I've been reading, watching and listening to as much New Orleans hurricane news as I can, and the strangest thing I've been hearing and seeing is that volunteers who have come in to try to help have been turned away. For a country that prides itself on voluntarism, this is strange behavior, turning back those people who have come to help. If you go to FEMA's news alert from BEFORE all this happened, they were already setting up to be completely backwards in their approach, warding off volunteer efforts with this message, "Volunteers should not self-dispatch." Cash Sought To Help Hurricane Victims, Volunteers Should Not Self-Dispatch Release Date: August 29, 2005Release Number: HQ-05-177 Additional Hurricane Katrina Resources WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Voluntary organizations are seeking cash donations to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in Gulf Coast states, according to Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response. But, volunteers should not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency. “Cash donations are especially helpful to victims,” Brown said. “They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs. Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, pack and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require.” Volunteer agencies provide a wide variety of services after disasters, such as clean up, childcare, housing repair, crisis counseling, sheltering and food. “We’re grateful for the outpouring of support already,” Brown said. “But it’s important that volunteer response is coordinated by the professionals who can direct volunteers with the appropriate skills to the hardest-hit areas where they are needed most. Self-dispatched volunteers and especially sightseers can put themselves and others in harm’s way and hamper rescue efforts.” I'm so glad these fuckers have been so fucking professional. If you click on the link on FEMA's page that says "doing business with FEMA During the Hurricane Katrina Recovery," you can see that it relates not to coordinating volunteers, but providing information about how to get government contracts to private entrepreneurs looking to make a buck. The usual suspects are really out in force here. Halliburton has its "eyes on the prize" as usual. I didn't know what those agencies in the first FEMA list were, but one of them is Pat "shoot-em-up" Robertson. Read about it here. As we've all seen in the ensuing days...Rescue efforts? Maybe if Brown and his organization had a coordinated rescue effort, they would have figured out how to incorporate volunteers. Remember Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon and all those other volunteers in the aftermath of Sept. 11th? That worked partly because the disaster did less overall damage, but also because they were prepared to organize volunteers in NY. Here are some examples of volunteers being told they can't help: From the Red Cross. Yes, that's right, the Red Cross: The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city. From "jawbone's comment" on today's "Eschaton," comment list: As I said last night, someone put Nurse Ratchett in charge of FEMA and made the agency into the Cuckoo's Nest.-I was trying to pull together all the stories about FEMA denying orgs and citizens access to NO. Boaters saying they had small flotillas together to assist in rescues in flooded areas--and FEMA kept them out. For several days. Al Gore tried (don't know outcome, was mentioned on Wash Week in Review on PBS last night) to get two planes to airport to rescue and transfer patients from hospital where the surgeon who had worked on his son was located. Doctor called Gore, Gore was paying for the planes for staff and patients. Arrangments had been made for receiving hospitals, IIRC. FEMA said no, needed paperwork. Now, stories of roadblocks turning people back who are trying walk out of NO. Stories of people being "confined" to Convention Center.God help us, cause the BushCo gubmint ain't--and it won't let regular folks help us either!jawbone, 09.03.05 - 9:06 am | # From Malik Rahim, Black Panther Party veteran in New Orleans' Algiers neighborhood: People whose homes and families were not destroyed went into the city right away with boats to bring the survivors out, but law enforcement told them they weren't needed. They are willing and able to rescue thousands, but they're not allowed to. Almost all the rescue that's been done has been done by volunteers anyway. My son and his family - his wife and kids, ages 1, 5 and 8 - were flooded out of their home when the levee broke. They had to swim out until they found an abandoned building with two rooms above water level.There were 21 people in those two rooms for a day and a half. A guy in a boat who just said "I'm going to help regardless" rescued them and took them to Highway I-10 and dropped them there. They sat on the freeway for about three hours, because someone said they'd berescued and taken to the Superdome. Finally they just started walking, had towalk six and a half miles. People from Placquemine Parish were rescued on a ferry and dropped off on a dock near here. All day they were sitting on the dock in the hot sun with no food, no water. Many were in a daze; they've lost everything.They were all sitting there surrounded by armed guards. We asked the guardscould we bring them water and food. My mother and all the other church ladieswere cooking for them, and we have plenty of good water. But the guards said, "No. If you don't have enough water and food for everybody, you can't give anything." Finally the people were hauled off on school buses from other parishes. He concludes: I'm in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, the only part that isn't flooded. The water is good. Our parks and schools could easily hold 40,000 people,and they're not using any of it. This is criminal. These people are dying for no other reason than the lack of organization. Everything is needed, but we're still too disorganized. I'm asking people to go ahead and gather donations and relief supplies but to hold on to them for a few days until we have a way to put them to good use. I'm challenging my party, the Green Party, to come down here and help us just as soon as things are a little more organized. The Republicans and Democrats didn't do anything to prevent this or plan for it and don't seem to care if everyone dies. I hear another story of volunteers turned away as I was listening to the "Majority Report" last night on Air America. The Majority Report bloggers have created a successful "hub" for volunteers. at blogspot. It's not just regular volunteer help being turned away, but state help. Also, I have never heard of Kanye West, until I read about what he said on last night's celebrity bash, but he rocks. It sounds to me that once again, racism and hatred of the poor is the reason that volunteers have been deterred. That comment, "if you don't have enough for everyone, you can't help," Why? probably fear of rioting, and this fear of rioting might be one explanation for the entire failed response, which is itself likely to cause a riot, if such weak and exhausted people could be capable of that. The other rationale for this response is the one the Red Cross gave, that the government told them they shouldn't offer help in New Orleans because that would keep people from leaving. oh, really? I thought maybe it would keep them from dying. And finally, most important of all: the fear of the refugees being criminal. I heard Sam Seder say on the Majority Report last night that the first bus of evacuees to reach Houston from NOLA's Superdome was a school bus that had been stolen by a 20 year old kid from Rahim's neighborhood, Algiers. If you read the story, you'll see the reaction to the first bus of refugees in Houston was that there was no room at the inn. Many Houstonites seem to see all the flood refugees as dangerous criminals and don't want them in their city. I'm so disgusted.