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Saturday, October 29, 2005
It’s A Record
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:59 am

Via the AP: Beta Becomes 13th Hurricane of Season

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, October 27, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

Via the AP: Season’s 23rd Tropical Storm Forms

I still think it is awfully lazy of them to have to resort to letters.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Back to Brown
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

Via WaPo: Brown Had Resignation Plans Before Katrina Hit

Brown resigned on Sept. 12, but the Department of Homeland Security then contracted with him at his full $148,000-a-year salary to serve as a consultant on a review of the response to Hurricane Katrina. The consulting arrangement, initially set to end Oct. 10, has been extended by four weeks, department spokesman Russ Knocke said.

Interesting. As the story suggests, one has to wonder as to Brown’s focus when Katrina hit, given that he was already moving to resign.

And this kind of thing burns me:

Brown resigned on Sept. 12, but the Department of Homeland Security then contracted with him at his full $148,000-a-year salary to serve as a consultant on a review of the response to Hurricane Katrina. The consulting arrangement, initially set to end Oct. 10, has been extended by four weeks, department spokesman Russ Knocke said.

If Brown was considered necessary, then he shouldn’t have been allowed to resign, only to be brought-back as a “consultant”-and certainly given the problems of FEMA under Brown during the Katrina response, one has to wonder what in the world the agency was thinking in giving him such a position.

Of course, I will state that in general I find the process of someone resigning or retiring and then being immediately given a consultants position to be an improper practice that smacks of overt favoritism, cronyism and jobbing the system. Either keep your job, or quit-don’t quit, reduce your overall responsibilities, and then get-hired at the same salary (or higher in many cases) for doing less work.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
On Voting and Evacuations
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:22 am

Via the Birmingham News: Democrats support bill to allow absentee voting by evacuees

Rep. Artur Davis’ proposal to give displaced hurricane evacuees a chance to vote absentee in their home state elections has gained support on Capitol Hill but so far only from Democrats.

The legislation, if approved, would treat evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi like military personnel and let them vote back home in the 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

Since its introduction Sept. 13, Davis’ bill has attracted 33 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, and a Senate version of the bill has three Democratic supporters.


Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and John Kerry, D-Mass., are co-sponsors. Louisiana’s other senator, Republican David Vitter, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Congress should be working on helping displaced residents return to Louisiana, first and foremost, and that the voting legislation should wait.

On the one hand, there does seem to be a certain amount of fairness inherent in allowing persons displaced by Katrina for extended periods to right to vote in their home districts. However, this strikes me as logistically a nightmare, and more importantly it raises the question of when one becomes a resident of where one is living.

Normally, residency is instantaneous to the establishment of a new domicile. As such, intent to one day relocate, for whatever reason, does not vitiate one’s current residency status. In other words: when does an evacuee become not an evacuee but a new resident of a new location? And how would intent to return to a specific electoral district (indeed, districts since we all live in multiple federal, state and local districts) be legally established?

If one is deployed to Iraq, intent to return to one’s home in the US is clear-however, if one has been displaced to Montgomery, Alabama, one may never never to New Orleans.

Of course, this entire issue is steeped in partisan politics, as Democrats know that the displacement in Louisiana caused by Katrina have disproportionately effected the Democratic Party. Republicans are aware of this as well. It is no shocker, therefore, that Landrieu is in favor (New Orleans forms much of her political base) and Vitter prefers a wait-and-see approach.

If anything, it does strike me that extending such a period to 2008 seems a bit of a stretch, as by then people are going to have re-settled or returned. One can only be an “evacuee” for so long.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes, 2008 Campaign, 2006 Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, October 24, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:19 am

Via the AP: Wilma’s Strongest Winds Hit Southwest Fla.

Meanwhile, DarkSyde at DKos has more hurricane blogging and other news links.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005
Wilma Blogging
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:15 pm

The The Florida Masochist has it.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Cat-5 Already?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:10 am

You have got to be kidding me.

And there are how many weeks left in hurricane season?

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The Florida Masochist linked with Wilma
Irrational Woman linked with Watching Wilma - Cat 5 Hurricane
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:35 pm

Egads, another one: Hurricane Wilma heads for Gulf of Mexico

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Thursday, September 29, 2005
More Katrina and the Press
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:48 am

Following the LAT, the NYT (Fear Exceeded Crime’s Reality in New Orleans) is joining the chorus of stories noting that the reporting of utter chaos in post-Katrina New Orleans was over the top and misleading (if not mythical). I would note that the tone of this story strikes me a a bit more cautious in terms of criticizing the media-driven hyperbole than the LAT story.

After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists - the core of the city’s economy - were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.

The mass misery in the city’s two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.

A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public.


What became clear is that the rumor of crime, as much as the reality of the public disorder, often played a powerful role in the emergency response. A team of paramedics was barred from entering Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper’s report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets, said Farol Champlin, a paramedic with the Acadian Ambulance Company.

On another occasion, the company’s ambulances were locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers of all its water - a report that proved totally untrue, said Aaron Labatt, another paramedic.

What strikes me is that this all comports with some comments I made in the midst of the coverage (here) wherein I noted that reporting stories of extreme violence, often without adequate evidence, was hindering the relief effort. Some commenters disputed my assessment, but it would appear I had a point:

Faced with reports that 400 to 500 armed looters were advancing on the town of Westwego, two police officers quit on the spot. The looters never appeared, said the Westwego police chief, Dwayne Munch.

“Rumors could tear down an entire army,” Chief Munch said.

