May 30, 2007

Katrina and the press

We recall the female reporter sitting in a rowboat
making her televised report as two men walk past
her in rubber boots in less than a foot of water.
We might also remember the reports of lawlessness,
including rape, that the press quietly acknowledged
later as rumor. Below, in purple, is a an accounting of
what the
government got right, which the press missed.

The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina,
not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media
portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest
places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was.
The situation was always under control, not surprisingly
because the people in control were always there.

From the Dome, the Louisiana Guard's main command
ran at least 2,500 troops who rode out the storm inside
the city, a dozen emergency shelters, 200-plus boats,
dozens of high-water vehicles, 150 helicopters, and a
triage and medical center that handled up to 5,000
patients (and delivered 7 babies). The Guard command
headquarters also coordinated efforts of the police,
firefighters and scores of volunteers after the storm
knocked out local radio, as well as other regular military
and other state Guard units.

Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard
Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, cited "10,244 sorties
flown, 88,181 passengers moved, 18,834 cargo tons
hauled, 17,411 saves" by air. Unlike the politicians,
they had a working chain of command that
commandeered more relief aid from other Guard units
outside the state. From day one.

There were problems, true: FEMA melted down.
Political leaders, from the Mayor to Governor to the
White House, showed "A Failure of Initiative", as a
recent House report put it. That report, along with
sharply critical studies by the White House and the
Senate, delve into the myriad of breakdowns, shortages
and miscommunications that hampered relief efforts.

Still, by focusing on the part of the glass that was
half-empty, the national media imposed a near total
blackout on the nerve center of what may have been
the largest, most successful aerial search and rescue
operation in history. Source
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Katrina compared to Galvatsten and other storms.

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