Monday, September 05, 2005

Minimum Standards, Multiple Betrayals

One of the more predictable but still outrageous claims circulating about the disaster in New Orleans is that "they were warned" and "they should have listened to the advice to leave." This is part and parcel of the line of reasoning that blames state and local officials for the scope of the disaster. It is ass-covering revisionist nonsense. Besides the tragically obvious fact that many had neither the financial nor the physical ability to evacuate, what if those levees had been destroyed by a terrorist attack? Exactly what type of warning would New Orleans have expected in that scenario? That must be the standard applied here. It must be the same standard that would apply if terrorists detonated a dirty bomb in Manhattan, and simultaneously destroyed the bridges and tunnels connecting the island to the outside world. It must be the same standard that would apply if Las Vegas was hit by a biological attack and Interstate 15---the single main road leading into and out of the city through hundreds of miles of barren desert---was either blocked or destroyed. And of course it must be the same standard that would apply if a devastating earthquake struck San Francisco, which is the only one of three major disasters predicted by FEMA in 2001---the other two being a terrorist attack on New York and a hurricane in New Orleans---that has not happened yet. Yes, there was indeed prior warning here; what if there had not been? The performance of this administration and the federal government must be judged---at an absolute minimum, even by the blame-the-locals bunch---from the first moment that assistance and rescue became feasible. Or should we just go ahead right now and change FEMA's name to FEMASUC: Federal Emergency Management After Solely Unpredictable Catastrophes?

This is why what happened was a fundamental betrayal that transcends spin and political ideology. For as much as they suffered, those people in New Orleans were not the only ones who were failed. This was a betrayal of every citizen who goes to work and pays taxes to assure that if this tragedy befell him, the federal government would uphold its part of the bargain. It's incumbent on each of us to react as if this happened to our friends, our parents, our children, or us. Because one day that might be the case, and by then it will be too late to demand accountability.

One of the misperceptions that will gain traction from this disaster is that conservatives favor cutting FEMA's budget and liberals do not. But there is no conflict between conservatism and stipulating that only the federal government can and should handle a disaster on this scale. In fact, it's utterly consistent. Andrew Sullivan is spot-on about this:
Real conservatives believe that the state should do a few things that no one else can do - defense, decent public education, police, law and order among the most obvious - and leave the rest to individuals. Funding FEMA and having a superb civil defense are very much part of conservatism's real core. It's when government decides to reshape society, redistribute wealth, socially engineer, and take over functions that the private sector can do just as well that conservatives draw the line. The reason I'm mad as hell over Katrina is precisely because I'm a conservative and this kind of thing is exactly what government is for. Bush in this sense is not now and never has been a conservative. A man who explodes government spending but can't run a war or organize basic civil defense is simply a fiscally reckless incompetent. If this were a parliamentary system, we'd have a vote of no confidence. Instead we have three years of more peril.
What's ironic (but obviously insignificant next to the human suffering) is that just as those people in New Orleans were betrayed, so too were conservatives. Because intellectually honest conservatives---and unfortunately that no longer includes the Grover Norquist drown-government-in-a-bathtub types who have become no more than political and economic nihilists in conservative drag---generally advocate a "government shouldn't do much, but what it does must be done well" philosophy. The response to Katrina should have shown conservatism at its best. Those calling themselves conservatives who disagree with this need to explain exactly what they think the federal government should do and why it should exist at all. I happen to think it should not do much more than field a strong military, defend the borders, collect taxes, maintain national infrastructure, enforce laws that are beyond the purview of the states, and respond to historic disasters such as this. But for God's sake, it must do those things competently and not embrace an almost Soviet type of failing-upwards cronyism. The most senior federal officials learning from television reports about thousands of people trapped and dying for days in a single place is not competence.

Of course, all this has ramifications beyond FEMA, DHS and New Orleans. After the past week, can anyone maintain a shred of confidence that "supporting the troops" in any way entails endorsing this administration's command of them?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a conservative who's well-aligned with you ideologically, I agree totally with this post, particularly about the betrayal of honest conervatism.

9/05/2005 6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a conservative myself, the answer is most assuredly: NO.

It seems that in the pre-war period, during the war, and the post-war period, the only thing the Bush administration managed to get right was the war itself. And that is NOT good enough.

Add to that the clusterfuck we're seeing in New Orleans, and any hope of this administration redeeming itself has gone by the wayside. I can't and won't vote for these people anymore.

