Monday, December 19, 2005

More on School Buses

I was happy to see Jarvis DeBerry's great column in Fri.'s Times Picayune, even if it came about two months too late. I don't mean to be that hard on Mr. DeBerry, I've always liked his column, but it's about time somebody in the local media pointed out that following the evacuation plan would have meant evacuating New Orleans when Fla. was threatened. It's unfortunate that nobody at the T/P pointed this out back in Sept. or Oct. when the myth was taking root and the T/P still had a national readership. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the urban legends website did more to dispel some of the early Katrina myths than the T/P did.

Now that Mr. DeBerry has pointed out that the 72hr evacuation plan could not have been followed and others have pointed out the buses didn't have drivers, one can hope that the rest of the nation will finally realize that the images of flooded school buses are totally irrelevant. However, I'd like to add one thing to that discussion. Even if the hurricane center's forecast map had included New Orleans 72 hrs in advance and even if the entire city had heeded the warnings that far in advance, where would the busloads of people have gone? No inland city would have taken the evacuees. Aside from any race and class issues, there's the fact that it would have been irresponsible for any inland city to have agreed to take busloads of evacuees that far in advance; 72 hrs out, a hurricane could hit anywhere along the Gulf Coast. How could any city agree to open its shelters to evacuees from N.O. when it might need them for evacuees from anywhere along the Gulf Coast? If anyone doubts this, they need only recall last year's Hurricane Ivan. It made landfall near the Ala./Fla. border around 2am Sept. 16, the hurricane warning for N.O. wasn't lifted until 10am Sept. 15. If New Orleanians had been bussed to inland shelters, they would have been occupying space needed by Mobile residents. A 72hr evacuation plan seems to be unrealistic, but to fault the mayor and governor for not following it is ludicrous.

Now that Mr. DeBerry is answering absurd spin points that should have been punctured weeks ago, perhaps he can get his colleague Stephanie Grace to explain what she meant when she said:

She failed to ask for the right type of help the right way.

That bit of spin disappeared when the national media and even The Daily Show (but not, to my knowledge, the Picayune) noticed that the White House waited until Sept. 7 to inform the Blanco administration that the request for aid needed to be re-sent. But Republican spin points are harder to kill than Jason from the Friday the Thirteenth movies, so I'm sure we'll hear more of that. When that heppens, we can now at least hope that the T/P will treat that canard with all the disrespect it so richly deserves.

Finally, maybe someone in the local media will finally ask why the administration's enthusiasm for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast began to fade when FEMA came under attack for patronage and no-bid contracts. I doubt it though; it's a dangerous question to ask. Any question that even suggests the slighest connection will be twisted into a cynical assertion. For the record, it would be cynical to assert that calls for a patronage free, open bidding process caused the administration to turn its back on the region. However, at least one high ranking administration official is reported to have said that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Wouldn't it be naive not to wonder why this administration only started to worry about deficit spending after it began to look like it wouldn't totally control the patronage?

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