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9/1/2005
LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY
CATEGORY: KATRINA

I had absolutely no idea that both desperately needy and dead people were political. Given the recent history of massive Democratic voter fraud in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and especially Washington state, it should come as no suprise the liberals only raise money from sources who agree with their politics.

It should go without saying that the Katrina blogburst referenced above is non-partisan.

AND ATRIOS STILL DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A LINK TO THE RED CROSS ON HIS SITE!

It’s much, much too important to make idiotic, unprovable charges against the President than raise money to help people survive. That would require two working brain cells. I can understand why Atrios can’t spare one.

By: Rick Moran at 5:01 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

RELIEF FOR SUPERDOME REFUGEES
CATEGORY: KATRINA

The first buses filled with refugees from New Orleans have arrived at the Houston Astrodome where it looks like someone has finally taken the time and trouble to prepare in advance for the influx of the desperate.

Unlike the authorities in New Orleans who apparently dumped 20,000 tired, hungry, sick, and hopeless people into the Superdome and forgot about them for a day or two, relief organizers at the Astrodome appear to have anticipated the basic needs of the refugees:

Officials said they hoped to resume their work on Thursday, using hundreds of school buses and municipal buses to take the rest of the refugees to the Astrodome in Houston, on a ride lasting more than six hours. Rest stops were planned at Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Beaumont, Tex.

If there was little comfort in the prospect of trading one sports arena for another, there was hope waiting in Houston, where Texas officials promised showers, food, medical care and perhaps most important, the freedom to come and go through a system of passes. At a news conference, Judge Robert Eckels, chief executive of Harris County, which owns the Astrodome, offered assurances that it was “not a jail.”

There will certainly be time enough after the living are rescued and the dead are buried to assess the performance of New Orleans officials in the immediate aftermath of the storm. But something must be said about the incredible stupidity that allowed conditions like this to exist at the Superdome:

They had flocked to the arena seeking sanctuary from the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. But understaffed, undersupplied and without air-conditioning or even much lighting, the domed stadium quickly became a sweltering and surreal vault, a place of overflowing toilets and no showers. Food and water, blankets and sheets, were in short supply. And the dome’s reluctant residents exchanged horror stories, including reports, which could not be confirmed by the authorities, of a suicide and of rapes.

By Wednesday the stink was staggering. Heaps of rotting garbage in bulging white plastic bags baked under a blazing Louisiana sun on the main entry plaza, choking new arrivals as they made their way into the stadium after being plucked off rooftops and balconies.

The odor billowing from toilets was even fouler. Trash spilled across corridors and aisles, slippery with smelly mud and scraps of food.

“They’re housing us like animals,” said Iiesha Rousell, 31, unemployed after four years in the Army in Germany, dripping with perspiration in the heat, unable to contain her fury and disappointment at being left with only National Guardsmen as overseers and no information about what might lie ahead.

Individual stories of the neglect are maddening:

Desperation was in the air. Danielle Shelby tugged at a reporter’s arm. “I have a handicapped daughter,” she said. “She’s over there with her wheelchair. She’s hot. We don’t have any water. I’m afraid she’s going to have a seizure.”

Others crowded around. “I’ve been in the food line twice, and every time I get to the front they tell me they don’t have any left,” said Juanita McFerrin, 80.

“My husband has cancer,” another woman said. “He’s not getting his regular treatment.”

Not enough food? Absolutely unforgivable. No plan for getting rid of the garbage? No allowances made for 20,000 people who have to go to the bathroom? No clearinghouse for information so that people could find out what was going on?

Unbelievable.

Couple this with the problems associated with closing the breach in the 17th street levee, the apparent unpreparedness of the police and fire departments, and the complaints by the mayor of “too many cooks” in the kitchen and you have a recipe for making a bad situation into a catastrophe.

And then there was this:

It got worse. Ms. Rousell recalled hearing a loud bang Tuesday afternoon as the body of a man slapped the concrete at the edge of the football field in a fatal suicidal plunge, after he apparently learned that his home had been destroyed. Others told of fights that broke out in food lines, and of a husband and wife who slugged each other in a wild argument.

Several residents said they had heard of children being raped, though it was not clear whether anyone reported such incidents to the authorities, and no officials could be found who could confirm the accounts.

Darcel Monroe, 21, a bakery cashier, stammered hysterically as she recounted seeing two young girls being raped in one of the women’s bathrooms. “A lot of people saw it but they were afraid to do anything,” she said. “He ran out past all of us.”

