Jesmyn Ward (The Bat Segundo Show)

Jesmyn Ward appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #463. She is most recently the author of Salvage the Bones.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Testing the limits of his fury towards the Bush family.

Author: Jesmyn Ward

Subjects Discussed: Smoothies, fruit, bad franchises, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, what it means to be a mother and a woman, Medea, America’s lack of mythology vs. Greek mythology, life within a poor community, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, an author’s responsibility to community, the regional limitations of contemporary American fiction, being made angry by comments relating to Katrina, Pat Robertson, Barbara Bush’s insensitive comments about Katrina, FEMA and Michael Brown, novels of ideas, the physicality of characters, sinewy muscles, stomachs in fiction, close third person vs. first-person perspective, bad models of womanhood in the natural world, language, China as an anagram of chain, words as tokens of physical identity, present stigmas against figurative language, collisional rhythm, Outkast and Deuteronomy, finding an incidental rhythm, when to resist feedback that gets in the way of a natural voice, violence in fiction, creating a ferocious and multidimensional dog in Salvage the Bones, being surprised by the middle, pit bulls, Manny as a conflict generator, the mysterious ghostly mother, Hemingway’s iceberg theory, sexuality and promiscuity, unstoppable emotional forces, not glossing over the truth, describing trees with limbs, paradisaical cesspools, keeping a natural environment alive, and finding the right details to depict impoverishment.


Correspondent: You have Esch reading this Edith Hamilton book, especially Medea. And you also point out near the end that mythology won’t entirely help you out in a fix. Esch says that she is stuck in the middle of the book. And aside from Hamilton, I have to ask, did you draw on any other inspirational mythology when you were creating this book? Was there a point when you abandoned mythology at all like Esch? I wanted to start off here from the origin.

Ward: That’s an interesting question. I didn’t draw from any other mythology. I don’t think. Greek mythology, that was the thing in this book. I think in my first book I did — well, if you consider some of the older tales in the Bible mythology. I drew from some of those in my first book.

Correspondent: Do you consider them mythology?

Ward: Well, they are tales that explain how the world became what it is. So in ways, I think it is. But did I use any other sorts of mythologies in this, in Salvage the Bones? I don’t know. I don’t think that I abandoned it. I think that mythology’s important to her because it’s helping her understand what it means to be a mother and what it means to be a woman. So therefore, like even though she turns away from it, she still can’t help but go before the storm. To come back to that story and read more of Medea. Because see, she’s searching. And in there, she’s found something. She can’t figure out what it is. But she’s found something.

Correspondent: But it’s interesting that you would have her cleave to mythology in America, which is a nation that is constantly in search of its own great mythology. The Great American Novel. We’re Number One. You name it. I’m wondering if this mythological concern was in some sense related to, well, whatever American identity that Esch and her family had.

Ward: Well, I think she feels very much like an outsider. I think that the culture that she is from, that she lives in a small world — you know, a poor black community. I mean, I feel like they think they’re outside of that. They exist outside of that American dream. And so, in ways, they have to look elsewhere. And Esch, particularly, she finds that she is even more isolated than that community that her family is. Because she’s this only girl who grows up in a world full of men. So she really has to look outside what is easily available to her or in front of her in order to find some sort of kinship.

Correspondent: This leads me to wonder. Have you read Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful ForeversWard: No.

Correspondent: Because your book, on a fiction level, reminded me of this great journalism book. Which I think you would love and I’m just in total admiration of. It basically deals with this inner life of the people who are poor, who are collecting trash on the edge of Mumbai. And your book reminded me very much of this response to typical First World guilt or what not. That instead of actually pitying or looking down upon these people, your book is very much about giving all of these characters a great inner life. They do live. And it’s important to remember that they live. And I’m wondering where this impulse came from. Whether this idea of allowing Esch and her family to live was in some sense a way for you to counter any accusations of “Well, I’m responding to politics” and so forth.

Ward: Well, I think that I write about the kind of people that I grew up with, and the kind of people that are in my family and about the place that I’m from. I mean, I’m from a poor rural Southern community that — at least in my part of the community, which is mostly black. And you know, our family’s been there for generations. And I have a very large extended family. I’m related to almost everyone in my town. And so, for me, it’s like writing about the people that I’m writing about — you know, I feel that it’s a responsibility. Because I’m writing about my people. Even though my path is very different from most of the people I grew up with, I still consider myself — you know, that’s still my place. And those are still my people. So for me, that’s what this is. I don’t feel like an outsider. I feel like an insider who’s speaking out for the rest of the people inside my group.

Correspondent: Sure. I totally understand that. Do you think that this is going to be how it’s going to be for your fiction career? That you have to respond to this responsibility of speaking for this group of people? Because nobody else will. Or, in fact, one might argue that maybe American fiction, or regional American fiction, isn’t actually hitting that particular territory. What do you think of this?

Ward: I mean, I think that for the foreseeable future, as far as my writing life is concerned, I intend to write about the place and the people that I come from. Because part of the reason that I do so — I mean, part of the reason that I wanted to write about Katrina is because I was uncomfortable and made angry by the way that I heard others speak about people who didn’t evacuate from the storm. About people who stayed. About poor people who were caught in the maw of that storm. And I wanted to write against that. And so in a way, I do think that the voices of the people that I write about, or even just the people that I write about, that they’ve been absent in the conversation, in the national conversation. And that’s part of what I’m trying to do by writing about them. Introduce their voices into the conversation so that people pay attention and people aren’t so quick to write them off as worthless or stupid or all the other crazy things that I heard after Hurricane Katrina.

Correspondent: Are there specific things that really pissed you off?

Ward: Well, I heard this one woman. She’s from Atlanta too, which is close enough. It’s six hours away from where I live. And she said that the reason that Hurricane Katrina had hit us and done so much damage is because we were sinful. That we were in a sinful place. Like, for her, it was very much about — you know, she was approaching it from a religious standpoint.

Correspondent: The Pat Robertson-like charge.

Ward: Yeah.

Correspondent: “Well, they brought it onto themselves.”

Ward: Yeah. So we deserved it because of our proclivity for gambling and drinking and all the rest. And then other people that I encountered said that, one, they couldn’t understand why people stayed. Why people would stay and try to survive a hurricane like that. And, two, that they didn’t understand why people would return and try to rebuild. Because what’s the point if global warming just means that there are going to be more storms, there are going to be just as powerful as Katrina and more of them are going to hit that part of the United States. And that comment really made me angry. Because that person was from L.A.

Correspondent: Yeah.

Ward: That person was from California, which has its own.

Correspondent: These bicoastal buffoons.

Ward: So I just heard commentary like that. And it just made me really angry. And I wanted to counter those. I really felt that our voices were absent from that. Especially that conversation. You had what’s her name. It’s Bush’s mother. Remember when she said that crazy stuff?

Correspondent: Barbara Bush.

Ward: Yeah. About the people from New Orleans. Like this was like a vacation for them. Because they got to go ahead and stay in the Astrodome. Like really? Are you serious? Just so far removed from the reality of these people’s lives and their struggles. Just so far removed. Comments like that just made me realize how, when people said them, it’s like they didn’t recognize our humanity at all. And that really made me angry, and made me want to address Hurricane Katrina in the book.

Correspondent: Well, this seems as good a time as any to confess to you, Jesmyn, that at the point where they are scrambling for their boiled eggs and their packages of ramen, and there is of course the depiction of the carton of bones in the fridge — and then they say, “Oh, well, FEMA and Red Cross will help us out.” At that point, I thought I had a maximum level of anger towards Bush and Brown. And then I read that. And I became even more furious towards them.

Ward: (laughs)

Correspondent: And you’re talking here about anger. And you’re talking about it in a very calm manner. And this book is extremely focused, I would say. So what did you do to not get so caught up in this understandably furious impulse and actually focus in on the book? Was it really the inner life of these characters that was enough for you to counter any socioeconomic, political responsive bullshit?

Ward: I think so. Because I feel that my book will fail if my characters are not alive on the page. There have been great novels of ideas, right? But, for me, the kind of writer that I am, I can’t write those novels. And I don’t think that they would be successful novels.

Correspondent: Why do you think you can’t write a novel of ideas? Or that the ideas are best represented in the environment that you set down?

Ward: I don’t know. It’s just not my style. What comes naturally to me is telling a story that’s invested in people and in the characters, and making them live on the page.

