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September 8, 2005

Posted by Patrick at 11:07 AM * 39 comments

“Executed Absolutely Flawlessly”


Comments on Rivka:
#1 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 11:35 AM:

I don't want to derail this thread, but I learned something this morning that I think should be widely known.

The White House's "Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana" lists the affected parishes:

Now, I'm not real up on my Louisiana geography, but even I noticed that it doesn't seem to include Orleans or Jefferson parishes.

THIS guy

took the simple step of putting the list on a map to see what's up. Go read.


If there's another interpretation, PLEASE, somebody explain this to me.

#2 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 11:49 AM:

Bob, you beat me to that.

I think listing the counties that way had to be a deliberate act.

However, I also wonder WHY in the world the governor of Louisiana didn't bitch about this ten days ago??

Has anyone done the comparison of Democratic-voting counties vs. counties declared disaster areas yet?

#3 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 11:58 AM:

There's no doubt that the guy should not try to make a living as a writer -- brass hat and tin ear.

It's worth reading the whole original piece, because it does reveal some of what went wrong, and maybe some of why the military seemed unable to act. You see the stories of the local police, and you find that the military expected to be working with them and found "collapse". They had to rush in their own police force.

But hitting a problem, and fixing it, that's no reason for this sort of pride. This is the pride of the bureaucrat, a thousand miles from the action, seeing the "right" numbers. Nobody shot. No casualties.

And ten thousand people starving in squalor for another day because the US Army, as an institution, was afraid.

#4 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 11:59 AM:

And USA Today's other editorials are interesting too...

I love the ending reference to what is happening down south as 'bush-league.'

I get the impression that some folks at FEMA cannot read a map. Were The Weather Channel's graphics that hard to interpret?

(And yes I'm an avid football fan.)

Lori Coulson

#5 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:02 PM:

>Has anyone done the comparison of Democratic-voting counties vs. counties declared disaster areas yet?

The City of New Orleans (about 12%? of the state population) went 3:1 for Kerrey; given that the state overall went for Bush, most non-urban counties (I mean 'parishes') must be solidly GOP.

#6 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:07 PM:

Laurie was wondering re democratic-voting counties (they're actually parishes down here, not counties.)

Louisiana was most assuredly a Red state in the last presidential election. St. Tammany Parish, which took the brunt of the eye, is about as conservative as you can get, and we sat down here and waited for troops and aid for far too long. I've been on search and recovery teams for the past several days. The first day I went out we had four teams. The next, eight. Finally on Monday we got a buttload of troops in and we were able to expand out to over 20 teams to do the house-to-house searches. This was a week after the storm hit.

The other thing to realize is that over half of the deputies from Slidell lost their houses--and they are still out there working the streets and giving aid.

#7 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:14 PM:

And so our national policy in case of disaster is to starve our own citizens until we can be sure they are too weakened to potentially fight back against our self-proclaimed 'greatest army in history'? An army that they expected to come and provide them with supplies and that they would have welcomed with open arms?

There are no words.

#8 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:23 PM:

Oh, lest there be any confusion re the fact that I live in a conservative parish: I most assuredly did NOT vote for the Shrub.

#9 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:31 PM:

I particularly liked this sentence from the original report, "The most contentious issues were lawlessness in the streets, and particularly a potentially very dangerous volatile situation in the convention center where tens of thousands of people literally occupied that on their own."

I had to quit reading after that because my blood pressure spiked. There may have been better ones, for certain values of "better" further down.

I'm afraid "Bastards" doesn't even begin to cover it. But there don't seem to be words that do.


#11 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:41 PM:

Oh yes, one other thing:

Those that were undesirable to re-enter the convention center were segregated from the people that we wanted to provide water, shelter and food. Those people were processed to make sure they had no weapons, no illicit dugs, no alcohol, no contraband, and then they were escorted back into the building. Now there's a controlled safe and secure environment and a shelter and a haven as they await movement out of that center for onward integration to their normal lives.

Who is 'undesirable to re-enter'? Any black male over the age of 13? And what heppened to those who weren't permitted re-entry? Did they end up on the streets, perpetrating looting so they could survive?

Also, I was under the impression that the convention center had become a hellhole of poor sanitation and uncollected corpses. What was done about that, if the center is now 'a haven and a shelter'?

