Sunday, August 31, 2008


When Katrina hit, I was working for the Navy and the medical center here in San Diego was on alert to take people from the disaster zone. Except they never came. They could not get out.

I remember the iconic photo of all the school buses lined up in a flooded service yard, and people demanded to know why these buses hadn't been used to get people out of the city. My buddy Fergus said at the time that people didn't understand logistics. Once the people were on the buses, what then? Where would they go? Were they just to be carted out of town and dumped at the side of the road? Where was the food, water, shelter, and medical attention for these people going to come from, provided by what agency and for how long?

This time around, there has been great emphasis on how quickly and thoroughly people have been moved out of New Orleans. This is providing the Republicans with great photo ops - see, we're not going to let people drown this time! Before anyone snarks, I am very, very glad that people are evacuating. They need to. Even if Gustav is "only" a Category 3 hurricane, that is one savage storm.

Before we all get too teary eyed about the great humanitarian effort, however, read this article posted in the New York Times: A Long and Weary Bus Ride to Anywhere. People are, of necessity, being driven very long ways away from NOLA with no idea of where they are going and not very good conditions when they get there. At this point, it could work out OK or it could become simply wretched for the people off in this or that corner of another state. Sure as hell beats drowning or dying of exposure on some overpass, but the logistics are still not in place to handle a mass exodus from NOLA.

And, probably, to be fair, there may not ever be a way to be "ready" for such a thing. But what strikes me here is that we have the makings of a decentralized disaster far away from the cameras and the short attention news cycles, and that the Republicans will get congratulated for a heckuva job because we don't see bodies and people breaking into stores for water.

I think blogs need to be canvassing news outside of NOLA and the MSM, such as in Birmingham, the end point for the patient travelers in the story, to see how the evacuees are actually being cared for over the period that they must remain away. Are there enough provisions? Are they kept informed of what is happening? How will they get home? What will happen if there is (please, let it not be so) terrible damage once again to New Orleans?

In short, let's keep the people in charge accountable.



daily democrat said...

My husband's whole family live along the south coast of Louisiana (though not in NOLA), so if we hear anything, I'll let you know.

Just an unsolicited thought, but I wondered if would consider posting open threads or creating blog community around you in some other ways. A lot of people seem to follow you already, but I wish you could have a much larger audience in the future, and it occurs to me that "lone voice" blogs have an inherent reach-limitation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I have also been worried. I haven't been able to keep it all straight, but many "what's not happening" blogs & posts & articles I've read have pointed out how the government money that's gotten there (rather than promised and not delivered) has been Shock Doctrine stuff: almost all the schools got privitized, chronism & blackwater & little or no accountability.

So I wonder if there's logistics money going in, how much of it's going to be pocketed and how much helps people, when -- as you point out -- the cameras are fair away.

Anglachel said...

daily democrat,

Fingers crossed that your family is safe.

I have exactly zero interest in forming a "community" around me. I think that one of the reasons the A-list blogs have fallen so far and fast is the cult of personality that sprang up around the founders exacerbated by a mindless and hateful echo chamber of comments.

Not my interest or my goal.


Elise said...

I'm all for keeping the people in charge accountable but that cannot simply be the Republicans at the Federal level. I didn't watch a whole lot of pre-Gustav coverage but what I've seen focused on the efforts of New Orleans' Democratic mayor to get his citizens evacuated. It looks to me like Gustav could be an issue (I'm sorry, I know that sounds callous) where if things go well Nagin will get the praise and if things go badly the Republicans at the Federal level will get the blame.

Besides considering what New Orleans and the Federal government are in charge of, I'd also like to learn more about what has been done since Katrina particularly in terms of pre-planned inter-state co-operation - without involving the Feds. The NYT article made it clear Birmingham is accepting evacuees from NO and I have a friend in Mobile who says they've gotten evacuees also. Surely this is an area where the governors of the Coastal states have probably been working together - they're all in the line of fire and would all benefit from relying on each other.

show me said...

I just heard Bush on MSNBC a while ago and he sounds like he was handed a set of talking points right before the interview. The improvement in response has probably had a lot to do with Governors cooperating. Which is probably facilitated by the addition of Bobby Jindel to the Republican Governnors club in the area.