Thursday, September 22, 2005

Best News on New Orleans: The New Yorker

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Bush's failure in New Orleans is how successful he's been at dodging the responsibility. The sickening incompetance of FEMA stands in stark contrast to the sickening competance of Bush's image-protection team. Not only have they moved quick enough to prevent the media from taking pictures of any of the watery corposes -- it would only take one picture of a mother's lifeless body still clutching her child's lifeless body to send people clamoring for Bush's impeachment --but they have been able to impose martial law on the whole city, preventing any worse news from leaking out. We should have a daily death toll, complete with pictures, but we don't.

Straining the bounds of irony, the best coverage of what it was life for the poor trapped in New Orleans is found in the "talk of the town" section of America's prissiest, most elite magazine. Lately, the New Yorker is the only publication I read religiously, and it's been the best at dispelling the lies Republicans tell themselves about Katrina.

First, there is the myth that "the only people who died in the floods were those that refused to leave." That myth was blown apart by a simple two page narrative in last week's magazine. It told of the Johnson family, 13 of whom live in a house together with one good job between them. They wanted to evacuate, as the patriach said "we may be poor, but we ain't stupid." Before the hutrricane, they'd heard rumors of buses evacuating the city, and they tried desparately to get more information. When no buses came, they waited out the storm in their house. They thought they were safe until the flooding started.

First they stood on furniture, then they went upstairs, then they used their large elder brother as a battering ram to break though the attic ceiling, handing him as much food and water as they could before joining him on the roof. There, they waited for FOUR DAYS, before a boat came and rescued them. They gave most of the water to their sister, so she could nurse her baby. When they were rescued, they were soaked, sunburned, starving and covered with soars from the shingles on their roof. Still, they were grateful to be alive, many of their neighbors drowned.

This week's magazine dispelled the myth that those who did want to stay were so stupid they deserved to drown. It told the story of one man who holed up on his roof with a canoe, several life jackets and several pounds of food. He told a volunteer rescue worker that he wanted to stay put, because his family had taken their only car to Baton Rouge, and he wanted to make sure they knew where to find him. The rescue worker (on a waverunner) explained to him that the water was toxic and likely to kill him before it was drained. He thought for a moment, then asked if he could take his dog, who was waiting with him. When she told him no, he sadly agreed to come, only after the rescue worker promised to help him get to Baton Rouge.

Knowing how worried I get when my wife takes longer than expected at the store, I can't imagine how horrible it would be to leave your family's only rallying point and go wherever a crowded bus takes you (not knowing where until you get there). How could you know you'd ever see them again? How could they know where to find you? How could you put yourself in the hands of a government who'd so thorughly botched things to this point?

Well, I've got to get to administrative law, the class that reminds me every day how responsible the President is for the failures of executive agencies.


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