Never underestimate the power of bueraocracy in large, delibrately slow-moving groups.

#12 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:51 PM:

One wonders: one of the reasons the Powers That Be were able to get away with this shit is that the media bought all the stories about "looting" and "insurrection." They were used. Is there any part of the media -- print, tv, whatever -- that is capable of self-examination and can see this? Are they able to get mad about it? Or is all this insurrection-talk CRAP going to become part of the popular myth about what "really" happened in NO when Katrina hit, and end up being used as the justification for the govmint's wretched behavior...

Place your bets.

#13 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:52 PM:

Luthe: see, the Iraqis were supposed to welcome our troops with open arms, and the Americans were supposed to shoot at them. Perfectly logical.

#14 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:58 PM:

"Bastards" is perfect yet not enough. I need new, stronger words. I'm sickened, again. Er, still.

#15 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 01:04 PM:

An army that they expected to come and provide them with supplies and that they would have welcomed with open arms?

Given what happened to the army the last time they were told they were going to be welcomed with open arms, I might have dragged my heels a bit too.

Also, since 3/4th of the army's existence is based on doing things "The Army Way" the likelihood that they were going to do something before the orders come down is about as likely as my doing base 11 math in my head.

This is what makes the army different from something like the AVG (the Flying Tigers). At the scale they were fighting at the AVG did incredibly well against a superior foe. But at some level you're either need superhuman intelligence and organizational skills (hmmmmm, Post-Vingian singularity humans as Niven's Protectors) or a very top down organizational structure.

It's that, "You can delegate authority, you can't delegate responsibility" thing again (and again)^n.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 01:08 PM:

I guess their measurements are in the complex number plane (the ones that are in the form "a + bi") where their measurements are all "0 + bi" and ours tend more toward "a + 0i". Otherwise there's no way to understand their scale of measurement.

"bastards" for some value of bastards that includes legitimate birth and theoretically good upbringing. I'd like them to be put on a cleanup detail, somewhere where the muck is at least waist deep, for six or eight months.

#17 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 01:10 PM:

From Terry Neal, Talking Points,

"Cadavers have a way of raising questions. When people see them, they wonder, how did they get dead? When a lot of people see a lot of dead bodies, politicians begin thinking of damage control." He then goes on to the recent FEMA "order" that journalists not accompany the teams pulling dead folks from the waters.

#18 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 01:28 PM:

Someone earlier referred to MAUS's line about "Friends? Your friends? If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week then you could see what it is, friends!" It works even faster with water, probably only a day or two for people to fall apart. The firefighters' story referred to it as well; with sufficient food and water people tend to work together and help each other, but when they are starved and dehydrated they will fight each other for what resources are left.

Put people in a situation where they are forced to become savages, then use it as an excuse for military takeover and treatment of them as inhuman...I don't know if they did it deliberately this time, but I don't think they were interested in stopping it. And I think there's at least a few people in power taking notes for future use.

#19 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 01:46 PM:

Diana, thanks for your notes from the eye of the storm. So maybe it wasn't deliberate "payback," but just plain and simple every day incompetence.

There's a really annoying story in today's Post-Gazette (
where some PA National Guard troops have been in Louisiana for a few days AND HAVE YET TO BE DEPLOYED!!!

#20 ::: Rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 01:59 PM:

You need to see this. Cartoon commentary on the situation in Houston, and other places.
This is way...appropriately inappropriate, courtesy of the fellow who does Nodwick, all about Sending Packages to the Astrodome.

#21 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:07 PM:

A diary on DailyKos says that the reason the wrong parishes were declared an emergency area was because FEMA used the same declaration they had used for an earlier hurrican, Christine, WITHOUT BOTHERING TO UPDATE IT.

#22 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:19 PM:

Magenta, I'm trying to figure how a hurrican would miss those Parishes. Come around the corner from Mississippi?

Sneaky things, hurricanes. They creep up behind you and shout "BOO!"

#23 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Laurie, yes! I had a team of three guardsmen from Alabama working with me on Monday and Tuesday, and they were bitching about the fact that they had been sitting doing nothing for three days while the Powers That Be tried to figure out where to put them. Three days during which we were slogging through mud and sewage on our own covering a fraction of the ground we covered once we expanded from four teams to over twenty.

