horror update

Awesome allocation of resources:
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."

The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.

As specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead

The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.


"You're doing a heck of a job."

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials." She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"

Navy commander 'counseled' Pensacola pilots for non-assigned rescues

Two Navy helicopter pilots were reminded of the importance of supply missions after delivering their cargo and then rescuing 110 hurricane victims in New Orleans instead of immediately returning to base, the military said Wednesday.

One of the pilots was temporarily assigned to a kennel but that was not punishment, said Patrick Nichols, a civilian public affairs officer at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

"They were not reprimanded," Nichols said. "They were counseled."

The two air crews picked up a Coast Guard radio call that helicopters were needed for rescues in New Orleans, said Lt. Jim Hoeft, another Navy spokesman. They were out of radio range to Pensacola, so they decided to fly their helicopters to New Orleans and join the rescue effort without permission.

It took only minutes for the H-3 helicopters to fly to New Orleans, where Udkow's crew plucked people off rooftops. Shand landed his helicopter on the roof of an apartment building where more than a dozen people had been stranded. When he returned to get more, two crew members entered the building and found two blind residents and led them to the helicopter.

Jake ioerror (ioerror_rss) and Joel Johnson are in the Astrodome now (that's the hellhole in Houston, not the hellhole in New Orleans, which was the Superdome) with a group of people who are trying to set up a low-power radio station for the refugees. They also have 10,000 radios to distribute. They have FCC permission, but the Astrodome bureaucrats are denying them permission for no clear reason.

Also, photos.

Here's a nice rumor that a few of the refugees told Jake:

"The 17th street levee was bombed by the Army Corps of Engineers to save the more valuable real estate in the city... to keep the French Quarter protected, the ninth ward was sacrificed... people are afraid to speak out... everyone who was near there heard the bombings... they bombed seven times. They let the parishes go, not the city center. Tourist trap was saved over human life. "

That sounds like tinfoil-hat material, right? Except that as it turns out, that's pretty much what they did during the 1927 flood:

Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover and the Corps' Chief Engineer Edgar Jadwin, authorized a plan to turn the flood into the St. Bernard and Plaquemine Parish marshlands, a desperate attempt to save New Orleans, La.

Those parishes are described as "marshlands", but my understanding is that they were also "where all the really poor people lived", and the backlash after their flooding was a big part of what got Huey Long elected.

And The Onion is all kinds of awesome today.

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26 Responses:

  1. zoratu says:

    That sounds like tinfoil-hat material, right? Except that as it turns out, that's pretty much what they did during the 1927 flood:

    There was clear evidence of that then, but none whatsoever now. Receiving its repairs in July of this year, the levee was the strongest its ever been (in over 320 years of New Orleans history). It was simply only rated for category 3, not 4.

    • relaxing says:

      Can someone explain the whole "deliberately flooding one area to save another" concept as it relates to New Orleans? I'm just not visualizing it right now.

      • zoratu says:

        Take a donut or a bagel, slice it down the middle so it's no longer a circular tube, but a circular half-pipe. Now invert it and look at it through a carnival mirror. That's the rough elevation map of the city. The portions of the city near the river and uptown are some of the highest. The river is near sea level; uptown is old, and the folks who originally drained the basin for habitation built on the highest parts (whodathunk?).

        The lower portions were populated out of necessity as the city grew in size, but not simply by poor people. In fact, pre-disaster, "bad" areas were generally a block-by-block phenomenon; it was not uncommon to have ultra-expensive real estate with housing projects in an adjacent city block.

        That's a poor summary, anyway.

        • relaxing says:

          So the lower parts are the poor parts. That I get. If there's a flood they get flooded first, so why deliberately bomb the levee?

          • hatter says:

            If you let the water flow earlier, it'll drag less away with it, rather than a bigger build-up and sudden release when the whole structure fails. Much like putting a hole in a plaster ceiling when there's a leak, rather than letting it build up and take half your ceiling down.

            And as said elsewhere "marshland" is often "where the poor people live" - more people are poor and desperate than rich and stupid.

            the hatter

            • relaxing says:

              I guess if you believe the levee probably would not have failed on its own, then the idea of deliberately "releasing pressure" does seem objectionable.

            • zoratu says:

              But the entire basin is marshland, even the highest portions. The lower portions were populated out of necessity as the city grew in size, but not simply by poor people.

              • candice says:

                Thank you. You are absolutely correct. :)

                In fact, the areas right next to the 17th street canal breach - West End and Lakeview, are some of the nicest in the city. They are also some of the lowest, as they are later development. I lived on the other side of it by a couple blocks (well, I suppose I still do, but I haven't seen the place yet.)

