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September 06, 2005

Comments

Late Saturday, August 28: Bush declared a state of emergency.

This is incorrect as has been repeatedly noted. Once the request was made and accepted, by Friday, 27th August (retroactive to the 26th) then, pursuant to the Stafford Act as cited by hilzoy in the previous thread, the Federal government, specifically DHS and subordinately FEMA, took primary responsibility for coordinating disaster management.

IOW, this particular patch of ground has been thoroughly gone over and it would behoove you to adjust the timeline accordingly.

On which note, Bush's call to Blanco for a mandatory evacuation (Sunday morning) happened after the transfer of responsibility via the Stafford Act (Saturday sometime). Make of that what you will.

Thanks for putting together the early timeline (and for opening up a new thread), but the details of the aftermath need some more fleshing out.

On which note, Bush's call to Blanco for a mandatory evacuation (Sunday morning) happened after the transfer of responsibility via the Stafford Act (Saturday sometime).

Transfer of responsibility? Que?

Other problems:

Tuesday, August 30: The U.S. Armed Forces provide assistance.

False. US Armed Forces were ordered to provide assistance at this time. If you actually read the article, however...

Four other vessels from Norfolk were expected to sail within 24 hours and take four days to reach the gulf, said Mike Kucharek, a spokesman for the Northern Command.

...so with the exception of the Bataan, they were nowhere in sight. I believe the Bataan arrived on the 1st September, but I don't know for sure.

Another problem: nowhere on your timeline is the request of Gov Blanco for other NG units (New Mexico is the one that leaps to mind), the acquiescence of those other states, and the WH's inexplicable failure/refusal to authorize the transfer of troops in that capacity.

Transfer of responsibility? Que?

This is me trying very hard not to make a snippy comment here, Slarti, because you asked for, and received, a detailed explanation on the Politicizing Katrina thread just last night.

Another thing that should probably be added to the timeline is the emergence of the dry front out of Texas. Prior to, IIRC, 10pm Central Monday evening Katrina looked to be on a direct strike to New Orleans; after this, Katrina began to shunt eastwards.

False. US Armed Forces were ordered to provide assistance at this time.

And, apparently, they did.

Bird: but Hilzoy is politicizing this tragedy by focusing all of her posts on federal shortcomings, and not writing a word on the shortcomings of state and local officials

You know, it has been a generally-accepted and well-respected rule at this blog (and I have myself been deservedly rapped on the nose when I have broken it) that we don't make up stuff about people based on what they don't blog about.

Hilzoy has made clear - specifically, repeatedly clear - that she is presently not blogging about the shortcomings of state and local officials because currently, it's not clear exactly what went wrong at that level. (I have had some things to say myself about the failings of the city and the state to evacuate at Liberal Street Fighter: The water is freezing and there aren't enough boats, but I respect Hilzoy's preference for sticking only to what can definitely be determined.)

Whereas it is terribly and appallingly clear what went wrong at a federal level. The DHS/FEMA were faced with their first really crucial test - would they be able to respond adequately and fast to a disaster that took out a city? - and they failed.

Now it's clear that Bush & Co intend to divert blame back to local/state level. And while I agree that the mistakes at that level were appalling, the mistakes made at the federal level (where they cannot be blamed on lack of resources...) are beyond appalling.

Anarch has already commented on your incorrect timetable, based on a Bush administration lie. I would fix it, if you're genuinely trying to write an apolitical post, because leaving it in makes it look very much as if you're joining in with the Bush administration's efforts to politicize Katrina by turning blame away from their disastrous failure.

JackMormon: Thanks for putting together the early timeline

Well, except for it being incorrect in details which tend to exculpate the Bush administration at the expense of the state governor. I don't think he needs to be thanked for doing that.

This is me trying very hard not to make a snippy comment here, Slarti, because you asked for, and received, a detailed explanation on the Politicizing Katrina thread just last night.

And this is me being baffled because I'd thought it was extremely clear that the Stafford Act speaks in terms of assistance. Then might have been a good time to correct my misconception, you have to admit. Now will do just as well, though.

Finally, last thing that should be noted: although Katrina made landfall as Cat4, the winds in the New Orleans vicinity were only Cat2 or Cat3 (depending on where you were, I think), thus nominally within the tolerance of the New Orleans levee system.

And I'll shut up now and let wiser heads than I hash this out for the duration.

And this is me being baffled because I'd thought it was extremely clear that the Stafford Act speaks in terms of assistance.

Then perhaps it would have been better for you to ask a more detailed, clearer question, rather than being cryptic/obscure and inspiring snippy comments?

Well, sure, J. Given that Anarch and I were part of a discussion that you weren't, though, I could possibly be cut some slack for thinking that we both remembered that discussion. Rather than rehash the whole thing for your benefit, yanno. Since Anarch's pointed the way for you, go read. I'm not going to excerpt it, other than to point to this, which (as far as I could tell) went unanswered.

The incompetence of Lousiana officials makes people in Louisiana less safe; the incompetence at the federal level make me and mine and you and yours less safe. Bush's incompetence engenders a much greater risk than that of the officials of any single state.

Charles, as Mr. "I get more upset about Amnesty International using inflammatory lnaguage than my government torturing people" you are the LAST PERSON ON EARTH to criticize people for their omissions. Picking hilzoy as my replacement was the best decision I ever made on OW. You would be lucky to write 1/10 as well as her, have 1/10 of her integrity, and have 1/10 her ability to evaluate facts as they are rather than as it is politically convenient for you to believe. And your post focuses on the state failures to the exclusion of the federal ones and omits information about the federal responsibilities that was posted on this very weblog.

