9.08.2005

The amateur bus smear



I got a pointer from a friend of mine about this image that has been going around. She asks for no credit so... um... this is all my idea!

Actually I'm going to copy some things she sent me and add some of my own.

I don't know the source of this image, but by it's amateur nature, sneaky lies and pure political message, I'd wager it was hatched by some crackhead freeper.



It gets an "A" for creative use of an image manipulation program, but that "A" will be of little consolation when I'm through tearing this piece of crap to shreds.

We'll get to the fun part of imagery deconstruction in a moment.

The image, as I received it, was called "Stop-Blaming-FEMA.jpg" and it's message is clear. FEMA is not to blame for the deaths resulting from hurricane Katrina, it was all the fault of the locals who, apparently, just decided to let people die for the hell of it.

Well, that's pretty illogical from the start. First, speaking only for myself here, I don't "blame" FEMA for anything. But I do think it's clear that FEMA failed to do the job it was supposed to do. That's a problem and it's clear they need some major work before we can trust them to do a job like that.

That doesn't mean I let the locals off the hook. But the more local you get in a situation like this, the more variables there are that have to be decided before you can start throwing blame around.

For example, a FEMA memo was released that showed that FEMA head Michael Brown gave relief efforts two days to get to the area. With that one piece of data you have enough information to form a judgement.

But when you get down to the local level things get more complicated because it all takes place in the middle of a shit storm. There are no clinical decisions, it's all seat of the pants stuff taking place in a whirlwind of variables.

The question this image asks is "why didn't the mayor bus the people out?"

To answer that you have to first figure out the variables. Here are a few off the top of my head:

* Are buses available?
* Is fuel available?
* If a fleet of buses is not available, can you scour the city to find as many as you can?
* Would the people looking for buses be safe?
* Do you have people available to look for buses?
* If you find buses, what do you do if they're locked, and/or have no keys?
* Do you have drivers?
* Will you have to take people from the rescue work and have them look for buses or drive buses if they're found?
* Where do you take 50,000 people?
* If the buses trickle in, will it start a riot as people fight for seats?
* The image says food and shelter for everyone is right across the bridge, but how do you scour for food for 50,000 people? How many 7-11s do you have to loot to feed these people?

When I think about all these things, I come to the realization that the best thing for those evacuees may have been to stay at the Superdome or Convention Center and have security and food provided there until they could be gotten out. There was, of course, a breakdown in food and security and it would have been much better if they could have been evacuated on the first day, I just don't think there was anywhere else in the area they could go without causing chaos. But my point is, yeah, there's a lot of variables. This isn't some yes or no executive decision made in a boardroom.

Top this off with the fact that the people defending FEMA are conservatives who, allegedly, aren't fond of big government. A few years ago, 99% of conservatives thought Clinton was planning to allow the UN to invade America and FEMA was going to haul dissenters off to concentrate camps. Seriously, I'm not making it up, that was widely believed by conservatives. But get a republican in the White House and you can't dare question a bureaucracy, even if thousands of lives were lost and you want to understand why and fix the problem.

Gosh, I'm rambling. Let's have some fun with the image.

First, let's look at the insert that says "unused buses, water two feet deep"

True, there are buses at this location, I assume they belong to Warren Easton High School next door. However, I question how the maker of the image concluded the water was two feet deep given the fact that the hoods of most cars in the parking lot appear to be underwater. (I am assuming that the buses along the parking structure are in a shadow instead of being completely underwater.)



Let's move on to the insert that says "unused buses at dome with access to highway." Well, it turns out those are vans and trucks. Big rigs, 18-wheelers, ten-four good buddy? The fact that they are all different colors should have been a tip off, but it's amateur day at the smear camp.



I'm curious what "with access to highway" means. It looks to me like they're on top of a parking structure or something that is flooded at ground level. The exit ramp is not accessible at the level of the trucks, and below that the ramp is flooded. If you zoom out a good distance it looks like the exit ramp must be easy to get to, but by zooming in it's clear that instead of "with access to highway", this person meant to say "trapped like a mo-fo."



Moving on, let's examine the section saying "several buses in parking lot of the Convention Center." Those aren't buses either, they appear to be shipping containers or some other sort of large box-like container. It's curious that the person focused only on the buses that were mostly hidden from view but I've included the other "buses" that are out in the open and easier to identify as "not buses."



Ok, so now let's go to the northern Algiers and examine the section labled simply "60 buses." Oddly, they used an old image here that shows 60 vehicles but imagery from August 31 shows only 32 vehicles. At any rate, these are not "buses" either, they are "trucks", sorta like long Ryder trucks. My guess is that they are used to unload the barges across the street. Interestingly, there appear to be 3 police cars in the driveway. (I assume they're cops. I see these cars all over New Orleans imagery but they are different from marked police cars in that they don't appear to have lights or numbers on top). Are they there borrowing trucks to haul supplies? Who knows.



I could almost forgive the person for thinking these are buses because they do look the part, but there is more to being a bus than being long and yellow (or grey or white or brown as the maker of the image assumes). The real giveaway is that buses have rounded top edges with vents and things and box trucks are perfectly square and flat. Plus side-by-side a bus has a near vertical windshield and when viewed aerially you only see a small black slit whereas you see more black on a truck with a slightly more aerodynamic windshield. You can't rely on windshields every time but it becomes apparent when you have a large number to look at.

Here are some real buses.



They get blurry if I zoom in any farther, partially because there is less reflected light in this area, plus they have softer lines than the trucks (round roofs, grasshopper). I'll try to re-crop the scene later, but right now I don't have a clue which of the thousand images I found them in.



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