The Katrina Hurricane
About the Care2 Discussion Forum that Experienced it


Katrina was a hurricane. But...


It wasn't the hurricane that flooded New Orleans. It wasn't broken levees, as you might imagine, that flooded New Orleans. Broken walls along some un-used canals flooded the city. These canals, whose structures failed, inexplicably run through centers of the city, a sea-coast city below sea-level.

But, then, it wasn't the broken walls that actually destroyed New Orleans. There seems to have been the deliberate neglect of the drowning city, that evolved eventually into a blatant attempt by corrupt officals to utilize the disaster to facilitate a real estate land-grab by developers.

This group was formed by me when I heard Michael Chertoff, on TV, say that he was withholding support from the city. It appeared to me that he was holding back life-saving aid as if he were holding reinforcements back from a military offensive.

When I heard Michael Chertoff's military-sounding statement, I knew then that there was trouble; it felt to me like an a tactic in a military offensive; part of a long held struggle to eliminate a remarkable culture, brought here from Africa as slaves.

This, the African American, or as I have known it, the Black culture, is the dominant musical and youth culture in the world today. Yet, the elite of the white culture (now the global multicultural elite) that brought these Africans here, seeks, still, to destroy it; this is the overwhelming evidence of this group.

I temporarially converted my Matrix of Trust discussion forum to the purpose of creating action to shame our congressional leaders into doing their job of protecting our people.

As it turns out, we have here an amazing history of an equally amazingly thin slice of time.

Within a few short days of news reaching us that pets were being abandoned, by force by federal officials, congress enacted laws protecting pets during time of disaster. I believe that we did that; I feel so becuase we were the number one source for knowledge through the entire disaster, we were ranked number one by the Google search engine as a Katrina forum. This, despite the capital purposes of Care2 that prevented the world from seeing our documentation without having to register with Care2 (Care2 management has since changed that policy).

I heard, many times, our exact sentiments, word for word, on NPR, and from other media sources; from various reporters, speaking in hushed nervous tones.

I am building, here, a history of this group. It is not a Katrina time-line, but as a time-line of our experience: how we learned things and we researched them, and how we reacted. I am also building a plan for an action web community called "The New Model for Just In Time Research"; it is for my degree

In our documents, are an exact synopsis of the problems the US democracy faces today, not to mention the problems encountered by any democractically developed action group.

I believe the direct evidence, as well as the bigger pictures of national and regional racism and corruption, can still imprison those guilty for the depraved indifference on such a mass scale within the US; no different than slavery and the to the destruction of the Native tribes.

Where to Start?

A Short Technical Synopsis of the Disaster

Katrina had already hit Florida when it circled up the Gulf of Mexico, slowly, gaining power over the warm Gulf waters.  It hit Florida as a category 3 hurricane; it wound up to category 4 when it hit New Orleans.  Katrina made landfall on Monday August, 29th at the Louisiana town of Buras-Triumph with winds speeds of 175 miles per hour.  It hit New Orleans at about 8:00 am; by 9:00 am the Ninth Ward was flooded.  There had been a mandatory evacuation, the only sensible policy, but many people had no way to get out of town.  Katrina made landfall one more time after crossing inland water bodies, in Mississippi.  It took until 2:00 pm for official confirmation that walls had collapsed on the Industrial Canal.  By noon the next day, it was obvious that the gaps in the collapsed walls could not be plugged before the entire city was flooded.

Katrina had already hit Florida when it circled up the Gulf of Mexico, slowly, gaining power over the warm Gulf waters.  It hit Florida as a category 3 hurricane; it wound up to category 4 when it hit New Orleans.  Katrina made landfall on Monday August, 29th at the Louisiana town of Buras-Triumph with winds speeds of 175 miles per hour.  It hit New Orleans at about 8:00 am; by 9:00 am the Ninth Ward was flooded.  There had been a mandatory evacuation, the only sensible policy, but many people had no way to get out of town.  Katrina made landfall one more time after crossing inland water bodies, in Mississippi.  It took until 2:00 pm for official confirmation that walls had collapsed on the Industrial Canal.  By noon the next day, it was obvious that the gaps in the collapsed walls could not be plugged before the entire city was flooded.

Saving New Orleans Animals : An example of  success

As the floodwaters disaster progressed we, in the group, found out that the rescuers were forcing residents to evacuate without their pets, they were forced to leave their animal family members behind.  What resulted was a animal humane horror story, where pets were dying of thirst inside houses or roaming the streets.  Within a few short days of news reaching us of this forced abandonment, congress enacted laws protecting pets during time of disaster, forcing the rescuers to allow evacuees to bring their pets with them.

A the time, this Katrina forum was the number one source, ranked by Google,  for knowledge about the disaster.  I structured the group to concentrate on verifiable information, which could then be used by us, and others, to force policy makers to act to protect people's lives.

Activists tend to have social communication structures, once called phone trees, that disseminates information quickly  for effective political action.  It is essential that the information spreading through social networks, now enabled by the Internet and the web, be very accurate.  New information is built on older information; inaccuracies in basic information can skew entire perceptions.  There is no question, in my mind, that the knowledge developed by the forum was helpful, both, in enabling actions throughout the activist community, and for our own actions.

A week after the disaster began, we were further horrified to find that New Orleans policemen were shooting the abandoned pets in the streets.  The facts were carefully comprehended by the group, and action was taken.  And, again, the purely illegal process by the police of gunning down loose pets was almost immediately halted, because of highly coordinated activist action.  The level of activist coordination was unusual, something I had never experienced; it did not surprise me though, as I have long been aware of potential of digitally networked communities.