By the way, if you ever find yourself on a search and recovery team, make sure you wear proper protective garb. It wasn't until Monday that they started passing out masks to us to wear inside the moldy houses. By that time my cough had already taken hold. Then on Tuesday while we were lining up and getting ready to deploy to our seach areas, a paramedic got up and preached to us about how we needed to stop and brush our teeth or gargle listerine for four minutes four times a day while we were seaching. Someone asked him if he had toothbrushes and toothpaste or mouthwash and he said, "Well, umm.. no, you should have brought those with you." Okay, yeah... I always think to bring a toothbrush when I'm going to be crawling through mud. And decontamination consisted of washing our boots off with a firehose. I can't imagine why I have an intestinal bug right now.

#24 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:47 PM:

So, putting a lot of things together on this damned Convention Center situation -- somebody correct me if any of this is wrong:

1.) Somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 people entered the Convention Center for shelter from the hurricane, many directed there by law enforcement officials;

2.) They were locked in with no one allowed to exit;

3.) Most of a week passed with no food, water, or medical supplies, while almost all public attention focused on the Superdome;

4.) On Thursday, September 1, Michael Brown claimed that no one in the federal government knew that there had been people in the convention center for days (a proven lie);

5.) On Saturday, September 3, a large National Guard force with police powers under military command stormed (their word) the convention center on the assumption that it was occupied by an enemy force;

6.) Everyone in the convention center was brought out (on their own power or dragged by others), searched, triaged, and the herd was culled down to a subset of people to whom the National Guard "wanted to provide shelter, water and food" (their exact, horrifying words);

7.) Those people were sent back into the convention center in which they'd been dying for several days, presumably with supplies. I've found no verifiable word on how the evacuation proceeded after that or what happened to everybody else.

Do I have that right? Please, someone, please correct me if I'm wrong on any of it.

If my summary above is accurate, "Bastards" is not the word. The word is evil. I'm willing to believe it wasn't a deliberate, proactive attempt to kill these people, but the results are the same.

My definition comes from Terry Pratchett: "Evil begins when you start treating people as things."

And now I think I'm starting to see things -- not just the hurricane disaster, a lot of things -- in ways that I really feel I shouldn't. Not because it's incorrect; but because if we all saw things that way all the time, the world would be insane.

#25 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:53 PM:


Thanks you for the link to an explanation. I'm going to seize on that, as I can easily see someone typing up the announcement and forgeting to change the list of parishes.

So maybe it's just ordinary, run-of-the-mill incompetence, and not blazing evidence of outright evil.


#26 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:55 PM:

The ones at the Convention Center weren't locked in; they were just ignored. Told to go there by the authorities or dropped off by rescuers from other parts of the city, and then left with no food or water, and barred from walking out of the city.

The only reason *more* didn't die was that they organized looting nearby stores for food and water (ironically, at least one woman there says it was the 'guys with guns' who actually organized and distributed the supplies.)

#27 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:14 PM:

Someone asked him if he had toothbrushes and toothpaste or mouthwash and he said, "Well, umm.. no, you should have brought those with you."

Is anyone writing this down for Next Time?

Taking the "cash not goods" notion to heart, I sent $1,000 to the Red Cross on Bush Gets His Guitar day.

Now I'm wondering what that $1,000 could do if it was imaginately targeted. By, for example, going to the Dollar Tree and buying hundreds of cheap toothbrushes, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, rubber gloves and such and dropping them in airtight nalgene drinking bottles.

#28 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:19 PM:

Let me see if I have this right: The National Guard had to wait until the city was under control and it was safe to enter, before sending in their troops. Also, they had to wait for the paperwork to be completed so they had permission to use deadly force.

I think there is a military term for this, and the term is "chickenshit."

#29 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Tom, where I'm talking about isn't even in the city. This is Slidell, just north of New Orleans, where there was no civil unrest or looting, just massive destruction where the eye went through. The guardsmen sat around for days because no one knew what to do or where to send them. I think the military term is "clusterfuck."

#30 ::: Lori ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:59 PM:

How well are these National Guardsfolk trained? and for what specifically? If I'm remembering correctly these are mostly "weekend warriors" who have real jobs in the real world. This *could* explain why they didn't know what to do or where to go. This kind of thing would demand a little common sense. That, in my opinion, is not so common anymore.

#31 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:02 PM:

Sorry, I was referring to General Blum's official presentation that was so appropriately illustrated by Rivka.