During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department’s sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

Specifically, I was especially struck at the time that the cable coverage was rife with reports of a Hobbesesque state of nature within New Orleans while simultaneously criticizing relief workers for not rushing into the city. At the time I maintained that the press coverage was actually contributing to the slow response that they were also vehemently criticizing.

As with assessments of the responses by government and private organizations, I think that the magnitude of the events have to be taken into consideration in criticizing media coverage. Still, I do think that some self-assessment needs to be undertaken here-especially by cable news. The coverage underscored the current manner in which 24/7 cable coverage (especially when covering a live event) weakens or entirely tosses rules of evidence. I like getting information as quickly as possible more than most people (it’s my bloggin’ nature) but gee whiz, rumor should not be presented as news-especially when such rumors can lead to serious real world consequences.

Filed under: Hurricanes, MSM, The Press | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Quote of the Day
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:10 am

“Basically, Brown suggested that Louisiana’s governor and New Orleans’ mayor are incompetent which seems a bit like the pot calling the pot a pot”-Joe Gandelman (The Moderate Voice)

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Katrina and the Media
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:06 pm

Via the LAT: Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy

The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified “rapes,” and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of “scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans’ top officials.”


Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bodies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.

The whole thing is worth reading.

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» Oh, how the winds have changed » Arguing with signposts… » Blog Archive linked with [...] and what is just hearsay based on the reporting of allegedly reputable news sources. h/t Poliblog | RSS | Inlinks | Blogging | Hurricane Katrina • Time publish [...]
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:20 pm

Via the AP: 249 New Orleans Police Officers Left Posts

About 250 police officers %u2014 roughly 15 percent of the force %u2014 will be investigated for leaving their posts without permission during Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s chaotic aftermath, a deputy police chief said Tuesday.

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Brown Defiant in Testimony
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:16 pm

Via Reuters: Ex-FEMA chief blames locals for bad Katrina response

“My biggest mistake was not recognizing, by Saturday (before the storm made landfall), that Louisiana was dysfunctional,” Michael Brown told a House of Representatives panel looking into the aftermath of the catastrophic storm.

“I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade (Louisiana) Governor (Kathleen) Blanco and (New Orleans) Mayor (Ray) Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together,” he said. “I just couldn’t pull that off.”

Hmm. Even if this is all wholly accurate, I don’t think that approach it going to be effective or productive.

Indeed, I have little doubt that a substantial amount of the blame belongs at the local level, but to start out by shifting all blame is not the way to go-nor do I think it is an accurate presentation.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, September 26, 2005
Not Katrina, But not Cheap, Either
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:12 am

More demonstrations of how Katrina has redefined disaster, Rita pales in comparison, but fall in line with what we previously thought of as a major hurricane (and, not doubt, what the basic defitition will return to in our minds over time).

Via WaPo: Rita Spares Cities, Devastates Rural Areas

Perry, on CNN’s “Late Edition,” put the damage in his state at about $8 billion; that would rank Rita far behind Katrina in impact but still among the most damaging storms to hit the United States.

The NYT has this interactive graphic that details the damage.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Fighting the Last Hurricane
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:49 am

It is often said that the Pentagon is always “fighting the last war”-i.e., that policy moving forward is always shaped by our most recent experiences.

Certainly that same logic can be applied to the way that we deal with hurricanes or other recurring events. The preparations and response to Rita were directly the result of Katrina. There is no way there would have been the mass evacuation of the Houston area that took place had Katrina not just happened (and while in retrospect the evacuation may not have been necessary, Bryan S. of Arguing with Signposts is correct: it was worth it).

Indeed, part of Mayor Nagin’s less than dramatic response to initial warnings about Katrina, and the fact that not everyone left who could have left was due to the perception that often governments and weather experts cry wolf over the actual threat of these storms. Let’s face facts: New Orleans had recently been partially evaucate because of Dennis, and there had been other recent voluntary evacuation orders and it had all come to naught. Further, the weather coverage is always rife with drama and hyperbole-so it is always hard to take these events as seriously as perhaps we should.

James Joyner is correct: a major difference between the two response is simple “Rita happened second.”

Now, it doesn’t take much tragedy for views to shift. To take a small-scale example: in 1998 Hurrican Georges (track map in this post-click and scroll) came across Alabama. It brought heavy rains and winds to Troy, AL, but Troy State University did not close until there had been a traffic-related death near campus. Now, the rain was pretty wicked, I will admit, but the traffic incident in question was, based on accounts, likely as much, if not mostly, an issue of operator error as it was of weather. Still, ever since then (and especially over the first five years after the incident) the University has been hypersensitive to weather events. Of course, as time intervenes, the response is blunted.

Along those same lines, Americans will no doubt be hypersensitive to hurricanes for a while. However, eventually, we will return to citizens not taking the warning seriously. One major evacuation that ends up to be wholly unnecessary and watch the criticisms fly.

The biggest part of the Katrina puzzle is that it hit a city that was the most vulnerable to flooding of any major city in the Unites States (perhaps of any populated portion of the country). Further, it was a predominantly poor city with a historical pattern of poor administration located in a state with the same reputation. As bad as the Mississippi coast is post-Katrina, it pales in comparison to the idea of an entire major metropolitan area having to be emptied for months-as bad as all the other damage from Katrina and Rita has been nothing could top the flood in New Orleans.

And, the fact the Rita ended up being weaker helps, and the fact that it hit a les populated area.

Here’s a WaPo piece along these lines.

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