Dozens of National Guardsmen standing around with guns and they can’t guard places where women are most vulnerable? And if they didn’t have enough soldiers, why didn’t they ask for more?

Yesterday, I inadvertently spread a rumor that there had been shootings in the Superdome. The rumor proved false…we think. Given the dearth of information that came out of the Superdome while 20,000 human beings were being treated worse than cattle, I wouldn’t be surprised at anything that occurred in that black hole of Calcutta.

UPDATE

In the interest of balance, Aaron at Free Will has some sobering thoughts on the reality of what can actually be done by government in a crisis like this:

Years ago, when I was in school, I was invited to participate in a think-tank type of workshop at SIU on a similar scenario for Southern Illinois if the New Madrid were to blow and turn this joint into a sandbox. You know what we found? That we were screwed. There was no way to plan ourselves out of the worst-case-scenario. That, as it turned out, was the point of the exercise: To impress upon us that there was no Batman, there was no Superman, and that if the earthquake hit, with hundreds of thousands of people spread out across dozens of devastated towns, it would take days, at a bare minimum, before anyone could reach us, and that we had to take this threat seriously and convey to others the importance of preparing for the disaster, having a bugout kit, being at least moderately prepared for a survival situation. Same rule applies here:

New Orleans is not going to be “saved”. It’s not possible. It’s Atlantis. This is a disaster on an unprecedented scale, the kind of comic-book catastrophe like a major shift in the New Madrid, the La Palma tsunami, the Yellowstone caldera, or a significant meteor shattering over a major city and creating a firestorm that no society has the resources to really “shield” a city from and that no society has the technology to magically “fix” in the aftermath. For all intents and purposes, this may as well have been a nuclear meltdown. Nature is history’s greatest monster, and when it decides to go on a killing spree, even the most powerful superpower in human history is simply incapable of fighting back. Nothing within the scope of our imagination can make New Orleans a habitable place right now.

And some additional thoughts that relate to a post I did yesterday on the Compact of Civil Societies:

It’s a city. It’s huge, and there aren’t enough dig crews, dive teams, and SAR-capable helicopters in all of the Southland (especially after Katrina obliterated a significant portion of them), maybe in all the United States to attempt to excavate or search each of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of flooded, crushed structures across the city and, worse yet, across the wider devastated area along the Gulf Coast, much of which has been smashed into toothpicks.

There are 125,000 National Guardsmen activated and ready to go, 30,000 being mobilized, but they can’t secure the city. What are they going to do? Guard abandoned grocery stores in a deadzone from the hungry? Shoot looters and create more dead? End up in a street battle with people desperate to take their supplies? For what? For that matter, what about the logistics of a major deployment into the city? Anyone sent into that hellhole is just as likely to end up needing to be rescued themselves.

Okay, I’ll concede a little and cut the authorities some slack. But not enough food? Or medical supplies? That just smacks of piss-poor planning.

(HT: Instapundit)

By: Rick Moran at 5:00 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

8/31/2005
FOR THE LEFT: A COMPASSION VACATION
CATEGORY: KATRINA

Let’s play a game called “supposin’.”

Supposin’ there was a natural disaster where thousands of your fellow citizens were killed and many hundreds of thousands more in dire need of assistance.

Supposin’ you were a blogger who just recently helped raise more than $400,000 in less than 3 weeks for a political candidate who called his former Commander in Chief a chickenhawk.

Supposin’ you had a choice between writing about ways to help the victims of this horrendous natural disaster or writing about how much you hate the President.

Supposin’ you had a choice between getting behind an heroic internet wide campaign to raise money in a completely bi-partisan manner for the people of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi or being a complete twit and nincompoop by trying to blame the President for An Act of God.

Of course, all of this is completely hypothetical, right? I mean, liberal bloggers are FAMOUS for their compassion, yes? They are RENOWNED for the oceans of tears they’ve shed for the poor, the oppressed, society’s “little people.”

Well…looks like compassion has taken a vacation on the left side of the sphere this week.

The mobilization of righty blogs to aid in disaster relief has been breathtaking in its speed and generosity. In fact, visiting sites like Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, one is in danger of being overloaded with information about various charities, websites for specific needs, and links, links links that connect to news about the disaster.

On the left, it’s bash Bush and let the devil take the people of the Gulf coast.

Let’s examine the top several blogs of both the left and right and see what people are talking about today, shall we?