I heard, many times, the exact sentiments, word for word, on NPR, and from other media sources; from various reporters, speaking in hushed nervous tones.  These sentiments contrast sharply to the general perception of the crisis as I am finding it on the web today.  I learned of this contrast when I started the fact checking process; I can only describe today's common perception of events as having been “whitened.”

It is important to understand the importance of animals in the activist culture.  Activists have a lot of empathy; they feel others' suffering.  Along, with prisoners, it is said that a culture's humanity is measured by its treatment of animals.  

I have presented, in full, a description of conditions in New Orleans during the crisis by an animal rescuer from Oregon who worked hard in the city in the floodwaters.  Through his description of his experience and the dogs he rescued, you can get a feel for how life is for the poor black communities in New Orleans.

The working data for this piece is a time-line, but it is not  Katrina time-line, it is a time-line of the experience of our forum: how we learned things and we researched them, and how we reacted.

This writing also part of a plan to build an action research web community, like Care2, but more specialized, called "The New Model for Just In Time Research."  It is a degree project.

Fact Checking

While reviewing the text from the forum, I did frequent spot checking of sources.  While many conclusions were emotional, rather than factual, all the facts that I checked were correct.  

So, I am simply presenting the information as was supplied, accepting it as truth.  In some cases, the facts are so stupendous, the I did some recent follow-up, and ,again, found all the facts to be accurate.

The Katrina Perception

What is important for the reader, as was for the forum members, is to understand the general over-picture that one develops from reading this and the collected information.

When trying to determine what went wrong, we found many social weaknesses and technical faults in the national rescue and protection system.  In terms of finger-pointing for to determine fault for the imposed suffering, it is impossible to find a single point of failure; there was so much hardship, and so many guilty parties.  There were as many, actually more, heroes; while the event and its outcome are distressing, we must all take pride in the actions of the people who actually saved the day.

My personal feeling is that the experience of the tens of thousands stranded in the two huge shelters, the Superdome and the convention center, is central to this study.  I felt, immediately, that these people were being deliberately stranded.  In reading the data collected by the group, their forced isolation and deprivation was part bigger problems affecting the American civilization.  Corr ell Williams who was trapped in the city reported,

"'The police were in boats watching us. They were just laughing at us. Five of them to a boat, not trying to help nobody. Helicopters were riding by just looking at us. They weren't helping. We were pulling people on bits of wood, and the National Guard would come driving by in their empty military trucks.”

As with finger-pointing for blame, it is impossible, in a few words to describe my intuitive understanding; but, the feeling for me that there was a problem far worse than bureaucratic disorder that become overwhelming when working with the data.  

The technical perception I developed,  is of government protection organizations that seem to have failure built into their systems operations; these  organizations out did themselves with each of their successive catastrophic failures. But as an animal rescuer mentioned, the failures seemed to be by design.

"We are hearing so much about thousands of people and companies (Wal-Mart with trucks of water for just one) with trucks and boats who came to help and were turned back saying they weren't needed that its starting to look like it was by design."

But, to what purpose?  If the disaster was deliberate, coming down from the highest levels of civic control, then the purposes for this deliberate disaster would have to be related to capital.  There is support in that idea by the contradictory actions of the New Orleans mayor with respect to real estate development.

"The first few days were a natural disaster. The last four days were a man-made disaster," said Phillip Holt, 51.

In the beginning of the crisis, the worst-off of the victims were referred to as refugees; community activists took umbrence to this.  To the activists and the victims, the proper term for the displaced was evacuee, a person hopefully going back home after the crisis.  There is strong evidence, now,  that many of them are now are, in fact, refugees, the term they resisted.  There is a strong effort to keep the people evacuated last from returning.  I also here that the New Orleans evacuees are not necessarily welcome in their new homes.  A year later, as I do review the data, I here rumors on the Internet of efforts in Texas to isolate Katrina evacuees, and “run them out” of Texas.


The People

The forum group

The most valuable entries into the group were from members who were actually in the area helping people survive.  One of them, Jeanie W. was a very active, and brave, rescuer.  While her many of the accounts may not seem be purely factual with respect to the machinations of the political crisis within the crisis, she shows an incredible awareness of the events as they happened around her, and I feel she speaks for the communities local to the affected area; she gives a good impression of what people were then thinking on the scene.  Her text entires represent the greater truth of the Katrina experience its aftermath.  Her entries are kept in full, as are contributions by other group members and activists loosely associated with the group who were in the area.

Another group member in the area member told us what she saw this during the early days of the crisis:  


The poor hurt by the storm.

Neighbors going door to door helping one another.

Thugs and hoodlums going door to door looking for someone vulnerable.

Ice and water being fought over as police tried to keep the peace.

Out of town volunteers coming with food and staying for now a week still serving it.

The Red Cross doing a great job in the shelters.

The Salvation Army doing a great job in the community.

Four Hundred crewman from everywhere bring back the power to homes, churches and businesses.

Lines at service stations a block to a mile long.

National Guardsmen patrolling the streets of Mccomb

Doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel working tirelessly, even sleeping in the hospital.

People from all over the world giving what little they have and pulling together.

When It comes down to it " We are all in this together "

The size of the forum ranged from 120 to 130 members, the actual commentary group, the information providers, numbered about 50, though that is a very rough estimate.  Some contributors added to the knowledge with a vast bulk of information, others added only small but valuable entires.  Some added huge amounts of information, but lacked empathy necessary to make actually contributing critical commentary.  Some, were just readers who joined the group to align with the cause.  Of course, there were the many people who used the forum as a news source, and index.

