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September 02, 2005


From the LA Times:

Survivors Wait as Disaster Builds
Officials say they're doing all they can. Experts had foretold numerous problems.

WASHINGTON — When disaster strikes in the United States, Americans expect a full-throttle response from the government, with whatever it takes to help to the victims — food, water, rescue teams, emergency medical supplies, helicopters, and National Guard soldiers to protect property and life. And the response is expected to be fast and efficient.

That's not how it worked out this time.

Hardly an epiphany, but the reality is seeping in:


As I think about what the finger-pointers are likely to say in the aftermath of all this it's hard not to credit some of their complaints. For years, Democrats complained that we needed to spend more on "first-responders." I took this for what it often was: an attempt to pad municipal budgets with pork. But, one must concede it wasn't entirely that either. And while it's likely this disaster would have presented many if not most of the challenges we're seeing this week, even if all that money had been spent as the Democrats wanted, it remains hard to dispute that it would have been better spent than much of the garbage in recent budgets.

And that's the point: The choice isn't between a lean, fiscally responsible, Republican budget and a porcine Democratic budget which included money for first responders. The Republican Congress has proven to be just about as disgusting in its spending as a Democratic Congress might have been.


But, we were supposed to be preparing --at the national level -- for a major terrorist attack for the last four years. I just don't see much evidence of that preparation. Congress re-assembled lickity-split to deal with Terri Schiavo -- a decision that didn't and does not bother me the way it bothers some. But however you define the issues involved in that case, in terms of real human suffering they are very hard to stack-up against what's happened in New Orleans. Congress should have convened yesterday and rescinded the highway bill. It should have broken-open the farm bill like a piñata and reallocated the monies therein.

For supporters of the war, this spectacle is going to be particularly hard to accomodate because it is in the interests of the political classes to keep their pork and it is in the interests of the antiwar left to frame this as a choice between Baghdad and New Orleans. That should not be the choice. The choice should be between the highway bill, ag subsidies and the like. The Don Young Highway should at least be renamed to the "Go Suck Eggs New Orleans Highway."

The issue Jonah sets out is that the bloated pork bills are the issue, not the sacred, all-inportant war in iraq. Putting that aside for another day, at least the concept that there is merit to the finger-pointing is beginning to seep in to R Blogistan, and you can expect that process to accelerate in the comiong days.

There will be local folks to blame... but in this case, Jonah is correct. FEMA and Bush's team had 4 years to get this right. They've actually dismantled something that worked. But I don't expect small-governemnt conservatives to ever truly inderstand yhis point, unless it's their town that gets hit. And that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

The administration seems almost helpless in the face of the disaster and in the face of media. I posted a comment to DHinMI's last piece that goes along with your post. Alessandra Stanley, the media and TV critic for the NYTimes analyzes the power of the images from New Orleans.

(from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/national/nationalspecial/02teevee.html

" ... As Mr. Chertoff tried to reassure viewers that the federal authorities had matters under control, CNN and Fox News split the screen and had him speak alongside images of stranded refugees, looters, and a bare-chested man, knee-deep in water, battering a store window with a baseball bat.

Normally, hurricane stories are mesmerizing because they give us a sense of control... We've seen it before, and we know how it ends.

But after three days, Hurricane Katrina still looked nothing like what Americans are used to seeing."

But I don't expect small-governemnt conservatives to ever truly inderstand yhis point, unless it's their town that gets hit.

This is an important stratgegy point that I believe progressives have failed miserably to keep in front of the vast majority of voters. Hard times will always show up eventually, and if one does not learn from the past, one will surely relive that past. When we see our worst days made better by collective actions lead by government (our collective representation of our society really), it seems imbecillic(?) to allow the individual greed-is-good group to take over and dismantle what worked. Yes, progressives can get too entrenched in individual greed as well, but that should be prevented by some as yet undefined sandards of behavior that public officials should be held to, IMO. The collective action mechanisms that work are not in question!

Maybe now is a ripe time for progressives to get the attention of John Q public for a bit of a future discussion!

I don't think I've ever agreed with Jonah before this...