CALLOUS CONSERVATIVE SITES (By Rank)

1. Instapundit has links to dozens of charities, information on corporate sponsorship, what other bloggers are doing as well as being the originator of the idea for the Hurricane Blog Burst set for tomorrow.

2. Michelle Malkin has worked tirelessly, posting hourly updates with valuable links to agencies and individuals to help find missing relatives, ways to help now, ways to help in the future, as well as posting some extraordinarily dramatic news reports that got everybody off their butt in the first place.

4. Powerline offers a link to Instapundit (why duplicate what’s been done already?) as well as giving some immediate historical perspective to the damaging storm by referencing the story of the 1927 Mississippi River flood – an event that some think was the greatest natural disaster in American history prior to Katrina.

5. The Captain also links to Instapundit was well as urging his 25,000 daily readers (many of them bloggers) to participate in the Blog Burst tomorrow.

6. Little Green Footballs reprints Instapundit’s links and has had several open threads where commenters have supplied untold number of helpful links.

10. Hugh Hewitt has been a traffic cop, directing readers and other bloggers to sites like NZ Bear who has set up a “Community of Katrina Relief Bloggers” with the blog name and the name of the charity they’ll be blogging for tomorrow.

Pretty impressive for less than 48 hours, eh? Let’s saunter over to the compassionate left and see what they’ve been up to, OK?

COMPASSIONATE LIBERAL SITES (By Rank)

3. Daily Kos. Bush bashing, Bush bashing, war bashing, an open thread for Bush bashing on the Hurricane, Roberts, and Bush bashing. While its true that Kos is bashing Bush in the context of the Hurricane, I wonder if, you know, it would have been better to wait until after the bodies cooled off a bit and people stranded in totally dark attics with water up to their necks were like, you know, rescued.

But hey! That’s just me…

13. Eschaton. Gleeful reporting of gas lines in Atlanta. Bash conservatives. Bash really stupid conservatives. Bash Jonah Goldberg. Bash Bush. Bash Andrew Sullivan (well…you got me there.) Bash Bush. Bash Bush.

Atrios didn’t even bother with Hurricane relief. I mean, why let a silly natural disaster that’s taken the lives of thousands of your fellow citizens stand in the way of a good opportunity to score political points at the expense of dead bodies floating in raw sewage?

16. Kevin Drum. Bash the American people (for good reason). Bash Bush. Bash Bush. Bash Bush. I-Pod. Bash Bush. Drum didn’t even bother to bash the President using the Hurricane as context.

Just business as usual. Drum yawns and scratches his scrotum while people in Biloxi, Mississippi sit on the ground and weep about losing everything.

17. Huffington Post. The first five posters in order: An actual link to the Red Cross! Bash Bush. Bash Bush. Bash Bush. Bash Republicans.

You’d think Ariana would plaster her dog-ugly blog with links to relief organizations and the like. I guess it’s just easier to sit on the sidelines and kibbutz while people in Slidell, Louisiana walk through waist deep water choked with debris and dead bodies.

18. Talking Points Memo. The inevitable “didn’t want to but can’t resist” Bush bashing. Iraqi dead. Bush Bash. Bush Bash. Plug for his other blog.

Marshall should go back to sleep. Either that or at least express some emotion other than hate and disgust for the President. Come to think of it, I’m sure ole Josh doesn’t lose a minute of shut eye over the fact that tens of thousands of his fellow citizens (even if they are goober chewing yahoos from Red America) are without jobs and now live in areas where the likelihood of finding gainful employment so that they can feed their families over the next several months is just about zero.

The bile that’s been rising in my throat all day long has spilled out onto this post. I’ve watched over the last few years as the left has given aid and comfort to our enemies in Iraq, at times openly cheering for an American defeat on the field of battle just so that the President’s standing with the American people would be lowered and they could gain political advantage.

I can’t even speak to their rationalizing the looting going on in New Orleans. The kind of twisted logic it takes to encourage people to steal another’s property – not food mind you, but other people’s possessions – is I believe the most egregious example of cynicism and outright evil thinking that I have seen on the political landscape in 30 years.

And now the treasonous louts have been exposed for the hypocrites they truly are. When Bush bashing trumps the absolute vital necessity of pulling together as Americans so that we can save lives as well as property not to mention saving one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, then it’s time for those on the rational left to make a decision. Will you continue to support Kos and his midget-brained minions in their blindly striking out at anything Bush, or will you put your foot down and say “no more.?” I’m not saying join the Republican party. Hell, given some of the crap they’ve pulled recently I wouldn’t recommend anyone join them. But if you’re not willing to try and make a difference in your own party to cure this nauseating sickness of mind and soul, then you are just as guilty as any of the paranoid, dirty necked galoots who are running the Democratic party.