I hoped to keep the group focused, and I was successful in that.  Here is one of my own postings,

Goals and Focus of the Group:  The hope here is to collect information about the failures of the President, FEMA and especially Michael Chertoff the Homeland Security Secretary to provide support for the hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans.  With that information we can create a variety of documentation directed at congress with the hope of making these people and organizations accountable.

I tried to keep the topics in distinct topic threads.  That was successful as well.  My other forums have been sloppy in that respect, possibly the urgency of the crisis helped keep members focused on information structure.

The forum served many purposes for its members: it provided a concise, history of what happened, proved completely accurate through critical analysis by members of each other's postings.  It covered comprehensively, the crises involving animals as Care2 is primarily an animal support site.  It provided for group members the ability to act, armed with solid knowledge. Possibly most important, it gave many a way to release their personal grief for the city, its people, and its animals, in an effective way.  

Many who worked on the group had the free time to offer, as they are homebound because of disabilities.  The majority of these, I found out, suffer from trauma disorders; trauma disorders can panic and depression problems when sufferers are presented with the knowledge of traumatic stress.  Those members contributed greatly; I respect their courage; involvement in the group may have been very difficult for them.

I have to mention, there were people in the group whose actions were ultimately disruptive.  While they bedeviled me during the important period of the group, their negative contribution, ironically, adds value to this discussion, by opening discussion about the needs for some controls in what is meant to be a purely democratic discussion environment.  As a moderator, or a “mod” in Internet-talk, I would refer to these forum control issues as a “can of worms,” but there is value in that discussion to help build knowledge for democracy over the Internet, and in applying democracy to our civilization.  This “can of worms” happens to be a central point of discussion within the Care2 community management environment.

 

The White House

In Washington DC, there was the President, who as the leader of the country ultimately responsibility for the crisis, and his Vice President, Cabinet, and emergency management appointees.  There was Condi Rice, Secretary of State; Micheal Chertoff, head of Homeland Security; Micheal Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Also near the President were his family, who play a visible role; his wife; father and mother; an apparent family friend the former President, Bill Clinton, and you almost what to re-mention Condi Rice who had referred to herself, jokingly perhaps, as the President's wife.

Louisiana and New Orleans: the Governor and the Mayor

In Louisiana two major governmental players were the Governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin.  The Governor was often blamed for the slow response to the disaster, as was the mayor of New Orleans.  

The Mayor may, presently, be best known for his statements during the crisis publicly telling the Federal officials to "get off your asses"; he used other profanity as well.  But there is a lingering question about him: he ordered an evacuation, but did not account for those tens of thousands who would be stranded for reasons no fault of their own.  There is a photo of dozens of parked school buses partially under water, indicating that he had no actual plan for the many who would be stranded.  As time goes on, he reveals himself to be allied with real estate developers, creating city policies on behalf of the developers to  prevent returning Katrina evacuees from fixing their lives, rebuilding their homes.

The Governor is held partially responsible by some in the group, including Jeanie W., for delaying the rescue effort, by adding to bureaucratic confusion for reasons of regional politics.  Arguments were made on the forum that she didn't want to give control to Federal authorities, as she would lose control herself over the situation.  To me this argument is moot, as in an emergency everybody should work together on a personal basis to save lives; high levels of control are not necessary during emergencies if there is a good group feeling.  

I recall the Governor making statement where she stressed a military need for the flooded city; she seemed to have a prejudiced perception that the people who remained had formed into mobs.  I recall her saying that they needed to be controlled with the threat of gunfire, as the mobs consisted largely of crack addicts crazed by withdrawal (I am having difficulty locating the references for these remarks of hers; I am giving them to you from recollection).  If, in fact, she had this misconception--and this misconception disseminated through the Louisiana national guard--then many of the actions against those trapped in the city during the flood are easily explainable in terms of bias.

To her credit, she took matters into her own hands by “recalling” the Louisiana National Guard from Iraqi duty, putting them in the flooded city; the Federal response was a threat of court martials against the soldiers as having deserted.

The Villains

Among the worst players in the disaster were gangs, and other sociopaths, that went on psychotic rampage while trapped  in the big shelters, the Convention Center and the Superdome.

What was left  here is  the rape and murder of a 7 year old little girl at the Dome,  Thursday  night. I hope they find the  creep who did that.  Jeanie W.   

Finding her body:

 

"There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."

To me, the triggering cause of the mayhem in the big shelters, were the isolation, deprivations and entrapment of those stranded in the shelters.  Alcohol was also  contributor, as well. A particular organized gang

broke into the locked alcohol storage areas and suddenly had 50 cases of hard liquor and 200 cases of beer

"They took so much, they couldn't drink it all," said George Lancie, the manager of the center's food-service company.  “there were scenes of gangsters, drunk, groping after young girls, scenes not far from the ones of women in corners, balled up, praying”

These victims had a horrible choice, “the gangsters, or the floodwaters.

Unfortunately, events like these, are often used  to tar African Americans with the same criminal brush, every trapped victim in New Orleans may have viewed as criminal.  

"You declare martial law," said Jazz Washington, a community activist,

"and to these gangsters that just means, 'We can kill you and keep on

moving.'

