I’ve heard and read disturbing things today. Here’s three:

- Touro hospital is without a/c, electricity, food, water. There are patients on the roof. Touro being attacked is a sign – the riot is moving Uptown. This doesn’t happen. This is happening.
- Kenner Hospital also suffered an attack.
- Finally, I heard perhaps the single worst interview I’ve ever heard a government official give. Michael Chertoff’s interview with NPR consisted of anchoring himself to a happy talking point – that the Superdome was being relieved – even as he was asked about the Civic Center. Unbelievably, when conditions were described there, he said that the reports were rumors, and that he had heard nothing of this.

Nobody, unfortunately, is going to fire Chertoff. That’s a fact of life. But if you want to know why people are firing on the helicopters, a good place to start is Chertoff’s remarks. People in New Orleans, or many people, think they are being abandoned to die. Doubtless with the state of the electricity, few people heard him – but the attitude spoke volumes. Chertoff might as well have put in skywriting: “we will let you die in the Civic Center.” Which makes going to a government designated transfer point a sucker’s game.

This is so simple. There is a need for a national leader – like Clinton – to set up in Baton Rouge and announce, we are not going to let you die in the Civic Center. Or at any transfer point. Now that we “know” that you are in there, we are going to make the trip from the superdome in three hours and put in safety officers, send in food, get you out. That Chertoff left the interview without bothering to get ‘informed’ by the reporter is so sickening I can’t really express my horror.

Clinton might be a buffoon, but he is a trusted man in New Orleans, or more trusted than most politicians. I could care less about the politics – disarming New Orleans is impossible, so it is time to THINK about what you are saying, if you are an official, and it is time to find some way to communicate with disparate groups of distrustful people. That means loud speakers, that means using media with generators to convey the simple message: “going to a transfer point will not mean being abandoned.” They can show the Rolling Stones forty foot high at a stadium show – they can’t show the rescue of refugees so that people downtown can see it? If I were there at the moment, knowing what I know, I’d do anything to avoid falling into the government’s hands at the moment. Why is this difficult to understand? If I were in New Orleans at the moment, I would not look at the helicopters with a very friendly eye myself. The question emerges: are they going to take those able to pay, and leave us to die? So far, it looks much like the latter. This is a city built on invisible levies of class. Get real.

Sometimes, I do wish writing this thing actually mattered.

ps -- just read some good news -- Touro patients have been largely evacuated.