9/05/2005 6:59 AM  
Anonymous dcmeme said...

good point, and I agree with previous poster's response to question about the troops: No!

9/05/2005 7:09 AM  
Anonymous jill said...

As you note, it will be interesting to see how various conservatives come down on what happened. I side with you in the belief that Katrina should actually have been conservatism's finest hour.

9/05/2005 7:23 AM  
Blogger Tayefeth said...

Of course, we already had reason to believe that this administration didn't believe it had any obligation to do what Andrew Sullivan says should be its main priorities. Requiring young adults to pass the same exams whether they have an IQ of 60 or 160 (but only if they attend public schools) does not constitute ensuring a decent public education.

As a side note, I'm a liberal, and I absolutely agree with Andrew Sullivan's list. What makes me a liberal these days is that I don't think public education should be funded by property taxes, I think the rich have the obligation to volunteer for the wars they ask the poor to fight, and I don't think racial profiling is a good way to go about keeping order.

9/05/2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Great points. The Marines and the 82nd Airborne could have been there within 48 hours of the flooding, much likely better than 24 hours for some units. That is their emergency deployment status. Those units arrived Sunday.

9/05/2005 10:22 AM  
Anonymous JWC said...

My Independent, leaning conservative especially in regards to fiscal matters, husband is outraged. He who thinks all politicians are the same, no matter what their party, thinks this bunch are incompetent.... the worst kind of criticism he can think of. I've never seen him show this kind of emotion about any politician. That is not a good sign for the Republican party.

Me, I'm exhausted from the rage. But not surprised at their performance or lack of same. And not very hopeful that most of the people who support the Bush administration will not swallow the spin, hook, line, and gallon of KoolAide.

Spin, lying, and handing out goodies to buddies is the only thing this administration does competently.

9/05/2005 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There doesn't appear to be any actual 'learning by experience' in this administration. From 9/11 to Trent Lotts front porch, Karl Rove moves Bush from one photo op to another.

The message from atop the WTC heap of rubble was "Bin Laden, dead or alive"

The Iraq war brought us "Turkey in Iraq" and "Mission Accomplished".

Katrina..."pleased with the response, unhappy with the results..."...???

Considering the hit his approval ratings took, I wonder of often the residents of NO and the Gulf Coast will have to endure a Presidential Photo Op.

9/05/2005 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to know WHY the Federal Government response to the hurricanes in Florida last year were expeditious. And, they were. Emergency operations went as smoothly and timely as "humanly possible" AND they didn't require the FEDERALIZATION OF ANY CITY.
Why was that then, a year ago ... and this debacle now???

There are BIG QUESTIONS here, people.

I'm angry, ashamed and frightened.
And, if it matters, I'm a social liberal and a fiscal conservative...but first and foremost, I'm a thinking/feeling member of the human race.

9/05/2005 11:26 AM  
Anonymous ken said...

With all due respect I think you are completely wrong about conservatism. An honest conservative would be perfectly comfortable with the lack of federal governments response to this catastrophe. After all one of conservatism main objectives is to eliminate the nanny state in all its forms. I think you are being a little dishonest about what true conservatism really means when it is actually put into practice.

9/05/2005 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautifully posted.
intellectual honesty on both sides of the aisle is the myth we need to rebuild into reality and get this admin out!

9/05/2005 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hurricane Pam was a training session back in 2004 that predicted exactly what happened with Katrina:

especially this two 'graphs:

"The City of New Orleans, with its 1.3 million residents, has limited out-bound route capacities. One of the problems of mandatory evacuations is that they are difficult to enforce. Many people resist being ordered to leave their homes and property by government officials. The number of people without access to transportation in New Orleans, has been estimated as high as 25 to 30 percent of the population. In addition to people without vehicles, potential low mobility evacuees include the indigent, elderly, prisoners, the infirm, and tourists. About 250,000 residents of New Orleans (not including tourists or "special needs" populations) have no means of private transportation. The total number of busses in all of New Orleans would provide only a fraction of the capacity needed to transport all of these people.

Louisiana emergency management officials planned to use any available alternative means of transportation, including National Guard vehicles. They also planned to open local shelters and refuges of last resort for those not able to evacuate."

The National Guard vehicles never appeared. There weren't any, really. The Feds never appeared either. The nlocal officials had to figure out what to do when the "plan" fell apart because the FEDS DID NOT SHOW UP.

