Radio Free Bureaucratic Jackasses


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!

NEXT: Constitutional Infirmities

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Not to mention craptacular lighting an no use other than Monster Truck rallies!

  2. Some workers at our sister station down there told us this story. The funny part is that as a broadcaster (albeit a low power one) the Astrodome LPFM station still has a public trust clause to follow. Obey could feasibly be subject to FCC violations, on par with a station not airing an EAS alert during an emergency.

    Has anyone made NOLA Bureaucrat Trading Cards yet?
    They need to have stats on the back, like Amount of Help Hindered and Deaths Caused (Directly and Indirectly).

  3. I wonder how much money and manpower they used on this shenanigan before someone cued them to the Dome's existing capabilities?

  4. No rap music?

    Not even The FEMA Kidz Rap?

  5. this entire affair, from prior to landfall on, illustrates the lecherous moral bankruptcy of the american political/managerial system in just the same way that enron/global crossing/et al demonstrated the same bankruptcy in the american corporate/managerial system. the managerial class is simply without the most essential tool of leadership: creativity.

  6. " (rap music) might incite some of the evacuees to violence."

    10,000 radios all blaring the same godawful jungle music would certainly cause me to go ballistic. Nobody cares about the white folks in the hood.

  7. I wonder how much money and manpower they used on this shenanigan before someone cued them to the Dome's existing capabilities?

    What existing capacities? The loudspeakers are a piss-poor substitute for a bunch of transister radios. They're both louder (making them more intrusive when they're broadcasting something you'd rather tune out) and harder to understand (which is bad when they're announcing important info). They're also controlled by the same group that's running the Astrodome operation, so they're not a great route around information roadblocks.

    As for the newsletters, I'm sure they're important, but I also suspect there's a number of people being sheltered in the stadium who can't read.

  8. "With limited resources, you err on the side of FEMA and the Red Cross over entertainment."

    I would have thought that with limited resources, you would err on the side of accepting more resources from people willing to volunteer their time, money, and expertise.

    Where are the Arthur Fisks when you need them?


  9. I'm not astonished that local bureaucrats acted in an asinine, counterproductive way. I'm not surprised that the mayor and the governor both bungled every decision before and during the disaster, and every interview during and after it. (To the extent we're yet "after".) I'm not taken aback that FEMA screwed up significantly in both planning and execution.

    What really smacks my gob, though, is how NEARLY EVERY SINGLE THING that anybody vaguely related to the government (at every level) has done, has been totally botched and completely ass-backward.

    I'm always prepared to believe the worst of gubmint (Lib Party card around here somewhere...), but almost always some mensch who happens to be on the public payroll will nonetheless find a way to do the right thing. Perhaps it's a testimony to the power of Louisiana-style corruption, but the incompetence and ineptitude continue to be truly breathtaking.

  10. This descisin makes no sense in any way:

    1) It's another communication channel that adds redundancy to communications.

    2) It's superior to loudspeakers in clarity and fidelity.

    3) Radios are usually much less anoying than loudspeakers, hence the crowd will be calmer.

    I suspect that R. Obey (what a great name!), is exercising her power for the sake of power, or solely for her convenience as is more often the case.

  11. But then Rita Obey, a county public health official, made them jump through a series of ridiculous hurdles,

    Hey, she's a government official. When she tells you to do something, it's wrong to diss Obey.

  12. Unpropertized, unregulated airwaves. Hmmmm.

  13. Speaking of getting information out and passed around- I'll bet you could get a wicked game of Telephone going in that place.

  14. Start out with "A toilet is clogged in section 24" and it could come back as "The aliens are in here giving anal probes!"

    You wouldn't know if it were true information or something somebody misheard along the way and passed on. Kind of like what happened already.

  15. Or at least a half-hearted crowd wave...

  16. media - Sweet! They Live!

  17. Shyeet, they best not play the Beastie Boys. Me and my crowd get RAWDY when we hear that!

  18. Doesnt really surprise me. That's what gov officials do, make arbitrary decisions, erroring on the side of caution. A low powered radio station doesnt use precious resources, it gives people something to do, it gives them a sense of accomplishment as opposed to sitting around waiting for someone to do something, it gives them a sense of ownership. Natually, permission was denied.

  19. Why did they ask permission from a county public health official in the first place?

  20. Good question , trotsky.

    Although most public officials seem to think you need their permission to do almost anything. Unless, of course, you're connected to someone higher in the food chain.

  21. Every government agency involved seems to have a bad case of Not Invented Here=Ain't Gonna Happen.

    I can understand that from Homeland Security. An agency whose central mission is stopping people from doing things isn't going to be very good at encouraging people who want to do things. But what is everyone else's excuse?

  22. Trotsky's right: why did anybody even ASK in the first place? Reminds me of that anecdote about the widow who was denied permission to scatter her late husband's ashes along the California coast highway. It's not bad enough that the govt said no, but how did this woman get so beat down and submissive that it even occurred to her to ask anybody at all?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.