Category Archives: Unspeakably Awful (Katrina)

Astrodome Lockdown Allegation

Boing Boing links to this account of a Lockdown in the Astrodome:

They locked out the people out of the dome, evacuees and volunteers. we have not had volunteers able to come in all morning. people just screaming broke into the gate to get in and all the people and volunteers ran into the dome. hundreds, at least 200 or 300 people started pushing in. no one was on the other side of the locked gate, no traffic no guards, etc. my volunteer guy telling the story from the human rights campaign ran in too. finally one police officer tried to corral people and push them back out. and in ffact everyone was pushed out. except my guy who pretended he had been in all along. and the people who had been in were pushed out and locked out.

No reliant empolyees, no one , no officers, no one to ask, people screaming and panicking, locked out of what is now their home, their kids are in here, etc. no one in the dome knows what is happening.

If our fellow citizens are being locked into a large cage, this is pretty serious stuff.

Just wait until someone dies for lack of medical attention because they were locked in or the EMT were locked out…

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Legal Aid for Katrina Victims

JURIST has the links on Legal aid for Katrina victims (thank you, Elliott!).

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 1 Comment

Eyewitness Account of a “FEMA Detainment Camp” (Updated)

Reader Cafi posted a link to this item in a story comment, but I thought it merited a bit more attention, if only to have it, I hope, debunked. Have a look at I just got back from a FEMA Detainment Camp.

[See update below: whether this account was true or false, the camp is now “on standby status” and doesn’t actually have the 3,000 persons who were anticipated.]

I know nothing about the web site hosting this story, although a cursory look at the front page makes it look pretty seriously crazy. And I know nothing about the poster. So I am not going to take this on faith. (There is, though, a Baptist camp in Falls Creek, OK, and it is hosting Katrina victims. Although the Red Cross is helping FEMA so they are not operating alone.)

The troubling thing, though, is that given what we know about FEMA to date, can one confidently dismiss this account as a fraud without counter-evidence? It’s not as easy as I’d like (in other words, if it’s a fraud, it plays well to our fears). It is insufficiently implausible that FEMA is isolating and disempowering the victims of Katrina, subjecting them to a regime of no practical way to have contact with the outside world, no cooking, no gifts, two communal meals a day, and armed guards all around. And no leaving the camp, either. But not even allowing in itinerant preachers? In a camp owned by the Baptist church? That’s very hard to believe.

Could it really be that our government has in effect decided to enforce what amounts to the worst form of communism on the new lumpenproletariat?

I so much want to believe that our country is better than this. And I do. Just not quite as strongly as I’d like to.

Anyone live near Falls Creek, Oklahoma?


UPDATE: I am somewhat reassured by this news item in the Pryor Creek Daily Times:

Falls Creek operation put on standby status

OKLAHOMA CITY – After anticipating the arrival of 3,000 survivors from Hurricane Katrina for more than two days, volunteers and government agencies were given the word late Tuesday that the status of operations at Falls Creek was put on standby.

Major Mike Grime, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, announced to nearly 400 volunteers and state personnel that the decision had been made by the Governor and other state officials to scale back operations at Falls Creek.

“The good news is that it appears those who needed our help have been taken care of for now,” Grimes explained. “We will scale back to a skeleton crew for now, but none of our facilities will be compromised. There will be troopers present 24 hours a day at Falls Creek as we evaluate the need on a 12, 24, 36 and 48 hour basis. Falls Creek has been and will continue to be ready within a 10 to 12 hour window in the event that the conference facility is still needed.” While disappointment was evident on the faces of many, appreciation for the Falls Creek operation was recognized with a round of applause.

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 10 Comments

Stop Those Pesky Reporters and Everyone Can Go Back to Sleep

It has a certain twisted logic: If the thing that is most responsible for Bush’s bad week is the bad TV images, and the reporters who saw with their own eyes that he and his underlings were lying–then surely the answer is to remove the reporters from the picture so we can all get back to spinning as usual.

Thus, blogs report “Rape, murder, beatings” in Astrodome, say evacuees — but the press is being excluded from the Astrodome, just as the press is being excluded from the ugly side of the recovery efforts (FEMA: “We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media.” And they are trying to enforce it too). You can get more details of the campaign against information at Jacob Appelbaum’s blog, along with the long, sad saga of his attempts to set up a low-power radio station there in order to provide information to its denizens. [Also, see the flickr collection of pictures from Houston, where the people evacuated are being held.]

[Update: more details at TPM, notably this link to Brian Williams’s account of the military training weapons on reporters. (Sudden flash of all the journalists shot by our troops in Iraq?)]

[Update2: Kevin Drum sees the pattern here also.]

Of course, it wasn’t just a failure of the administration’s media policy. It was a much more telling failure, a failure of the government to even care. A failure dramatically underlined by a rapier-like anecdote told by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about Bush’s reaction when she told him that he should fire FEMA Head 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?””

Pelosi then said what needed to be said: the US government is headed by someone who is, in her words, ”Oblivious, in denial, dangerous.”

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Plenty of Blame to Go Around (III)

Until we get all the facts out, any assignment of the responsibility for the human component of this natural and human-enhanced disaster must have an air of tentativeness to it. Nevertheless, here’s how it looks right now.

Besides the universal condemantion of FEMA’s failures, much of the early sparring seems to be centered on the role of Mayor Ray Nagin. A series of posts at Sivacracy suggests that the Rove machine has picked on him to be their fall guy:

  • Blaming the Mayor (in which the city is accused of having failed its role as a first responder)
  • Rove’s Talking Points: Blame the Mayor (in which the WSJ comes up with a surprisingly similar argument, with the bonus that the governor is also to blame for FEMAs failure to anything since she didn’t send “a timely request for specific aid” — those guys at FEMA just can’t think for themselves, you see)
  • Blaming the Mayor: Part 3 (looking into who is spreading this it’s-the-locals’-fault line)

Whoever is spreading this story — most likely a part of the larger disinformation campaign — from what I can tell (and we don’t have all the facts) it seems to be pretty much baloney. We have federal supremacy; we have FEMA because a locality devastated by a huge disaster has lost the ability to act as first responder and/or is likely to be overwhelmed. And it sure isn’t the case that FEMA couldn’t act without an instruction book from a mayor or a governor as to whether food and water and doctors were needed.

But that doesn’t make the local officials heroes either. This mayor — and past mayors — are not blameless for the state of the infrastructure. [Although it’s notable that the Bush administration slashed federal funds to strengthen the levees and then (I gather) raided what was left for another purpose–Iraq.] This mayor — like past mayors — is not blameless for signing off (weeks in advance) on an evacuation policy that was, at best, radically insufficient to meet the needs of the poorest and most helpless. And this mayor, at least in hindsight, seems to have waited a long time to order an evacuation.

Even after the storm, there have been a number of very ugly reports of local authorities either blocking the Red Cross, or acting like racist thugs.

None of that excuses the total evil of FEMA’s sloath, failure and malfeasance both as the hurricane was approaching and after it hit: turning away help, providing too little itself, too late.

Nor does it excuse the person who appointed the incompetents at the helm. Oh no, not at all.

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 8 Comments

First-Person Account:

One of the Daily Kos diarists has a Another NO Story from the inside, a first-person account of being trapped in the Big Uneasy.

I’ve included just part of this ugly story below. It’s very ugly, and I urge you to read all of the original, it’s horrific stuff.

Revolutions have started over less.

[Update: Original source, via Dave Farber’s list.]

Continue reading

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 3 Comments