9/05/2005 12:33 PM  
Anonymous other anonymous said...

It seems that in the pre-war period, during the war, and the post-war period, the only thing the Bush administration managed to get right was the war itself.

Hate to break the news but the "war" is still going on. If you're a soldier getting shot-at, the artificial demarcations and definitons of the beltway crowd make little difference.

9/05/2005 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to know WHY the Federal Government response to the hurricanes in Florida last year were expeditious.

Bush/Bush couldn't take any chances with Floridas electoral votes. If they blew the emergency response, they would probably blow the election and President Kerry would be dealing with this disaster.

9/05/2005 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree regarding national security and protecting its citizens. I thought that after 9/11 too. And both parties are to blame, but the Republican party is so much worse, corrupt, arrogant. At least the Democrats are honest about the need for money for programs, the Republicans just create programs, larger government, need money to give their friends, and tell us they are conservatives. BS!

You mention education. You are aware that the Texas educational test scores that Bush told us about in his campaign and during his no child left behind (guess that doesn't include hurricanes) speeches were fudged? And then Bush hires Ron Paige, the head of the mess, for educational secretary. The 'Texas Miracle' that wasn't. You've talked about government numbers, well Bush did it in Texas too. Then Bush admin manipulated the stories and numbers for WMD too. Oh no, and the new Medicare Prescription drug benefit too (anyone see a pattern). But regarding the fudged educational numbers, I guess you could call it survivor-ship bias just like they do in the financial world. You just lose track of the kids doing poorly, and the incentive is to do just that in any means possible.

You guys heard Bush put Karl Rove on top of the spin control. Good thing this isn't a time for politics. Photo-op, photo-op.

This is a little off topic, but I started to think of the Oklahoma bombing, Twin Towers, and the Gulf and our government. I remember reading and watching a lot from Kenneth Feinberg, the head of the 9/11 fund. Why did those victims receive disaster compensation, and not Oklahoma's, what about future disasters? When does our government pay and when doesn't? I always thought the government was trying to hide something, and it wasn't all about lawsuits. Blocking the 9/11 investigation didn't help. You'd think that the Gulf folks certainly would have some points.

9/05/2005 1:47 PM  
Anonymous howard said...

i have been waiting for years for honest conservatives to take back their movement (i'm a Left Conservative, which is a little different) from the right-wing crazies. Perhaps this disaster will speed that process along.

America needs an honest conservative movement, desperately.

9/05/2005 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do all of you conveniently ignore the aerial phots of all of those unused New Orleans School buses?

Take a little walk over to Powerline or Little Green Footballs, look at the photos and find out how lame your "Blame Bush" rhetoric is.

Mississippi took the direct hit, not Louisiana. New Orleans is flooded, Biloxi is flattened. Yet, we don't hear any crybaby mayors trying to blame everyone but themselves.

Keep track of all of the baseless allegations that have tried to place the blame on bush and how they have been discarded one by one:


Bush is responsible because he didn't ake action to prevent global warming.


There have been less powerful hurricanes in the past 20 years than in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Besides the Kyoto treaty, voted down 99-0 in the Senate at best would not have any effecr for another 20-30 years.


Bush underfunded the levees.


Everyone underfunded the levees. More importantly, the levee that broke was one that was fully rebuilt last year!

A commission will investigate this. The findings will be for all to see, if you don't rely on the mainstream media.


9/05/2005 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They were looking for Mike Brown's, head of FEMA, resignation in January.

9/05/2005 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One team, one goal...a safer, more secure America"

"In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS".

"The National Response Plan establishes a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents."

9/05/2005 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I want to know WHY the Federal Government response to the hurricanes in Florida last year were expeditious."

So, you're saying that the delayed response was deliberate??

9/05/2005 3:11 PM  
Anonymous lahke said...

Actually, they were expeditious because FEMA prepositioned supplies before the storms hit. See any of that happening this time? Right, no election this year, and these aren't swing states.

Sorry that I don't have the link--I've been reading blogs all day, and don't remember who linked to the Florida papers that had articles on it at the time.

9/05/2005 4:02 PM  
Anonymous lahke said...

Here it is:

FEMA has positioned a powerful list of disaster response personnel, equipment and supplies to help those who are displaced or suffer losses after Hurricane Frances continues to move across Florida. The advance preparations include:

FEMA's [national and regional operations centers] are operating around the clock, coordinating the pre-positioning of assets and responding to state requests for assistance.

