Saturday, September 03, 2005

Looting and Buses

Michelle Malkin blogged In case you missed it: Meant to link this incredible story yesterday. Here's another account. Some are characterizing the young, first-time bus driver's act as "looting." But the bus that Jabbar Gibson "commandeered" had been abandoned on a New Orleans street. He took it upon himself to rescue dozens of families--grandmothers, young parents, toddlers, and an 8-day-old infant. That is not "looting." (This is.)

What the young man did was heroic. But according to reports, he may face criminal charges. Bryan Preston points out the real New Orleans bus crime. After you read the story, go over to Slight Clutter's place at Flickr. The photographer was there when the renegade bus arrived. Pulitzer Prize-level photos, if you ask me. I hope the Houston Chronicle or local bloggers can keep track of Jabbar Gibson and the other children on the renegade bus. Perhaps the boneheaded Reliant Astrodome officials who initially refused to let the passengers in after their 13-hour journey can make up for their poor judgment by establishing a Renegade Bus Riders Relief Fund. Or maybe someone else in Houston can pick up the ball?

Breaking into a grocery store to get something to eat or drink, under conditions like existed in New Orleans is not looting.

Breaking into a Walmart and stealing all of the guns is looting

Breaking into a drug store to get medical supplies is not looting (and some police did this in New Orleans)

Breaking into a drug store and stealing all of the narcotics is looting

Taking an abandoned bus and driving a bunch of people to safety is not looting

Sending people to the head of a line of buses so they will get out of a hotel that you want to use for your people probably isn't looting, even when done by the Mayor of New Orleans, and failing to use the 364 buses owned by the New Orleans public transit or the 205 buses owned by the New Orleans school system, and just blaming the President for not sending you buses earlier is not looting either, it is just plain stupid.

And take a look at this. It does not matter what color you are, what you are taking, and why you are taking it, determines whether you should be called a looter.

Confabulator blogged You hear about the rampant looting, shooting, rapes and various other crimes against humanity by some of the remaining people in NOLA and then I ask you have you heard about what Jabar Gibson did, probably not as it is a story from Houston. He demonstrates what calm thinking and looking at options available is what many others in NOLA should have done.

Rancher blogged There are looters and there are looters. In the first case we have dirty cops, which of course contribute to a bad tone in a city. In the second we have a hero that may face prosecution for utilizing an asset that the city should have utilized.... Maybe the Mayor should be prosecuted for failing to see that school buses should be utilized in an emergency when they obviously aren’t going to be used to transport kids to school. Help is on the way.

And speaking of buses, look at this

B. Preston blogged This is infuriating:

An angry Terry Ebbert, head of New Orleans' emergency operations, watched the slow exodus from the Superdome on Thursday morning and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency response was inadequate. The chaos at the nearby New Orleans Convention Center was considerably worse than the Superdome, with an angry mob growing increasingly violent and few options for refugees to leave the scene. "This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control," Ebbert said. "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."
Ebbert's job is to coordinate New Orleans' response to emergencies. Somebody should show him this picture and tell him to stop blaming everyone but himself:

New Orleans owns those buses. Here's their significance:
I count 205 busses. When I was a kid, I remember that school busses could carry 66 people. If that is still the case, 13,530 people could be carried to safety in ONE trip using only the busses shown in that picture.

One trip.
Houston is 350 miles from New Orleans. At 50 miles per hour, 13,530 people could have reached Houston in seven hours. Turn the buses around. 14 hours later another 13,530 people are in Houston, far away from Katrina's wrath. In a little more than a day's time, you've gotten the poorest people who wanted to leave but couldn't leave on their own out of the city. And you don't have to drive them as far as Houston. It's the closest huge city, but there are lots of smaller towns you could ferry people to more quickly. The shorter the drive, the more trips you can make. Pretty soon 26,000 saved becomes everyone saved. If anyone left behind in the storm survives and then loots, at least they're not endangering thousands of innocent people. Those innocent people aren't there to be endangered. They're somewhere else.

You see, buses have these interesting features on them, Mr. Ebbert, called wheels. They allow buses to move about the streets of a city under the control of a human. Because of their wheels, buses can go to where the people are and offer them a ride. You could tell people to congregate at street corners for easier pickup. Moreover, since the buses are on the road picking up people and moving them out of the city, they're not in the path of the flood when the levee breaks. So you can keep using them to get the few stragglers who managed to survive the storm and the floods. And you can use them to haul in supplies. Troops. Whatever you need.

But since no one mobilized these buses before the storm--ahem, Mr. Ebbert--since no one mobilized them before the storm, the poor in New Orleans had no way of getting out. And now the buses are waterlogged and useless. All 205 of them. They will go on the expense side of the ledger instead of the asset side. That's your fault, Mr. Ebbert. The blame rests with you, sir. You knew the city owned those buses, you knew where to get them, where to fuel them and you probably had a list of the drivers who operate them. Yet there they sit, half submerged.

One emergency manager with half a clue and a couple hundred drivers could have more or less saved New Orleans from turning into Mad Max territory. Terry Ebbert can blame everyone else all he wants, but this crisis is almost entirely his fault.

Bill Hobbs is on the same page. He notes that New Orleans public transit has 364 buses it could have used to carry out the mandatory evacuation. Those buses could have ferried 22,000 New Orleans residents to safety in one single trip. But they were never pressed into service.

Greyhawk blogged The only way the city management of New Orleans can avoid being lynched at noon on Rue Burbon is to keep blaming the President, loud and often. It will work, too.

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