Monumental mismanagement

It’s just one thin thread in a dense weave of mismanagement, neglect, politics, and scandal that will continue to come out regarding the response at every level of governmen to Katrina. The ice.

When the definitive story of the confrontation between Hurricane Katrina and the United States government is finally told, one long and tragicomic chapter will have to be reserved for the odyssey of the ice.

Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes, that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm. It would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it would never be delivered.

The ice. The buses. The rumors. The exaggerations. The infighting. The desertions. The levees. That resume. The Convention Center. Most scandals have one essential symbol. This one has so many.

  • Is it really a scandal, or was it just the weather and a ratings fight to see who could emote the most and garner their network the ratings. It started with all tv news channels making their reporters stand in the wind and rain to demonstrate the wind and rain. Remember the cub reporter on Fox? “Whoooaa! The wind is REALLY strong. It almost blew me over. Whoooaa!” Then the fingerpointing and rumors of cannibalism, killing and raping. We were treated to a 3way crying match between Anderson Cooper, Shepard Smith and ‘Old Reliable Emoter’ himself, Geralddo Rivera (aka Jerry Rivers)! What now?

  • Right of Center

    Exactly Sam,

    Who is telling us about the ice? The same press that amplified every unsubstantiated rumor?

  • This is fatal revisionism. Wait until the other party is in control and you end up in the path of a disaster and then let’s hear you howl.
    I’ll say it again and keep saying it: Every level of government and all parties screwed this up and if we don’t investigate this scandal and learn from it then you and your children may be the next to suffer.

  • kat

    Yes, all levels of government screwed up–including the “POLITICIANS” who tried to push their political agendas in the media. I hope they have learned, but alas, Anderson Cooper is still out there looking for more Broussards to provide drama instead of facts. You helped their agenda by posting those tear jerker lies. And the media has not been near as good recanting the lies as they were telling them. Millions worldwide still believe the initial stories–the lies.

  • Shawn

    I defer to Jason Van Steenwyck:

    The New York Times runs this piece on the real-world logistical problems involved in just getting a truckload of ice to people who need it.

    What the Times doesn’t seem to appreciate, though, is that these kinds of SNAFUs are not exceptional. Rather, they’re normal! This is how things actually happen in the real world, with a new operation!

    Delivering ice to a disaster area is not like delivering ice to the local Walmart. At Walmart, you know your demand for ice this week is going to be pretty similar to the demand for ice during this same week last year, unless there’s a big football game in your town. But you know what the demand will be at that football game, because it will be pretty similar to the EXCESS demand for ice the last time U. played State in your town. And so you can order accordingly. From your regular vendor, who already knows you, and know where to park the truck. Adjust for population changes to taste.

    The process is called forecasting based on comparable periods.

    The problem with a hurricane is that there is NEVER a “comparable period.” You MUST assume the worst, and then adjust downward, or cancel orders from there. But the problem with bringing ice in from outside the state – i.e., the FEDERAL piece of the disaster response, is that you must commit resources to the ice delivery DAYS before the delivery is anticipated.

    You do a backwards time plan:

    D day: Ice unloaded and distributed
    D – 1: Ice truck arrives in staging area
    D – 2: Ice truck travels from pick-up zone to disaster area
    D – 3: Ice truck arrives at ice pick up point, waits for a forklift to become available, or sits in a queue, and loads cargo
    D – 4: Ice truck travels from its current assignment two states away to ice pickup point.
    D – 5: Ice truck driver gets word to finish its current drop off, and then go pick up ice.
    D – 5: FEMA receives request for bulk ice from state officials, and calls a trucking company to contract for the service.

    Now, someone tell me how that’s going to be short-circuited, especially when in the earlier days, the highways are impassable?

    Should FEMA keep a fleet of hundreds of trucks and truck drivers sitting around for months at a time, waiting for something to happen? Oh, and they ALL have to be reefer trucks. How is that cost-effective? Isn’t it cheaper and smarter just to tell people not to count on Federal response for a few days?

    With a Hurricane or other disaster, it’s the first trip in for every truck driver on a federal mission. Many of the street signs will have been blown down. Cell phone towers are down – officials at ice distribution points may not have good communications with EOCs to let them know they’ve got too much ice. EOC must roll the trucks anyway, according to the plan.