FEMA has deployed an advanced emergency response team to the Florida State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to facilitate state requests for assistance. In addition, three rapid needs assessment teams have been pre-deployed to Florida.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at FEMA's request, is coordinating the staging of 100 truckloads of water and 100 truckloads of ice at operational centers in Florida.

A first shipment of 30,000 tarps is en route to Atlanta, Ga., to be pre-staged for delivery to areas affected by Frances once the storm has cleared.

FEMA is working to provider 10 trailers of generators at the request of Florida that will be used to provide power to critical facilities affected by the hurricane . . .

Four urban search and rescue teams are deployed to Florida -- two in Miami and two in Jacksonville. Four teams are on alert.

Two disaster medical assistance teams (DMAT) have been deployed to Florida to support medical facilities and hospitals that are not fully operational following the storm . . .

Five pharmaceutical caches, containing emergency medical supplies, are being pre-positioned, and are currently en route to Atlanta and Tampa.

FEMA's Mobile Emergency Response Services (MERS) communications staff and equipment are available to provide telephone, radio and video links in support of response and recovery efforts . . .

. . . FEMA is working with the General Services Administration to analyze vacancy rates of various safe housing options . . . as part of pre-planning temporary housing strategies for those whose homes are severely damaged or destroyed.
Press release on advance
preparations for Hurricane Frances
September 4, 2004


9/05/2005 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am politically a moderate independent. For me, the huge issue now is the competence of this administration. Whether you support the war or not, it is indisputable that the Bush administration has thoroughly bungled the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq. Bush has fiscally mismanaged the country, resulting in too much spending and the largest federal deficit in history. His No Child Left Behind program is fatally flawed. And now we have a thoroughly out-of-touch and unreal response to Katrina.

These guys are great at winning elections and at short-term political strategizing. But they haven't got a clue about how to run a country.

I am sick to death of them, and I wish they would simply go away.

9/05/2005 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do all of you conveniently ignore the aerial phots of all of those unused New Orleans School buses?

Not everybody is. But those school buses are being used as a 'get of of jail free' card by the right. It's just part of the 'responsibility through technicality' mindset of the Rovian wing of the party.

Simply put, no matter how badly this was handled by the federal government, if some event no matter how small but outside the reach of Bush contributed to this, it's put it forward as a complete absolution of the federal effort.

Yes, the city should have prepared more. Yes, the state should have prepared more. They won't get to duck blame here. But as of Saturday pre-landfall, FEMA and the federal government was calling the shots and they've screwed it up royally.

9/05/2005 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's me again. "I worked for the US Federal government in a disaster relief capacity in the early-mid nineties..." etc. from Faith-Based Preparedness, Sept 2 and Wakeup Call, Sept. 3. I'm so far beyond outraged as you see from my previous posts. I'm oldER and old-fashioned, an Eisenhower Republican with experience in local and Federal social services. Yes, government does have certain responsibilities. And this latest incarnation has failed us, making us weak, vulnerable to literal takeover. Much like a business driven into the ground by total incompetence. Much like a business gutted by theft of resources. Just how much of our taxpayer money has found its way into George W. Bush crony pockets? He has sold us to the highest bidder, ladies and gentlemen. And dismantled our infrastructure. This article (FEMA Weathers a Storm of Bush Administration Policy and Budget Changes, Sept. 29 2004) is long and I don't like the source (Baltimore City Paper? Why not the Baltimore Sun? Or better, the Washington Post?). I'm sorry, I'm still struggling to get used to independent media, blogs. But it does tell some of the story, including why FEMA was ready to help Florida in Sept. 2004. Select quotes: (1) "... with national elections just around the corner, the hurricanes could scarcely have hit at a better time or place for obtaining federal disaster assistance... the reason why they’re doing that job is because it’s so close to the election..." (2) "since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA’s Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright..." (3) "Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent... and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded... staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors." (4) "The Washington Post reported that the Bush administration’s moves against mitigation programs were causing worries in disaster-prone states. 'Statehouse critics of the proposed cuts contend that in the long run they would cost the government more...'" (5) The Brookings Institution on what would happen to FEMA if merged with DHS: "likely become less effective in performing its current mission in case of natural disasters as time, effort and attention are inevitably diverted..." (6) FEMA employee on the new arrangement: "Before, we reported straight to the White House, and now we’ve got this elaborate bureaucracy on top of us, and a lot of this bureaucracy doesn’t think what we’re doing is that important..." (7) And the winner: "'In a sense, Louisiana is the flood plain of the nation,' noted a 2002 FEMA report... And yet, this summer FEMA denied Louisiana communities’ pre-disaster mitigation funding requests."