That said, the timeline is useful if accurate.

You would be lucky to write 1/10 as well as her, have 1/10 of her integrity, and have 1/10 her ability to evaluate facts as they are rather than as it is politically convenient for you to believe.

In case anyone's interested, I think the same holds for me. I would be fortunate, indeed.

"Hilzoy is politicizing this tragedy"

mote, meet beam. beam, mote. it'd be funny if CB weren't actually apparently serious.

[personally, i think it's the republic apparatchik talking points of the day -- blame the democrats for not blaming democrats.]

And, apparently, they did.

Then that link would have been better provided, instead of the highly misleading one given by Charles. For that matter, the descriptor "US Armed Forces provide assistance" is also highly misleading in this context, as the bulk of the Armed Forces were nowhere nearby; in fact, on August 30th the Bataan participated in rescue operations and it wasn't for at least another day or two that anyone else joined them.

[As a minor correction: I meant to say August 31st, the next day, upthread instead of September 1st. These were both false; the Bataan was around on the 30th.]

And this is me being baffled because I'd thought it was extremely clear that the Stafford Act speaks in terms of assistance.

It also speaks in terms of coordination, viz the paragraph hilzoy bolded. IME, those who coordinate take the responsibility; that's practically the definition of chain of command. As such, FEMA was responsible for disaster operations in New Orleans starting on the 27th August -- albeit somewhat indirectly at first since it lacked local assets. [This is why it's important that Bush contacted Blanco after the Stafford Act kicked in, because it wasn't really a "suggestion" at that point.] I'd like to rustle up the FEMA-State Agreement that Blanco signed on the 27th to get a better sense of what was going on, but FEMA's website and the relevant designation codes aren't exactly playing ball.

I could possibly be cut some slack for thinking that we both remembered that discussion.

I read the discussion yesterday: and like Anarch, I was surprised to discover that you appeared to have completely forgotten it today when you asked Transfer of responsibility? Que? because it seemed to me that Anarch and others had explained it to you in fairly comprehensive detail.

Had you taken the time and trouble to write "Yesterday we discussed the Stafford Act, which speaks in terms of assistance: now you say the Stafford Act transfers responsibility. Can you elucidate?" then I don't doubt Anarch would have politely continued his clear explanations of yesterday.

It is easier for you to just cut/paste and add a cryptic comment/query, rather than take a little time and thought to write a more detailed question so that it's clear what you're talking about, but you might like to remember: You write with ease to show your breeding / But easy writing's curst hard reading. It saves no time if other people have to pester you with comments/queries to find out what you meant by your initial crypticism.

It is easier for you to just cut/paste and add a cryptic comment/query, rather than take a little time and thought to write a more detailed question so that it's clear what you're talking about,

My pre-cog is trying to tell me something.

Then that link would have been better provided, instead of the highly misleading one given by Charles.

Shockingly, I'm not Charles. I know, I should have asked you to have a seat before whipping that one out.

It also speaks in terms of coordination

Assistance and coordination aren't interchangeable with authority and responsibility. But maybe we're talking at cross-purposes, so I'll suggest that the answer to who's in charge? might be interesting.

Charles Bird miswrote:

"Hilzoy is politicizing this tragedy by focusing all of her posts on federal shortcomings, and not writing a word on the shortcomings of state and local officials (who also happen to be uniformly Democrats).

FALSE! The governors of Mississippi and Alabama and many elected officials in Mississippi and Alabama are republicans.

Among others, Trent Lott, Republican Senator from Mississippi is slamming the Feds for their inadequate reponse.

Nice try at politicizing this, but the Feds failed in Republican-governed Mississiippi and Alabama, too.

No wonder you approvingly quote Glenn Reynolds. He never met a false rightwing meme he didn't like, either.

so I'll suggest that the answer to who's in charge? might be interesting.

This, amongst many other citations given in the last few days, seems clear:

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.

2shoes: My pre-cog is trying to tell me something.

Probably that I feel a bit bad about sounding off about this in a Katrina thread. Slarti did explain himself, after all, very shortly afterwards.

Slarti: Shockingly, I'm not Charles. I know, I should have asked you to have a seat before whipping that one out.

Shockingly, I don't think anyone was saying you were. ;-)

I'm now going to have a nice hot cup of tea. Anyone else want one?

One reason I'm skeptical about efforts to pinpoint some minutiae of protocols is that the Bush administration avowedly rejects them. In his role as Commander in Chief for the duration of the crisis, his executive authority is absolute - it trumps all other considerations. That's the administration's stance. Whether I believe it, or whether I'd want to see any other administration apply the same standard, is largely irrelevant. Bush claims and exercises the power to breeze past otherwise typical restraints when it's relevant to the war on terror global violence thingies.

Well, the fate of our largest port and a quarter of our oil refining has to be relevant to that war in some sense. If it is, then he had from the moment it became clear there were any problems at all the complete authority to do whatever it took to secure the place and clean up the mess. If it isn't, then I guess I'd really like to know why it isn't part of the war effort.

The specifics of jurisdiction matter only in administrations that don't claim a preemptive power, and as such have no bearing on the current situation at all. The only question is whether the resuce and salvage are relevant to the war effort.

I'm now going to have a nice hot cup of tea. Anyone else want one?

Is it too early for scotch?

Is it too early for scotch?

I have a wee bit of Glen-something-or-other at home, and there's a hell of a storm brewing, so...not a bad idea.