    In this case, it looks to me like FEMA performed beautifully. It actually got more ice to several locales than local officials were able to distribute. Same with the hurricanes in Florida. Although in each case in Florida, the hurricanes did not strike with the same force originally anticipated two days out. Charley was probably the nastiest of them, but the affected area was relatively compact. And Charley was originally threatening Tampa, not Port Charlotte. And so State and Federal officials had to plan – and order bulk ice – for a community the size of Tampa. And commit those trucks and that money while the storm was still out at sea, and nobody knew where it was going to hit.

    The National Guard distributed tons of ice in Lee County and Charlotte County and Punta Gorda. But it was not Tampa, and so yes, there was ice left over. This is not a bad thing. This is prudent planning.

    Maybe someone could have done better at diverting the trucks on the fly, mid-mission, maybe not. I don’t know what communication assets were available to the EOCs. (Most EOC directors are not going to turn ice away from their counties, anyway).

    But that’s a local and state duty. Not a federal duty. It isn’t FEMA’s job to know where the locals want the ice. It’s just FEMAs job to get the ice there. And if FEMA delivers too much, then that’s not a bad thing.

    There was a lot of bulk ice staged in a stadium in Homestead waiting for Rita to pass by that it turned out they didn’t need. Those were among the trucks that were sent over towards Texas later that day, to get a jump on the storm.

    Look, Times. Logistics is hard. Most people don’t notice what happens because most of the time it’s invisible. Most of the time, people rely on standard operating procedures and routine activities. Those go out the window in a disaster, and they often go out the window in combat.

    Many are the ops guys who complained about the support they were getting. “How hard can it be to load the chow on a f***ing truck???” asked one infantry company commander during an annual training.

    Two years later, that company commander was an S-4. He was seen walking into the battalion TOC at the end of a hellacious day, and throwing his helmet at the side of a tent.

    “This is f***ing hard!!!!”


    Splash out,


  • ajf

    I’m with you on this Jeff. Those incompetent, corrupt FEMA officials should have known exactly how much ice would be needed and where. There is no excuse for those scumbags not anticipating the ice requirement and making just enough and not one cube more in the days leading up to landfall. Bastards.

  • EverKarl

    If FEMA was going to get the amount of ice needed wrong (and as Jason/kat note, this was to be expected), isn’t it a good thing that they erred on the side of too much ice?

  • years after 9/11 if all the taxdollars and restructuring wasnt spent for big picture portions of emergencies and little picture portions (like ice) – then what was it spent on?

    sure theres plenty of blame to go around, but BushCo was re-elected to handle the terrorist issue and to protect us. they failed at a hurricane that gave a two-three day warning. therefore they would have most definately failed at another planned no-day warning terrorist attack.

    the only thing these chumps are any good at is making money for themselves and getting elected.

    meanwhile the readers keep wanting to blame the press? sheesh.

  • chuck

    Don’t forget the media coverage, Jeff, and your celebration of that debacle.

  • mamapajamas

    Tony: The news media jumped on every rumor that went around in New Orleans, and never told us that the stories they were reporting were RUMORS. The news reported them, the mayor heard what the news media were saying, and HE started telling everyone what he’d heard on the news, only now it was coming from a “voice of authority”. It was a viscious circle, started by the news media in the interest of getting better ratings.

    Further, the news media has been reporting rumors as news for decades.

    Ever heard of opinion polls? Statistical analyses of opinions of people based upon what they heard in the news… and via rumors going around. Opinion polls have become stories all by themselves. The media asks loaded questions, people think about everything they’ve heard about it… including the water fountain gossip!… then the news media reports that xx% of the American people think so and so. The number of people who THINK “so and so” doesn’t make the information accurate… it’s only what people think. It is rumor by proxy. Opinion polls have their place as business tools. They have NO place as news stories in and of themselves.

    Further, the news media… especially CNN.. has been reporting unsubstantiated rumors at least since the Gulf War. That was when my TV went out the door because of an incident that could have gotten one of my neighbors killed!