9/05/2005 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honest conservatives cannot take back the Republican party because the opposition from the Democrats is too weak.
We have one party for governing, and one party for patting the governing party on the back. It's pathetic. Clinton in particular is horrendous anymore. What the hell is he doing supporting Bush after this monumental, capital dereliction of duty on Bush's part??
He has no shame. He will sacrifice the well-being and dignity of the victims of Katrina to advance his wife's cause.

9/05/2005 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh this is touching. Look what Barbara Bush said (I'm lifting this from Americablog)

In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: "Almost everyone I’ve talked to wants to move to Houston."

Then she added: "What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed with the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (she chuckled)--this is working very well for them."

Oh really? Did you talk to any of the people your son killed, Mrs. Bush?

9/05/2005 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a real-world problem with advocating extremely limited government. The problem applies to those within government. When the government is run by people who either don't believe in the idea of effective governance or are just supremely disinterested by it, what kind of government will you get? And what is the motivation of the politicians? Since, by definition, they don't think they are accomplishing anything worthwhile through the government, their motivations can only be increasing their personal power and wealth.

Here is my analogy. It is all very well and good for you and I to say that we will never buy a GM car and, in fact, prefer Toyotas. However, it just will not do to have the CEO of GM say this. The shareholders of GM wouldn't like it.

Citizens are the shareholders of this government. They cannot sell. But, they routinely defeat themselves by electing politicians who are philosophically opposed to governing.

9/05/2005 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is a real-world problem with advocating extremely limited government."
This doesn't wash in the case of Katrina. If you read above, ALL AVAILABLE resourses were amassed BEFOREHAND for the Florida hurricanes in 2004.
I don't think even the densest among us can say that we no longer have those resources ... we are seeing them being deployed a WEEK AFTER New Orleans died.
You cannot say that Authority and Coodination does not exist ... they existed in 2004 FOR FLORIDA.
So ... what are we left with?

9/05/2005 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Northcom was ready and waiting, Lt. Commander Sean Kelly, a Pentagon spokesman for Northern Command:

"Northcom started planning before the storm even hit....We had the USS Bataan sailing almost behind the hurricane so once the hurricane made landfall, its search and rescue helicopters could be available almost immediately So, we had things ready.

The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so. The laws of the United States say that the military can't just act in this fashion; we have to wait for the president to give us permission."

"wants to move to Houston"
Two thoughts, one, you are already hearing of reports of the resource burden but communities are saying we can do it for awhile, and two, we'll eventually need people to operate the port which is a national issue, so hopefully the area will be inhabitable. The pollution in the water is pretty awful, and that is going to be in the soil too.

The mayor of NO said tonight he'll put his out their if others will too. In other words, let analyze the good, bad, and ugly so we can actually fix it instead of having Karl Rove creating lies, innuendos, and gossip.

I'm sure the astute readers of this blog have heard the Washington Post reported from an anonymous White house source that the Lousiana governor did not declare a state of emergency. The Washington Post didn't bother to check it out or they wanted for some reason to support the Rove attack machine. They printed a correction on Sept 4.

I thought this blogger had a great idea to help the media out with lying anonymous sources:

"May I suggest that the Post no longer honor granting anonymity to the lying son of a bitch at the White House who gave them this false quote in the first place? Let's hear who gave them the lie. Or can we wait for Congressional hearings? No more anonymous White House quotes for the duration of the aftermath of Katrina? Update: If the source lies, they're named, in an above-the-fold Page 1 correction from now on? The thousands of people who died in New Orleans deserve justice and accountability."

9/05/2005 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did FEMA cut the emergency communication lines?

Why did FEMA prevent water from coming in?

Why did FEMA prevent fuel from being dispensed?

From Andrew Sullivan's blog:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

MR. BROUSSARD: . . . Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis." - from yesterday's "Meet The Press."

9/05/2005 9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Why do all of you conveniently ignore the aerial phots of all of those unused New Orleans School buses?

I don't think anyone's questioning Bush's response to those things not under his control; the beef seems to be with how he handled those things that are in his jurisdiction. Talking about Bush's inaction doesn't mean that questions like those about the school busses don't exist, but that issue doesn't cancel out the the complaint against the President.

