I'm not sure which highways are passable in the New Orleans area, though early reports said that U.S. 90 was the only way out of the city. From satellite images, I've seen that Interstate 10 is flooded out to the west within the city (to the east, it's flooded and the bridges are out). U.S. 90 is dry because it's mostly on the other side of the river. And the highway passes right over the convention center. It is, in fact, easier to access the convention center than the Superdome. It's on high ground right next to the river (yeah, leveed river deltas are weird like that), and there isn't any standing water.
I don't know why the National Guard hasn't just commandeered all of the open space across the river (and to the also-dry suburbs west of New Orleans) and started setting up tent cities. Surely that would be easier than trucking people 500 miles to the west. Heck, after helicoptering people from rooftops, you can practically drop them off right next to a new tent, so there wouldn't be random crowds of people left here, there, and everywhere. You can get the flooded areas evacuated with far fewer buses (since round-trips are short), and put less traveling stress on folks. After being stranded for days, I sure wouldn't want to be cooped up in a bus for 7 to 12 to 24 hours waiting to get to food, water, and a roof over my head.
Well, I suppose staying in the area wouldn't be so great, simply because of mosquitoes and heat. There'd also be the threat that a levee on the river could breach. Still, simply getting to dry land makes things easier by orders of magnitude, and it would give people—both the rescuers and the rescuees—a chance to catch their breath while better shelter is arranged elsewhere. There's actually electricity across the river.
Well, Pat Robertson was praying for another opening on the Supreme Court and he got it.
More hurricane ranting: Why was so much of the emphasis on evacuating people via helicopter? Well, maybe it's just unreported, but there should have also been fleets of boats going around to pull people off of rooftops and out of attics. There was a fleet at least for a while, though that was primarily from civilians. I haven't see any more video of them in the last few days. I imagine they ran low on fuel and/or were told/forced to leave the area.
Well, I suppose much of the problem comes down to an intelligence failure. But this one can't be blamed on the FBI or CIA. Troops with radios, maps, and supplies should have been dropped every few blocks in the city to scout the region and organize people who were there. I've seen very little evidence of military presence outside the relatively dry downtown area.
A command hierarchy had to be in place immediately. That didn't happen, and people still don't know who's in charge. Within 24–48 hours, the forces in the city were reportedly given the right to commandeer vehicles, and they should have done that more extensively.
It seems to me that U.S. military forces have become dependent upon CNN and the other news channels to provide them information. It's okay for them to sometimes learn something new that way, but it looks to me that the frequency of this has just reached an unacceptible level.
This looks a lot like the early days of the invasion of Iraq, where the military was trying to act as a "transformed" force where relatively autonomous units would be acting together. A lot of bad things happened there, with small convoys getting lost in hostile territory. Here, it simply sounds like there wasn't communication. Now, you can argue that troops shouldn't know the overall picture when they're in a war zone, but the exact opposite is needed when attempting to help the public. In the very least, mid-level commanders should be available as purveyors of information.
Well, much of this is just conjecture, but I want to remember at least a few of these things, since questions along these lines these should help determine what went wrong.
On the other side, I'm halfway impressed with the news coverage. However, I'll note that TV schedules for days after September 11th were all confused, since news was being covered all day long. That, of course, is because it happened in New York. This disaster is on a much broader scale, but is not at their back door.
Some of the talking heads in New York (er, and Atlanta) have been willing to accept the tragedy and see the flaws in the relief operations. Others have not. I can see that reporters/anchors such as Shepard Smith of Fox News and Tucker Carlson of MSNBC (formerly CNN) have been changed by what they saw. Both of them wanted to rip out the throats of some of the people they were paired with on the split screen.
For a while, Fox News Channel actually became watchable. However, I think this actual news coverage by people who could really see what was going on is going to be shortlived—on all channels. Heck, for the first two days or so, MSNBC's weird wonk Rita Cosby was in Aruba, still there for that silly Natalee Holloway story. Well, maybe the daytime coverage is different. Since I work during the day, I don't see Wolf Blitzer, so I don't know how he's doing...
Edit: ...And we're seeing government officials lie through their teeth, just like they've been doing for years. It's startling to see how good they are at it, and how accepting reporters are from time to time. If you go and put Michael Chertoff next to Tucker Carlson in the same room right now, only one of them would come out alive. Chertoff has said (I think in almost exactly the same wording across multiple networks), "This is really one which I think was breathtaking in its surprise." Uh huh.
But he says it so calmly that people are taken off guard and just accept it. You have to think about it for a moment before realizing the guy just told you somehting that is patently false. This has been the masterful Bush administration tactic—just say it with conviction, and people believe you. Even if the people listening know it's not true, it just has a deadening effect.
