One Hell of a Clusterfuck

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 18 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

I haven’t been following the fallout from Katrina that closely. Most of what I know comes from BoingBoing and the highlights on the 5 o’clock news.
The picture that I see developing is very troubling. Here are the highlights of the clusterfucks that is The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (from various BoingBoing articles):

  • Thirty elderly who died in the nursing home were simply forgotten. They were supposed to be rescued but someone dropped the ball and they died.
  • Under Homeland Security, FEMA is supposed to be in charge, but they have been marginalized due to their obvious screw ups. The National Guard is now in charge in the region and they have no experience in these matters. This is aggravating a bad situation.
  • The plan going forward for New Orleans is to demolish all the houses and burn them. There is nowhere to bury the waste in the region so they will incinerate it all. Before that can go on, they will have to search every house for chemical hazards.
  • The EPA ordered 40 satellite phones to get their people in contact. Those phones have arrived, but no one ordered SIM cards and these phones are currently useless.
  • This contractor has been organizing reverse osmosis (RO) water purification units from all over the country since last Tuesday. He has over 100 units of various sizes available to move into the region, but no one will give the go ahead. No one will sign their name to a piece of paper for fear recriminations later. He says that over 80 million pint bottles of water have been purchased at $0.75 each. The RO units can produce a gallon of water from contaminated water for $0.01 and they can produce thousands of gallons a day. Two are staged near the zone and these alone can produce 250,000 gallons per day. The Army has RO units, but every functional one, and every operator trained to use them, is in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Houston Independent media organizers, who have been working in concert with local community organizations, relief groups, the Federal Communications Commission, a major electronics manufacturer, and the City of Houston, have been denied permission to build a 30-watt radio station inside the Astrodome by R.W. Royall Jr., Incident Commander of the JIC (Joint Information Committee) at the Astrodome. When they asked why they were being turned down, they were told that the Astrodome could not provide them with electricity. When the Austin Airwaves team offered to run on battery backup, they were still denied. Did I mention that A) also have a license in hand from the FCC, B) have not one, but two sources of 10,000 radios [including Sony, which I applaud – despite the fact that I don’t like their technology tactics].
  • There are reported rapes, beatings, and murders. And while unsubstantiated at this point, I have no reason to disbelieve it.
    NOLA evacuee Clara Barthelemy, “A six year old girl was raped in here [the Astrodome].. 9 year old boy killed. A man in the shower beaten.” another evacuee says, “Over 20 rapes per night happening inside this place. They bring in national guard for media purposes. Bush wants us to stay here to raise his ratings.”
  • “We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media,” a [FEMA] spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry. The Bush administration also has prevented the news media from photographing flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that the government is trying to block images that put the war in a bad light.
  • “The media censorship here runs high. It was not easy to actually enter the dome as media. I am working with the group ‘Austin Airwaves’ and our badge says ‘PRESS’ in huge white letters on a red background. This has caused unending red tape. I have been the subject of removal a few times, bordering on a dozen. My camera draws the most fire.”
  • An article in the Army Times is referring to American citizens in New Orleans as “the insurgency”.

Despite all this, I am still ready and willing to go to help setup a technology infrastructure. And in case you don’t know what a clusterfuck is, here’s the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

clusterfuck, n.
A bungled or botched undertaking; (also) a situation, state of affairs, or gathering (esp. a military operation) that is disorganized or chaotic.

Yup…we got ourselves a genuine American clusterfuck.