    Remember the day we finally invaded Kuwait City? There was a CNN reporter with a column of Kuwaiti Army getting ready to go into the city. They were discussing what would happen next, and this dumb-a$$ reporter started nattering about stories going around about Marines at the Kuwait City Airport. This was broadcast around the world, and certainly into Saddam’s living room (or wherever he watched TV). The anchor at CNN talked that over with someone and they decided that the Marines probably weren’t at the airport since they were reported to be about an hour away from the city. The story was left inconclusive, never completely denied.

    Completely apart from the fact that they broadcast over international TV exactly where the Marines actually were (!!!!!!), the other little problem with reporting this story was that there actually WERE Marines at the airport!

    When my neighbor’s son came home from the Gulf War with a Bronze Star, he told us the story about how his team, a special Air Force group that specializes in capturing airports behind enemy lines to help with air traffic control and to give friendly aircraft a safe place to land, were escorted by Marines into the Kuwait City Airport the night before Kuwait City was taken! (They were, incidentally, the same group who found the remains of that British airliner crew.) There were about four of them on the Air Force team, and a half dozen Marines in their escort. That’s all. Had ANY Iraqi officer decided to check out what CNN broadcast to the entire world, they would probably be dead now.

    I cancelled my cable subscription that same day, and got rid of my TV.

    The modern day news media stinks to high heaven. They have got to make up their minds whose side they’re on, or stay the hell out of combat operations. AND report what they SEE when they are in places like New Orleans after Katrina, not whatever rumors they hear!

  • mamapajama,

    without the media in new orleans, your boy Brownie wouldn’t have even known that there were people waiting to be evacuated at the Convention Center.

    some would say that that information helped save lives since the FEMA cheif was doing everything he could to prevent lives form being saved.

  • penny
  • penny

    Wow. I really screwed that up. A missing somewhere.

  • owl 1

    You said it nicely JJ, but then your comment went to the heart of the problem. We are divided. You said “Wait until the other party is in control……” That says you think Republicans screwed it. That is NOT spreading the blame so it wipes out all that “all levels” commentary.

    I do not think all levels share equal blame. Have said so from the beginning. IF, and you notice I have to always put in that IF these days, the story on the ice proves true, I consider it poor management. I do agree with EverKarl that in this case, I am glad it was overkill but I think the story is that it was such a waste of resources (people and money) in the midst of such need. What do you expect when it comes from the top down? I say they need some dispatch trucking company built into the system to handle most of the supplies. Not government. Let people who make a living at tracking……..track. Common sense instead of all this government micro-management.

    You are dreaming if you think investigating (you call it a scandal) is going to keep you safe. First, the media as a herd acts as if their job is to “keep government feet to the fire” and “truth to power”. Once again, slight problem. I am on the “other side” not only in politics but also on the “other side” of the media. The media was never voted into such a high and mighty position of power. They are NOT the people, not given power by the people. They have jobs. Regular ole jobs, just like me. That’s it. If they were accountable in any way, they would be fired. Remember, this side won with more votes. They are not judges either, with power to decide for me. They are people that belong to one political party or the other. That simple. Now let’s guess how many I saw on my TV and read that belonged to the same party I do. Hmmmm.

    It is a shame because you are so correct in that we need some honest lessons from all this. But look at 9/11, when we were half way together. It did not take but a short time before we heard “What did George Bush know and when did he know it?” From there, Democrats and Media were determined to have a 9/11 Commission that not only did good TV drama, complete with a Jersey Widows and things like CYA Clarke, but then proceeded to cram the entire thing down Bush’s throat. All we heard. I hated he signed it and said he made a mistake. The “other side” and all your media……..insisted. He caved. I still see that nitwit panel that investigated CAUSE but left the author of the CAUSE sitting on the wrong side of the table because of??? PC??? My rambling point……..possibly we gained some good and lost some.

    We will gain some from this disaster and the next. But you will never investigate it on TV in today’s world and come up with honest answers. The same media that patted itself on the back for truly outrageous behavior, are hit and run artists unless it is something that benefits Democrats. (Remember they all pull on their britches and vote?) So they are incapable of thinking past their herd mentality that we are accused of constantly. Point: One major network/paper would have found that darn water and buses by the third day and screamed to the world “Here they are!!”. Being in that Baton Rouge several times a year for several years, I KNEW where buses were that could move those people and the distance. And Red Cross is always on the scene so any thinking media would have found something bad wrong with the picture. They found something wrong with FEMA.