 

FEMA and Homeland Security

Failure by authorities to properly evacuate the city, before and after Katrina's landfall, was an initial cause for the tragic deaths in the city.  But, since there were people left behind--how could there not be, New Orleans is a world class city-those who denied help to the stranded were also responsible for the deaths.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, its leaders, its operators,  and its parent organization, Homeland Security, were responsible for the city from the very beginning of the crisis; their actions, more than any others, were ultimately the cause of suffering and death in the city.  There level of mis-management was so extreme, witnesses had to wonder if the FEMA organization had ulterior motives.

FEMA, and the other authorities, was aware from the outset of the dangers of the storm, and they had guessed accurately the size of the stranded city residents.

FEMA actions during its entire life provides for us a list of  fraud and negligence, that by itself could be used as a study in systemic bureaucratic failures.  I am providing here only there list of misdeeds during the crisis, and it is partial at that.  I carefully checked facts here, as the list is so long it is unbelievable.  Mixed in this list are actions by other authorities, who seemed to work in concert with FEMA in assuring the rescue of the survivors would be a failure.  The volume of the negligence is so overwhelming that it speaks to systemic indifference within the federal homeland protection organizations, and government bureaucracies in general.  Excuses of bureaucratic failure so are consistently traced back to the concept of red tape, that one begins to imagine truckloads of rolls of red tape.

the list of deliberate negligence is extreme, it is difficult categorize it all; it is overwhelming.

Every problem FEMA caused, there were so many, was logically traced back to the term "red tape" to the point where that term no long has a specific bureaucratic meaning.  Being emeried in the mass of problems they caused, makes one think in terms of truckloads of rolls of red tape.

We learned that, on August 29, Michael D. Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,

"urged all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina."

They had to be requested and "lawfully dispatched" by state and local authorities.  Whether because of this policy or not, vital help of every kind was turned back.

There was sabotage of local rescue communications equipment by FEMA:

Yesterday FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice."  The parish reconnects them and protects them with armed guards.  "No one is getting near these lines,"said the sheriff.

Ham radio operators reported that radio communications in and around New Orleans had being jammed. In addition, perplexed ham radio operators who were enlisted by the Federal government during the WTC attack in 2001 were being used for hurricane Katrina Federal relief efforts

Senator Mary Landrieu, Democratic of Louisiana, complained “that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront,” and that FEMA refused the aid.   

Endless fleets of trucks, both government and Federally contracted, were kept out of the city and in holding areas out of reach of the those in the crisis.

In among the worst examples of neglect FEMA refused Amtrak offers to use trains to evacuate victims, this was far and away the most efficient means to get people to other cities.  FEMA ignored offers for medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items.

Also amazing was FEMA's blocking of access to the city by the Red Cross.  As ARC (American Red Cross) officials said “Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard, and simply cannot enter New Orleans against FEMA orders.”

"The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city,” according to ARC officials.

FEMA blocked Federally funded mobile medial units: a state-of-the-art mobile hospital, developed with millions of tax dollars for just such emergencies were marooned in Mississippi.  

"We all got off work and deployed," said a surgeons, Dr. Preston "Chip" Rich of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  "We have tried so hard to do the right thing. It took us 30 hours to get here," he said.  “now that we're just a few miles away we couldn't get in.” He said, "is just mind-boggling."

The group reported that "Slow Response was really No Response."  The feeling was that  the government “set people up, deliberately preventing supplies from coming.”  The vast majority of "looters" were desperately hungry and thirsty people.”  “It was shown on TV that boxes of food were behind a fence, withheld from the trapped evacuees."

The Military at the scene Wanted to Help

Military personnel, at the Scene, wanted to help.  Maj. Keith Waddell, commander of the 769th Engineer Battalion, said his unit was never asked to help. "The idea of helping with the convention center never came up," he said. "We were just preparing ourselves for the next mission."  "I feel confident we could have controlled it, with the numbers we had."

Many of the guardsmen had recently returned from Iraq, they encountered virtually no violence. There were only people desperate for food and water.

"A lot of the people at the Dome said we should have been there earlier,"said Spec. Keithean Heath of the Arkansas Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade.  

Soldiers faced little interference as they moved to help frail and elderly people in wheelchairs in urgent need of care, women cradling tiny infants and others about to give birth. The soldiers set up food lines to hand out bottled water and packaged military meals, and people lined up to receive them.

It was the military command refused to allow troops to help the stranded and restore order.  Col. Stephen C. baddie, chief of staff of the Louisiana National Guard, said the engineer units were "not designed to secure the convention center."  Commanders blocked a medevac helicopter response because they worried the crowd would rush helicopters.

The Evacuation, The Rescuers

Rescuers were told not to give aid to those who wanted to weather out the crisis.  Some residents stayed to protects their property, others did not want to leave their family pets behind.  Some wanted to stay to help.  A rescuer commented:

Some rescuers are not taking any more food and water to those who have decided to stay in an effort to force them out.”

"Did you see the men who were approached by rescuers at their homes and were told that they would be fed and clothed if they came along and left all of their worldly goods behind?  They chose to stay and defend what they have worked for all of their lives.  Rescuers just shrugged and moved on.  (Why didn't they have some supplies on-board to leave behind?)    

Those men still need food and water.  Who will look after them?”

Our own Jeanie reported:

There are animal rescuers down here, not many but  they are here. I am not  able to state more than that, I am  not here for the animals  my job concerns human life, I am not saying that we have not rescued  some of these animals  but  we are really not supposed to. That is just the way things are.”

The most remarkable evacuation story, that I can remember, was of a six year old boy  who lead five toddlers through the chaos that was one of the only escape routes.  He lead them down the causewayholding a 5-month-old; the toddlers followed him around as  their leader.