Is it too early for scotch?

it's never to early: scotch is always ready.

s/to/too/

No wonder you approvingly quote Glenn Reynolds. He never met a false rightwing meme he didn't like, either.

A meme that makes absolutely no appearance in the link Charles gave, but that's probably just being nitpicky.

Shockingly, I'm not Charles. I know, I should have asked you to have a seat before whipping that one out.

And me with a fever? You really are trying to kill me!

[And you're quite right: I came across more bruisingly towards you there than I should have. Sorry about that.]

But maybe we're talking at cross-purposes, so I'll suggest that the answer to who's in charge? might be interesting.

Well, that's exactly what I was trying to answer with the points about coordination and responsibility. See here for example (click through to the governmental pages if you're so inclined), though I doubt it's telling you anything you don't already know. Coordination may not be interchangeable with command in a general sense -- indeed, I think in general they're more or less orthogonal -- but in disasters and disaster-relief efforts I think they're basically synonymous.

[Unless "coordination" was meant to mean "logistics", which strikes me as excessively improbable.]

So the answer to your question, or at least a modified version of your question, is that I don't know who was actually in charge in NOLA -- observational evidence indicates the answer was "no-one" but we probably won't ever know for sure -- but the answer to Who should have been in charge?, which I'd argue is a more pertinent question, seems to be FEMA (and specifically Michael Brown) in accord with the Stafford Act and the NRP. Although it might also have been kicked upwards to be Chertoff and DHS, or downwards to be an onsite manager, I'm not really sure about the specifics of the organization.

"Don't step in that blood - it's contaminated," he said. "That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man." Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.

"That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."

...

One of the bodies, they said, was a girl they estimated to be 5 years old. Though they could not confirm it, they had heard she was gang-raped.

Remind me never to attend a convention at that convention center.

I'm now going to have a nice hot cup of tea. Anyone else want one?

Desperately. And scotch mightn't be bad, neither.

Batten down the hatches, Slarti. I saw what's-his-name at Wunderground talk about these then-tropical depressions when Katrina was getting to wail on New Orleans. Stay safe, y'hear?

And everyone? I'm an atheist and all, but let's start praying that we don't get Katrina II: This Time It's Personal in the near future.

I have a wee bit of Glen-something-or-other at home...

Bleach. Highland Park, laddie, Highland Park.

[And you're quite right: I came across more bruisingly towards you there than I should have. Sorry about that.]

Pshaw. I was projecting smiley faces with the knob cranked up to 11; didn't you receive my transmission?

Here's the question for the apologists to answer:

Who had the power, on Tuesday last, to move heaven & earth to ensure that the refugees at the Dome and Convention Center had food or water? Who could've picked up the phone to any number of entities, public or private, and said "I don't care what it takes, those people have got to have food and water, and they have got to have it now."

*Only* the President of the United States. No one else.

I'm an atheist and all, but let's start praying that we don't get Katrina II: This Time It's Personal in the near future.

Given that this is just about the worst thing that could happen, I think everyone would do well to expect it.

Remind me never to attend a convention at that convention center.

I did, back in May. Which is part of why some of the stories about what happened there make me feel physically ill.

Never had Highland Park, and I've had more than a couple dozen different single-malts.

Oh, and by Glen-something-or-other, I was thinking maybe I had a nice Port-finished Glenmorangie. I'm also fond of Talisker, Ardbeg and Knockando, not that any one of them is like the other. Variety is the sp of Scotch.

(would have said "spice" but "ice" and single malts should be kept in different places)

Given that this is just about the worst thing that could happen, I think everyone would do well to expect it.

The history of the Bush presidency, in a sentence. Well put.

A platonic tar-baby post. Chas would have us believe that Nagin should have ordered a mandatory evacuation on Sat morning ("then they would have had 9 more hours of daylight!") Next, he will demand an investigation as to why the population of NO wasn't bussed out on Friday night to take advantage of the weekend.

One can detect the stress the mental gymnastics involved by noting what Chas fails to excise from his quotes, like this from Brendan Loy

If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so--particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.

This post is like the water they are pumping out of NO, [description excised], and fatal for comity.

Never had Highland Park, and I've had more than a couple dozen different single-malts.

Just bought another bottle. It's a very friendly Scotch. Not terribly complex or anything, but relaxing in an easy way, unlike (say) Lagavulin or Laphroaig. Sometimes you just want a Scotch that agrees with you rather than arguing with you ... particularly after a grueling Bird Dog thread, say ...

dKos is also putting together a political timeline, here. Personally, I'm waiting for the Gary Farber-endorsed timeline.

Charles, it would be really nice if, after posting something so divisive as this, you could hang around and reply to comments, maybe even updating your post as information comes in.

I note well that Charles' timeline does not stretch back far enough to take into account Bush's systematic defunding and dismantling of FEMA, its subsumption into DHS and narrowing in focus from disaster response to terrorism, his appointment as director of FEMA of someone wholly and demonstrably unfit for the job, his defunding of the ACE projects to shore up and maintain the levees...

In other words, for a post entitled "At All Levels", Charles sure went out of his way to avoid mentioning some of the most damning bits of incompetence on the part of his Dear Leader and the Republican-controlled Congress. I wonder why that is?

Mind you, I'm not making assumptions about Charles based on the standards of you-didn't-blog-about-it, here. Just pointing out that if you're going to make a point of writing a post about failures "at all levels" of the government, you ought to actually get your facts straight.

It's a very friendly Scotch.