One thing I can be sure of is the guardsmen you worked with were not responsible for the clusterfuck, they just got stuck in it. It is entirely appropriate that they are trained to wait for orders -- I would not want it otherwise. To understand why the orders were not given in time, we need to look further up in the hierarchy. And lo, there is a chickenshit general, blowing smoke in order to cover up his pathetic performance, and to protect the chickenshit politicians who created this clusterfuck.

I hope this clarifies my usage of the term. This is an editors' blog, and I understand the importance of writing precisely.

Oh, and thank you for your efforts, Diana.

#32 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:16 PM:

No, it's not the guardsmen's fault at all. They were all wonderful to work with and they busted their butts doing what needed doing without even a whisper of complaint about the nasty conditions. (Of course, these guys had all served in Iraq, so this wasn't all that bad, considering.)

As far as training goes, there was one deputy or firefighter per team as the leader, and then three guardsmen per team. My training consisted of working with a firefighter the day before so that I knew the symbols to paint on the houses and the procedures for entering and searching. The guardsmen followed me, learned how to do the symbols, and did what I told them to do. They were fantastic, and I just wish that we'd had them days earlier.

#33 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Did anyone notice this? It says something about what this guy is capable of understanding. Maybe about what TPTB are capable of understanding.

"Someone saw the storm coming. Somebody made the call early enough to get over a million people out of that city which is a magnificent and significant achievement that seems to be totally overlooked."

1. Watch weather forecast.

2. Oo, hurricane coming!

3. Tell people to leave.

Magnificent and significant achievement indeed.

#34 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:36 PM:

Meanwhile, the water-borne diseases have arrived. This, of course, can only help "pacify" the population further.

#35 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:23 PM:

Don't worry about dysentery and cholera and such.

There's a faith-based or free market solution out there for everything.

Just a few more tax cuts and it will all sort itself out, such that that only people who do die probably chose to do so for reason we may not understand but should respect.

#36 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 07:06 PM:

I was bitching about this to Maia in the shower.

I think I understand the motives for this, but I don't like the thing, at all.

The Guard is being beat up, some of it justified, some of it probably not (I'll lay long odds that had they been told to get the help there, guys would have filled their rucks with water and MREs and humped it in on foot; turned around and gone back for more. It's what I'd do if it were SF, or Bakersfield or Arcata).

The TAG can't go out and say, "This is why we fucked up" because it probably reflects badly on his superiors. So he spins it to make it seem the delay was not only unavoidable, but needful, and the results laudable.

Which is stupid, because even if he were right, it can't play that way. It might, just might, have played that way, if he had been pitching this line on the 28th of August, but now, on the 8th of Sept., not a chance in hell anyone believes him.

Better to be silent, and take the heat, than to spew bilge and be seen as a patsy, a stooge and flunkie.


#37 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 07:24 PM:

Diana: The weekend warriors get all sorts of training that applies (search operations are search operations, and first aid is first aid).

If they were in Iraq, they are decidely up to date on both. From a moral standpoint, this is probably worse than Iraq. They want to help, they know what the could be doing, and they are forced to wait, with thier collective thumb up their butt.

These are Americans, these are the people they signed up to help, in the circumstances they envisioned and they can't do anything

It pisses me off.

There's a poster, it's a recruitment poster, but it hangs in almost every armory I've ever been in, as a reminder.

It shows a guy, BDUs, and forage cap; wearing a poncho in the rain. He's slinging a sandbag.

The caption reads, "For some people, these are the proudest moments of their lives."

Fuck Patriotism. Fuck Politics, Fuck all of the things you hear about when people talk about why people join. In a lot of ways, that poster says it all.

That poster is why I'm in the Guard, not the RA, and not the Reserves. Those guys are frustrated in a way Iraq can't have frustrated them.

They deserve better.


#38 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 07:24 PM:

Correction: from a MORALE standpoint.


#39 ::: Dave Cake ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 10:21 PM:

They are using the Powell doctrine.
The Powell doctrine has always been morally suspect, with its implicit assumption that the lives on those who are not US troops are worth far less.

But when its applied during a rescue mission, not a war, when its used to say that the lives of US civilians are worth far less than its troops, its just outright stupid and evil.
They have arrived a doctrine where saving lives is not even close to their primary objective.

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