                Also. St. Bernard and Plaquemines are mostly white/cajun folks, if you want to pull the race card there, too. The natives there work the shrimping and oyster industries, and work offshore for oil support.

          • zoratu says:

            No no no, just younger. The lower portions were populated out of necessity as the city grew in size, but not simply by poor people.

    • sethg_prime says:

      I would respect this Administration more if they did break the levee on purpose.

      What amazes me about these guys is that they can't even do bad things competently. They can fix an election here and ruin a CIA agent's career there, but when they have to do anything on a larger scale, for good or evil, they choke.

  2. U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead

    Just like they block pictures of dead troops coming back from Iraq... nothing to see here, move along now....


  3. kyronfive says:

    The Pelosi quote is my favorite.

  4. Don't you understand? We had to flood the city in order to save it.

  5. jcheshire says:

    As a follow up to Pelosi's demanding the head of FEMA be fired. He was fired from his last job just prior to working for FEMA.

    And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

    The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

    Brown - formerly an estates and family lawyer - this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.

    Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.
    Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.

    ``He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

  6. chaobell says:

    "Counseling," by the way, is modern military-ese for "asschewing," complete with documentation that goes on your record. At least it was in the Air Force; have to ask one of the ex-Navy stepbrothers if they use the same definition.

    • king_mob says:

      The article goes on to state:

      Nichols said Udkow was in no way being punished by being put in charge of a temporary kennel in Pensacola for pets of military personnel who had been evacuated from hurricane-stricken areas.

      Which I don't really think they expect anyone to believe.

  7. krick says:

    Anybody else having trouble with the Onion link?

  8. ioerror says:

    I cannot bask in the weak jwz glow. My referer logs are empty and tears well up in my eyes.

  9. darkengobot says:

    They may very well have heard explosions. When Katrina came over our head, we played "count the exploding pole-mounted transformers"--a game for all ages!

    We lost power at transformer #4. We counted 13 explosions. A transformer going pear-shaped sounds very much like a bomb, and if some were going off in the 9th ward, I wouldn't be at all surprised that people thought WWIII had just started at the levees.

    Those parishes were marshlands. Under normal circumstances, N.O. can only support a tiny population without heroic intervention by the Army CoE. They've been filling in swamps, and even filling in parts of Ponchartrain to create more real estate. Extremely foolish city planning, but N.O. has been extremely lucky since 1965. Like the man says, one type of person sees that luck and says "we're safe forever!"; the other type says "we're due."

  10. legolas says:

    The problems of ioerror are nicely explained by the thing just above it: rescue 100+ people, get reprimanded (counseled, yeah right). Kill any and all initiative in government workers... and others for that matter (like ioerror). Hold on, this is starting to sound like a communist thing! Some one call McCarthy!

  11. sheilamarie says:

    St. Bernard and Plaquemines parish were not full of "poor people" It was, in 1927 mostly farmers that lived in the area and. My father was born in August of 1927 and grew up in St. Bernard Parish. He was there for Betsy when the levee had failed (though some have said that it was blown again) and I've heard stories of locals grabbing their guns stood on the levee's to protect them. This time, the theory is that it was simply the storm surge. The eye passed over both parishes before heading into Mississippi.

    The really sad thing is that these parishes are severely damaged again and no one seems to be paying any attention to them what so ever. AGAIN. When I hear people calling out about racism (not that you have) I have to remind them that the city got help before the predominantly white parishes of St. Bernard and Plaquemines. If the lack of help was racially motivated, than they would have gotten help before the city did...

    • sheilamarie says:

      Uh, it's late and I didn't proof the first paragraph. I'm not really THAT stupid. Let me try it again:

      St. Bernard and Plaquemines parish were not full of "poor people" in 1927. It was, in 1927, mostly farmers that lived in the area. My father was born in August of 1927 and grew up in St. Bernard Parish. He was there for Betsy when the levee had failed (though some have said that it was blown again) and I've heard stories of locals grabbing their guns and standing on the levee's to protect them. This time, the theory is that it was simply the storm surge that flooded the area; the eye passed over both parishes before heading into Mississippi.

  12. lars_larsen says:

    I dont know the geography of the city that well. But could understand if they bombed levees to DRAIN the city. You see, there are marshes and "rivers" that drain into the sea. Those levees are now holding water IN the city, instead of keeping it out. So there is a possibility that the water is flowing through those new holes away from civilization, not towards it.

    Thats assuming the lake/city water level is currently above sea-level. Which I dont know.

    I looked at some satellite images, and saw holes in levees that had water obviously flowing out of the populated area and into rivers. So thats where I base this idea on. Perhaps that was just some tidal anomaly? Who knows.