    If the media could not cover this honestly, why would we believe a word they covered about this? Our security system is set up in layers that start just like politics……’s all local. It then moves up the food chain. I think the lessons have already been learned and unless we are going to have accurate media, it’s nothing but another politcal foodfight. You don’t see any Democrats or media shouting for it do ya? No, they have already milked this attack for all it’s worth and moved on.

    It would be nice to lay it all out on the table and learn. Ice included.

  • The media is in the business of reporting rumors because they’re afraid some blogger will get a hold of it first and make it news.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • corvan

    Instead of reporting the whole story Jeff gives us more spin, all desgined to reach the political conclusion he wants reached. Logistics don’t matter, so long as the side he wants to hammer takes the brunt of the punishment.
    I think the most fascinating thing about this whole episode to me isn’t that the media decided to play political catch up with this, it’s that now, they’re willing to spread the blame just enough to toss Nagin and perhaps Blanco under the bus as well, so long as they can work their way back to George Bush.
    In the end, though what they’re tossing under the bus is thier won reputations. Good for them, I wonder if after George Bush is out of the White House they’ll look back and feel it was worth it.
    BTW Jeff, I have to ask, should the Times correct its reporting on the Brown/Albaugh college roommate story? Or does reporting the actual facts destroy the more important “truth” the false reports create?

  • Prof. Dauber at Rantingprofs points out how this ice thing has been beaten to death recently. Links at her post:

    Is this giving you a bit of a sense of “deja vu all over again?”

    There may be a reason (or a few reasons) why:

    Millions of pounds of ice diverted to sites all over the country. AP, September 21.

    MSNBC posts an NBC story (choosing the same pun I did) all the way back on September 16th.

    How about a different AP story about ice being sent to the wrong locations from September 12th.

    The story was mentioned in Newsweek’s September 26th coverage.

    In other words, when it comes to critiquing FEMA’s Katrina performance, the media has been piling on. But we may now have reached the point where even the “best newspaper in America” is just recycling stories.

    That may be cause for FEMA to celebrate. It likely suggests they’ve run out of new reasons to hammer the agency, so they’re just starting at the top of the list and preparing to work down the list again.

  • wadikitty

    I know four families who’ve evacuated here from N.O. They’re of the opinion that most of the fault lies with local and state authorities. This is not what they see on television. Only one of these N.O. families plans to return. They said they know nothing will change, because only the federal government is being blamed. Hearings are only to find fault with Bush and FEMA. The mess that was city and state government pre-Katrina will have to answer to little.

    These N.O. families are right. I’ve seen so many news stories that lead with something like “The Bush administration, stung by the slow federal response to Katrina….”, yet not one like that describing Nagin, Blanco, or Landrieu. The media has decided that this is all Bush’s fault, and any exaggerations or reporting of untruths is ok because it got people help (well, some people in N.O. Mississipi and Louisiana north of N.O. don’t count because it was only N.O. which was affected by the hurricane according the media) and it’s all Bush’s fault anyway: “fake but accurate”. Because of the hysterical, screaming lies of the media, I wonder how much response got siphoned away from areas outside of N.O. which needed help just as badly.

    No matter how many hearings you have and how much blame you put on the feds, you won’t improve response a whole lot. You have to have competent state and local officials, not ones who panic and “emote”. The media just cheered these folks on.

    Jeff, you can sit there and utter the weaselly “but there’s plenty of blame to go around” words, but that’s not what people are seeing on television or reading in their newspapers. I predict that the only hard-hitting hearings we’ll have will involve the feds, and only the feds. You won’t see Gov. Blanco, Mayor Nagin nor Sen. Landrieu asked the tough questions in public, on tv the way Michael Brown was. No way. You can thank the media for that.

    If I had lived in N.O. (and I did at one time), I’d not go back either.

  • chuck

    Looks like Nagin might play the race card link. What a surprise. Another thoughtful gift from those wily ‘ol plantation owners in the media.

  • Ravo

    What a topsy turvy world.

