Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An e-mail I sent today, in response to a short e-mail saying "You have been taking business trips to NOLA lately, this must be very visceral for you." It's been a while since I blogged, but this seemed to be appropriate:

I do feel it viscerally, but I have to say that I have no real grounds for claiming a part of this tragedy. It's like watching the strange waves that lap on the shores of a lake, knowing that it means a powerboat went by a mile away.

It's very strange. In 2001 Houston suffered massive flooding after Tropical Storm Allison, but it was nothing like Katrina. And we're *still* not done rebuilding.

All the attorneys from my firm's New Orleans office are here in Houston, and the firm is making sure that they are taken care of. Not sure what happened to the staff -- no one seems to have the guts to ask.

The Houston paper just reported that 24,000 people are being airlifted from the Superdome to the Astrodome. I asked a friend why they didn't just take them to Baton Rouge and he said, "Baton Rouge has become a tent city." We're all a little embarrassed that, without exception, our first reaction to the Astrodome story was concern about crime.

I had to research the federal rules of appellate procedure because we had to file a brief in the Fifth Circuit that we *knew* would never arrive. No one to call to ask for an opinion on that one. We now know the Houston judges have taken over for the time being (fortunately, Chief Judge King is based in Houston) and have ordered people not to file anything for another week or two, just chill out, death penalty appeals to be faxed to Judge King's chambers.

I'm working on a brief with a guy in Dallas; work loads are being reassessed based on the fact that he's spending a lot of time helping family members who fled Katrina.

Folks here at the firm do a lot of work with oil and gas industries in the Gulf. Katrina went straight for all the major rigs, so 95% of the hydrocarbon production in the Gulf went offline. That's 1/4 of America's oil right there. If Bush hadn't ordered the market flooded with the strategic oil reserve, the price of gas would have spiked even higher than it did, and I'm not sure that he did the right thing. Everyone in the industry is relieved that all the workers were safe -- the oil companies are a hell of a lot better at evac plans than the city of NOLA -- but the problem is the aftermath. Do these workers have a job to go back to? Do these industries have a plan for what to do? Fortunately the price of oil is high; if oil was under $30 then I suspect there would be the serious danger of bankruptcies or further financial collapse. But then what does this mean for the current oil issues around the world? Some of those wells can't be restarted once they've been shut in.

And not just me -- it's all going bugshit.

The media has been caught attaching racist captions to photos -- black people leaving abandoned supermarkets are "looting," white people are "obtaining provisions."

Some are trying to stave off the inevitable "it was their fault" criticism of the victims by ensuring that people realize that (1) most of NOLA is desperately poor and without transportation, and (2) notwithstanding that fact, the only evac plans in place involved an exhortation to "get in your car and go stay at a hotel in another town." But it's already happening.

$25 billion and counting. Worst natural disaster in American history. More water flooding in, now that the pumps are out of gas. Reports coming that the floodwater in the city is unhealthful because it is contaminated with gasoline and sewer water. Helicopter crews searching for people to save; chopping through roofs to see if there are people hiding in the attic; no time to deal with dead bodies. 90% of everything from Slidell to Biloxi is concrete foundations and splinters.

And the CNN weatherman yelled at the anchor to quit interrupting him.

I feel conflicted, in a sense. This day was coming, without doubt. Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River will not be held at bay forever, just so a city can continue to live below sea level. But I am disgusted at the lack of preparations, the lack of concern for the people that had nowhere to go. I wonder what will happen on that inevitable day when San Francisco falls. I wonder what will happen in my own city, a city built on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.

 9:48 AM

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