It's the youngish Hobbister Moor peat they use for smoking, as well as heather. The more intensely peaty scotches give me an instant migraine.

The family malt is Auchentoshen, however. A good lowlands malt, and triple-distilled, which is rare for a scotch.

Quiddity's timeline.
A random timeline linked at uggabugga.

2x(+U)-- Auchentoshan is great: not as harsh as some of the highland malts. I love their Three Wood (not that I can generally afford it).

I've never been able to stomach scotch (or even whiskey or bourbon, for that matter); something about the alcohol and the peat just makes me gag. Love to smell it from afar, just not up-close-and-personal.

Cognac, otoh...

I've never been able to stomach scotch (or even whiskey or bourbon, for that matter); something about the alcohol and the peat just makes me gag. Love to smell it from afar, just not up-close-and-personal.

I began with pouring a shot of Evan Williams into a tumbler of Coke, and proceeded by slow degrees through bourbon over ice, to neat bourbon, to neat Scotch. Law school helped.

A scotch that's been in the barrel a couple of decades or more has a lot in common with cognac.

Thank you, Charles Bird, for providing a timeline on these events. As everyone moves into CYA mode, this timeline helps set us all straight.

I would like to vent about a particular problem at the very top of the chain of events, namely the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasts of Katrina's path. It seems to me that NHC has settled into its own CYA position as a standard operating procedure: instead of issuing the best forecast possible on a hurricane's path, NHC waits to first get consensus from its suite of computer models, some of which are better than others at forecasting hurricane movements.

Delay at issuing the forecast means delay in political circles in issuing evacuation orders. It is a grave responsibility to issue a mandatory evacuation of a major city, and it shouldn't be the least bit surprising that Mayor Nagin hesitated at doing so. I don't think that NHC's delay at sounding the alarm should be excused, however.

About a year ago, I started doing hurricane path forecasts for friends who retired to Tampa, FL. I'm an air pollution meteorologist by trade, but it was fun to be doing weather forecasting again, to keep my skills sharp. I preferred to rely on the NOGAPS model for hurricane path forecasts: it's a baroclinic model that did very well with Ivan's path, and rarely blunders like some of the others.

I quickly noticed, particularly with last year's Hurricane Ivan, that NHC's preference for computer-model consensus meant delay when the models' opinions diverged. Each model's opinion was weighed equally, but some models were big-picture models, unsuited for fine-scale detail, while others were barotropic models, which simplify information regarding temperature gradients - information that is of crucial importance in the timing of the movement of the mid-latitude systems that often steer hurricanes. Baroclinic models like NOGAPS don't make these simplifications. Getting consensus from all models usually means delay, much like getting consensus from Congress on any problem-of-the day usually means delay.

The dirty little secret is that I don't think NHC minds delay that much: they would prefer to keep everyone in a state of mild apprehension about an approaching storm rather than risk an overly-specific forecast, and therefore lull others nearby that might be affected into unwarranted complacency. Chicken Little is NHC's CYA standard-mode-of-operation. And it's easy to see why this would be the case - it's horrible to be completely taken by surprise by a hurricane, and to be stuck with the guilt of having failed to make the alarm.

With Katrina, the NOGAPS model tipped off, or SHOULD have tipped off, meteorologists that Katrina was heading towards Biloxi as early as the morning of Friday, August 26th. Model consensus wasn't reached until Friday evening, however (I blogged about the process with posts here). It can make, and here it apparently did make, a huge difference to lose a weekday's daylight hours in preparation for the storm.

NHC needs to weed its basket of models used in making hurricane path forecasts. At a minimum, the barotropic models need to go.

As I say, I very much sympathize with Mayor Nagin if he delayed in ordering a mandatory evacuation. People can die in accidents in a mandatory evacuation. But I do think he should have gotten better weather forecasts: it might have provided an extra edge and saved some lives here.

Hilzoy is politicizing this tragedy by focusing all of her posts on federal shortcomings, and not writing a word on the shortcomings of state and local officials (who also happen to be uniformly Democrats).

The most serious shortcomings happen to be federal, and they merit the most attention. They include the precautionary steps to be taken in advance of disaster, and the vastly greater role of the Feds to respond to a crisis of this magnitude.

I am sure that there are things that local and state officials could have been better, but so what? By definition, the response to this type of disaster is primarily federal because it overwhelms the much more limited resources of state and local officials. And the resulting tragedies are also largely the results of federal failings.

A balanced non-partisan thinker would stress the much more serious and greater failings by the Feds on this one, and not strain to deflect attention from that fact as Charles is doing.

So why does Charles try to make this political by trying to recast blame on the non-Feds (and then only those that are not Republican)? Is it a coincidence that this is the current propoganda meme being spun by Rove and crew from the White House? I think not.

It is pretty low to run around trumpeting the Rovian propoganda line while whining about how Hilzoy has allegedly politicized this.

Charles: you've said that I am politicizing this. I have responded, twice, and rather than acknowledging that and responding to what I said, you just repeat the charge. Charity compels me to assume that you just don't bother to read comments, since the alternative would be to conclude that you are dishonest and dishonorable.

I'll take your criticisms more seriously when you take the time to respond to me. Until then, I'll just enjoy the novelty of having my intellectual integrity impugned by someone who doesn't bother to do elementary fact-checking before, say, calling for smearing the corpses of Muslims with pork -- it's entertaining, kind of like having Beavis and Butthead call me gauche.

Well said, Slarti. May I suggest that Anarch try the Macallan 18, in a snifter.

Excellent and helpful timeline Charles.