    President Bush, the ONE piece of the puzzle no “journalist” (and I type that word with the most incredible disdain) has answered even ONE correct WHO,WHAT,WHEN or WHERE about his part in the incompetence or corruption of it, takes the brunt of ALL of it.

  • Ravo

    I predict Jeff Jarvis will be tapped for a Democratic office within the next year.

  • Eileen

    Yes, Ravo.

    Ah what a cozy world media and left wing politics share.

    And ah the recycled ice story. Yes, they produced a five minute ‘ice issue’ piece on MSNBC which was replayed ad nauseum a week or so ago. At least MSNBC’s version pointed out that FEMA also was moving ice trucks to follow the storm inland as it continued to wreak havoc, and then to follow the path of Hurricane Ophelia.

    But really, I think the whole ice brouhaha is pretty funny. *THIS* is what hard hitting, deep digging media has come up with to prove FEMA/federal/Bush blame. They found their big story.

    Here are the basic media memes related to Katrina. All their coverage pretty well fits into one of these hoppers or the other.

    1. *Federal response/FEMA response/Bush response to the hurricane was slow.* They fail to provide any facts for this; instead, they just state that conclusion over and over again. In modern journalism, repetition of a baseless lie eventually forms the basis for a baseless ‘truth’ (in their own minds at least). I call it *media truth*.

    2. *Look at how those people suffered and it’s all Bush’s fault!!!* Again, we don’t ever learn *why* they suffered, why they weren’t bused out of there immediately, why they (supposedly) didn’t have food and water, etc. We’re merely *told* it was all FEMA/federal response/Bush’s fault. Repeat the lie until it becomes *media truth*.

    3. *Interview ONLY those who, politically or otherwise, are looking to divert attention and blame away from themselves – and onto the feds/Bush/FEMA.* Line up the Broussards. Never, EVER interview anyone who might slip and call attention to local or state failures.

    4. *Repeat every rumor or partial story that *works* to worsen the overall picture of trauma and failure and loss.* The worse the picture becomes, the worse the ‘outcome’ will be for Bush/the Republican party, since the only focus of blame is on him/it. This is more *media truth*.

    5. *Report on political ‘fallout’ for Bush/Republicans due to their Katrina ‘failures’.*

    6. Repeat these themes over and over again until they become media truth. Then, fall back to the ‘wisdom of the media’ which tells us (over and over again) that we must assign blame to *all levels* of government so we can learn our lessons, boys and girls. Meanwhile, continue to point EXCLUSIVELY at only one level of government, the feds/Bush and the political party media is gunning to bring down.

    Repeat and reinforce various permutations of 1. through 6. until the *media’s fabricated truth* is etched in stone.

    The ice story! Repeat, repeat, repeat. And btw, if having a bit too much ice is the worst thing they can come up with for FEMA’s *failure* and “Monumental mismanagement”, I’d say FEMA did pretty well.

    I guess THIS is why we saw those people suffering.. Um, *got it*.

  • Angelos

    A confidential Pentagon report leaked to the press finds that “relief efforts to combat Hurricane Katrina suffered near catastrophic failures due to endemic corruption, divisions within the military and troop shortages caused by the Iraq war.”

    And when people here criticize the “media” I hope they’re including O’Reilly’s hysterical ravings about the out-of-control blacks…

  • Eileen

    Oh geez. I forgot it all *really* is the result of Iraq.

  • Angelos

    Read that again Eileen.

    “…Pentagon report…”

    But they must be anti-Bush traitors…

  • Ravo

    Eileen, you, Owl and Carson Fire along with many others here do an admirable job of summarization of points.

    As the media keeps repeating lies, truthseekers need to keep up with keeping the truth accessible.

    At some point I would love to post in one place as a source of reference – with permissions of course, some of those excellent summary comments.

    Meanwhile – an explanation for the complete disintegration of any resemblance to truth or integrity in the media:

    Dems Are Dead Men Walking

  • owl 1

    Angelos, I might feel disgust for American media but not so far gone I have to get it from foreign papers. O’Reilly?

    The Ice. I have absolutely no problem with with cleaning up the imcompetence in FEMA or any Fed agency. None. Let me at em.

    But it’s a fool’s errand if anyone thinks this is The Problem. The Problem as portrayed on TV was why those people were not tended to quicker. It really does need to be addressed since we all know by this time, HELP was only 70 miles away. So why did HELP not go to NO?