9/06/2005 1:13 AM  
Anonymous howard said...

that photo of the buses: it takes peabrain to try and run that one up the flagpole.

i look forward to an in-depth tick-tock on the whole unfolding debacle, but the photo proves absolutely nothing.

The nitwits who are in love with the photo blithely wave away a whole host of problems: drivers; fuel; getting the buses back into the city; the risk of getting stuck on the highways; and most important, where, pray tell, were these buses supposed to take people?

this is not just another hurricane: this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. This is the sweet spot for why fema is out there. And the Florida pre-positioning is critical here: this is part of dhs doctrine to be proactive in the case of this kind of event.

I was in New Orleans up to the Tuesday in advance for a family funeral, and on that tuesday, people were already talking about katrina could be the one. That's the day FEMA should have gotten its planning and any other advance requirements under-fucking-way, and all the pea-brained photos of buses don't change that.

And there's a reason to be this upset, as our host has pointed out: this is what we can expect from a catastrophic terrorist attack. We are completely unready, and the relevant agency is run by a hack.

Had FEMA done its job correctly, we would all be sitting around saying that the mayor did a great job getting 80% of the people out of town, and FEMA did a great job rescuing the rest, and there's a lot we can all learn from this unprecedented event.

As for Mississippi, i guess Trent Lott is just making it up when he says:

In a sign of the political pressure facing Bush, Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott, a former Senate majority leader, said he has been battling the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its Mississippi counterpart for help for his state and urged Bush to cut red tape.

After a one-on-one meeting with Bush in Poplarville, Lott said: "I am demanding help for the people of Mississippi to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina."

9/06/2005 1:41 AM  
Blogger 277fia said...

C.R., you sanctimonius prig, there are no intellectually honest conservatives in government.

And now from the folks who brought you the reconstruction of Iraq...

9/06/2005 2:02 AM  
Blogger Siryn said...

you forgot the K and S, TCR - FEMASUCKS.

Federal Emergency Management After Solely Unpredictable Catastrophes Kills Scores

9/06/2005 3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thoroughness of the devastation left in Katrina’s wake is unique in this nation’s history. The geographical size of the affected area is so vast and the number of affected people so great, it boggles the mind. Not only did Katrina strike a region known to be especially vulnerable to such a disaster but portions of the population also rank among the poorest in the nation. Despite the confluence of all these factors, which obviously increased the toll of human suffering, one positive outcome of this tragedy might be the restoration of real political debate in this country.

What we have here is an event so complete in its destruction even the talking heads at Fox News are having trouble applying the proper spin. Language itself refuses to cooperate. Mind numbing propaganda fails to produce the desired results. Floating bodies, grandmothers trapped in attics, and abandoned survivors – who by all the news accounts I witnessed were predominantly minority – don’t fit neatly into the us-versus-them mentality of the conservative slam machine.

Is it difficult to imagine that a populist president, such as Bill Clinton, would have understood the provincial thinking of many of the inhabitants of New Orleans? Would such a president have realized that, for many people in the path of Katrina, leaving their city is equivalent to relocating to another solar system? (Even now, rescuers are finding survivors who refuse to leave the only place they have ever known) Of course, many did not leave because they had no transportation, no money, and no family or friends with the resources to help them leave. But most importantly, I suspect some did not leave because their street, their neighborhood, and their city mark the boundaries of their conceivable experience. Does George Bush understand this? Dick Cheney? FEMA Under Secretary Michael Brown, a man whose favorite pastime is equestrian competitions?

9/06/2005 6:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, CR!

Did you see Tierney's editorial in the NYTimes about Local Government failing worse than the Feds?

It really upset me to see that he and others would rather blame those who did 80% correctly and give those who did about 40% correct a pass. Especially since those who failed are supposed to be the ones in charge.

If FEMA performed only half as well as it did during the FL hurricanes in September 2004 it would have saved lives and enormous suffering.

And to hear about how Mr. Brown got his job, that just burns me deep inside.

9/06/2005 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who volunteered Saturday night at the Houston GRB Convention Center, I can tell you that none of the evacuation shelters currently in Texas would have been ready to receive people the weekend of the hurricane itself.

Had the mayor of NO and local emergency officials commandeered every bus in southern Louisiana, where would they have been planning to take the evacuees on Saturday and Sunday? Where on earth would they have gone? Hotels that were already booked up by people with the self-sufficient means to get out? Regional schools and military bases?