Although watch out. Because CNN just named their story. Forget what it is. But they've given it a cheezy name.

A rational (and friendly to me) sometimes-adversary sometimes-partner, Rick Brady from Stones Cry Out (a Christian right-leaning blog) points out in an email to me that there are moves afoot from FEMA to build temporary housing in some fashion for the refugees. At least a half-million people (if not more) need a semi-permanent place to live.

Stay tuned.

Another Corner piece (parts I and 2 relate to the good job the mayor is doing and a bad review for Gov. Blanco) and please read the whole thing from an informed reader:

Third, having attended a conference in New Orleans on Homeland Security just last year, I can say with some certainty that the city and state have been working for the past five years closely with FEMA and the Offices of Emergency Preparedness of the adjoining states. There are mutually-supportive plans in place and they were wrung out as well as could have been done in advance. The FEMA regional director was highly regarded and I think was doing well. Having said that, however,

Fourth, I think there has been a failure at the Federal level. The First Responders moved in and did their job. The second wave (prepositioned FEMA response units and neighboring states' assets) moved in and did their job. The third wave (distant Federal support) failed to show. I cannot see how this could happen. The airfield at the Joint Reserve Base at Belle Chasse (across the river) has been conducting flight operations for three days - how could it be that no C-130 loads of bottled water arrived? That some of this water was not airlifted by helicopter to people stranded for four days on bridge overpasses? We got Navy ships from Hawaii to Thailand faster than from Norfolk to Louisiana. I am a retired Navy Commander and I know what I am talking about - this is simply unsat. The President bears ultimate responsibility for that.

Fifth, much has been made of the behavior of some New Orleans policemen. Some have been filmed apparently looting and some have turned in their badges and walked away from the job. I think the bad rep these guys are getting is unfair. There are hundreds who risked their lives to stay on the job during and immediately after the hurricane - there are not many average Americans who would have done that. Some of these guys lost their own homes and families - after this number of days I think it is understandable that some have reached their limit, feel that they have done their duty and quit. Finally, every city has corrupt police officers and the very few who did loot (if in fact they did) are not unique to New Orleans. I love the New Orleans cops.

Sixth, it occurs to me that the apparent slowness of the current military response, compared with that of other recent humanitarian crises around the globe, may in part relate to who is in charge. During past emergencies, the responsible Unified Commander (top dog) has been a commander (and his staff) who have been used to running emergencies: USJFCOM (formerly USLANTCOM; Navy/Marine command traditionally) ran Hurricane Andrew and Haiti just fine; USPACOM (Navy command traditionally) ran part of Tsunami relief fine and other WESTPAC contingencies; USSOUTHCOM (Army command traditionally) has run relief operations in central and South America; and USCENTCOM (Army/Marine command) ran the other part of Tsunami relief fine. Katrina is being run by NORTHCOM (Northern Command, an Air Force command) and this is the first humanitarian emergency ever run by them. I think they are simply not up to it. This may be a matter for subsequent, sober analysis.

Seventh, Speaker Hastert's remarks about Federal aid for rebuilding New Orleans just delivered Louisiana to the Democrats for the foreseeable future. This is unfortunate and yet another example of the national Republican leadership being off message. Louisiana went for GW, voting Republican for the first time since Reconstruction. There are currently slews of Republican Representatives and one Senator. A non-white, immigrant Republican almost won the last Governor's race and until Speaker Haster opened his mouth the consensus of opinion was that the results of that election were unfortunate and would probably be reversed. Haster single-handedly changed all that.

another good piece from First Read:

Unlike with September 11, it's quickly becoming known that the government could have acted to limit the scope of the disaster. NBC's Bob Windrem reports that in July 2004, FEMA and the Louisiana homeland security agency ran an exercise predicated on a Category Three hurricane striking New Orleans head on. The exercise, named for a mythical "Hurricane Pam," was very similar to the reality of earlier this week, involving breached levees and flooding in most of the city. The exercise also included recommendations of steps to help Louisiana prepare for such a storm, none of which appear to have been followed, or followed adequately.

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