UPDATE

More on the compassionate left from Newsweek’s Howard Fineman who writes an entire article on how Katrina coming so close to 9/11 will be Bush’s “tipping point.” The Academic Elephants have a clue:

It had not occurred to me to cast the Katrina-9/11 pairing in political, rather than historical, terms until Fineman bravely blazed the trail. I can understand why he sees a link, but I think his conclusion is dead wrong. Fineman suggests that Bush needs to take a page from his brother’s playbook, and imitate Jeb’s response to the hurricanes that buffeted Florida last year. I maintain that Jeb was himself imitating his older brother—that same older brother who almost four years ago stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center and gave the famous “I Can Hear You…” speech. That is the Bush we will see over the next weeks—that we are already seeing, for that matter.

Absolutely spot on. You want to get political Howard? You should know by now that in times of national crisis people will rally to the President if he asks them to.

That’s Bush’s next speech. And you Howard, will look like you are engaging in wishful thinking instead of hardnosed political analysis which is what we assume Newsweek pays you for.

UPDATE

The Commissar has gone me more than one better as he compares side by side many of the same lefty blogs with righty blogs on hurricane relief coverage. This proves not only that great minds think alike but that they are also attached to extraordinarily good looking and successful people – at least from my end.

This concentration on Bush bashing instead of raising money for your fellow human beings who are in dire need has shown up in the starkest possible way.

Here are the total amount raised as of 6:30 PM central time today by the liberal blogad site and the NZ Bear mostly conservative sites:

Liberal: $124,700
Conservative: $488,000

Gee…do ya think that if Kos and Atrios had paused for a few hours to raise some money for desparate people rather than trying to score political points they wouldn’t leave themselves wide open to this kind of criticism?

Nuf said…

By: Rick Moran at 5:58 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (33)

The Right Place linked with 'Round the 'Sphere: September 7, 2005
The House Of Wheels linked with The difference between the left and right
Speed of Thought linked with That would about cover that...
dcthornton.com linked with The Blame Game
Say Anything linked with The Price Of Partisanship
Michelle Malkin linked with THE BLAME GAME
JunkYardBlog linked with WHERE IS THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY?"
THE COMPACT OF CIVIL SOCIETIES
CATEGORY: KATRINA

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Hour by torturous hour, the news grows ever grimmer. An event unlike any other in modern industrialized history is taking place right before our eyes. The stories of individual heroism and mob cowardice are obscuring the real story – a story that simply cannot be told because the modern human mind is incapable of processing the images, the words, and the stories they’re telling and make any kind of a coherent narrative or sense out of it.

It is quite simply beyond belief, beyond understanding, and beyond anything in our experience. No modern industrialized city has ever experienced anything like New Orleans is going through in the aftermath of Katrina.

Don’t talk to me about London, Berlin, or Tokyo and the trials that those cities endured during World War II. There is nothing remotely to compare with what’s happening to New Orleans. Those cities were destroyed relatively slowly over a period of years (Berlin and London) or months (Tokyo). But the Noahic flood that now engulfs more than 80% the Crescent City has subsumed not just buildings and people, it has washed away the thin veneer of civilization and brought to the surface behaviors and emotions more suited to the African savannas where modern Homo Sapiens first began to dominate the planet rather than the city streets where until just a few days ago, people were laughing, walking, singing, playing music – living.

What, after all, is civilization? At it’s core, human civilization represents an agreement between people not to kill each other. The only way millions of strangers can live together in relative peace in big cities is by recognizing the unspoken agreement that when walking down the street and approaching someone you don’t know, one refrains from the natural human impulse of fighting for your life. Usually, both parties are in agreement on this singular principal and the hundreds of encounters with strangers we have every day pass unnoticed amid the hustle and bustle of city life.

This is the compact of civilization. I won’t kill you if you won’t kill me. It’s maintained by something even more tenuous; faith. Faith in the strictures an organized society places on people who break the compact as well as faith in the people and institutions who are charged with the task of enforcing those strictures. This shared community of faith works pretty well for all except the social misfits and anti-social galoots who prey upon the weak like predators in a jungle. For the rest of us, we form little islands of support in this larger community – neighbors, our church, our sports teams – which allows us the luxury of feeling less vulnerable to the predators, less alone amidst the millions of strangers.