The Bat Segundo Show #463: Jesmyn Ward (Download MP3)

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Gustav, Republicans, and American Amnesia

As Gustav’s mad whorl whirls north to the Louisiana coast, the current chatter has less to do with New Orleans’s numb carcass, the rebuilt homes and levee systems that will almost certainly be annihilated, and the wave of destruction that Bourbon Street hipsters will guzzle down with dutiful debauchery. All eyes are now focused upon the political hurricane. Three years ago, the President of the United States played his guitar as New Orleans transmuted into a mute and miserable milieu, as more than a thousand people lost their lives and thousands more were unsecured in their homeland, and as those who fled to the Superdome saw their improvised sanctuary transformed into a madhouse of rape, murder, and suicide.

Lest anyone forget (and if we are urged by the elephants not to forget September 11th, then certainly we should not forget Katrina), this irresponsible bunch demonstrated gross incompetence and negligence on an unprecedented level. FEMA, the American branch of government set up in 1979, showed a dot com startup’s ineptitude after being absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security. One of 2005’s most popular catchphrases did not come from a sitcom or a movie. It came from President Bush telling the incompetent FEMA head Michael Brown that he was doing “a heck of a job.” Brown’s “heck of a job” involved waiting until the last possible minute, putting Katrina victims in trailers with toxic levels of formaldehyde, and preventing bottled water and other supplies from getting to the victims. Most recently, in 2007, FEMA took it upon itself to stage a fake news conference in response to the California wildfires.

Under the Bush administration, FEMA has had more success with this propaganda, placing it above the expected salve of proper relief.

Will the Republicans acknowledge any of this in Minneapolis this week? Or will we see the same lies and moral grandstanding? It could involve another variation on Reagan’s disingenuous pitch to the American people when he ran for President. In the eyes of these bungling opportunists, the question of whether the American public is better off than it was four years ago doesn’t matter nearly as much as the preordained answer. To these wild turkeys, it will be better off under them. Because four years from now, you’re not going to remember what they did before.

To be fair, the incompetence wasn’t just limited to FEMA. The American Red Cross, which had raised more than $2 billion in funds for Katrina, saw its efforts excoriated by international organizations. Funds earmarked for Katrina went to other places. The British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross had both sent experts to the Gulf Coast, discovering inexperienced amateurs in key roles of responsibility and supplies that were not being shipped to their proper places. The official response of the Red Cross? From Devorah Goldburg:

“It’s frustrating to our thousands of volunteers out there every day, away from their families, helping people. We never said we were perfect — we’re trying to do our best under extraordinary circumstances.”

Instead of Goldburg telling reporters what the Red Cross planned to do in response to these inadequacies, she delivered the same “heck of a job” nonsense that Bush had slapped Brownie on the back for. Helping other people was no longer about being professional. It was about simply being there. Jerzy Kosinski (or the ghostwriters who actually wrote the novel) was decades ahead of his time.

In other words, competence and getting results is no longer part of the American equation. What is important is that those in charge have labored in some sense. Never mind that the quality of that labor was severely lacking, or that those who were incompetent could not be held to any basic level of accountability. Forget the fact that the labor itself resulted in deaths, lives being lost, limitless property damage, and endless consequences for those hit hard by Katrina.

And rest assured, as we receive more horrible images from Gustav’s wrath this week, they will spin you the same lies. They will try once again to tell you that they have done their jobs simply by being there. But they will not dare reveal their inadequacies. And even if they did somehow do this, why should they? It’s not as if you’ll be bothered to remember.

[UPDATE: Thankfully, Gustav did not decimate New Orleans. But while I am immensely relieved that there were no casualties and minimal property damage, I still stand by many of the observations that I made within this post concerning the American attitude towards responsibility, which isn’t nearly as socialist an idea as it seems. This hasn’t stopped one guy from calling me a liberal brown shirt. Which comes with the territory, seeing as how others have called me over the years a Republican, a Christian, a Buddhist, a nihilist, a Quaker, an anarchist, a socialist, a craven capitalist, and numerous other epithets which amuse me to no end. So sorry that, once again, I don’t quite fit into your neat ideological rubber stamp. But of course, my great plan to kick in the teeth of any person I disagree with should go off without a hitch. That little red book I keep hidden up my ass crack has worked wonders over the years.]

The Katrina Horror Lives On

Jenny D breaks some terrible news. In an ongoing New Orleans homicide epidemic, five people were recently killed in 14 hours. They included filmmaker Helen Hill and Paul Gailiunas, a doctor who helped low-income patients. (UPDATE: Paul did not die. My apologies. He was shot, but remains in stable condition.) I didn’t know these two, but Jenny vouches for them as good people and I believe her. The thought of people being murdered because that Bush and FEMA view New Orleans as a problem that will eventually go away is enough to make me want to destroy something.

There’s Always Room for Gumbo

[EDITOR’S NOTE: USA Today reporter Bob Minzesheimer was assigned to review David Brinkley’s The Great Deluge. The published draft has an extremely strange and disconcerting paragraph pertaining to gumbo. Return of the Reluctant has obtained Minzesheimer’s original draft of the review, demonstrating just what kind of job the USA Today editors had on their hands.]

My name is Bob Minzesheimer and I am here to tell you that I like gumbo. Real gumbo. Not the pantywaist gumbo that they try to pass off in yuppie restaurants, but the real shit in New Orleans. Pre-Katrina.

If you ask me, the tsunami’s biggest tragedy was the sudden surcease in gumbo making. I’ve always thought New Orleans was a city that never slept. Forget the fact that the streets were flooded and that people were angry. No disaster should prevent a good batch of gumbo from being made, distributed and consumed. Why, for example, has Mayor Ray Nagin remained so silent on the gumbo question? Surely, Brinkley could have devoted a chapter to this seminal issue.

As we all know, real men eat real gumbo. Real men also read real books and review real books while they’re eating real gumbo or thinking about eating real gumbo. Gumbo is of paramount importance when assessing a book’s worth or determining the level of scholarship. David Brinkley, I suspect, is a gumbo fan. But he is not a real gumbo fan. And by real, I think you know what I mean.

This gumbo stance is problematic on several levels. His book cannot succeed until he slaps down the American Express on the table and pays at least $60 for a good bowl of gumbo. But I suspect he fears gumbo. No journalist should fear gumbo. Brinkley’s fear is evident on page 126 of his new book, The Great Deluge, where he writes:

Gumbo was the last thing on Nagin’s mind. As the bodies piled up, the gumbo stopped.

This, of course, is a preposterous assertion. For even in the face of government neglect, there is always room for gumbo. Real gumbo. Gumbo makes things better. If FEMA had fed the dehydrated Katrina survivors some gumbo, then nobody would be pointing fingers at Michael Brown.

I am a real man. I am also a real journalist. And I am momentarily a real book reviewer. But more importantly, I am the world’s foremost authority on gumbo. You may not know this, but I took a correspondence course and became a gumbo authority. Not even my wife knows this. I keep my gumbo expertise a secret from my friends and peers. I’ve kept quiet for too long. You, the devoted readers of USA Today, are the first to know.

I have been assigned to read this damn Brinkley book and I can’t stop thinking of gumbo. Many people have died and have had their lives uprooted. Such pedantic issues as government incompetence and unnecessary deaths mean nothing in the great scheme of things, particularly when gumbo is involved.

There is something about Brinkley’s face that makes me pine for gumbo. Surely I am not the only one who feels this way after staring at the author photograph. The cruel people at USA Today don’t pay me enough to buy real gumbo and chances are that you, the mere USA Today reader, haven’t experienced real gumbo.

So let’s stop all this discussion of who was right and who was wrong. Who needs more politics when there’s real gumbo to masticate upon? Let’s prevent Brinkley from writing more books. Come to my two-bedroom house anytime and let me show you that real gumbo makes the world go round.

How Do They Sleep at Night?

It’s been kept under the table for a while, but the elderly are having major problems adjusting to their post-Katrina displacement. For those who haven’t died from the stress, many are facing severe cognitiive attrition without recovery (“Once it’s gone, it’s gone”). Or they’re severely disoriented and confused because they were too frail to move. NPR covered the story this morning and it’s a heartbreaking segment, particularly the woman who carries her recently deceased husband’s photo in a brown bag. Of course, if this were any other country, there would be enough money earmarked to help these people adjust. But this being the United States, profligacy knows no limits. Heck of a job.

New Orleans — The Abandoned Stepchild

New York Times: “We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum. We said this wouldn’t happen. President Bush said it wouldn’t happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, ‘There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans.’ But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.” (via Ghost in the Machine)

[RELATED LINK: It looks like the New Orleans Public Library is also in serious trouble, with a whole slew of city history threatened. (Thank you, Dan Wickett.)]

SF Katrina Benefit

From Stephen Elliott:

The Progressive Reading Series Presents:
A Special Benefit For The Victims Of Hurricane Katrina

When: Monday, September 19, 7pm
Where: The Makeout Room – 3225 22nd Street, San Francisco, (415) 647 2888
Price: $10 – $20 sliding scale
Proceeds to benefit the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund

What: Authors band together to help victims of Hurricane Katrina
Featuring readings from: Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Firoozeh Dumas, Julie Orringer, Peter Orner, Daphne Gottlieb, Kaui Hart Hemmings, Truong Tran, Michelle Richmond, Anne Marino, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Tom Barbash, and Michelle Tea

If This Is True, Here’s Your Grounds for Impeachment

The Washington Post: “Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking [Gov. Blanco] to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.”

If there was an ultimatum issued and troops and aid to save lives were delayed because of this power grab, then the real investigations need to begin right now. Sickening. (via MeFi)

Who Needs Food and Water Anyway? Perhaps They Should Distribute Freshly Charged Cell Phones Too, Given That All the Phones Are Down.

Salt Lake Tribune: “Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.”

First-Person Story from the Convention Center

The following email was forwarded to me. It originates from Lisa C. Moore:

i heard from my aunt last night that my cousin Denise made it out of New Orleans; she’s at her brother’s in Baton Rouge. from what she told me: her mother, a licensed practical nurse, was called in to work on Sunday night at Memorial Hospital (historically known as Baptist Hospital to those of us from N.O.). Denise decided to stay with her mother, her niece and grandniece (who is 2 years old); she figured they’d be safe at the hospital. they went to Baptist, and had to wait hours to be assigned a room to sleep in; after they were finally assigned a room,two white nurses suddenly arrived after the cut-off time (time to be assigned a room), and Denise and her family were booted out; their room was given up to the new nurses. Denise was furious, and rather than stay at Baptist, decided to walk home (several blocks away )to ride out the storm at her mother’s apartment. her mother stayed at the hospital.

she described it as the scariest time in her life. 3 of the rooms in the apartment (there are only 4) caved in. ceilings caved in, walls caved in. she huddled under a mattress in the hall. she thought she would die from either the storm or a heart attack. after the storm passed, she went back to Baptist to seek shelter (this was Monday). it was also scary at Baptist; the electricity was out, they were running on generators, there was no air conditioning. Tuesday the levees broke, and water began rising. they moved patients upstairs, saw boats pass by on what used to be streets. they were told that they would be evacuated, that buses were coming. then they were told they would have to walk to the nearest intersection, Napoleon and S. Claiborne, to await the buses. they waded out in hip-deep water, only to stand at the intersection, on the neutral ground (what y’all call the median) for 3 1/2 hours. the buses came and took them to the Ernest Morial Convention Center. (yes, the convention center you’ve all seen on TV.)

Denise said she thought she was in hell. they were there for 2 days, with no water, no food. no shelter. Denise, her mother (63 years old), her niece (21 years old), and 2-year-old grandniece. when they arrived, there were already thousands of people there. they were told that buses were coming. police drove by, windows rolled up, thumbs up signs. national guard trucks rolled by, completely empty, soldiers with guns cocked and aimed at them. nobody stopped to drop off water. a helicopter dropped a load of water, but all the bottles exploded on impact due to the height of the helicopter.

the first day (Wednesday) 4 people died next to her. the second day (Thursday) 6 people died next to her. Denise told me the people around her all thought they had been sent there to die. again, nobody stopped. the only buses that came were full; they dropped off more and more people, but nobody was being picked up and taken away. they found out that those being dropped off had been rescued from rooftops and attics; they got off the buses delirious from lack of water and food. completely dehydrated. the crowd tried to keep them all in one area; Denise said the new arrivals had mostly lost their minds. they had gone crazy.

inside the convention center, the place was one huge bathroom. in order to shit, you had to stand in other people’s shit. the floors were black and slick with shit. most people stayed outside because the smell was so bad. but outside wasn’t much better: between the heat, the humidity, the lack of water, the old and very young dying from dehydration… and there was no place to lay down, not even room on the sidewalk. they slept outside Wednesday night, under an overpass.

Denise said yes, there were young men with guns there.but they organized the crowd. they went to Canal Street and “looted,” and brought back food and water for the old people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. when the police rolled down windows and yelled out “the buses are coming,” the young men with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children next, men in the back. just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities of who got out first.

Denise said the fights she saw between the young men with guns were fist fights. she saw them put their guns down and fight rather than shoot up the crowd. but she said that there were a handful of people shot in the convention center; their bodies were left inside, along with other dead babies and old people.