The school busses only mattered *after* the fact that the city was flooded. And the photo clearly shows that the busses themselves were flooded -- i.e. useless for post-flooding evacuation purposes.

9/06/2005 11:01 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

The federal government must bear the brunt of the blame, but for all of you to graciously give the local and state government a pass is frightening.

First, the busses, many are claiming, where would they have gone Saturday or Sunday because no place was ready yet, or problems getting drivers, fuel and again more importantly no place to go. EXCUSE ME!!!!

This disaster had been predicted years before Bush was president. I think it is the fault of the State and local government for not having a PLAN. This was an extremely foreseeable event. It is fair to compare it to a terror attackt he way TCR did to grade the response of the Federal Government (F) but to completely absolve the state government for having absolutley no plan for an event which was going to happen in there state is shameless.

State governments need to prepare for disaster which are likely to occur in there states. California better have a plan for what to do immediatly after an Earthquake strikes and not put all of there faith in the federal gov. To imply that state governments have absolutely nothing to do with planning for disasters in their own state is ridiculous.

The level of hate directed at Bush can only be compared to the hate that was directed at Clinton and as you know much of what happens is still his fault. I can only imagine the controversy and damage Bush will be causing years from now.

9/06/2005 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Nick from Knightsbridge said...

Tim Russert echoed all of this on Imus this morning.

A 'must hear' piece.

The Sept 6th link on that page.

And now the Admin w/ Rove in charge are spinning death. It is disgusting.

9/06/2005 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you guys were outraged at Mike Brown's qualifications to head FEMA, you'll toss your cookies when you read the qualifications of the two next in line, Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff.

They are nothing more than Bush campaign workers with no emergency mgmt experience. One arranged events for Bush, and the other worked for a company that produced Bush's PR.

"These guys make Brown look qualified."

9/06/2005 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice post TCR!!!

9/06/2005 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again-the biggest issue I have with Bush is his praising Brownie for doing a great job!!!!!


9/06/2005 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PenDragon - you need to stop with the conservative talking points. Yes the city failed, yes the state failed but at which freaking point did you think the city and state alone could have dealt with this? Please.

As for the levees this issue has been going on longer than my 37 years. The levees have been under funder for freakin ever and under every president. However, the last budge cycle had the budge to just maintain the levees cut in freakin half. Would it have necessarily have helped this time - no. However, it is indicative of the adminstrations priorities. And those priorities are terrorism not national disasters. It was ok to fund some bridge that 50 people in Alaska would use to the tune of over $200 million but not to fully fund to a siginifantly less high dollar amount - to help maintain the levees.

In this case perception may be reality.

9/07/2005 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quote from our local paper:

"If Gregory Noble had seen the last week's devastation and destruction of New Orleans on television, he hardly would have believed it.
But Noble has no need to watch it. For six days, the former San Bernardino-area resident lived the life aquatic in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which plunged his Mid-City home under more than four feet of water.

He dodged unimaginable debris, including carcasses of dogs, cats, birds and fish. He saw four or five human bodies floating along Canal Street, including one that appeared to have been shot in the face. Noble said he turned his face after the first few times, unable to bear the sight.

"It was like a movie, man, but it was real. It's something I'll never forget,' said Noble, 34, as he collapsed in an easy chair in the San Bernardino lobby of The Sun on Tuesday.

"After the fifth day, I was losing it,' he said. "Water, every day. It wasn't normal.'"

Just another story of normal people, that may have made a mistake in judgement to not to leave their homes and everything that they own - but were then thrown into an extrodinary situation where they had to use their own wits and survival skills because help was not on the way.

I live in the U.S. of Anger!

9/07/2005 1:41 PM  
Blogger Ryan G said...


Bush underfunded the levees.


Everyone underfunded the levees. More importantly, the levee that broke was one that was fully rebuilt last year!

It doesn't matter what anyone did but Bush. Clinton doesn't matter anymore. Bush I doesn't matter anymore. Reagan only matters when it comes to the national debt.

The issue of the levees can be argued, but I'm tired of people blaming past presidents for messes that the current president should solve. If I were in school and turned in my homework late, I wouldn't get a pass because some of my buddies didn't turn in their homework on time either.

9/08/2005 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Foo said...

Pendragon will continue to refuse to play the 'blame game' long as he can blame others for the leadership failures.


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