But something has happened in New Orleans that is unprecedented. We’ve seen it happen on a smaller scale during other natural disasters. The looting, the anger, the despair was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. However, while the area damaged by Andrew may have been just as large as the swath of total destruction left by Katrina, Andrew never quite destroyed the spirit of community and shared faith which allowed Floridians to maintain a patina of civilization that kept them from lunging at each other’s throats and descending to the level of animals whose only thought was of obeying the primal instinct present in all of us for self preservation.

Make no mistake. Unless something truly dramatic happens in the next 48 hours, the situation in New Orleans will degenerate into something heretofore seen only in refugee camps and places like Somalia. People will start forming themselves into mobs for protection. And those mobs will start fighting both the authorities and each other for scarce resources as people get hungrier and thirstier by the hour. We already have seen property owners setting up their own security patrols in sections of downtown. This is from a New Orleans blogger:

Since it’s war out there, I figure it’s time to go back to my military ways.

Camp Crystal is locked down for the night. Team SOTI (that’s the crew up here) has broken up into 3 squads. Squad 1 is on diesel detail. Squad 2 is on patrol. Squad 3 is on service and support.

The Final Protective Line is Poydras Avenue. All avenues of approach are secure. Stand to is at 0600.

The cops were out in force on Poydras until just a few moments ago. Not sure what they were upto.

The blogger has a fairly clear picture as to what’s happening on the ground:

I guess what I’m saying is there’s no need to focus on us here, because we’re gonna make do. We need to worry about preventing the city from consuming itself, because the looting is getting nuts, the waters are rising in many heretofor unflooded sections, and there’s no timeline available for power, food, water, medicine and the like for the masses.

If you have any survival tips, feel free to toss in your input. I’ve got a lot of survival training, but we’ve never trained for the total collapse of civilization (or I should say, my only training in that regard was from a military perspective).

The “total collapse of civilization” is right around the corner and there’s nothing really to stop it. The authorities first priority is to save the living. Since so many are stranded, trapped, injured, or lost – numbers that may be in the tens of thousands – this is a process that will take days. In the meantime, the flood waters keep rising, the dead go unattended, the looting is getting out of control, people in shelters are getting close to open revolt, and the chances for complete and utter chaos that would cost the lives of thousands of people grows hourly.

Something or someone must intervene to restore the one commodity that could head the chaos off at the pass and put the evil genie of anarchy back in the bottle. That one commodity is hope. Unless people have hope that things are eventually going to get better and get better quickly, they will succumb to the siren song of mobocracy and tear New Orleans to shreds. As it stands now, we’re a hairsbreadth from open warfare in the streets. And if no one can step forward – the Mayor, the Governor, or even President Bush – and give the residents of New Orleans confidence in the future, people will look to their present circumstances and act accordingly.

That way lies madness.

UPDATE: STREAMING COVERAGE

I’ve been glued to this feed from WDSU in New Orleans. It’s getting worse people. Water is still rising due to some confusion yesterday involving the Army Corps of Engineers and some Blackhawk helicopters that were supposed to drop huge, 3000 pound sandbags into the levee breach at 17th street in New Orleans. In fact, all day yesterday CNN and Fox were reporting that this was being done.

In fact, it was never done. Mayor Nagin reports that the copters were diverted to rescue up to 1000 people who were trapped by flood waters and had taken refuge in a church. They’re going to try again today, but the Mayor is obviously frustrated. He has complained that “there are too many cooks” in the kitchen, obviously alluding to FEMA and other federal and state entities who are involved.

Two major situations need to be taken care of in the next 48 hours if New Orleans is to avoid the fate I write about above; the Superdome must be evacuated and the 17th Street levee must be plugged. The mayor reports that if that levee keeps emptying water into the city the entire city will be under at least 9 feet of water.

That’s the entire city.

The problem with the Superdome is unbelievable. Evidently, guns and knives have been smuggled in and there have been 3 shootings in the last 12 hours. Unless those people are dispersed, the situation could get completely out of control and we’d have a war on our hands. That’s why the Governor has ordered the evacuation. The problem is how do you get 20,000 people out of a flooded city?

We’ll know more in the next 12 hours. As always, keep checking with Michelle Malkin for round-ups and breaking news.

