Tag Archives: New Orleans

New Orleans & ALA

I just got back from ALA for a panel on RFID (“Tiny Trackers”). As usual, ALA was chock-full of stimulating folks and ideas. A few notes follow, but first a report about New Orleans.

New Orleanians were grateful for ALA’s presence. ALA was the first large conference to keep its commitment to New Orleans since Katrina. The tourist and business sections of the city feel — well, a little empty, a little recessional. More closed & out of business signs than usual. In the French Quarter, the local businesses are mostly open — but nearby on the Riverwalk shopping mall, many of the corporate-owned businesses are still closed. Make what you will of that. But walk just a bit beyond the French Quarter into the 8th and 9th Wards, and things are quite different. I walked over that way on Sunday after my talk, although I didn’t make it much past the Vieux Carré. (It’s hot in New Orleans!) But even as far as I went, it’s clear that the recovery is only partial. And the reports from locals, and ALA folks who biked or bussed around in other districts, are depressing. The country has moved on and forgotten about New Orleans — a city that is one of this country’s greatest treasures. As my partner said, it’s like the media is Vamp Willow: “Bored now.”

….

The Lyman Ray Patterson Award went to Prue Adler, well-deserved. Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” was, while largely a regurgitation of his schtick, very good because his schtick is very good. (As long as he stuck to his schtick, that is. A number of folks quibbled with his naive market-centric and tech-utopian view of net neutrality.) The Free Speech Buffet was great, with an Emergency Zine Reading:

* Elaine Harger, in response to a censorship attempt, gave the would-be censor a button that said: “Use your brain: the filter you were born with.”

* Amusing reading of overblown prose from romance and other novels from Alycia Sellie. (I list this for its copyright relevance.)

* Ammi Emergency reading from a zine about post-Katrina looting of supermarket. “After the storm, New Orleans was even more New Orleans.” Community looters: One “incompetent neighbor” emerged with a broken bag of box wine and a rotten ham, and when it was pointed out, was upset & said “I’m no good at looting!” She was promptly consoled by another man who said, “You’re doing just fine honey.”

Katrina (9/1-9/15, ongoing)

9/1: Between work-stuff and watching Katrina, I’ve been too busy & too sad to post much the last few days.

To sum it all up:, a letter from Switzerland (9/3) [via daily kos 9/4]:

Watching the events in New Orleans unfold from here in Europe, mostly via BBC World, we have the impression that the storm blew up a corner of the carpet beneath which America had long been sweeping some of its fundamental problems.

Among the fundamental problems revealed are:

(1) the enormous divide between rich and poor (which has expanded rapidly in the past two or three decades);

(2) the racial divide leaving blacks in the poorest class (nearly all the stranded, angry, unassisted poor we see on the TV screen are black),

(3) the failure to invest in infrastructure (not only the failure to protect the dikes and levies, but the failure to storm-proof the electric and telephone systems by burying cables, etc.);

And, perhaps most striking of all,

(4) the bizarre law-and-order mentality which orders the National Guard to shoot-to-kill looters (that is, to give priority to protecting property more than human lives).

Perhaps it is going too far to state that we are watching a collapse similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union fifteen years ago. Much as the total-collectivization and total-centralization of society in the USSR collapsed, eventually, of its own internal contradictions, we wonder whether or not America, too, with its ultra-individualistic, ultra-material ideology and its absence of much concern about the collective needs of society (health care, education, infrastructure, etc.) will collapse of its own internal contradictions.

Here’s the rest of the best & most useful of what I’ve seen on Katrina, below the fold:

Continue reading

they speak for themselves

Dept. of Homeland Security [DHS Website via america blog 9/3]:

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America’s families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

Dennis Hastert, W 8/31 [via salon.com 9/2]:

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Wednesday that it “doesn’t make sense” to rebuild New Orleans. “It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.”

“It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed,” the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with The Daily Herald of Arlington, Ill.

Hastert, in a transcript supplied by the newspaper, said there was no question that the people of New Orleans would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid was involved. “We ought to take a second look at it. But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild too. Stubbornness.”

CNN reporters [CNN 9/1]:

MCINTYRE: And as to your question about political, I talked to a lot of people at the Pentagon today who were very frustrated about the fact that the perception was being created that the military didn’t move fast enough. And they did it somewhat as political. They thought that part of the motivation was the critics of the administration to make the president look bad.

And they seemed to question the motives of some of our reporters who were out there and hearing these stories from the victims about why they had so much sympathy for the victims, and not as much sympathy for the challenges that the government met in meeting this challenge.

George W. Bush, Th 9/1 [Good Morning America via crooks & liars 9/1]:

I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the breach of the levees.

Mike Brown, Th 9/1 [CNN 9/1]:

Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands. “Unfortunately, that’s going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings,” Brown told CNN. “I don’t make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans,” he said. “And to find people still there is just heart-wrenching to me because, you know, the mayor did everything he could to get them out of there. So, we’ve got to figure out some way to convince people that whenever warnings go out it’s for their own good,” Brown said. “Now, I don’t want to second guess why they did that. My job now is to get relief to them.”

“What we had in New Orleans is a growing disaster: The hurricane hit, that was one disaster; then the levees broke, that was another disaster; then the floods came; that became a third disaster.”

