Thursday, August 30, 2007

Katrina: Two Years Later (Wednesday's Show)

Hi everybody. We've got Anderson Cooper back tonight for the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He's got his live shot set up outside and it seems he's made a few friends. Volunteers from the relief effort have got him surrounded with signs. It's like "The Today Show." Woo! I can't quite believe it's been two years already since the storm. At this time exactly two years ago I was sitting down to watch Aaron Brown, and Jeanne Meserve would soon be calling in to let me and thousands of others know that it was much much worse than initially thought. Anderson kicks it off with a piece that recaps the hurricane and the criminal incompetence that followed. Included is a clip of his famous interview with Senator Mary Landrieu, which I still hold in my top five live tv moments.

We're then shown some clips from Waveland and from there go into another Anderson piece in which he meets up with Bill and Myrtle Kearney, two completely awesome survivors. Remember them? Anderson, did you give Myrtle her rocks? I'm not quite sure why, but Myrtle had hidden her rocks (actual rocks) before the hurricane and then Anderson found them on one of his repeat trips. So now I'm sitting here wondering about rocks. Heh. Unfortunately the Kearneys have yet to rebuild due to high costs and not enough labor. And then there's the whole issue of people getting screwed by their insurance companies. Speaking of insurance companies, when the hell did Jonathan Freed become a State Farm spokesman? Hmm. I guess that kind of thing happens, but, yeah, I still googled to see if he had ever investigated State Farm for CNN. Doesn't look like he did. Drew Griffin, don't you go getting any ideas.

Next up we have a Randi Kaye piece on Dr. Edward Blakely, the so-called "master of disaster." Blakely was hired by Ray Nagin as the city's recovery czar, but he doesn't seem to be living up to his nickname. To hear him tell it though, he's saving the city all by himself. Apparently Blakely has a habit of taking credit for things he's got nothing to do with. Oh and he called Katrina survivors "buffoons." Classy. Anyway, the guy is getting full time pay, yet goes on all these speaking engagements and even teaches in Australia. You've picked a winner there, Nagin. Randi tells us Blakely promised cranes in the sky, but when she goes to where he told her . . . no cranes. What a surprise. After Randi's piece Anderson talks to Jared Kahan, a very optimistic AmeriCorps worker. Anderson notes, "You know, I have had people who haven't been here who have said, you know what? I'm tired of hearing about this." Man, people suck. Also? I would have loved to see Anderson's face when someone said that.

Coming back from commercial, we're played a Katrina clip of a helicopter churning up the nasty water, which subsequently got all over Anderson and crew. Including in their mouths. I remember watching this live and having a little freak out at the television that went something like this: "Oh! Gross water. Close your mouth. Stop talking. Stop talking! Stop talking!!! Ahhh! I just started liking this guy and now he's going to die of typhus. Dammit." I don't think I was the only one freaking out though because the next day they all had masks. Okay, so next we have a Randi Kaye piece and this one focuses on Habitat for Humanity. Apparently when it comes to this charity, New Orleans is getting shafted. Out of $150 million raised, the city is only getting $15 million. Keeping with the New Orleans getting shafted theme, a Times-Picayune editorial has charged that Mississippi got more aid and the reason may be political. Definitely something people should be looking into.

Moving on now to Anderson introing one of his pieces, saying, "
You're not going to believe this." Wanna bet? This is pretty horrible, though. This poor woman put $5,000 into repairing her house, even made sure it wasn't on the list to be demolished, and still they tore it down. Without telling her! And she's not the only one. A community activist has taken it upon herself to try to notify all the homeowners who are about to have their homes demolished, but it's tough with everyone still scattered. A notice is sent by the city, but it's not certified, so a lot of them aren't received. Also, some of the homes don't seem to have that much damage. So what's the rush? "FEMA will stop picking up for the Corps of Engineer's work to demolish houses in September." Ah, I see. The city denies that's the reason, but whatever.

