Thursday, September 01, 2005

This is the end, beautiful friend

Disturbing rumors and blog posts are beginning to filter into the main stream media reports out of New Orleans. [As an old reporter, I was determined not to introduce rumors into this blog, but there have been scattered confirmations in the Big Media).

The NOPD--with no radios, no vehicles, no station houses, no food, no water--is beginning to collapse. Some offiers are reported to have joined the looting, others to have deserted. The remainder are left to themselves to do the best they can.

I am put in mind of the power scene in Apocalypse Now in which Willard (Martin Sheen) arrives at the bridge and tries to find the C.O.

WILLARD: Soldier -- where's your C.O.?

SOLDER: Stepped on a booby trap, sir got blown all to hell.

WILLARDL Well, who's in command here?

SOLDIER: I don't know -- don't have any idea -- I'm just the night man --

The SOLDIER turns and walks off babbling incoherently.

WILLARD: What about you soldier?

The SECOND SOLDIER he was talking to turns around smiling idiotically and making animal noises. He stumbles off after his friend.

Why is the federal government just now mobilizing the National Guard, when they had days of advance warning? I learned of the imminent danger Friday night, when I found a hurricane tracking model map posted before public release by a meteorology student. There was strong model consensus for a landfall between Barataria Bay and Bay St. Louis.

Why were the antique WWII/Korea vintage "ducks" (amphibious vehicles) of the Louisiana National Guard shipped off to Iraq, with all of the other disaster equipment from Jackson Barracks? The ducks are as much a part of the Hurricane Mythos for Gulf Coasters as tape marks on the windows and Nash Roberts.

Why must the Emergency Services Director of Jefferson Parish break down in tears because there is not more food and water at the emergency center? Who bought police radios that won't swap out a rechargeable pack for AAs (try looking in the West Marine catalog, guys).

Why is the rescue effort on the ground being led by the Wildlife & Fisheries? Yes, they have the boats, thank god, and are in there. As the rumors I have been reluctant to republish turn into wire stories, these folks are dragging their boats through stinking polluted floodwater, pushing the dead aside to reach the living. These guys didn't sign up for this duty. They just went and did it. There are no greater heroes living in American today than the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries folks. (These people deserve their own post. Hell, they deserve more than that, but for now that is all I can give).

Why weren't there 20,000 National Guard mobilized Saturday last, and positioned just north of the storm track. Either out government is in the hands of complete incompetents (always a strong possibility, especially when you talk about the Schedule C political appointees who really run things). Or they really just don't care.

In addition to no rumors, I had promised myself to keep my political views out of this. But since I will be ecumenical and blame Nagin and Bush alike, and Gov. Kathleen Blanco and especially Gov. Hally Barner--formerly chair of the Republican National Committee, who would brook no criticism of his Fearless Leader on CNN this morning, I feel within my rights to say it:

There is no Homeland Security. The Homeland Security spokesman on air is making Happy Talk, and half a million refugees and many more expatriots--listening to WWL And WDSU and reading, know he is full of shit.

There is no Emergency Response for the victims. Only the specter of lawlessness because our leaders were unprepared or uncaring got their attention. They didn't care enough about the people, only about the property damage.

Louisiana is one of those places that sends the highest numbers of it's young people to Iraq and Vietnam and every conflict since 1815. We have permitted the rape of our landscape to feed the nation's need for oil. We have opened our arms and shared our city with you in the millions.

When we needed you, you were not there.

Know this: when the next Big One comes--from the Gulf, or deep beneath California, or on a ship from the Mideast--if you are relying on the government to save you, you will suffer or you will die.

There is no C.O.

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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