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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans refugees 


Bit by bit, I think the news media is getting it. I'm not sure if government officials have got it yet.
This is a disaster.
There was a bit of a "blame the victim" thing starting up yesterday in places in the media and the blogosphere, to the effect that people in New Orleans should have known better than to stay behind so anything that happened to them was their own fault.
But the magnitude of this disaster has overwhelmed that excuse. Aaron Brown was going on tonight about how uncomfortable he was calling his fellow Americans "refugees" -- but finally concluding he had to use that term because that is exactly what they are. Joe Scarborough and David Schuster on MSNBC were talking about how many people in Biloxi died because they didn't have $20 for a tank of gas and so couldn't leave town. The New York Times editorial ripped Bush a new one:
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end. We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass.
I think the media are beginning to ask, and in increasing strident tones, "What the hell are you doing to help?"
Personally, I am tired of hearing FEMA people talk endlessly during TV interviews about how nice they are to have come so far -- I want to ask them "Yes, but what are you getting done? Are you making these people's lives easier or are you harassing them with BS red tape?"
In Houston, apparently, the Astrodome will be open to refugees -- but only the refugees who came from the New Orleans dome, not any refugees who got to Houston on their own but now have no place to stay. And there seems to be a lot of fuzziness about how that evacuation is being done and how long it will actually last.
And I hear the FEMA director talk about how people don't have any money, and then he calmly announces that they really should get some from somewhere, like maybe from the Red Cross -- so I guess it was OK for the American government to hand out cash in Baghdad, but not in New Orleans.
Joe Scarborough had a very sensible idea tonight (the polarity of the earth is reversing, I know, but he DID!). He said people close enough to the disaster area should just load up their trucks with supplies and drive down and drop them off, then turn around and go get some more. I guess this is what people were doing during another recent disaster that Joe covered in Pensacola, Florida, and these acts of kindness made all the difference to the desperate people there.

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