Oh, here we go. I was wondering if anyone had real links. Too bad it's in German—ZDF and ARD TV carried reports of staged Bush photo opportunities in the wake of the hurricane. Of course, any major politician will have some staging going on, but Bush has always pushed the line on what is acceptible there and what isn't (pushing protesters miles away, etc.). Senator Mary Landrieu accused Bush of staging reconstruction work on the main levee breach. I think someone yesterday had said it was "one-third filled in," but it sure didn't look that way in the video I saw on This Week this morning. Well, I can't see through the murky water either.
There's a good editorial in the New York Times that alludes to some of the handling that was happening on Tuesday out in California (er, actually, the observations originally came from The Washington Post):
After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."Gah.
We also get this apt connection:
The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." The administration's complete obliviousness to the possibilities for energy failures, food and water deprivation, and civil disorder in a major city under siege needs only the Donald Rumsfeld punch line of "Stuff happens" for a coup de grāce. How about shared sacrifice, so that this time we might get the job done right? After Mr. Bush's visit on Good Morning America on Thursday, Diane Sawyer reported on a postinterview conversation in which he said, "There won't have to be tax increases."In fact, you're still planning on cutting that Death Tax…
Now, I will acknowledge that there's been criticism of Ray Nagin for not using school and city buses to get poor people out of town. I wonder where those buses would have gone, though? They would most likely have had to go to bigger shelters, which didn't exist within 300 miles, I suspect. Well, I dunno. It's still just one thing versus the wall of mistakes being made by other officials. I'm also disappointed that it sounds like Jefferson Parish was partly responsible for halting foot traffic across the Crescent City Connection, the U.S. 90 bridge that crosses the river right by the convention center.
In another wonderful revelation, it turns out that FEMA director Michael Brown was fired for basically bankrupting the International Arabian Horse Association, a job that he held (in diminishing capacity) until January 31, 2001. Heck, as far as I'm concerned, the state of Louisiana should arrest him (he's in Baton Rouge, after all). If I were Aaron Broussard, I'd direct my sheriffs to arrest Bush if he dared step foot in the parish (which, conveniently, is where the airport is).
I'm still only 50/50 on my approval of news coverage. I'm very displeased whenever I see a wire report quoting Chertoff or Brown without argument. They have just destroyed their credibility in my eyes, and I think reporters should look elsewhere for people to talk to.
Well, 89.3 The Current has been nominated for three awards from CMJ: Station of the Year, Best Community Outreach, and Biggest Improvement (eh, wha?). Heh, not too much warning for those—looks like voting takes place this week and awards come out on Friday.
Well, after about two and a half years, RoadRunner finally kicked my firewall over to a new IP address. I tried connecting from work earlier in the day and was worried that the power had gone out or something. Ah well..
Minnesota Public Radio launched Minnewiki the other day, "The Minnesota Music Encyclopedia." Sounds like fun.
I mentioned a while back that there'd been staging of Bush's appearance in Mississippi. It looks like there was plenty of similar stuff going on for his speech from New Orleans on Thursday, and this time, we get it from one of the most reliable sources you can get: Brian Williams. The power turned on half an hour before he drove through, and went off an hour after he left.
I went to the U of M's homecoming parade today to see a friend or three, then ended up going to the game too. A few friends of mine were marching in the alumni band, so I saw them do that (along with the regular band too). Anyway, I wandered over near the 40 or 50 yard line to watch the pregame show, then went back to my $25 upper-deck endzone seats (well, it was right above the band, and an angle I'm used to.. Plus, everything else was $42!)
As the halftime show was ending, I started wandering around and eventually ran into Missy, Jill, and Beth as they hunted for food. After they got some Papa John's, we all went back down to the field-level area. No, this did not improve viewing of the field—there are too many people in the way when you're down there, so you have to watch the game on the big screen instead.
At least the Gophers won. It got to be pretty hairy there at the end. But, is this the first Big Ten game of the season for them? That seems pretty odd and worrisome to me.
Well, I left through the tunnel with the band(s), almost getting caught by security in the process. I was asked if I had a pass, but he either dropped the idea of shooing me out because I had on my alumni shirt or because the game had already ended.
Some guy in a football uniform was on the ground in handcuffs as we left, but I don't know where he came from. He had on a white-colored top, though it looked like university colors. The Gophers use maroon tops for home games, however, so maybe it was a fan who jumped on the field.
Afterward, I circled around to reach the gate where the band was performing. Gate D, where I performed postgame most of my time in band, had a big tent on it, so they did Gate C instead (though I think we probably moved there by my fourth year). I stood next to Carolyn and some friends of hers, who I'd also seen at the parade earlier in the day.
Well, it was nice to see some familiar faces. Hopefully they were glad to see me too. They seemed to be, anyway..
Looks like Wikipedia passed three quarters of a million articles today (well, the calculation of what exactly is an article is a bit fluid, so the precise moment is probably indeterminate). I've kind of fallen off the map there in the last several weeks, but I suppose it's good to have a breather. Even though it's entirely voluntary (well, aside for a few folks who are paid workers), there can be a lot of stress that goes along with the site. I'm sure I'll cycle around again once I get bored with some other things.