UPDATE II: RUMOR ALERT

The report from WDSU of shootings in the Superdome have not been confirmed by any other news organ. In fact, the station’s own site doesn’t mention any shooting incidents at the Dome either. The report came from an on-air interview with a reporter. He was obviously repeating a rumor he had heard.

I apologize for helping to spread that rumor and it points up the need for all of us to be careful about what is published.

By: Rick Moran at 8:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (40)

TMH's Bacon Bits linked with Katrina Bringing Out the Worst and Best of America
Jons Blog linked with Katrina unreality
The Common Room linked with Katrina: Worse and Worse
Sue Bob's Diary linked with The Compact of Civilization
La Shawn Barber's Corner linked with Hurricane Katrina Wreaks Havoc
Brainster's Blog linked with Looting
Below The Beltway linked with Katrina Aftermath VIII Katrina & The Social Order
Michelle Malkin linked with KATRINA: "YOU LOOT, I SHOOT"
THE BODIES AREN’T EVEN COLD
CATEGORY: KATRINA

The torrent of invective pouring from the mouths of the left directed toward President Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is startling in its ferocity. The speed and eagerness that they have jumped down the President’s throat makes one question whether any spark of human decency exists among people who see political gain to be had from a disaster where thousands of dead bodies lie floating amidst the flotsam and jetsam of Katrina’s wake.

They are cheering on the looters. They are pushing pet leftist agenda items like global warming. They are railing against the war by blaming the President for taking National Guard units away from states affected by the disaster. Any and all political openings they either sense or imagine are being shamelessly exploited.

It’s enough to make decent people vomit.

I frankly don’t have the words to describe the utter contempt I hold for these leftist lickspittles. There is nothing they can say or do at this point that will convince me that their criticisms directed toward Republicans, the right, and the President is in the best interests of the people affected or of the United States. It is nothing more than pure, unadulterated politics. They seek to gain a political advantage on the the backs of the dead bodies of their fellow citizens. They are using the suffering of the living to tear down the President in time of crisis.

There are times – this is one of them – where I almost wish we could accommodate the left’s fantasy by tearing up the constitution and putting them in concentration camps. They’ve been screaming so long that the day is coming when Bush will become a dictator and stifle their dissent that it becomes more and more tempting to make their ridiculous paranoia a reality. Along with the “imminent military draft,” stolen elections, and other idiotic fancies, there has never been a group so divorced from reality, so mired in hubris and contempt for the intelligence of their fellow citizens, in the history of the United States.

Their descent into hell is complete. Let’s all throw another log on the fire and participate in their total damnation.

By: Rick Moran at 7:17 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

Virtual Fret Noise linked with Mother Nature as Bush Proxy?
8/30/2005
EYEWITNESS TO DISASTER
CATEGORY: KATRINA, Media

Reporters are for the most part a hard bitten lot. Inured as they seem at times to human suffering, journalists have been criticized more than once for intruding on a family’s grief or reporting from disasters as if it were a ballgame of sorts.

An exception was on display last night. Veteran CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve was reporting first hand from neighborhoods that were underwater in New Orleans last night and showed genuine feeling and emotion as she reported to Aaron Brown via satellite phone. Her voice, shaking with emotion Meserve gave the most mesmerizing first person account of a disaster I’ve ever heard:

It’s been horrible. As I left tonight, darkness, of course, had fallen. And you can hear people yelling for help. You can hear the dogs yelping, all of them stranded, all of them hoping someone will come.

But for tonight, they’ve had to suspend the rescue efforts. It’s just too hazardous for them to be out on the boats. There are electrical lines that are still alive. There are gas lines that are still spewing gas. There are cars that are submerged. There are other large objects. The boats can’t operate. So they had to suspend operations and leave those people in the homes.

As we were driving back, we passed scores of boats, Fish and Wildlife boats that they brought in. They’re flat bottomed. They’ve obviously going to put them in the water just as soon as they possibly can and go out and reach the people who are out there who desperately need help.

We watched them, some of them, come in. They were in horrible shape, some of them. We watched one woman whose leg had been severed. Mark Biello, one of our cameramen, went out in one of the boats to help shoot. He ended up being out for hours and told horrific tales. He saw bodies. He saw where—he saw other, just unfathomable things. Dogs wrapped in electrical—electrical lines who were still alive that were being electrocuted.

Brown asks her if rescue workers can communicate at all with those who are trapped:

They aren’t tonight. When the boats were in the water, as the boats went around through the neighborhood, they yelled. And people yelled back. But Mark, when he came back, told me that—that some of the people, they just couldn’t get to. They just couldn’t get to them. They couldn’t maneuver the boats in there.

