Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sean, Celine and the Big Easy

Sean Penn bails his leaky boat with a plastic cupCeline:
"Oh, they're stealing 20 pair of jeans or they're stealing television sets. Who cares? They're not going to go too far with it. Maybe those people are so poor, some of the people who do that they're so poor they've never touched anything in their lives. Let them touch those things for once."
"There are people that are dying right now and I mean babies and old people and everybody in between - they're dying. There are people dying and (the US government are) not putting the boats in the water, I think that's criminal negligence. I don't think anybody ever anticipated the criminal negligence of the Bush administration in this situation."
(The Evening Standard is one of the few that's taking Penn seriously. Most domestic sources are reporting Penn's involvement as comedy relief. See All Headline News and Blogcritics.)

You know, I've been looking for past warnings from the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana that "we'd better reinforce these levees before hurricane season gets here", and I'm not finding any. The best I can find is Drudge's reference to a Times-Picayune report describing a series of public service announcements being recorded by the local Red Cross Executive Director, the City Council President, and, yes, Mayor Ray Nagin, warning the population of sub-sealevel New Orleans that...
In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own....the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.
But apparently it is, or should be, within the president's power to change the course of mighty rivers. (What about the bending steel part? Does he have to use his bare hands, or can he have a pair of pliers?) Is the president supposed to take charge of every potential infrastructure failure in every city in the country? What are local governments for?

According to ABC, FEMA gave them what they asked for, but they didn't ask for evacuation assistance until well after Katrina hit.
One aide to the governor told ABC News today Blanco thought city officials were taking care of the evacuation.
Well, yeah, you'd think people who live in the shadow of a levee might be thinking about that. I can only assume that most of the city officials live on higher ground than Poydras Street. We've seen what city officials were doing: "You're on your own." As reported by the New York Daily News:
Nearly a third of New Orleans cops - some 500 of the 1,600 - are now unaccounted for. The department says some quit, but it doesn't know where most of them are. The top cop, Eddie Compass, has responded by offering all officers paid vacations to Las Vegas and Atlanta. Yes, that's right - he is pulling all cops off the street, even while bodies lie in the open.
And they used the buses that might have been useful evacuating residents dependent on public transportation to get them to, of all places, the SuperDome. Which is a lot like hiding in Titanic's engine room. Apparently Mayor Nagin had seen an old Superman comic featuring the domed undersea city of Atlantis and thought the SuperDome would do as well.

Maybe he figures Cuba Gooding Jr will play him in the movie.

It's not like the problem wasn't known. See National Geographic.

Even many of those who are making reasonably good cases for more and faster federal involvement (and I'll grant there are plenty of dropped balls to go around) are saying, in effect, that Washington should have known that those cajuns, yats, and n--that is to say, people of color--aren't capable of dealing with a real disaster. Which isn't quite the defense I would have hoped for, were I they.

LATER: Colorado representative Tom Tancredo actually said it:
Given the abysmal failure of state and local officials in Louisiana to plan adequately for or respond to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans, and given the long history of public corruption in Louisiana, I am not confident that Louisiana officials can be trusted to administer federal relief aid.
Well, I'll be darned.

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