    We all want to know if something terrible happened (a terrorist attack) and we were trapped, if help would be allowed to sit 70 miles up the road. Right? Right?

  • “Those incompetent, corrupt FEMA officials should have known exactly how much ice would be needed and where.”

    Wow, they were just *incompetent* before any hearings were held, now they’re *corrupt* before any hearing or trial.

    The press is doing a great job.

  • Eileen


    A nice compilation of baseline facts related to Katrina might prove invaluable down the road a piece. I’m suggesting including only those which are reliable, such as dated Executive Orders re when buses were ordered by LA for Katrina evacuations, Red Cross FAQs data and the like. A current search at the Red Cross site for those ‘instructive’ Katrina FAQs doesn’t (readily) lead one to them. Fortunately, they are still available via other sources, as are the Dateline NBC Nagin quotes re ‘turf battles’ and ‘money’…Blanco quotes re authorization of federal troops on Wednesday night, etc.

    I have saved some of these and would be happy to assist.

    We need to do more extramedia research, as we surely won’t get the facts without it…[unless subsequent hearings dig quite deeply.] I want to know exactly how much food and water was originally placed in the dome, when it ran out, how many people were initially there, how many people were ultimately there, and when the military began delivering more food and water once they were authorized to assist. I want to know when the Red Cross arrived and I want to learn the rationale for continuing to keep them out as of days three and four (was food and water still available at the dome by then?). I want to know exactly what medical provisions were available at the dome both initially and by day three. I want to know exactly how many people were ultimately transported out of the dome and convention center. Who opened the doors to the not-designated as a shelter-convention center and when? Who notified anyone in the federal government when that took place? Who directed people to the convention center? I want to know exactly how many people died and from what causes at both locations based on coroners’ reports. I want to know how everyone else died…

    Owl 1, you bet we need to learn *why* immediate, available food, water and medical assistance just sat there while the world watched Scams, Lies and Videotape. Why weren’t Baton Rouge and other area school and metro buses sent in to transport those people out immediately after the storm?

    Without these *basic facts* and knowledge, as Jeff says, the next time we too might be sunk.

  • Ravo

    Wow, Eileen. What I was musing about was simply copy/pasting some of the excellent summaries already here, into one spot, such as on a platform….but was figuring I’d need permission from the authors.

    If each comment had a trackback, that would solve it, but they don’t.

    I don’t know what is allowable as far as posting commenters posts elsewhere….I think permission would be required, no?

    You have quite a big research project there! A very admirable one.
    (Ever thought of starting up a blog of your own to post the results of your fact finding mission?)

  • Eileen


    Just here. I think it is appropriate to ask for permission to borrow words…without trackbacks. You of course have mine.

    I thank you for your kind support, as always. I read your message early today and have been busy since. I’ve been thinking…..but have no answers as to how to properly handle a site for the truth about Katrina. My question list was not the least bit complete. I don’t have the time to adequately research my questions to arrive at fair, non-politically shaded facts…or at the very least comparisons of different ‘takes’. We really need thorough congressional hearings, subpeona power and testimony under oath to get at it.

    Katrina was bigger than all of us. So far, 32 billion in insured losses in SIX states and forget about reconstruction numbers. It is the largest natural catastrophe in our nation’s history. But I refuse to let the media sell us down the river with the idea that it was only about NO…..and only about how Bush bungled = end of story. We will *not* be served by that political agenda.

    In the meantime, I’ll continue to dig for more non-subpeona power FACTS as time allows.

    Sweet night, All.

  • Shanghai Flyer

    WuzzaDem John, I’m pretty sure ajf was being sarcastic

  • I recently began working for the PR firm representing a new ice vending company out of North Florida, called Ice House America.The company is has a newly patented system of vending ice, devised by its founding president Bob Alligood, that solves almost every problem encountered by FEMA in its earlier distribution efforts. Two of these machines were donated to the Houston Astrodome for relief support, and plans are currently in the works between FEMA and Ice House America to make the machines available to communities without power or running water in times of disaster, by retrofitting them for hook up to generators and alternative water sources. Check out Ice House America’s website: