Hurricane Aftermath

I just caught some more of the coverage, and it just keeps sounding like things are getting worse and worse. I don’t know if the situation in some areas is actually getting worse, or if desperation is starting to set in.

It is, however, starting to be clear that the City of New Orleans was not adequately prepared for this- barring that this is the worst case of the bad case scenarios, and there really is no way to deal with it. I tend to think it is more of a situation where little can be done.

I am a little shocked that there was not more of a plan in place to fix a possible breach of the levee. If this was the worst case scenario, surely the city had to have a plan to patch it should it give way. At any rate, it appears that if there was a plan, it failed, and we are left with headlines that read like something from the Onion:

“Huge sandbags planned for levee leaks”

Big sandbags is what we have come up with 36 hours after the levee has broken. I had thought they were going to fill shipping cars (cargo cannisters) and drop those, but I guess not. Big sandbags are what the city is pinning its hopes on.

The whole thing is just so depressing. And, in a sign of things to come, gas prices here jumped from $2.55 to $3.09 in the 8 hours I was at work.

I don’t think people realize that while the death toll may not surpass 9/11 (although having been to New Orleans several times, I fear it will), the impact economically is going to be much worse. The entire gulf economy was just wiped out, and a city of a half million is largley under water.

If This Is True

I am simply flabbergasted and speechless:

When FBI supervisors in Miami met with new interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta last month, they wondered what the top enforcement priority for Acosta and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be.

Would it be terrorism? Organized crime? Narcotics trafficking? Immigration? Or maybe public corruption?

The agents were stunned to learn that a top prosecutorial priority of Acosta and the Department of Justice was none of the above. Instead, Acosta told them, it’s obscenity. Not pornography involving children, but pornographic material featuring consenting adults.

Acosta’s stated goal of prosecuting distributors of adult porn has angered federal and local law enforcement officials, as well as prosecutors in his own office. They say there are far more important issues in a high-crime area like South Florida, which is an international hub at risk for terrorism, money laundering and other dangerous activities.

His own prosecutors have warned Acosta that prioritizing adult porn would reduce resources for prosecuting other crimes, including porn involving children. According to high-level sources who did not want to be identified, Acosta has assigned prosecutors porn cases over their objections.

You can’t make this shit up. What sane person would?

What Can You Do?

How this tragedy happened is something that can be resolved later. Right now, though, there is an immense human tragedy unfolding in the Gulf:

Blanco said she wanted the Superdome – which had become a shelter of last resort for about 20,000 people – evacuated within two days, along with other gathering points for storm refugees. The situation inside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.

At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the only major freeway leading into New Orleans from the east, lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concrete floating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only route for commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.

The sweltering city of 480,000 people – an estimated 80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate as Katrina closed in over the weekend – also had no drinkable water, and the electricity could be out for weeks.

“The logistical problems are impossible and we have to evacuate people in shelters,” the governor said. “It’s becoming untenable. There’s no power. It’s getting more difficult to get food and water supplies in, just basic essentials.”…

“Oh my God, it was hell,” said Kioka Williams, who had to hack through the ceiling of the beauty shop where she worked as floodwaters rose in New Orleans’ low-lying Ninth Ward. “We were screaming, hollering, flashing lights. It was complete chaos.”

These are real people, not just characters in a made for cable news ratings bonanza. And they are going through sheer hell. The full mobilization of the state and federal governments simply is NOT ENOUGH.

And this is just the urgent immediate stuff- food, water, medical attention. The rebuilding is going to take years (and depspite these astute questions from Mark Kleiman, they will rebuild), and there are costs and issues that we have only yet begun to fathom.

-Where will these people live?

-Where will we put all the dead?

-Where will we find the immediate resources (wood, labor, concrete, rebar, steel, oil) to rebuild?

-How will the victims support themselves?

-Can they rebuild? Will people want to come back?

In short, what will happen? And there are so many other personal tragedies, intimate horror stories, that can not be overlooked. I have a soft spot for animals, and my first thought is the added grief of all these people who have lost family pets. I teach, so I wonder what is going to happen to all the students at Tulane and the other universities and high schools.

And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This is an unprecedented emergency, the most awful thing I have ever seen on our shores. This will be worse than 9/11, and will require more effort and funding and patience and compassion.

And that is the bad news. But it isn’t all bad. There are hundreds of thousands of survivors, and if I know anything about middle America, it is that we will remain undeterred and, despite the odds and despite how corny it sounds, optimistic. It is what we do. it is who we are.

Yesterday I saw a marching band on CNN parading down the streets of ravaged Biloxi. Heads held high, drums beating, a crew of clean-up workers aremed with rakes, brooms, shovels, and chainsaws were letting their presence be known.

It is time for you to let your presence be known, as well. You can help. You can do something. You must do something.

Here are a list of links to sites which are already knee-deep in the muck, doing what they can to help. Open up your wallet, and give until it hurts:

The American Red Cross
Catholic Charities
Habitat For Humanity
Samaritan’s Purse
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
The Humane Society
The Mercy Corps
The Salvation Army

Other lists of charities can be found at the Instapundit, at NZ Bear’s aggregator, and at the FEMA website.

Please help.

*** Update ***

I am giving to the Red Cross today, but I also intend to send money to Noah’s Wish. Thanks to a commenter who pointed me in their direction.

Police Involved In Looting

There are reports police themselves were taking part in the looting:

Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.

At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.

While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.

Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat screen television.

Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders…

Throughout the store and parking lot, looters pushed carts and loaded trucks and vans alongside officers. One man said police directed him to Wal-Mart from Robert’s Grocery, where a similar scene was taking place. A crowd in the electronics section said one officer broke the glass DVD case so people wouldn’t cut themselves.

“The police got all the best stuff. They’re crookeder than us,” one man said.

Most officers, though, simply stood by powerless against the tide of law breakers.

One veteran officer said, “It’s like this everywhere in the city. This tiny number of cops can’t do anything about this. It’s wide open.”


Hurricanes and Global Warming

This is interesting:

Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught “is very much natural,” said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950’s and 60’s. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was chance, Dr. Gray said, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.

Historically, the rate has been 1 in 3.

Then last year, three major hurricanes, half of the six that formed during the season, hit the United States. A fourth, Frances, weakened before striking Florida.

“We were very lucky in that eight-year period, and the luck just ran out,” Dr. Gray said.

Global warming may eventually intensify hurricanes somewhat, though different climate models disagree.

A storm of this strength was, in other words, bound to happen. That doesn;t m,ean that global warming won’t have an impact in future decades, but right now, this appears cyclical, coupled with eroding marsh/swamplands and vast coastal developments. One of the things I found truly stunning of the coverage from the past few days were the coastal regions of Mississippis and Alabama that were just littered with casinos ripped from their moorings and thrown hundreds of yards inland.

Bush’s Poll Numbers

This is going to ‘fuel’ all sorts of irresponsible demagoguery regarding gas prices in the upcoming months:

Rising gas prices and ongoing bloodshed in Iraq continue to take their toll on President Bush, whose standing with the public has sunk to an all-time low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found Bush’s job approval rating at 45 percent, down seven points since January and the lowest ever recorded for the president in Post-ABC surveys. Fifty-three percent disapproved of the job Bush is doing.

The war has been a drag on Bush’s presidency for many months, but his Iraq approval ratings in the new poll were little changed from two months ago, despite widespread violence, a rash of U.S. casualties, antiwar protests outside the president’s Texas ranch and a growing debate about reducing U.S. troop levels.

What may have pushed Bush’s overall ratings down in the latest poll is pervasive dissatisfaction over soaring gasoline prices. Two-thirds of those surveyed said gas prices are causing financial hardship to them or their families. Gas prices stand to go even higher after Hurricane Katrina’s rampage through the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.

More ominously for the president, six in 10 Americans said there are steps the administration could take to reduce gas prices. Slightly more than a third say the recent run-up has been due to factors beyond the administration’s control.

“I supported him last year,” said Gina Coleman, 29, a homemaker living in Camden County, N.J. “I wouldn’t vote for him again. It’s gas prices, the war — just the way he has been handling things. The rise in gas is something that has been happening for a long time, and the prices are getting worse. This makes me feel more negative about him, definitely.”

Coupled with the current disaster in the Gulf and rising demand abroad for petroleum, prices are going to go through the roof. While the Bush administration, the auto companies, and the public have failed miserably with regard to conservation efforts, there is little that can be done in the short-term to fix the problem. I fully expect there to be calls for ‘price freezes,’ which do nothing but delay the pain and let people consume as if there was no problem, and releases of the SPR.

The real pinch will be felt in the falland winter with heating oil costs, as for many people, certain amounts of driving are an elective activity.

The Fat Patient and Her Fat-Headed Doctor

Remember the patient I ridiculed for filing a complaint against her Doctor for telling her she is obese? Turns out there is more to the story:

The state is investigating a doctor accused of telling a patient she was so obese she might only be attractive to black men and advising another to shoot herself following brain surgery.

“Let’s face it, if your husband were to die tomorrow, who would want you?” the state Board of Medicine says Dr. Terry Bennett told the overweight patient in June 2004.

“Well, men might want you, but not the types you want to want you. Might even be a black guy,” it quoted him as saying, based on the woman’s complaint.

Certainly paints a different picture.

*** Edited Slightly For Accuracy ***