Denise said the people thought there were being sent there to die. lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. cops passing by, speeding off. national guard rolling by with guns aimed at them. and yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all. she saw a young man who had stolen a car speed past, cops in pursuit; he crashed the car, got out and ran, and the cops shot him in the back. in front of the whole crowd. she saw many groups of people decide that they were going to walk across the bridge to the west bank, and those same groups would return, saying that they were met at the top of the bridge by armed police ordering them to turn around, that they weren’t allowed to leave.

so they all believed they were sent there to die.

Denise’s niece found a pay phone, and kept trying to call her mother’s boyfriend in Baton Rouge, and finally got through and told him where they were. the boyfriend, and Denise’s brother, drove down from Baton Rouge and came and got them. they had to bribe a few cops, and talk a few into letting them into the city (“come on, man, my 2-year-old niece is at the Convention Center!”), then they took back roads to get to them.

after arriving at my other cousin’s apartment in Baton Rouge, they saw the images on TV, and couldn’t believe how the media was portraying the people of New Orleans. she kept repeating to me on the phone last night: make sure you tell everybody that they left us there to die. nobody came. those young men with guns were protecting us. if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have had the little water and food they had found.

that’s Denise Moore’s story.

Lisa C. Moore

Katrina Headlines XXVIII

  • Crooks and Liars: Amazingly, FOX News now concedes of the failure to help. Geraldo Rivera held up a baby, demanding all viewers to see the face of reality. Shep Smith shouts at Hannity!
  • Associated Press: Rhetoric not matching reality.
  • General Honore: “By-and-large, these are families that are just waiting to get out of here. They are frustrated; I would be, too. I get frustrated at the cash register counter when the paper runs out.” I like this guy.
  • WWL: Convention Center still not secure; considerable unrest.
  • NOLA: Loss of real estate records dating back to early 1800’s, could be nightmare at providing insurance claims.
  • Headline of today’s Times-Picayune: “HELP US, PLEASE.”
  • Paul Krugman weighs in: “At a fundamental level, I’d argue, our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.”
  • Flamethrowing response from Steven Gilliard.
  • Storm Digest points to this DHS report about what’s coming in the convoy. No reference to MREs being distributed to Convention Center.
  • The Katrina “I’m OK” Registry.
  • Link to live New Orleans police radio scanner.
  • The Interdictor is still posting: “Homeland Sec comes driving by and yells water and hums a 20 ouncer at our feet without slowing down….Bunch of stressed out, trigger-ready police and military types driving by suspicious as all hell. It’s not safe just standing out on the street even if you look like you belong there.”
  • Accountability? Maybe: “Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who heads the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the panel’s top Democrat, said they would begin an oversight investigation next week into what they called an ‘immense failure.'”
  • 70 year-old Nellie Washington: “What took you so long? I’m extremely happy, but I cannot let it be at that. They did not take the lead to do this. They had to be pushed to do it.”
  • Kanye West criticizes bush during telethon: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
  • Kids set up lemonade stand for victims.

Katrina Headlines XXVII

  • Every American needs to hear this. Nagin on radio interview. (Transcript.) : “I’ve talked to everybody under the sun. I’ve been out there man. I flew these helicopters, been in the crowds talking to people crying don’t know where their relatives are. I’ve done it all, man and I tell you man, Garland, I keep hearing that it’s coming. This is coming. That is coming. And my answer to that today is “BS”. Where is the beef? Cause there is no beef in this city. There’s no beef anywhere in southeast Louisiana and these god damn ships that are coming – I don’t see them.”
  • More reportage from high-rise.
  • City is now on fire.
  • Call your Senators, call your representatives, and demand immediate action and aid and assistance.
  • Visual comparison of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News homepages. As can be expected, FOX stands out.