Citizens who took action

Spencer, from the group, and personal friend of mine, went to Louisiana for the crisis, and then onto Texas along with evacuees:

I worked with a New Orleans resident in a Baton Rouge, LA service center for a major relief agency.  This person explained her experience at a cash-out line at a Wal-Mart.  She had her order together and was about to pay.  Her charge card from a Bank in New Orleans was rejected.  When the person in front of her and behind her heard of her plight.  They each handed her $100.00 to cover her order.”

He also says, “A man I was talking with in Houston, TX where he was staying in a hotel told me about his car hitting the curb blowing a tire and damaging the rim.  He went to a garage, the garage could not fix it, but made contact with another one that could.  He was also handed $100 to help cover the cost out of the person's pocket.”

People in Baton Rouge were welcoming strangers into their homes.  Red Cross had shelter housing for 25000 or so people.  The city had adsorbed 250,000 people from New Orleans in homes etc.  The population of Baton Rouge doubled causing traffic problems, school crowding, limited phone service and store shelves that were empty.”

So, look to the positive.  Do not expect the Government to be the only solution.  It is not!  People are the solution and they are good at it too!”

On the Road Again, an animal transport group linked to groups on Care2, had a bus (seats removed) with a/c loaned to them, to take the animals out of the Katrina hurricane area to safety with rescues. Joanne, our contact on Care2, had been taking a bus load out daily (In spite of the fact that her home was damaged by Katrina, too!). From our forum,

She really needs some help with the gas. Please help us keep the bus rolling & save as many lives as possible, while there's still time!”

Gary McLaughlin, an outside helper got a school bus and headed straight for the New Orleans shelters, By Sunday evening he was driving loads of evacuees from the New Orleans Airport to a rescue shelter in Covington, La.

Symphony orchestras across the nation have adopted Louisiana classical musicians, brought them to where the symphony is located, and given them jobs so that they can support themselves and their families.

David Perez from California, used $200,000 of his own money, to charter a Boeing 737. Upon arriving in Louisiana, he unloaded supplies he had purchased and left with 86 weary hurricane victims.

Jeanie W. contributions were short and factual; this is her only prose.  She paints for us her departure from New Orleans in a medevac helicopter:

miserable truth is  that this has more to do with  the outcome  of  this hurricane than anyone  factor  in the matrix. I saw the desperation for all of the days I was there. I finally got to leave  about 7 last night, it was welcomed  believe me, but that is a small piece of personal  part of this.

The body count is already in thousands  the stench can be smelled as far away as LaPlace, ( a bedroom community  across the BonneCarre Spillway/Lake Ponchartrain, headed west on I-10.  

To address the issue of why you will not being  seeing the dead on TV, it is grizzly , floaters are not pretty corpses and  some of the bodies that are in buildings are full of maggots, I really cannot believe any one would want to see this .

Baton Rouge has turned into a zoo, it used to take us 30 minutes to go across town to where we  pick up our trucks down there. I was  so ready to take a real shower with hot water, I was un-phased by all of the delay . I have to come back to Baton Rouge , in about 2 weeks  after I am immunized for all the possible diseases I was exposed to due to that nasty toxic soup  in the streets of New Orleans.

I am grateful I got out  before Chaney's arrival today, I don't think I could stomach another day of photo-op's  for people from Washington, who do not give a damn about this city.”

Racism

Racism became an issue early on in the group discussion, when, at the Superdome, a group of wealthy well dressed hotel guests is put ahead of the group that had been stranded there for days for getting on buses.

''How does this work? They are clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?'' exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.  The 700 guests, who were put on buses had been trapped in the Hyatt hotel, near the Superdome.

There was a report of a police swat team that was dispatched to extract whites from the Superdome.  As, I mentioned, my feeling is that racism was the motive behind isolation  and deprivation of those deliberately trapped in the big shelters.  I feel it is unfortunate that I cannot find the comments by the Governor which helped me form this opinion, but statements from another area of governmental authority, the White House, support my suspicions that a prejudicial mindset influenced authorities to be against the poor of New Orleans.  Linda Chavez, from Mr. Bush's administration,  heads the President of the Center for Equal Opportunity and former head of Bush's U.S. Civil Rights Commission.  She says,

In New Orleans, you are dealing with the permanently poor - people who don't have jobs, are not used to getting up and organizing themselves and getting things done and for whom sitting and waiting is a way of life.  This is a natural disaster that is exacerbated by the problems of the underclass. The chief cause of poverty today among blacks is no longer racism. It is the breakdown of the traditional family”

From what Chavez says, the underclass did the disaster to themselves, maybe for not being able to leave in time.  An editorial from a Florida newspaper offers this opinion,

It wasn't a racial thing, if it were really about poverty, as Bush defenders claim, then his administration wouldn't spend so much time cleaning up his record on blacks”

By “cleaning up,” the editorialist probably probably means something like this quote,

President Bush so wanted minority voters to believe that his administration 'is working very well for them' that a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was changed last year to downplay that ethnic and racial 'disparities are pervasive in our health-care system.'”

In the US today, more than ever, highly successful politicians come in family units, because of this, as well of the unquestionable cohesion of the now-ruling Bush family, I enter into evidence a comment by the President's mother, and former First Lady, Barbara Bush.  She made this comment soon after the crisis started.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this (she chuckled slightly)--this is working very well for them."

