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No bullshit

Credit where credit is due

Still hesitant to engage much in the way of Hurricane Katrina commentary, but noting a couple of items:
  • First, a great use of Google maps and "Wiki"-style community contribution. Wicked smaht; I hope it helps many people.
  • Second, those wanting to make a hero out of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (especially while criticizing the response of other authorities) have some serious questions to answer first (via Nagin's Wikipedia entry):
    Nagin's performance in the Hurricane Katrina crisis has been criticized as well and Nagin has been accused of deflection. As mayor he was responsible for establishing evacuation centers and keeping local order. Yet apparantly there were no meals ready to eat (MRE's) stored at his designated evacuation center—the Superdome. There was no water purification equipment on site, no chemical toilets, anti-biotics or anti-diarrheals stored for a crisis. The mayor had not designated any medical staff to work the evacuation center. The city had not established a secure sick bay within the Superdome. The city had not sent police or other vehicles through the poorest neighborhoods with evacuation announcements prior to the storm. There were no functioning backup emergency communications police or fire-rescue radios available. Additionally, the city stored the school buses on low ground where they were flooded and then not available for evacuation.
    Dude. Duh. There's just no way to throw stones at FEMA, et al. without completely wrecking Nagin's glass house (something not well understood by self-absorbed grandstanders like Kanye West). While others take heat while also managing multiple priorities on state, regional, national, and global levels, Nagin had a single area of responsibility—New Orleans, the city that elected him—and biffed it in ways that contributed immediately and directly to the suffering residents continue to face. When the time comes to debrief and assign blame (not yet, Kanye—simma da na!), he would do well to prepare for a steaming helping.


There have been *many* screencaps of *many* photos (if you do a little digging, you'll find them). It's ultimately up to the news agencies which captions run, and a pattern has emerged. It's important, because the ways in which people are portrayed affect the ways in which people elsewhere respond. When people seeking clothes, diapers, food and water are called "looters", it takes attention away from the fact that these people had no clothes, no diapers, no food and no water coming in for almost a week. It's also important because when the president says that there will be "zero tolerance" of "looting", and what most people who are being called "looters" are doing are actually trying to find basic items for survival, it shows how out of touch the federal government is. A recent article in the Army Times is calling the arrival of military assistance (finally) in New Orleans "combat operations" and talks about putting down "insurgents." It's making military targets of American citizens who've survived a major disaster. The language people use is important. And frankly, this isn't just an issue with the captions on Web sites. I broke my "no TV news" rule to watch hurricane coverage, and I noticed who was being called "looters" without having to read blog entries about it. It's interesting that after about 4 or 5 days, even mainstream, Good Morning America-type anchors were finally reading copy pointing out that most of what people were "looting" were basic necessitites.
hmm. Good to know. Thanks.

I don't doubt for a minute that this awful thing that's happened will expose a lot of the underbelly of our society, including how some view the poor and those of color.