March 02, 2009

A New Orleans resident speaks about the meaning of "during Katrina"

A reader named Jordan reacts to my previous two posts about the current effort to smear Bobby Jindal over "during Katrina":

How do we -- the people who lived through Katrina -- define "during Katrina?"

Believe it or not, it was often a topic of discussion around town in early 2006.

The answer depends on who you are, or where you lived. I lived in the burbs. We had electricity 3 weeks after the storm but there was no (potable) running water so we could not return home. We were under mandatory evacuation for exactly one month. We had 3 "look and leave" days where we could come in town, do any minor repairs, get pets left behind, or otherwise secure our property. We had to be out by dusk, and there were nice young men on every street corner with M-16s reminding us of that fact.

Even if we wanted to defy the evacuation order, there was no water, no food stores, no businesses open, no nothing... And very few people had electricity, and the temps were in the 90s.

We lived in a hotel room for 30 days with 4 people, 500 miles from home.

When we say "during Katrina" we mean from the time we evacuated -- before landfall -- until 30 days after when we could return home. In other words, the time we were under mandatory evacuation.

For others, the answer is different.

The people in Chalmette (the area Harry Lee mentions in that Youtube video) were under mandatory evacuation for around 90 days. Even when they could get in, every single home in the whole Parish was damaged or destroyed. For those folks, "during Katrina" meant months and months.

Here's the kicker... Many people are still struggling to get back into the houses they had before the storm. For them, "Katrina" is still going on.

A day later, Jordan went on to say:

I'm watching this whole debate with amusement.... There was no "Day After Katrina" for anyone with even the remotest amount of public responsibility. There was "that long undetermined amount of time that we went without sleeping or hardly eating" after Katrina. You folks in the rest of the world might have measured it in days. We didn't have the luxury of such trivial pastimes, as we had work to do.

Do any of these idiots think Harry Lee was putting in 8-hour days, then going home? Um... no.

I wasn't there, but I'd guess Harry Lee slept about an hour or 2 out of every 24 for the first week. I slept 1 hour per night for around 4 or 5 days. When I finally "slept" it was 6 hours in a chair, because my body simply collapsed and could go no more.

Anyone who thinks Harry Lee was tracking who spoke to him and when with such precision has no f****** clue what Lee was going through. There was no clock, there was no calendar... there was only the task at hand.

For Harry, "The Day After Katrina" was probably about 120 hours long. And, dare I say, 120 hours these pussies could never have handled.

P.S. To give you a scope of what it was like, I have spoken to about 6 people since the storm who believe they lost some vision during the storm due to their eyes just never closing. I've always had perfect vision (I'm a photographer, I know how my vision is), but 3 months after the storm I noticed I was holding things father away from my face and that my eyes hurt all the time. To this day, I get massive headaches if I look at the computer too long.

Was Katrina sleep deprivation the cause? Obviously, we'll never know, but there are a whole bunch of people who lost some vision all at the same time... and we'll always suspect it.

P.P.S. The one cool thing about this time frame was no speed limits. In the month after the storm I drove ~2000 miles, and if I was going less than 90mph on the highway I hit the gas some more. And I was just keeping up with traffic... we all had s*** to do. Cops were passing us up because they had s*** to do.

People who didn't live through it will never understand. It was on the one-month anniversary of Katrina that I heard the commander of the State Police get on the radio and ask -- ask -- people to hold it down to 80. He said they were not issuing tickets, but that we all had to take it down a notch...

Funny thing was: There were no accidents. We were so f****** wired, we were all paying attention.

The second month after the storm, things got ugly. People got used to the speed and quit paying attention. There were still fewer accidents than normal, but the percentage of fatalities was through the roof. About once per or twice per week there was an accident, and every one of them fatal.

I didn't see a cop running radar for 11 months... They were a tad busy. And these idiots think the Sheriff had time to update his day planner? Ha!

The meta-point being, these fools are looking at this time frame like it was normal... Dude, we were living on a different planet than the rest of you.

And now, so are the people engaged in this smear campaign.