Katrina Headlines XXVI

Katrina Headlines XXV

  • FEMA directed donations to Pat Robertson’s faith-based charity; then tried to hide this after being exposed by Ken Layne.
  • Police Chief Eddie Cross: “We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten. Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon.”
  • WWL blog: Astrodome is now full. 23,000 people estimated to arrive in Houston. Numerous reports of New Orleans police turning in their badges.
  • Another report from the Superdome: Reports of lawlesness, disorganization, unbearable stench, long lines, enough to make a new Mel Gibson movie: Mad Max: Beyond Superdome.
  • Blanco gets into pissing fight with Dennis Hastert. Hastert’s comments can be found here.
  • Local officials incensed: “Some people there have not eaten or drunk water for three or four days, which is inexcusable.”
  • More from CNN: No word on where the people not let into the Astrdome will go. One resident pleading for someone with a bullhorn to talk with these people to come in before the National Guard.
  • It’s a questionable source, given that weapons were checked upon entry, but British students are saying that inside the Superdome, there were guns, knives, crack cocaine use, threats of violence, racial abuse, and the rape of a seven year old girl in the bathroom.
  • First-hand reports from Mongo: “Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint….There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area — Saulet Condos — once they tried to get cars from there… well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed.” These folks are reporting news until the generators go down. Incredible.
  • Pictures being posted from the streets of New Orleans: including the first water dropoff in days.
  • Salon: “On cable news, our normally buttoned-down blow-dried correspondents, almost all of them white, are cracking under the strain of bearing witness to the suffering and even death of the people who weren’t looting, who did the right thing and headed to the Superdome, only to find a worse hell awaited them. “
  • More reports from inside the Superdome from a more legit source: It’s being run like a concentration camp and two children have been raped. Confirmation of seven year old girl being raped as well as eight year old boy. Indeterminate others raped.
  • Tourists fleeced of money, told to wait for buses that never arrived. “The tourists here are an afterthought.”
  • Anderson Cooper tears Landrieu a new one: “Senator, I’m sorry… for the last four days, I have been seeing dead bodies here in the streets of Mississippi and to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other.” (Transcript ) (Video link)
  • Bush says, “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the levees.” He was wrong. Mr. Bill did back in 2004.

Katrina Headlines XXII

Okay, we’re doing our best to balance the tragic with the comic (one of the reasons we extended the photo contest). Apologies for the inconsistency in tone, but it keeps us sane. So here’s the latest rundown.

Katrina Headlines XX

Huzzahs to the Times-Picayune

The Times-Picayune must be commended for their remarkable journalism under the circumstances. Remarkable photos, first-hand accounts and solid information to draw conclusions from. These folks are still putting out a newspaper despite having to capitulate their building and despite a paper edition precluded by the rising waters. In today’s edition, there are the following details:

  • Terry Ebert, director of New Orleans Homeland Security: “Truth to tell, we’re not too far from filling in the bowl.”
  • The waters are rising at about 3 inches per hour.
  • There are apparently gangs of armed men moving around the city, having obtained their weapons stock from a brand new Wal-Mart in the Lower Garden District.
  • The silver lining of a slow surge is that the death toll is considerably lesser than what might have happened, had the eye passed directly over New Orleans.
  • Plans are in place to stop the flooding through 800 tons of concrete. There are about 108 15,000 pound concrete barriers that the Army Corps of Engineers hopes to drop into place by air.

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  • Goddam. I thought we were going to win this. The latest from WWL: “Efforts to stop the levee break at the 17th Street Canal have ended unsuccessfully and the water is expected to soon overwhelm the pumps in that area, allowing water to pour into the east bank of Metairie and Orleans to an expected height of 12-15 feet.”
  • Times-Picayune: “Homes in West End, Bucktown and at the Orleans-Jefferson Parish line are nearly underwater, with residents being plucked from the water and rooftops by passing boats, WWL-TV video shows.”
  • Biloxi appears devastated from air.
  • Hurricanes from space.
  • Long-form feature from the L.A. Times.
  • All people are urged to evacuate. Efforts to beat the levee are over.
  • Main public hospital no longer functioning.
  • What’s the word on the Superdome evacuation?

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  • The big question: is there any confirmation that the water is still rising or have the sandbags dropped in the levee somehow managed to halt the waterflow from the lake?
  • WWL is now reporting that state officials are trying to figure out how to transfer 4,000 inmates from the New Orleans jail and 1,000 inmates from the Jefferson Parish jail. Both prisons face flooding.
  • Now all hotel guests are going to the Superdome.
  • Now here’s where Republican self-sufficient state policy gets interesting: Louisiana is begging the White House to waive federal rules that push a sizable chunk of the financial burden of the cleanup onto the state. They want the federal government to help pick up the tab. Here’s where things get interesting: During the Florida hurricanes, FEMA picked up 100% of the costs after the first 72 hours. Will there be a quid pro quo, a deal with the devil, or a poltical favor to ensure that FEMA picks up 100% of the tab for Louisiana after three days? I sincerely hope political reporters are paying attention to this. Josh Marshall, will you keep this issue alive?
  • Katrina in Louisiana.

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