There is a flip side you're missing though. If folks opposed to politicizing the tragedy were as focused on the recovery as they claim, I'm not sure how they'd have the time to examine the criticism so thoroughly. This isn't aimed at you. But the Bush team, in my opinion, is spending far more time on spinning (and finger pointing) than makes me confident they're actually burning the midnight oil dealing with the crisis.

The ultimate response to his critics would be for Bush to claim he's too busy working on the crisis to notice. It would have to be true, of course, but...

Remind me never to attend a convention at that convention center.

Hey, Ugh, you have a link to your source?

From Elizabeth Marquardt at Family Scholars Blog:

Everybody bears responsibility, feds, state, and local. BUT the feds are the only ones with the big guns needed at times like this — the manpower, the machinery, the funds. That’s why we have a federal government. AND our president must be a leader in a crisis of national proportions like this one. He was absent for days. He cracked jokes on the tarmac in New Orleans while people were dying. He just couldn’t connect with the fact that his citizens — babies, old people, and everybody in between — were dying in the streets for lack of WATER. link
I've posted this on my journal, too: I think people ought to be linking to this from everywhere.

idook -

It's on the NOLA.com site. I don't know how to link to something in comments but here's the URL in pieces:

http://www.nola.com/newslogs/

tporleans/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_tporleans

/archives/2005_09.html

30 to 40 bodies at the convention center.

You know, one of these days I'll learn to check the Name field and make sure I haven't edited it to post about spammers.

Now I need another cup of tea.

Actually, it's still at the top of the list:

http://www.nola.com/newslogs/tporleans/

As a daily reader of OW, someone who voted for Bush in 2000, and who spent many years as a die-hard republican before sadly withdrawing to the camp of 'independent,' I want to say how much I've appredicated hilzoy's tone in this discussion and others.

It's a sad day when the reflexive smear tactics so common on hyper-politicized blogs are used by one OW writer against another.

One other note, and this is NOT about politicizing the tragedy...it's about me being able to sleep at night: Just what on earth would a member of Bush's administration have to do to get fired...seriously?

Michael Brown is uniquely unqualified to head FEMA. If his resume didn't convince Bush of that, his performance over the last week should have. Unlike other circumstances, in which we may not have enough information to play arm-chair quarterback with regards to Bush's choices, I for one, living in a region very likely to be the target of a major terrorist attack, will be infinitely less anxious if Brown's not the man in charge of managing the response to such an attack. Symbolism be damned...get that freak out of there before anything else happens.

As a daily reader of OW, someone who voted for Bush in 2000, and who spent many years as a die-hard republican before sadly withdrawing to the camp of 'independent,' I want to say how much I've appredicated hilzoy's tone in this discussion and others.

That goes for me too (all of it).

hilzoy said "gauche"! Heh, heh.

Yeah! I bet she doesn't even know it's French but of Germanic origin.

Heh, heh.

b and b, I'm just surprised hilzoy knows who you are. But perhaps she even knows that "Beavis" is probably related to "Bevis" which is probably from the French town of Beauvais.

Charles:

I have been very unimpressed with Nagin, though it looks like Blanco isn't so bad. The AP photo of a fleet of underwater schoolbuses is damning.
But the competence or lack thereof of NOLA's mayor really doesn't reach the level of national news.

What is significant is that FEMA's leadership, such as it is, is stacked with a bunch of nobody cronies. It's quite clear that those guys were dithering, even after Nagin started asking for help. Some of us having been pointing out for years that this is Bush's SOP; it should be no surprise that it doesn't work well for operationally important jobs like FEMA director.

Presumably, these are the "grownups" who are now in charge...


rilkefan has multiple personality disorder! And he (they?) doesn't (don't?) know that gauche is an Argentinian word!

Ugh (and Jeff and Katherine and Slarti): thanks.

The fact that Brown has received a nickname, "Brownie," bodes ill for his termination from federal employment.

Again, it seems as though Fafblog! has been reading Obsidian Wings. The great Medium Lobster explains all:

Had the president sent rescue helicopters to evacuate New Orleans the day the levees burst, he might have saved thousands of lives, but he would also have overstepped his authority - and if there's one thing George W. Bush refuses to countenance, it is abuse of power.

Laura Rozen disagrees re Brown, effectively.

hilzoy--

Any time you want to move to a more congenial blogging neighborhood, you can count on my moving with you.

I would not say that I'm being "driven away" from this site, but the obscurantism, the pointless foot-dragging denial of facts in evidence, the needless multiplication of quarrels, and the repetition of right-wing talking points does not attract me to it, either.

Ditto for the habit of owners using foul language against named posters, and then giving themselves a ceremonial banning for the day--it's too much like the spoiled child who punches somebody without warning and then runs under momma's skirts for protection .

When it is hard to tell the owners from trolls, I find I am much less interested in participating.

The bottom line is that the federal government was not up to snuff in responding to Lake New Orleans. Neither were the state and local levels.
From what I know at this time, I'll entirely agree with you on that, Charles.


However:

In this I agree with Glenn Reynolds:

The recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast are still ramping up, but the political point-scoring has been at full pitch for days now. I think that's counterproductive -- and says more about the immaturity of our political and media classes than it does about the recovery efforts -- but it's worth looking at some things that we know to see where we can improve things.

And then he goes on with some constructive comments. I don't say this lightly because I respect my colleague and her consistently thoughtful and detailed writings, but Hilzoy is politicizing this tragedy by....

