Friday, September 02, 2005

Floodwaters Receding, Emotions High

Here's a few observations of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Times had a photo on the front page of a dead body floating through the streets of New Orleans. That was in poor taste in itself. Somewhat reminiscent of when CNN aired footage of the dead soldier's body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in Somalia. Closer inspection of the photo of the floating body revealed what looked like a large tag with a big red question mark stapled to the end of the dead woman's dress, and apparently a poo mark seeping through the appropriate place on the backside. Rather poor taste. Inappropriate for a national newspaper.

I read a transcript of an interview between the New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and the local TV station. Mayor Nagin was obviously extremely upset, angry, and frustrated that the federal response to the disaster was so slow. I'm sure that he's very passionate about helping the people in his city. It doesn't seem that he's done as much beforehand to mitigate the disaster as he would like for federal and state government to do afterwords. I would say that elected officials are elected more for their passion for the people that they represent, than their ability to plan, make decisions, or direct and coordinate large complex and diverse organizations of people. It's time for that man to quit ranting and raving, realize that there have been and will continue to be losses, and start coordinating the recovery efforts so as to minimize further losses.

I realized that one of the other paper carriers was saving boxes to collect food to send to the relief effort. Feeling some compassion for these people, went to my cupboards to find some unused canned food items, and took a look through my closets for some clothes that I don't use anymore. I took a container of canned food with me as I was out on errends, and stopped by a couple of supermarkets where they might be collecting donation items. But there was no collection effort! Back home, I visited the web sites of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Neither the Red Cross nor the Salvation Army are accepting in-kind donations of collected items such as canned food or clothing. According to the Red Cross article, it's a logistical nightmare for them to collect, sort, clean, transport and distribute such items. It's more effective, they say, to take monetary donations and purchase supplies in large quantities from local manufacturers. As I explained yesterday, because of the high price of gasoline, and how that's such a major expense in my work, I cannot afford to donate cash.

I turned the TV to some of the news stations to get some coverage of what's happening there. There was the President, holding a press conference. The Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, wanted to put her two cents in, but there was some trouble in coordinating the audio feed, so she waited a moment while someone figured that out before she spoke. Like the President, she didn't have much to contribute except for words of encouragement. New Orleans Mayor Nagin was there, still too upset to say anything more, knowing that he'd go off on a tear and say something else he'd regret.

On MSNBC, the reporter had some field worker from FEMA on the air for a report. The guy seemed to be emotionally and physically drained. The MSNBC reporter kept asking the FEMA guy questions aimed at placing the blame. "The news stations had pictures before FEMA did. Is FEMA really that unresponsive?" "Has the response been slower this time than in previous disasters?" "How would you categorize the magnitude of the failure? Colossal? Moderate?" "Who's to blame for the lack of responsiveness?" After a few minutes of this ambush, I couldn't take it anymore, and changed the channel. I would think that with the level of destruction there, it would be near impossible to communicate or coordinate anything.

I found this on Am I A Pundit Now, by means of

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