Because this had happened before in Hurricane Betsy, there were many people who kept axes in their homes and had them in the attic in preparation for this. Some people were able to use those axes and make holes in their roof and stick their head out or their body out or climb up completely. But many others clearly didn’t have that. Most of the rescuers appeared to be carrying axes, and they were trying to hack them out as best they could to provide access and haul them out.

BROWN: I’m sorry. What…

MESERVE: There were also Coast Guard helicopters involved in it, Aaron, with the seat up (ph), flying overhead. It appears that when they saw someone on a rooftop, they were dropping flares, to try to signal the boats to get there.

BROWN: Is there any sense of—that there’s triage, that they’re looking to see who needs help the worst? Or they’re just—they were just getting to whomever they could get to and get them out of there?

MESERVE: I had the distinct impression they were just getting to whoever they could get to. I talked to one fire captain who’d been out in his personal boat. He said he worked an area probably 10 square blocks. He’d rescued 75 people. He said in one instance there were something like 18 people in one house, some of them young. One, he said, appeared to be a newborn.

Brown asks how high the water is:

MESERVE: Well, I can tell you that in the vicinity where I was, the water came up to the eaves of the house. And I was told by several rescue workers that we were not seeing the worst of it, that we were at one end of the Ward 9 part of the city and that there’s another part, inaccessible by road at this point, where the road—where the houses were covered to their rooftops. And they were having a great deal of problem gaining access down there. The rescue workers also told me that they saw bodies in that part.

BROWN: Any—you mentioned earlier that the water seemed to get progressively deeper. The walkway from this, if you don’t know, is just a question of tide moving in and tide moving out?

MESERVE: Well, I can tell you that the people who were rescued with whom I had a chance to speak told me that the water came up very suddenly on them. They said most of the storm had passed and what apparently was the storm surge came.

Some of them talked about seeing a little water on their floor, going to the front door, seeing a lot of water, going to the back door, seeing more bodies of water, and then barely having time to get up the stairs. One man I talked to was barefoot. He hadn’t had time to put on shoes. Another woman was in her housedress and flip-flops.

As for the water tonight and how fast it may be going up and down, and you know, I may not have the most current information about the tides, but I can tell you that downtown here the water seemed to be, I’d say, six inches or so deeper than it was when I left earlier this afternoon. It may be a totally situation—different situation…

Brown asks if Meserve has any idea how many people may be stranded. Here Meserve actually starts to cry:

MESERVE: Yes. Nobody has a sense of that. And may I say that the crew was extraordinary. We’ve had very difficult situations. Our cameraman is working with a broken foot since 9 a.m. this morning to try and get this story to you. Big words of praise for them and for Mark Biello, who went out and ended up in that water, trying to get the rescue boats over partially submerged railroad tracks. It was a heroic piece of work by CNN employees.

BROWN: Our thanks to you for your efforts. It—you don’t need to hear this from me, but you know, people sometimes think that we’re a bunch of kind of wacky thrill seekers doing this work, sometimes, and no one who has listened to the words you’ve spoken or the tone of your voice could possibly think that now. We appreciate your work.

MESERVE: Aaron, thank you. We are sometimes wacky thrill seekers. But when you stand in the dark, and you hear people yelling for help and no one can get to them, it’s a totally different experience.

BROWN: Jeanne, thank you. We’ll talk later tonight. Thank you.

Jeanne Meserve, been on the team for almost 15 years, I think. She is a very tough, capable, strong reporter, and she met her match on a story tonight.

Superior reporting told with a reporters eye and a human soul.

UPDATE

To keep abreast of events, for links to bloggers covering the disaster on scene, for links to agencies that need help, and for links to anything and everything to do with this disaster, visit Michelle Malkin at least once an hour for updates.

Talk about a journalist giving us the first draft of history, Michelle is doing it for the blogosphere.

By: Rick Moran at 9:33 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

8/29/2005
“DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE THE LOVE OF GOD GOES?”
CATEGORY: KATRINA

As Hurricane Katrina bears down on New Orleans and the people there brace themselves for what may turn out to be the most horrendous natural disaster in my lifetime, I’m struck by the shared nature of the emerging catastrophe. Most of us are glued to the TV watching the coverage of the news nets who for the most part have been sober and restrained in their commentary while at the same time giving frequent and informative weather updates from the National Hurricane Center for the millions of people whose homes and loved ones are in the path of this “hammer of God” as our ancestors may have put it.

