If anyone's compiling a master list of the asinine roadblocks the government has put in the way of grassroots mutual aid after Katrina, be sure to include this disgusting story. A volunteer group decided to build a temporary low-power radio station for the Astrodome -- a terrific idea, given the number of deadly communications breakdowns we've seen since this crisis began. To its credit, the FCC gave them a waiver to set it up without the usual red tape. But then Rita Obey, a county public health official, made them jump through a series of ridiculous hurdles, including (according to the volunteers, who I believe) a requirement to procure 10,000 radio receivers for the refugees before the transmitter itself could be set up. (She also demanded that they not play any rap music, Wired News reports, since that "might incite some of the evacuees to violence.")
They managed to meet all the requirements, and then the authorities running the Astrodome operation stopped the station anyway. "I did not see the utility," Obey explained. After all, she pointed out, the stadium already has loudspeakers. And newsletters!