Coming back from another commercial, Anderson talks a bit about the French Quarter and asks the crowd, "Do you guys ever get to go out to any of the bars here in New Orleans?" Some of them look pretty young, so I'm hoping not everyone answered yes to that question. Partay! Anyway, we're on to yet another Randi Kaye piece (busy little bee is she), this time about the New Orleans murder rate. In the piece we meet Father Bill Terry who is keeping track of the murders by writing the names of all of the victims on a board, a murder board, outside. And that board is getting crowded. To also bring awareness to the crime, Father Bill has roses delivered to Ray Nagin and Police Chief Warren Riley each weekend, one rose for each victim that week. That's kind of awesome in a really morbid way. Nagin, as usual, isn't talking. Riley says he's aware of the problem. Well, I think we're all aware of the problem, but it's your job to fix it.

Transitioning now to New Orleans resident Julie Reed of "Newsweek" and "Vogue." She's here to talk about what's working. She explains that the murder rate was high in the city even before the storm, but now they have a real opportunity to change things. She's also optimistic about the citizen involvement she's seeing, something that was absent before the storm. From here we go into a Sanjay Gupta piece where we learn that deaths in the city are better recorded by the newspaper than by the state. Unbelievable. Oh, and also? Health care in New Orleans is still in shambles. But you already knew that.

As we wind down for the evening, Anderson talks with AmeriCorps worker Arielle Davis, and then reads us his blog post. Anyone who watches 360 regularly has heard Anderson rail against "Katrina fatigue." I'll never have Katrina fatigue, but I am definitely suffering from a bad case of, pardon my language, "fuck-up fatigue." A friend tells me this is also known as "Bush fatigue," so there's that. I always love when they cover New Orleans, so A- for the show. Be sure to check out Douglas Brinkley's editorial in the Washington Post. Also, back when 360 did the Comic Relief special for Katrina, I included a bunch of Katrina related links at the end of the recap. Here's the last few paragraphs of that post for anyone interested:

I've read a lot of stuff related to Katrina and some of it has really stayed with me and I'd like to share. First off, there is the piece "Being Poor Like the Nolas" by Boyd Blundell, which imagines New Orleans as the equivalent of a family (the nolas) living in a very affluent neighborhood (Bush Gardens). We follow the nolas through their trials and tribulations and end with their heartbreaking suspicion that there is no neighborhood. Another tearjerker is "They Are Not Coming...A Katrina Diary" from luckydog at dailykos. This is but one of many personal stories. Then there is this post from Bob Geiger, titled "I Know This Little Boy in New Orleans", which simply points out that the children of New Orleans are the same as all our children. Keeping with the tone, Times-Picayune reporter Chris Rose recounts how his Katrina induced depression brought him to the brink in "Hell And Back".

Then there is this diary on dailykos that recaps the Aaron Brown broadcast (with crawl) in which I and many others learned just how bad things were. And if you'd like to get your outrage on, here is a compilation of idiotic and offensive quotes said by our leaders and others in the days surrounding the hurricane. If animation is your cup of tea you should check out this from Mark Fiore, which was posted on September 7, 2005. And finally there is the music video The Saints Are Coming by U2 and Green Day, showing how it all should have been.

Back in July of 2006, St. Louis was hit with two unbelievably strong storms within two days of each other that brought hurricane force winds and knocked power out to half a million homes and businesses. To make matters worse, the area was also under a severe heat advisory. A state of emergency was declared, The Red Cross set up shelters, and FEMA was sent. It was the worst disaster the city had seen in a long, long time. If you're wondering why you didn't hear about this, it's because it happened at the same time the Israel/Hezbollah war was starting. Anyway, there was no where to get food or supplies because most everything was closed at first and the roads were dangerous anyway because the lights were out and there was debris everywhere. Some people didn't have water service and some that did were under a boil order (including me), which is hard to do without electricity.

I'm telling you all this because as I sat by candlelight listening to a mother call into the radio desperate to find somewhere to buy diapers for her baby, I couldn't help but think of New Orleans. What St. Louis went through isn't comparable at all. The heat wave lifted quickly, the debris was picked up, and in a little over a week everyone had their power back. But it was a reminder how easy it is for a city or town to suddenly find themselves in a heap of trouble and needing someone else to help. If we abandon New Orleans then that means any city can be abandoned. And if we let that happen then those nolas in Boyd Blundell's piece are right, there really is no neighborhood.


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