It makes one feel pitifully small indeed to realize the enormous forces at work that in a very short time will knock our silly pretensions of being omnipotent for a loop. This storm will destroy in a few hours what it has taken man centuries to achieve. Things we take for granted – electrical power, sanitation, all the accoutrements of modern living – will be taken away with just a few breaths of the earth’s cardiovascular system. Scientists tell us that hurricanes are necessary to maintain balance in the atmosphere and the oceans. And as we’ve learned the hard way, the only thing you can do is get out of the way.

The focus of the entire nation is now on those cities and towns in the path of the monster. And as the disaster develops, we will be united as a community in our outpouring of support and sympathy for the victims. This is possible because our country is wired wall to wall with communciations technologies that our ancestors would have found almost magical. Not only will television and radio be covering this disaster, but bloggers also will be giving us frequent updates on the storm’s track and the local efforts to deal with the tragedy.

All of this got me thinking of how our ancestors dealt with events like this. The answer to that can be found in American folk music traditions and how songs about disasters became like tabloid news reports that informed the country of what it was like for the victims to live and die during events like hurricanes, ship wrecks, floods, and mining disasters.

Examples of such disaster songs can be found throughout the American songbook. Revell Carr who writes for the New York Journal of Folklore, found that songs of disasters have six basic elements:

1. The song describes actual historical events
2. The event features significant loss of life
3. Themes and motifs include unheeded warnings, human culpability, and divine retribution.
4. Stock formulae—most commonly the date of the tragedy, which usually appears at the beginning—are used both as mnemonic devices and as keys signifying the performance frame.
5. Voyeuristic and sensationalistic details give the song a tabloid quality:
6. The song conveys empathy for the victims and the survivors

The hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in 1900 offers an example of folk music at its best; telling a story with narrative power while evoking an emotional response to the victim’s suffering. The song “A Mighty Day” was recorded by the Chad Mitchell Trio:

The trains they all were loaded
With people leavin’ town,
The tracks gave way to the ocean, Lord,
And the trains they went on down.

The waters like some river
They went a-rushin’ to and fro
I saw my father drownin’, Lord,
And I watched my mother go

(Chorus)

Wasn’t that a Mighty Day
Oh a Mighty Day
It was a Mighty Day Great God that morning
When the storm winds swept the town

Now death your hands are icy.
You’ve got them on my knee.
You took away my mother now.
You’re comin’ after me.

That last verse is evocative of a more famous disaster song, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it’s too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it’s been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.

These songs were used in lieu of the nationalizing of grief that we take for granted today. Professor Carr:

Disaster songs like “The Lexington” serve as catalysts for communitas and help heal psychic wounds in the disaster’s aftermath, and they capitalize upon the common human urge to bear witness—all part of the same process of coping with the chaos and confusion of traumatic social dramas….

Disaster songs function as redressive action, communicating shared sentiments and emotions, through which a social bond with others can be solidified in the days and weeks following a disaster. The power of the ritualistic performance of the disaster song is linked to the profound experience of communitas inherent in the social drama of disaster….

Does the power of song still hold sway today? Following 9/11, a huge outpouring of emotion rocked American letters and the performing arts. The event was so transcendent that it could be said that only the Civil War brought more emotion to the surface through artistic expression.

The Civil War lasted 4 years and colored a generation of American artists for decades afterwards. But the effect of 9/11 has sadly been more transitory. In a very large way, the American artistic community has let the country down. Even though 9/11 colors our politics and affects the very definition of what America is and what it will become, it does not affect much of our cultural life. Execpt perhaps in the visual art of photography, there have been precious few artistic endeavors that have sought to explain 9/11 and make it part of our national narrative. Are we too close historically for that to happen? I don’t believe so. And what little has been written or displayed about that horrible day has largely taken the form of petty political shots at the President – not very elevating but typical of an artistic culture that seeks acceptance at Upper West Side cocktail parties rather than dealing with that event as the cultural earthquake it proved to be.

As I write this there’s a chance that the worst of the hurricane’s destructive power will miss New Orleans – good news for the city but bad news for someone else. And if the past is a guide, I’m certain that someone will be putting words to music in order to give voice to the powerful emotions engendered as we all witness the titanic forces of nature once again reminding us how small and insignificant we truly are in the scheme of the Almighty.

By: Rick Moran at 6:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)