Posted by Jim Treacher at 09:23 AM

February 28, 2009

Just a quick look at some top Google results for "during Katrina"

Documents Reveal FEMA Mistakes During Katrina (NPR)

President Bush concedes mistakes during Katrina, but says fed action not slow (Nola.com)

How Condi Rice Spent the Storm: Shopping During Katrina (Counterpunch)

The fight to save patients during Katrina (Dateline NBC)

McCain Compares Obama To Bush During Katrina. Right. (Jack & Jill Politics)

FEMA computers hampered during Katrina (PhysOrg.com)

Police Coping with Stress During Katrina Efforts (NPR)

It was Heroism, Not Homicide, During Katrina (Time)

Looking Back at the White House During Katrina (LA Progressive)

Notice any pattern there? Do you think they were all saying "during the actual landfall of Hurricane Katrina, and at no point beyond"? Or did they mean "during the storm and its aftermath"?

When it comes to finding a way to slam the Bush administration, "during Katrina" apparently spans the period between the beginning of time and after we're all dead. But if Bobby Jindal says it, all of a sudden it's his fault for not running outside right that minute and wrestling the hurricane to the ground.

Katrina was a gigantic mess, and there were a lot of mistakes and incompetence during it. There's plenty of blame to go around. But it sounds to me like Jindal did better than most. Nitpicking over his use of "during Katrina" is simply a bad-faith effort to smear a guy you don't like because of the color of his party affiliation. If you do it you should be ashamed of yourself, which is of course why you're not.

Once again:

P.S. More facts. I hope Zachary Roth doesn't blog from Starbucks, because his open weeping might cause a scene.

P.P.S. A New Orleans resident speaks.

Posted by Jim Treacher at 11:44 AM

February 27, 2009

Hey, did you know that Katrina ended the minute after the storm passed?

zachary_roth.jpgBoy, TPM Muckraker really hedged their bets with this headline about Jindal's post-Obama speech on Tuesday night:

Jindal Admits Katrina Story Was False

And why was it false? According to TPM's Zachary Roth:

Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee "during Katrina," and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn't have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, "that's ridiculous," prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.

But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has admitted to Politico that in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone "days later." The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.

This is no minor difference.

Of course not. Everybody knows that the event we now refer to as "Katrina" was strictly limited to the brief period of time when Louisiana residents could actually reach up and touch the hurricane. After that, the crisis was over! There were no problems at all. (And if there were, nobody directly blamed George Bush for any of them.) So for Jindal to say "during Katrina," when it was actually up to a week later according to Ben Smith at Politico, is obviously the basest, most contemptible sort of lie.

I don't know much about Jindal, and by all accounts his speech was excruciating. (I tried to watch some of it, but it was too awkward. He seems to be the inverse of Obama, in that he's much better at speaking extemporaneously than reading from a teleprompter. Which seems like a good thing, to me anyway.) But he's certainly on his way to passing one big test of presidential politics: withstanding a desperate, fact-twisting smear campaign. I doubt it'll be the last. Which will give him something to talk about with Palin, at least.

When Olbermann reads the printout of this TPM post on-air tonight, I wonder how many times he'll embellish it with "Sir"?

P.S. And when Obama breaks his daily promise, that's totally not a lie. You just misunderstood what he meant. Now go watch some more NASCAR, dummy.

P.P.S. Thanks to charles_star on Twitter for the tip.

P.P.P.S. Sheriff Lee, on the record:

Partial transcript: "Hurricane Katrina, the day after, Bobby was in my office, said, 'What do you need?' And it wasn't phone calls, he was in my office... I know how involved he was... He was hands-on. I got him everywhere he had to go in my helicopter, and he was there all the time. When the thing was over, he'd got equipment for us. And I said, 'Bobby, where did this new equipment come from? I wanna thank somebody.' And he said, 'I took care of it, don't worry about it.'" I hope nobody shows this to Josh Marshall and Zachary Roth. Might ruin their weekend.

P.P.P.P.S. The shifting definition of "during Katrina."

Posted by Jim Treacher at 01:01 PM