by Ted on September 1, 2005

First, neither this offer (for a free book for donors) (UPDATE: she might have run out of books by the time you read this, please check) nor this offer (for a free mix CD for donors) have expired (UPDATE: nope, still not expired). Don’t be shy.

Second, Houston is going to absorb quite a few of the refugees. This note about what Houstonians can do to help is taken directly from an email from my Representative, John Culberson, who (hopefully) ought to know. It’s long and local, so I’m putting it below the fold.

Third (thanks, nada!), MoveOn has put up a bulletin board to help match up people who need housing with people who can shelter them.

[click to continue…]

Social Disasters II

by Kieran Healy on September 1, 2005

According to AP, this photo shows a man covering the body of a man who died — apparently in a chair — on Thursday outside the convention center in New Orleans. The baby in his arms looks to be about three or four months old. I wonder whether she has any milk to drink.

Plenty of people are “saying”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2005_08_28_atrios_archive.html#112559511188392756 “this”:http://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/2005/09/this_is_not_goo.html “already”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_09/007022.php, but the situation in New Orleans and the surrounding areas is just unbelievable, and the official response thus far is pretty appalling. The United States is the most powerful country on the face of the earth. Over the past few years in particular, a lot of money and thought was supposed to have been devoted to planning for rapid response to large-scale urban disasters in the wake of 9/11. While authorities in Louisiana and New Orleans are not as powerful as the Feds, they have known for years that a disaster of this kind was likely and were told in detail what it would do to their city. And yet. The “reports of what’s happening”:http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WEATHER/09/01/katrina.impact/index.html convey little except how “poorly-prepared”:http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/12528233.htm, “ill-coordinated”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5248531,00.html and “slow-moving”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/09/impeach_george_.html the disaster response is. As “Mark Kleiman”:http://WWW.markarkleiman.com/archives/microeconomics_and_policy_analysis_/2005/08/failing_to_plan_is_planning_to_fail.php comments, failing to plan is planning to fail. Kevin Drum provides “a demoralizing chronology”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_09/007023.php explaining why FEMA is being run by people with “no experience”:http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/002458.html in disaster management.

Meanwhile, apparently the secretary of state has been “shoe-shopping on 5th avenue”:http://www.gawker.com/news/condoleezza-rice/index.php#breaking-condi-rice-spends-salary-on-shoes-123467.

Reuters Cameraman Held in Iraq

by Jon Mandle on September 1, 2005

A cameraman for Reuters in Iraq has been ordered by a secret tribunal to be held without charge in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed within six months, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday.”

“The U.S. military has refused Reuters’ requests to disclose why he is being held. He has not been charged.
“His brother, who was detained with him and then released, said they were arrested after Marines looked at the images on the journalist’s cameras.”

“Reuters had also been pressing for the release of cameraman Haider Kadhem, who was detained in Baghdad on Sunday after an incident in which his soundman, Waleed Khaled, was killed as he drove the pair on a news assignment.
“Iraqi police said U.S. troops fired on the Reuters team, both Iraqis.”

What’s there to say?

Social Disasters

by Kieran Healy on September 1, 2005

I’ve written before about the sociological dimension of disasters — the fact that natural disasters are never wholly natural, because some kinds of people will be more likely to suffer and die than others, depending on how life is organized when the disaster hits. As everyone knows, social order is under severe pressure in New Orleans at the moment, and the media coverage is slowly coming around to analyzing the differential impact of the disaster. The fact that those who have been left behind, or turned into refugees, are disproportionately Africian-American, poor, or elderly is simply impossible to ignore from the media coverage. Seeing pundits and commentators react to these facts is, in a way, a barometer of their sociological imagination — their ability to see the systematic relationship between social structure and individual experience. For example, on the conservative side of the fence, the contrast between “David Brooks”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/01/opinion/01brooks.html and “Jonah Goldberg”:http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_08_28_corner-archive.asp#074746 (also “here”:http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_08_28_corner-archive.asp#074466) is striking. Brooks is one of nature’s optimists, and his vice is a tendency towards complaceny. But he has a sociological eye, and immediately grasps the social dimensions of the disaster:

Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities. … We’d like to think that the stories of hurricanes and floods are always stories of people rallying together to give aid and comfort. … Amid all the stories that recur with every disaster – tales of sudden death and miraculous survival, the displacement and the disease – there is also the testing. … Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What’s happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.

Brooks’ instinct to look at how the disaster exposes power relations and tests the social order is right on target. Contrast this with Goldberg. All _his_ instincts are that talk of class and poverty and refugees are merely rhetorical cards in a never-ending political slanging match, and his goal is to make sure they don’t get played. His immediate concern is to deny that there are any systematic differences in the experience of disaster, and to pretend it’s all just a question of partisan labeling:

bq. Whatever happened to the idea that unity in the face of a calamity is an important value? We’re all in it together, I guess, except for the poor who are extra-special.

And again:

bq. My guess is that it will simply be a really unpleasent time for [Superdome refugees for] the remainder of the day, but hardly so unpleasent as to sanctify them with refugee or some other victim status.

Burkean conservatives may be too sanguine about the virtues of inherited ways of doing things, but, if they have Brooks’ cast of mind they at least understand that there _is_ a social order, and that disasters like Katrina expose its structure and weaknesses. Meanwhile Goldberg — whom I’m sure has never gone a day without a hot meal in his life — is merely vicious.