Michael Chertoff, Th 9/1 [on NPR All Things Considered, transcript via Here’s What’s Left, 9/1, link via Kevin Drum, 9/1]:

“I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the Convention Center who don’t have food and water.”

Mike Brown, Th 9/1, head of FEMA, interviewed by Paula Zahn [CNN; see also NYT 9/3]:

PZ: How can it be that hundreds and hundreds of thousands of victims have not received any food and water more than 100 hours after Katrina hit

MB: I will tell you this though, every person in that convention center, we just learned about that today. And so I had directed that we have all available resources to get to that convention center to make certain that they have the food and water, the medical care they need…

PZ: Sir, you’re not telling me, you’re not telling me you just learned that the folks at the convention center didn’t have food and water until today did you? You had no idea they were completely cut off?

MB: Paula, the federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today.

Mike Brown, Th 9/1, head of FEMA, interviewed by Ted Koppel [via americablog 9/2]:

MB: We just learned of the convention center — we being the federal government — today.

TKl: I’ve heard you say during the course of a number of interviews that you found out about the convention center today. Don’t you guys watch television? Don’t you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today.

MB: We learned about (the convention center) FACTUALLY today that that’s what existed.

Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans [NYT 9/1]:

Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, concurred and he was particularly pungent in his criticism. Asserting that the whole recovery operation had been “carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days,” he said “the rest of the goddamn nation can’t get us any resources for security.”

“We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don’t have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm,” Colonel Ebbert said. “It’s criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren’t force-feeding us. It’s like FEMA has never been to a hurricane.”

Trent Lott, F 9/2, interview with Anderson Cooper [CNN]:

Cooper: So you’re pleased with the Federal government’s response?

Lott: I AM pleased with the federal government’s response…this is not a time for complaining…I am really shocked at the comments that are coming.

George W. Bush, F 9/2, Mobile, Alabama [transcript via looka! 9/2]:

The good news is — and it’s hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house — there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)

Laura Bush [via salon.com 9/2]:

Bush was asked about the fact that most of them are poor and black. That’s just the way it is, she said. “This is what happens when there’s a natural disaster of this scope,” Bush said. “The poorer people are usually in the neighborhoods that are the lowest or the most exposed or the most vulnerable. Their housing is the most vulnerable to natural disaster. And that is just always what happens.”

Tom DeLay [via salon.com 9/3]:

In an interview with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Lester Holt, the African-American MSNBC anchor, asked, “People are now beginning to voice what we’ve all been seeing with our own eyes — the majority of people left in New Orleans are black, they are poor, they are the underbelly of society. When you look at this, what does this say about where we are as a country and where our government is in terms of how it views the people of this country?”

DeLay would have none of it. His boilerplate response: “What it tells me is we’re doing a wonderful job and we are an incredibly compassionate people.” The aid being contributed by the people in Texas and other parts of the South showed how wonderful the American people really are, DeLay explained.

Rick Warren [Fox, via salon.com 9/3]:

Rick Warren, the author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” told Cavuto. “I would say play it down and pray it up,” Warren said. “In other words, you know when you lose everything it forces you to redefine your life. If your view of who you are is based on all the things you’ve accumulated — your car, your pool, your house, your boat — and all of a sudden you wake up one day and those belongings are absolutely blown away, you have to redefine what your life is. If your definition of family is tied to the neighborhood you live in or the security gates you live behind or your made-over home, and suddenly that’s gone, then you’re going to have to rethink what your family is … In the next few days millions of these Gulf State residents and millions of us who are watching it unfold are going to have to struggle with these questions. What is life really all about?”

Mike Brown, Sa 9/3, head of FEMA [Wash Post 9/3]:

Brown, a frequent target of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s wrath, said Saturday that “the mayor can order an evacuation and try to evacuate the city, but if the mayor does not have the resources to get the poor, elderly, the disabled, those who cannot, out, or if he does not even have police capacity to enforce the mandatory evacuation, to make people leave, then you end up with the kind of situation we have right now in New Orleans.”

“Senior White House Official”, Sa 9/3 [Wash Post, 9/3]:

As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco declared a state of emergency on Friday, Aug. 26.

Mike Chertoff, Homeland Security chief 9/4 [Meet the Press 9/4, transcript; quote via thinkprogress 9/4]:

Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, “New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.” Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse. It was on Tuesday that the levee — may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday — that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city. I think that second catastrophe really caught everybody by surprise.

This one speaks for itself so long as you know that as of Monday morning Mayor Nevin was already talking on NBC’s “Today Show” about the levees overtopping; and as long as you imagine that flooding following a hurricane is a “second catastrophe”.

Rick Santorum, S 9/4 [Interview with WTAE-TV CH 4 in Pittsburgh, via whiskey bar, 9/6]:

I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.

Barbara Bush, M 9/5 [American Public Media’s “Marketplace”, via Editor & Publisher, 9/5]:

“What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this–this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.”

US Rep. Richard Baker [quoted at Booman Tribune 9/9]:

“We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”

US Rep. (House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay F 9/9 [quoted at Dome Blog 9/9]:

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it’s like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, “Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?”

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.