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September 03, 2005

Again, with New Orleans

My aunt made it to my cousin's house, a thousand miles away from the chaos. But she's beat, and probably more depressed than ever just listening to the radio all those miles.

What we're going to find out which will be particularly disheartening will be the news about how the truly weak have suffered. The mentally ill, the disabled - people who need daily meds.

Right about now I think we should be prepared to hear stories of cholera, gangrene and dysentery. I wouldn't be surprised to hear about stray dogs and gators munching on corpses. Yet at this moment, it appears that everybody who needs to be on the ground is there or in close proximity.

I am growing fatigued from following all this news. But here's my first broad thought. Firstly, nobody should doubt American's resolve to help each other. I interpret even the most bitter complaint as a sentiment to help. We're all out here saying how we might do it better. We're minding each other's business. It is at this moment that I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would want us to have national IDs with RFID tags and a panoptical network of videocameras tied into all of our home PCs. Hundreds of people have been following the struggle of one ISP to keep his feed alive. Without a doubt, internet service is a utility, and Americans are finding more and more ways to make it useful in emergencies. Scipionus is a perfect example of that. We've got block level information on how high water is in various neighborhoods in New Orleans.

Secondly, I've been thinking how much this tragedy mirrors the initial situation on the ground in Iraq. And because of that, I know that the National Guard ought to be in very good shape to handle the situation. This isn't Najaf, and people won't be using RPGs or mortars. They'll be trying to get food and a hot shower. All of the chaos will be over in a week. Let me also add that anybody who thinks we needed troops from Iraq is muddleheaded. This is what the National Guard is supposed to do, and so they've been learning lessons from Iraq, this is going to be small potatoes relatively speaking.

As for Ray Nagin, I'm with him on this. If I had any criticism of Nagin, it was that his early quote of 'death in the thousands' was a bit alarmist. But his decision the demand a complete evacuation when the dikes burst was the right thing. I find it very interesting that he was originally a Republican when he was a corporate exec but changed to be a Democrat in order to get elected mayor, and I'm glad that he got his meeting with GWBush. Since they're cool with each other, I'm cool with the both of them. Again, I'm just not in an emotional place to start political criticism, and I probably won't be, but any politician who says to hell with press conferences, we've got a disaster on our hands is alright with me.

As for the racial angle, what a surprise. All of the refugees were people who couldn't get out of Dodge when the word came down. Any and everybody I talked to in New Orleans this spring knew that the Superdome was going to be filled with people from the projects and people who take the bus. America might not be ready to look black poverty squarely in the eye, it's overloaded with symbolism. And it sure is uncomfortable looking at it day after day on the news. It's nothing new, give us a break with the wide-eyed astonishment.

Tangentially, it comes as no surprise that Kanye West flipped the script. I really don't know why the mainstream media is so determined to stay away from the raw truth of emotion and pain. Their attempts to marginalize plain speakers will be their death. Not that West has anything deep to say.

New Orleans, like South Central Los Angeles, will not survive it's bursting into the national consciousness in its true form. It will have been spun into new proportions by people who have never been there and don't know any of the people. There are only a few ways to reconcile that and I hope local bloggers do their share. Unfortunately, I don't know that there are any bloggers from the 9th Ward of New Orleans, nor that if there are, that they will be online anytime soon. I'll be looking out.


As we watch the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we sit idly by wondering what we can do to have some impact on this situation. I am excited about the compassion National Society of Black Engineers members have exhibited concerning our assistance to our fellow NSBE members who have been devastated by this disaster. Many of you have called and emailed me asking what NSBE is going to do? At the very least, I am encouraging every member of NSBE to do the one thing that takes no money or energy. Pray.

On September 5, 2005, use your Labor Day holiday as a time to reflect, focus, and do something to help someone else. Not to infringe on anyone's faith, your participation is voluntary. Specifically, remember the members of Regions 3 and 5 in your thoughts. Our New Orleans chapters are simply no longer existent as many students attempt to enroll in other universities. Pray that God comforts all of those who have lost loved ones and for the safe return on those who are missing in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Many of us have family in the affected areas.

In addition to your prayers, I am asking that every go to NSBE Online and donate to the NSBE Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. This fund is set up under the donations section. If you are not a NSBE member, you can click the button which says Make A Donation. We will be collecting these donations and disseminating to our members who were affected by this tragedy. Eligibility and requirements to receive funds will be posted on the website and sent via email shortly. While your contribution is voluntary, I hope that you are compelled to give. Offer your time by volunteering with many of the national organizations who need people to assist. Give blood volunteer at the shelters. Be Creative! If there is more that you can do, it would be greatly appreciated. So let us go out and show that we are committed to assisting our NSBE family! Be strong and keep the faith.