I think this is silly. First of all, this charge against Hilzoy has already been made by you, several times, and it's been answered by her, in what I regard as a perfectly satisfactory way: she wrote about federal failings because a) she knew about them; and b) they're important to the nation. She didn't write about local failings because a) she didn't yet have adequate information about them; and b) they're relatively unimportant to the nation.

And, of course, she pointed out the fallacy of judging someone by what they've not written about, which I'm sure you'll agree is a fallacy, so why you are engaging in such a fallacious attack on Hilzoy, I don't know. Are you authorizing people to write about your beliefs and actions as based upon what you've not written about, then?

As to the general charge, it's also silly. We're not talking about people in the field throwing down their rescue tools to debate politics. Nothing of the kind. We're not talking about readers here or of most blogs making a choice before dashing off to volunteer for the Red Cross or some other rescue/shelter operation, and voicing their opinions. Nothing of the kind.

We're talking about people who aren't otherwise in much of a position to do any good about helping those in need other than by donating and talking, donating and talking. How shocking! How offensive! How political!

And, as it happens, lines of authority and the acts of government are political. Questions of who ordered what or not and when, are political. Fixing them is political. Getting them fixed as soon as possible won't happen without the maximum light of the public shone on them.

To say that we shouldn't yet look into who is to blame and why is to say we must stick our heads in the sand. And, strangely, that's not what you're doing, is it?

Because I'm fairly sure that I'm commenting on a screed (and a useful timeline, thanks) that happens to be very critical of politicians. I'm assuming that if you can "politicize" things by, gasp, horror, criticizing what local politicians in charge failed to do, that you're okay with doing that. How to reconcile this with your accusations against one of your colleagues for doing exactly what you're doing -- except that by pure coincidence, Hilzoy criticized Republicans and you criticize Democrats -- I don't know. I'm also not clear on what a polite way to avoid observing that a double standard is a double standard is, I'm afraid, so please forgive me for observing that I seem to observe one here.

And, as it happens, lines of authority and the acts of government are political. Questions of who ordered what or not and when, are political. Fixing them is political. Getting them fixed as soon as possible won't happen without the maximum light of the public shone on them.

I said much the same thing a few days ago, but I think this worked much better. Good point.

But what is the etymology of Butthead? I assume it's related to that of the famous Shithead? Is it pronounced boot-theed or boot-thay-id, or are both acceptable?

p.s. seeing hilzoy accused of politicizing tragedy makes me sad. CB making this accusation is sad.

When it is hard to tell the owners from trolls, I find I am much less interested in participating.

Which is why I've quit commenting at Tacitus (I did drop a link into one thread the other day). There is a reason why Rome did not have a triumvirate contemporary with an emperor.

I don't think ObWi is nearly so bad, however. If Charles would save the RedState posts for, well, RedState, that would help a lot.

I hope Laura Rozen is right.

I suspect a lot of reason for hostility that anything that smells like administration talking points is a panicky sense that once again, they will not change their policies because doing so would be an admission that they are not infallible. And they will only do it if they are, politically, forced to do so. And if that doesn't happen, nothing will change. And if nothing changes we are talking about serious and needless additional danger to people's lives in this country.

I have learned this only too well from the torture stuff. The initial "now, now, let's wait and see, let's not draw hasty conclusions and politicize this" for Abu Ghraib, and then as the conclusion becomes clear--the political momentum is gone. The facts are reported, and no one notices, and nothing changes.

And, God, their whole raison d'etre is "don't worry your pretty little heads, we're doing what we have to to keep you safe." So many awful things have been justified on that ground. And now, the first real test, and this happens.

The images last week--this is not the country I want to live in. Nagin and Blanco have screwed up, but if you don't think there's something deeper wrong here, I don't know what to say to you. And if you don't realize what's going on in the administration's attempt to shift the blame to the state and local government, despite fairly detailed articles explaining that strategy & it fitting perfectly with their M.O. in the past....if you don't know that they see changing policies and firing incompetents as admissions of error to be avoided if at all possible....if you think the GOP whose response is this is to go ahead with the estate tax repeal & push for even more tax cuts going forward is going to fix this without political pressure--you're just too naive for words.

If nothing else we need an investigation by someone who doesn't have a big stake in covering for the President.

List of major topics re government accountablility -- just what are the failings that Charles wants to ascribe primarily to locals rather than the Feds? It would be nice to know rather than vague assertions concerning responsibility.

1. Flood protection (i.e., levees but other systems as well); almost exclusively federal and deliberately slashed to the bone by Bush in the prior years.

2. Evacuation; Most important fact -- most did who could, and they did so because of the actions of local officials. The primary role of government here is to give timely and dire warnings to insure that people are motivated to leave, and take steps so that traffic jams don't hold up those leaving.

"Mandatory" evacuations still tend to be voluntary. The government typically does not have the right or means to force you to leave if you do not want to. Charles seems to focus a huge amount on the timing of the order for mandatory evacuation. That is a weak point -- there is little evidence of people who wanted to leave and who were able nonetheless being caught before they could leave due to inadequate or untimely warnings.

The big problem was the large number of people unable to leave due to poverty or infirmity, and the inability of local government to move them. Charles knocks this, but what is the local government to do? It did not have the means to move so many people, and so it explicitly warned people in advance that they would be on their own to get out. Charles makes fun of this, but it seems the most prudent way for the local officials to behave if they realistically do not have the resources to get people out.

An evacuation is primarily a local responsibility within the limits of the power of the local officials, and they performed adequately given what they had the power to do. So much of the criticism seems to be that they should have done more to get people out, but how?