During my life, the most visible examples of racial struggle in the US have been police beatings and killings of blacks.  There were two examples during the period of activity for the forum.  In the first, a 64  year old Black man was beaten by police for resisting arrest and being drunk.  He was a retired school teacher with no criminal record; the beating was captured on video.  On the tape, the officer threatens the videographer, as he was taping the incident. Davis said,

"At no time did anyone indicate I was under arrest, I hadn't had a drink in 25 years. don't know what caused it.  I don't want to say this, but it was probably racially motivated.

Constitutional Losses

There were intense constitutional losses during the crisis. During the rescue period, reporters felt the city was being militarized and were suffering from government crack-down on their reporting work.  FEMA rejecting requests by journalists to be embedded in rescue teams searching for storm victims.  Journalists were asked not to photograph any dead bodies in the region.  Police officers had been seen aiming their weapons at members of the media.  National Guardsmen are under orders to turn all journalists away at entry points to the city.

A Federal Judge, Keith Ellison, issued a temporary restraining against the "zero access" policies of FEMA and the military they controlled.  Military then claimed it had been a misunderstanding, after all; what they meant was that no media would be allowed to be embedded, however, recovery groups would not prevent reporters from doing their jobs.

A more worrisome constitutional issue came up with respect to the rights of those wishing to stay in the city.  In dry neighborhoods, people like contend that the Mayor's evacuation order would violate their constitutional rights if he forced them out of their homes them. One couple explained  that they have a dog to protect them, a car with a full tank of gasoline should they need to leave quickly and a canoe as a last resort. They said they themselves had used the canoe over the first week to rescue 100 people.

"Federal State disaster law does not supersede either the state or federal Constitutions.  What I suspect is that if they do forcible evacuations, the authorities will tell the residents that they must leave and that they will arrest them if they don't,"

Had they been arrested, they would have had to travel to Baton Rouge, where the federal judges from the Eastern District of Louisiana were sitting, to challenge their forcible evictions.  What rescuers don't realize, is that the deliberate denial of sustinance vital to life to force people into leaving against their will, carries a further constitutional weight; they were threatening these people's right to life.  The deliberate negligence is defined as depraved indifference, a form of homicide, such as in the case as leaving an injured person to die.

This constitutional crisis brings up another issue, it had become oblivious to the forum members that the future of New Orleans would be in the hands of developers.  A few months after the initial crisis ended, homeowners returning to New Orleans were blocked by the city from repairing their houses.  This was part of a plan crafted by the Mayor to destroy large parts of the damaged city to hand them over to real estate developers.

Animals

Animal welfare is of key importance to members of the Care2 community, as well as the majority of activist that I know.  To many of the forum group, wildlife and the well being of pets is almost equal in importance to human life.  A week after the group had started posting about the crisis, we found out that New Orleans police were shooting the dogs that had been abandoned as a result of the FEMA policy to exclude pets in the forced evacuation.  Sophia Dalle posted to the group,

"i just heard on cnn they are going to start shooting animals, remaining pets, on the street can anyone verify?"

From an an animal rescuer,

Authorities have informed our rescue team that they have three days to rescue all dogs before they start shooting them.

They believe that dogs are eating dead bodies to stay alive and need to eliminate them. We are outraged.

Animal rescue groups were not allowed into the water until last Tuesday. To give us just another 72 hours to get a job, of biblical proportions done, is ludicrous.

We are our best to beg for more time. We would ask you to call or write to someone but frankly, the lines of communications are so poor, we have no clue where you can begin.

Because our team is on the ground, they have direct contact with law enforcement. If we have to, we'll work 'under the radar' to get the job done.

Jeanie W reported the rounding up and killing of a group of dogs behind a school by a policeman.  She hoped the policeman would get prosecuted for that cruelty.  

Suffice to say we got into action quickly, along with other activists; the shooting was stopped.  Keep in mind the scope of our actions, we were up against one of the most corrupt, least paid municipal police departments in the US.

This reportwas sent to the group, indirectly, from New Orleans by a rescuer from Oregon.  While he describes the situation the animals were facing, he also, obliquely talks about poverty in New Orleans through the suffering of New Orleans animals, even before Katrina landed; it is one of many stories of humanity from the crisis.

I was part of a rescue expedition from Portland, Oregon (including a veterinarian,) that spent the past week (Sept. 24th through Oct. 2nd) on the streets of New Orleans, breaking into homes for 12-14 hours per day to try to save any animals still alive and trapped in their homes without food or water. “

It was a difficult job. We were in extreme heat, without much sleep or food. We saw hundreds of trapped, dead animals. Still, hundreds of us stuck it out, because we knew how many had already died and we wanted to try to save the remaining live animals. “

When all was said and done, our group brought five of the rescued dogs back to Portland with us.  The dogs are positive for heartworm. This is a fatal parasite infestation, carried by mosquitoes and rampant in the southern region of the country. It is usually treatable (if caught in time) but treatment is not cheap, nor is prevention. These infected dogs have been shipped all over the country, and are being happily reunited with their owners from Louisiana and Mississippi, who can scarcely piece their own lives together, let alone afford to test or treat their dogs for heartworm.“

The prognosis is only months. Approximately 9 out of 10 dogs are positive. These dogs come from an impoverished community that cannot afford preventative care for their dogs.  We are told they are educated about this epidemic problem and the outcome, but can't afford prevention.”

While in New Orleans, I noticed none of the thousands of dogs we saw had been spayed or neutered, and all were very young. I hadn't put it together in my head until just recently. Almost all dogs in Louisiana die before they reach age two. They wander the streets, have a few litters, then die from heartworm (a very unpleasant way to die.) The only reason there is a population of dogs left in Louisiana must be that they have a few litters before they die.”

