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Friday, September 02, 2005

Give them rest

Jesus, Katrina continues to leave me speechless. I’ll let others far more eloquent than I do the speaking today. Just wanted to wish you all a peaceful holiday weekend. Keep the victims of the disaster in your thoughts and prayers. This Labor Day weekend will be anything but restful and peaceful for them.

From the LA Times:
One lesson of Hurricane Katrina, though, is that preparedness and response go hand in hand, whether the disaster is natural or man-made. Washington's response to Katrina is likely to gear up notably in the days to come, but the question of why it took so long will linger longer than the floodwaters.

Tim Rutten’s Regarding Media column: Three years ago, New Orleans' leading local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, National Public Radio's signature nightly news program, "All Things Considered," and the New York Times each methodically and compellingly reported that the very existence of south Louisiana's leading city was at risk and hundreds of thousands of lives imperiled by exactly the sequence of events that occurred this week. All three news organizations also made clear that the danger was growing because of a series of public policy decisions and failure to allocate government funds to alleviate the danger…

Politics may have failed the people of New Orleans. Politicians certainly failed them. They may have failed themselves by not demanding better. But their newspaper and other important segments of the American press did not fail them.

From the New York Times:
One lasting lesson that has to be drawn from the Gulf Coast's misery is that from now on, the National Guard must be treated as America's most essential homeland security force, not as some kind of military piggy bank for the Pentagon to raid for long-term overseas missions. America clearly needs a larger active-duty Army. It just as clearly needs a homeland-based National Guard that's fully prepared and ready for any domestic emergency.

Paul Krugman writes
: Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.

Mark Fischetti, contributing editor to Scientific American magazine, writes of the Coast 2050 project, a massive public works project that would have addressed the flooding concerns in New Orleans.

t's hard to say how much of this work could have been completed by today had Coast 2050 become a reality. Certainly, the delta wetlands and barrier islands would not have rebounded substantially yet. But undoubtedly progress would have been made that would have spared someone's life, someone's home, some jazz club or gumbo joint, some city district, some part of the region's unique culture that the entire country revels in. And we would have been well on our way to a long-term solution. For there is one thing we know for sure: hurricanes will howl through the Mississippi Delta again.

Coverage has certainly taken a turn. This morning on CNN, Soledad O’Brien was grilling FEMA Director Mike Brown about the delay in getting aid to those who so desperately need it. There’s really nothing he can say in defense. Last night’s cable news anchors were comparing how prepared their news teams were for the disaster and how quickly they entered the area in the aftermath, questioning why it’s taking the federal government so long.

The delay has led to a dramatic shift in the coverage, one that has turned this from a weather story to a human tragedy.
Alessandra Stanley wrote: A woman in a wheelchair, her face and body covered by a plaid blanket, dead, and left next to a wall of the New Orleans convention center like a discarded supermarket cart. There were many other appalling images from Hurricane Katrina on Thursday, but that one was a turning point: after three days of flood scenes, television shifted from recording a devastating natural disaster to exposing human failures…

The image of helplessness was one the White House worked hard to defuse, vowing to restore law and order and politely declining offers of aid from overseas as unnecessary.
(Bold is mine.)

From Newsday:
Apparently I’m not the only journalist to be at a loss for words. On an ABC News special Wednesday night, anchor Elizabeth Vargas admitted that the network had effectively exhausted "attempts to put the indescribable into words," and so, she plaintively added, "Supply your own."

That was an exaggeration because television news is never, ever at a loss for words, even if some of them - especially during this wrenching story - tend to be recycled over and over. But Vargas, nevertheless, was on to something. At some point this week, though it's hard to pinpoint precisely when or where, television news nearly seemed to hand control of one of the biggest stories in the recent history of broadcast journalism back to the viewer, as if to say, "We can't figure this horror out any better than you can. So you're on your own ... "

There’s a moving account from a Times-Picayune reporter in today’s op-eds in today’s Plain Dealer only I’m tired of searching for it on

From Photo District News:
From an interview with NY Times photographer Vincent Laforet: Because when you go down there you're going into a war zone of sorts. It'd kind of a mix of the L.A. riots and the tsunami except if anything happens to you you're completely on your own. The police cannot and will not respond. If you get hurt there's no ambulances to come get you.

And finally, from the Washington Post:
WAPO columnist E.J. Dionne had a great quote at the beginning of his column from former Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, Bill Cohen:"Government is the enemy until you need a friend."

Bragg gets the last word
Former NYT-er Rick Bragg writes a loving tribute to the resilience of New Orleans. What a place, where old women sit beside you on outbound planes complaining about their diabetes while eating caramel-covered popcorn a fistful at a time. "It's hard, so hard, sweet baby," they will say of their disease, then go home and slick an iron skillet with bacon grease, because what good is there in a life without hot cornbread? …

How long, before that city reforms. Some people say it never will.

But I have seen these people dance, laughing, to the edge of a grave.

I believe that, now, they will dance back from it.

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