’re out there spinning. They’re spinning for the cameras…
I don’t know what they’re doing I mean the air conditioning must be good…
I keep hearing that it’s coning this is coming and that is coming. And my answer to that is BS. Where is the beef….
These Goddmaned ships that are coming, I don’t see them….
I told him [Bush] that we have an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Airforce One does not do it justice….
They don’t have a clue what’s going on down here. They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kinda goddamn — pardon my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed….
I need reinforcement, I need troops, man, I need 500 busses… This is a national disaster. Get every doggon Grayhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans. They’re thinking small, man. This is a major, major, major deal….
It’s awful down here, man….
God is looking down on all this. And if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price. Because every day that we delay people are dying. And they’re dying by the hundreds…
They’re feeding people a line of bull and they’re spinning and people are dying down here…
I’m probably going to get in a whole bunch of trouble… they probably won’t even want to deal with me after this interview is over. But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickity-quick…. You mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique… you mean to tell me… that we can’t figure out a way to authorize the resources we need? Come on, man….
I don’t know whether it’s the governor’s problem. I don’t know whether it’s the president’s problem. But somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and figure this out….
I don’t want ot see anybody do anymore goodammned press conferences… Don’t do another press conference until the resources are in this city and then come to this city and stand with us…
It’s ridiculous. It’s too doggone late. Get off your asses and let’s do something and let’s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country….
People are dying. They don’t have homes. They don’t have jobs. The city of New Orleans will never be the same. And it’s time.

The interview ends with the mayor and his interviewers in silent tears.

: The Times-Picayune’s editorial on Nagin v. Bush:

But the sad truth remains that the federal government’s slow start has already proved fatal to some of the most vulnerable people in the New Orleans area. Water has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. A lack of water to drink is exacting its toll on others….

We applaud the mayor for giving voice to an entire city’s frustration. How could the most powerful and technologically advanced nation in the history of the world have responded so feebly to this crisis?

The president’s admission of his administration’s mistakes will mean nothing unless the promised help is deployed immediately. Each life is precious, and there isn’t a second chance to save a single one of them. No more talk of what’s going to happen. We only want to hear what is being done. The lives of our people depend on it.