Winding Down the Group

There is no real end to the Katrina story, at least not as I write this.  I hear that the evacuees are finding trouble settling.  In the words of a Bush administration member, who chose to be unnamed, “New Orleans has fallen so far off the radar, you can't see it.”  There were two more important discussions in the group.  One was about the congressional hearings, which only confirmed our findings.  A surprising fact to come out of the inquest, was that none of the major players in Washington DC use email to communicate; this includes both Micheal Chertoff, who nearly got fired after the hearings, and Micheal Brown, who was fired less than two weeks after the crisis started.

There is no doubt that Mayor Nagin is unconcerned about the evacuees who have yet to return to New Orleans.  His priority is real estate development: besides displacing the poor for real estate ventures, he appears to have no concern for the environment.  This goes to a more practical concern than the pure empathy of our forum members, Louisiana is losing its coastal wetlands very quickly; this is important, because the wetlands are the buffer that protects New Orleans from storms.  The Mayor seeks the widening of a huge water way that has been blamed for sending a fatal surge of water towards the city that broke the canal walls.  He seeks new airports and refinery type development.  If you know the city, it is almost entirely surrounded by sea water and salt water marshes; the only way to develop these days is to damage marshes.

More about the Group

The group was not without internal conflict.  One of the members, SarahJane, was a co-host for the group as well as one of my other successful groups, which was about computer freedom.  She was a tireless worker, yet at times, she would criticize me in ways that would make me wonder what I had done.  If I took any bold steps, made any controversial comments, where controversy is a staple of web communications, there was always the risk of her lashing out.

For more than the year, I worked with her, always giving her the benefit of the doubt.  My work with her may sound like a personal problem, which it was, but the problem grew in scope when I  introduced structural guidelines.  As a co-host of the group, SarahJane took the ideas to heart and began enforcing them as rules, she berated people for being sloppy and moved messages around in such a way that forum members thought their work was being deleted.

I tried to gently get her to calm down in her zealousness, but that only made her angry with me, and she let the world of Care know about it with  a long series of posts ranging from mea-culpa apologies personal attacks against me.  This was causing some members to leave, which happens when groups devolve into pointless arguments.   I consulted other group members, and they all suggested that I get back control of  my group; I gave her an ultimatum.  This cased her to ask that I remove her as host.  

I took away SaraJane's hosting privileges, giving her co-host spot to Jeanie W.  SarahJane had told me that she had some kind of mental issues at one point, knowing she was so angry with me, I  felt there was a slight risk she might damage the group's hard work, I was uneasy about her during much of the Katrina crisis.

Because the group consensus was that racism was the major factor in the punishment of those trapped in New Orleans during the flood, the topic was discussed at length from that perspective.  Knowing that New Orleans is in the South, and that the legacy of slavery has made racism a perennial issue in the Louisiana, it should not be surprising that someone from Louisiana would take umbrage to the group consensus on the topic.

This happened, and in the censusing debate with the new dissenting member, Dynamite, SarahJane decided that Dynamite needed to be protected against me.  This worried me greatly, partly because I had to take strong action against SarahJane previously, and the topic strayed over to the most contentious possible ground for conflict: racism.  Had this discussion been a simple debate over facts, there would not have been a problem.  But, I suspected that Dynamite joined the group specifically to disrupt it.  After carefully reading her postings, I concluded that she was, at best, misleading the group about here actual location in Louisiana, claiming to be in a town that was hit very servilely.  I also suspected she was lying about other things; for one thing, she said she had been beaten by Blacks-this sent up a huge warning flag for me.  

Being somewhat confrontational in nature, I called her on her statements and gave her a few opinions of my own.  Dynamite then threatened to quit,  further congealing support against my leadership of the group.  Seeing her as a threat to the efficacy of the group, not to mention her being a huge stress in my life, I removed her from the group.

Dynamite attacked the integrity of the group by saying that we were victims of the press that we were being mislead.  The group took great pride in the discussions and we were all in agreement about our conclusions about the causes suffering in New Orleans, with the expectation of SarahJane, who, inexplicably, supported Bush throughout the period of the crisis.  I say inexplicably, because SarahJane has told us she is a Scottish Socialist, a party particularly unhappy with American Republicans.  I imagine she has alienated many Socialists where she lives, if she openly supports Bush.

I think part of SarahJane's anger may have resulted from her confusing Dynamite with another Louisianan, Jeanie W.  Jeanie seemed to have some apprehension about being in Black neighborhoods, and sometimes defended controversial decisions by authorities in opposition to the group consensus, especially if the authorities were Louisianan. But, she was a valued asset to the group, and she was respected.

Two other group members who had been big contributors also voiced displeasure with me.  Their impatience with me became apparent after my problems with Dynamite, though nobody except SarahJane, mentioned Dynamite.  One, Sunshine complained that I changed things too much, and then, to my surprise, took a statement I had made out of context to accuse me of being an American nationalist.  The statement was that I felt the issues surrounding Katrina were becoming increasingly American, meaning that America has internal problems only Americans can solve, ultimately, I meant America needs to pull together.  Sunshine took this to mean that I lack respect the work non-Americans had done for the group; Sunshine is Canadian.  To defend myself, I mentioned in the discussion that I support the relaxation of border restrictions between Canada and the US, as well as general Canadian-American solidarity.  I have proposed this idea in Canadian Care2 groups, so there is plenty of evidence to support my feelings.  This, oddly, angered Sunshine.  She told me that I no business involving myself in Canadian issues; in fact, she told me she thinks Americans should stay out of Canada.