Posted by mbowen at September 3, 2005 10:47 AM

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Hi there, if you want some info, mostly good but left-of-center in approach:

Looka (Chuck Taggert)

United Methodist Relief Committee:

Cherie Priest on too poor to leave:
"And the evacuation was little more than a vague order to get the hell out -- under your own power and at your own expense. If you have, at your immediate disposal, reliable transportation, money for gas, and either distant family OR money for shelter, then this isn't a big deal. Of course you leave. You pack up everything you can and you head for higher ground. But it is somewhat less easy to do if you are lacking any one of these things, AND you have been informed that what little earthly lot you may claim is about to be destroyed. Do you hang on and try to save what you can? Do you let it go and return to less than nothing?"

An email from an aid worker:
"he poorest 20% (you can argue with the number -- 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources -- meaning, the political will -- weren't there to get them out."

there's more at the times picayune

How the incident command system is supposed to work (and didn't)

Posted by: Elizabeth Ditz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 3, 2005 12:23 PM

I hear you on the fatigue thing. Right about now I'm glad I don't have a tv. It's draining enough just surfing around to a few websites. Katrina and its lawfree aftermath is an incredible shock to the system(s).

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 3, 2005 05:45 PM

Simply put, Ray Nagin is a hero.

Anyone who understands anything about people and recognizes the truth when they hear it, had to pick up on the sincerity coming from this guy in that radio interview. Here's the mayor of a city watching his people suffer and die on a daily basis and he was at the end of his rope, he just couldn't take it anymore.

No doubt the politician within him thought twice about letting it all out, and he had to realize that he was going to really piss off a whole lot of powerful people who are in a position to squash him politically. But he didn't give a damn about that anymore. The simple fact is that anyone with any guts or heart watching those babies suffering in the street every day would've done the same damn thing.

I'd never heard of Ray Nagin before this disaster, but I learned everything I needed to know about the guy from that interview. It's a sad statement of fact that not many politicians these days are real leaders. And it's a real rarity to find one who can be described as someone worthy of following, but as far as I'm concerned Mayor Nagin is the man. If he ever runs for anything in my vicinity, not only will he get my vote, I'll campaign my ass offer him. I'd follow this dude into hell if he ask me.


As for all you who don't think Ray Nagin accomplished anything, please! Overnight things changed in New Orleans, the president of the United States finally threw the full weight and power of the federal government behind the aid and rescue efforts in the city. If you don't see that then obviously there's no hope for you, because you've sold your souls to the devil.

There are a few times in every man's life when you're character is put to the test and that moment came for the mayor in that interview, that was Ray's trial, and he came shining through.

If I ever saw the spirit move anybody, it moved Mayor Nagin in that radio interview. Praise God and Ray for saving those babies.

Click on the link to download the interview,



Posted by: Aaron at September 4, 2005 01:33 AM

As for the racial angle, I read an article that claimed poorer black residents have been "forced" to live on the lowest levels of the city, while more wealthier citizens built their homes on the hills. So when the hurricane hit, and then the collapse of the levee, the poor black areas were hit the hardest. I am waitin to see if other news articles will confirm this.

Posted by: blackambition at September 4, 2005 10:44 AM

Other articles won't confirm this unless they delve into the racist nature of zoning practices in most metropolitan areas. Black people weren't "forced" in that there is no law stating "poor black people cannot live in the hills." Rather they were forced by zoning practices that prevented certain types of buildings (multiple occupier dwellings, rental units) from being built in one place versus another.

Posted by: Lester Spence [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 11:51 AM

Uh, on 8/28 AP reported:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.


It sounds like credit for the evac. belongs to GWB. Note, he appealed, he couldn't order it because of issues of federalism that many seem to not take into account.

Posted by: John at September 4, 2005 12:10 PM

Nagin ordered the evacuation as mandatory and he wasn't prompted by Bush. It's the first sentence in article and it's what I've heard personally from relatives in the area one of whom lives on the sixth floor of a luxury apartment building in an area that's not so hard hit.

Don't underestimate the bad blood between Blanko and Nagin. Nagin started off as a Republican and supported Blanko's rival for Governor. There is nothing I've seen of her conduct that suggests she's doing anything but covering her ass. Nagin, to his great credit, has stuck his neck out and sacrificed mealymouthed political decorum in an effort to get results. I have a feeling I'm going to be defending him for a long time. Also I want to know about that general he was talking about Honore. His is the story that I want to hear.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 12:40 PM