3. Emergency response -- the key component here is that the professionals who are expected to respond are drilled in advance based on the likely disaster scenarios, and they roll out those plans so as to minimize delay in responding. There is no time to think up and plan for what should be done once the hurricane hits. The locals seem to have vastly outperformed the feds here, although they lacked resources to make much of a dent given the scope of the problem.

This is the area of greatest and inexplicable failure by the Feds, and also the scariest since it presages the general inability of Homeland Security to respond to disasters whether natural or man-made. There seems to have been a complete lack of meaningful planning and ability to respond. This is also where Bush deserves a great deal of blame given the bureaucratic decisions about FEMA and Homeland Security on his watch. The federal response has clearly degraded from prior years -- apparently as a result of deliberate Bush policies.

This is rightly the focus of debate and scrutiny, since it is so much more serious than the failings of local officials. Frankly Charles whole point about "spreading" the blame is about "deflecting" the blame from the Republican policies most responsible for the worsening of this tragedy.

4. Law and order -- it becomes federal once the disaster reaches a certain magnitude, which it did here. Biggest problem is lack of federal response (and so much of the Guard not available due to Iraq). Hard to blame this mostly on locals.

Katherine: If nothing else we need an investigation by someone who doesn't have a big stake in covering for the President.

And that's really not going to happen.

All righty, then. I think our quota of stupid things that must be said following a given catastrophe has been filled, and then some.

Shanks heeded warnings to evacuate New Orleans, and is currently staying with friends in the Jackson, Mississippi, area.

Ewwwww! I could, like, end up next to this guy in the Wal-Mart checkout! Cooties!

(Or does that further exceed the quota, Slarts?)

Slarti: the ex-Christian in me is constantly amazed at people who think they have a handle on what, exactly, God has in mind. I always used to think: I can speculate, but in the final analysis His mind is infinite, and mine is not, and that means that I can really never be sure why He sent a hurricane, or even a tiny fluffy cloud.

I wish there was a quota on stupid things which, once filled, would mean that there was no room for more. In that case, that annoying Sailor person would have used it all up at once.

It's as a flea next to a sperm whale, Anderson.

hehehe...he said "sperm"

Katherine says, and asks: they [N.O. officials] performed adequately given what they had the power to do. So much of the criticism seems to be that they should have done more to get people out, but how?

My answer is not a highly informed one, but pictures of drowned rows of buses make it appear that they could have been used to carry people from the city, or as last resort to central temporary shelter (assuming state and federal evacuation help from there ASAP after the storm receded).

It seems that even if quick second-stage federal evacuation was expected, the convention center and Superdome could and should have been stocked with more water, food, police, and porta-potties than was done.

Greyhound shut their station down Saturday night; if anything could have been done to keep them shuttling people out at govt expense, that should have been done. I don't have any information about Amtrak (e.g., when it stopped trains out of the city), but again, it appears that some opportunities were missed there.

For some or all of these, extra police and Guard would have been useful/necessary. Like the Greyhound and Amtrak options, that would have required early help from the Governor and from other states and cities.

A near-complete evacuation would also need more cooperation, secured in advance, from the places evacuees would go. It seems to me that the silence on evacuation of the last, most difficult 150,000 N.O. residents during the 'Pam' exercise puts blame on everyone who remained silent.

This is my honest effort to answer Katherine's question. There is some responsibility for the disastrous response from the bottom to the top. It is disgusting and outrageous for the top to shift blame to the bottom.

It should be noted that Nagin did what he could -- he issued an evacuation notice, and tried to get as many of those who could NOT be evacuated into the emergency shelters (the Superdome, among others).

Given the fact that the entire area was pre-designated a disaster area, it's likely he made the assumption that all he had to do was keep people safe through the storm itself and provide food, water, and basic rescue for the first 24 hours. After that, FEMA and the NG would be arriving to the worst hit areas.

Forcing evacuation was out of the picture -- not only did he lack the manpower, he didn't have a place to put them. The Superdome was the best choice -- and was fine until some 36 to 48 hours AFTER the storm was over.

I don't know why Charles expects Louisiana had the manpower to force New Orleans to evacuate, or had the resources to house them somewhere out of the hurricane's reach. Nor do I know why Charles expected them to be able to handle food, water, rescue, basic law and order, and shelter for several days until the feds moseyed on down for a look -- especially after Bush had already acknowledge the area was going to be a disaster and was (supposedly) dispatching resources while Katrina was still in the Atlantic.

In short, Nagin and Blanco's biggest mistake seems to have been expecting the federal government to respond promptly to the disaster they had already acknowledged before Katrina even made landfall. They planned for the first 48 hours -- the storm and the immediate aftermath -- because that's what they had the resources for.

That doesn't absolve the federal government -- it damns them.

A thought on leadership, accountability, and communication.

In real discussion, as opposed to talking past each other, each party to the conversation acknowledges mistakes s/he has made, and valid points the other has made. This makes it easier for the other person to hear the disagreements that still exist, and to take in the arguments against his/her position.

Refusal to acknowledge one's own mistakes and valid points of the other party makes it that much more difficult for the conversation to continue; the other party stops listening, convinced that s/he is not being heard.

Likewise, refusal by the federal government actors to acknowledge lapses and errors makes it much less likely that local and state actors will be willing to make an honest assessment of their own. I realize we're talking about politicians here, not Benedictine monks. I realize that the potential responsibility/blame is the most serious kind -- for avoidable loss of life.