There was another member, Barbara, who made a viscous attack during a debate between Jeanie W and a member named Robert.  In my opinion, Robert and Jeanie were having a blue ribbon argument.  Both were obviously nettled by each other, but neither was uncontrolled.  The ensuing information was brilliant; Robert did research based on what Jeanie told him, and Jeanie spoke from opinion.  The discussion was based on an often mentioned picture from the media, of dozens of New Orleans school buses showing only their roofs in the flood.  The obvious question was, why didn't the Mayor find drivers for them, and use the to truck out the evacuees?  As I mentioned, Jeanie tends to defend local officials; she is a loyal Louisianan; she put all the blame to Federal government for trapping the evacuees.  Robert, on the other hand, wanted to understand the Mayor's and Governor's roles, and therefore, appeared to protect the President and FEMA.

Barbara made a vicious attack against Robert, because he appeared to protect Bush.  The attack was vitriolic, that her statements appeared irrational; she was ignored.

SarahJane, Sunshine, and Barbara all did volumes of work of the group, collecting information.  Yet the all showed antisocial behavior.  I looked at their postings, and although the added volume to the group (which, by the way, kept the group's ratings high), their inquiry into the issues was weak, their arguments often sounded paranoid.  While researching the discussion threads, I began to ignore their postings.

SarahJane, as I mentioned, was a tireless worker in another group of mine, a computer support forum for activists.  In that group, members, including myself complained about the outsourcing of computer jobs to India, that it was preventing us as computer professionals, from working in our chosen field.  SarahJane decided that were making statements against Indiansand that we needed to be corrected for our racism.  This ended it for me with SarahJane; I removed her completely from all my groups.

Another prolific member became angry with me, and let me know in uncertain terms.  She is Patt.  Unlike the others mentioned, Patt's posting are amazing, her research is tireless, she could dig up scandal in a pastor's pea-patch.  She helped me greatly in building knowledge supporting the concept that systemic racism was a contributing factor to the suffering in New Orleans.

I unintentionally angered Patt with a particularly bold move I made in changing the group direction,  though with out communicating the concept very well.  The group had been originally discussing a concept of international relations; I called the group Matrix of Trust.  Prior to that, I called the group Eminent Domain.  It was a changing group; my theory as to keep the group active and alive by expanding the scope of knowledge while staying centered on vital national issues.

Since one of the members of the group is a moderately liberal Democrat, Evan Bayh, I decided to try to involve him in the discussion by making the group a discussion about him.  Then, once he is securely in the group, the group could brag about having a senator in their pocket, giving it validity and power.  We would then move onto other vital topics, while remaining loyal to the evacuees of New Orleans, and especially animals.

As I mentioned, I did not communicate this idea to the group very well.  It seemed brilliant to me, but many in the group felt that I was somehow forcing them into supporting Evan Bayh for president in the 2008 elections.  Well, if Evan was going to respond to the desires of the group, then, hey, what is wrong with that?   

As I said I didn't communicate the idea very well, and I failed to respond to criticism because, simply, I didn't have reliable Internet access at the time.  In my absence, I was called a traitor or worse, and a racist by Barbara who was upset with me for booting SarahJane.  One member, David C, made many personal baseless attacks against me, specifically calling me a turn-coat; I booted him.  I imagine he meant to say I was a now a FEMA supporter.

I was surprised by the attacks, yet tried to show the group the wisdom in my plan, but it was too late.  I relented, but only after removing the mutineer and chastising others.  The volume of postings picked up somewhat, then declined to almost nothing.  What I didn't know all along, was that another Katrina group had formed, and that discussion activity had, for the most part, moved over there.  This group formed months before my attempted Bayh maneuver, and I only found out about it from a web posting put up outside of Care2 by SarahJane.  Only members who I would call true friends still use this Katrina group.

The attacks by SarahJane and Sunshine may have been designed to damage my Katrina group in favor of the other one.  At this point, I would put nothing past her.  Care2 can be, at times, a highly Machiavellian community.  This is fitting; Care2 it is based on politics as much as anything else, and the Internet is made up of, if you think about it, unfeeling electrons.

All this bickering seems to be silliness in the extreme, and that is exactly what it is.  However, disruption can destroy an otherwise great group online or a group that meets in face to face meetings.  When I defended the group, and myself, I was really defending the knowledge that we built.  When I morphed the group towards Evan Bayh, I was attempting to make it powerful, even though it didn't appear that way.

The existence of other Katrina groups does not bother me, the initial purpose of the group was to expose Michael Chertoff and FEMA.  In so doing, we created for ourselves, possibly the only comprehensive and accurate perception of what really happened.

With more work, I will be able to create tools to see even better into the knowledge we created, and the social workings of the group.  These tools will be applicable to all of Care2's groups.  In fact, if I had been aware of the sheer size of the knowledge base, I would have created these tools at the outset!

Today,  the group is called  Katrina: In Memoriam, and has about the same number of members it always has had.  Actual Katrina veterans now often post information there about what is happening in there lives.  Part of the importance of the group is sensitivity to trauma suffering.

Dedicated to Jeanie W.

Of course this discussion is about the heroes of Katrina, especially our own: Jeanie W.

New Model Site for Just In Time Research

An important reason for this discussion of the Katrina group it so reflect on how well it worked.  And, how to repeat the effort but with web community software specifically designed to support information collection and reflection; which will include tools  for the delivery of activist knowledge as a sort of non-violent weapon of change.