But the principle holds: Impunity at the top makes people below dig in their heels, if they have any power to do so. We are all the losers.

Hard to beat this from http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/>Belgravia:

It has become standard operating procedure with this Administration. Colossal missteps are made . . . and time and again there is a staggering lack of accountability. Well, here at B.D. we're sick of the empty bear hugs and cutesy nicknames, the circle the wagons damage control mentality, cheap ass-covering and rampant buck-passing, the guitar-strumming and talk of Trent Lott's porch looking all antebellum swell post reconstruction and Kennebunkport 'let them move to Texas' insouciance. . . . There was massive culpability, to be sure, at the local and state level as well. But, make no mistake, the federal response during the first week was grotesquely amateur. Particularly with FEMA, of course, but also at the now so risibly named Department of Homeland Security. The government failed in its most fundamental duty--ensuring the basic physical safety of its citizens. And it failed miserably.


Thanks for the timeline Charles. It looks like the officials in New Orleans did about all they could have done short of driving people out of the city by gunpoint. The Feds, the State and City always planned on over a hundred thousand people staying in the city due to a variety of reasons. These are the people that the Bush administration is responsible for letting die.

Just lurking. I welcomed Charles to the site because I thought ObsWi needed an actual partisan, and I will not object to him, uhh, behaving like one. I guess part of the skill of partisanship is disguising it, and claiming you are being objective and fair while your opponents are unprincipled hacks. I lack that skillset. But I will defend CB's eight to be an unprincipled partisan hack with my last breath. I only wish we had more on the left.

The blogosphere has a shortage of mixed politics scream fests. It doesn't have to always be psuedo-dialectic. Dialectic is bull. Rhetoric runs the world, and should be answered with rhetoric.

Off to read Wolcott and Gilliard.

I forgot my tagline. Tacitus.org provides for taglines. Is that a scoop thing?

Bush must resign. Stop Bush before he kills more black babies.

My answer is not a highly informed one, but pictures of drowned rows of buses make it appear that they could have been used to carry people from the city, or as last resort to central temporary shelter (assuming state and federal evacuation help from there ASAP after the storm receded).

There was no way to do that. Immediately after the hurricane, it appeared that the levees held and Blanco was urging people not to immediately return to their houses, but to wait a little bit. When the 17th street levee broke, this ballooned the shelter population. There was no other place to go. If previous hurricanes are a guide, all of the surrounding communities had their most poor people in their own shelters.

It seems that even if quick second-stage federal evacuation was expected, the convention center and Superdome could and should have been stocked with more water, food, police, and porta-potties than was done.

The New Orleans government and the LA gov did not have the financial resources to stock the dome and the other shelters. Furthermore, my understanding is that the Superdome is privately owned (or at least under some sort of private-public management arrangement) by SMG (the more depressing site is here) I'm not sure how the mayor or the governor could have taken those steps before the hurricane hit.

Greyhound shut their station down Saturday night; if anything could have been done to keep them shuttling people out at govt expense, that should have been done. I don't have any information about Amtrak (e.g., when it stopped trains out of the city), but again, it appears that some opportunities were missed there.

Blanco complained about this and about airlines cancelling flights out of NO sat afternoon. Greyhound and the airlines said they could not expose their employees to danger, but I suspect that driving or flying empty vehicles into the city, even though the outbound would be full was a strong consideration, given the reduced profit margins that the transportation industry is experiencing.

Amtrak, if I remember correctly, runs on tracks that are built on the levees, so they are generally shut down earlier. In addition, the frequency of passenger trains is miniscule (at most 2 a day?)

I agree that it is damning that last part of the Hurricane Pam exercise was cancelled and those who did not kick and scream about it deserve some approbation, but those who cancelled it deserve more. Morat is precisely correct when he says that Nagin and Blanco did what they needed to do. How many American cities could survive cut off from help and supplies for 1 week? I pray we won't have a chance to find out.

"the Superdome is privately owned [...] by SMG"

Buffy owns the Superdome? Is it built on a Hellmouth or something?

Just lurking. I welcomed Charles to the site because I thought ObsWi needed an actual partisan, and I will not object to him, uhh, behaving like one.

Meta, but: there are partisans, and then there are hacks. And then still there are partisan hacks, in which the word "partisan" defines the type of hack one is.

I am in agreement with what seems like your underlying assumption, in that there is nothing per se wrong with partisanship to a point. Certainly we have a site full of them, and many of us had long thought that ObWi could use a stronger conservative voice.

I object not so much to partisanship, but hackery in the pursuit of such. It turns the front page of a good site into an undeserved soapbox for garbage the likes of that which usually floats up to the front page of a stangant pool like Redstate.

"All righty, then."

Just for the record, Slart, that's the third time someone has introduced that link to a thread here. Anarch, I think, or, er, someone who wasn't me posted it (yesterday, I think), and I then pointed out that I'd blogged it a couple of days before that (after first pointing to a similar-but-different post of mine, and the correcting that).

But there are a lot of comments here, and posts on my blog, to be sure.

Charles (and responding to Edward also), you link several of Brendan Loy's posts. He did quite well, and they are certainly worth reading/linking. I'd suggest a couple others as well: http://www.brendanloy.com/2005/09/liars-damn-liars-and.html>Liars, damn liars and... calling for Brown's head, for example; http://www.brendanloy.com/2005/09/best-quote-ever.html>Best quote EVER Miami Herald quote of EM chief there on Brown, "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm,"; and http://www.brendanloy.com/2005/09/um-isnt-that-conflict-of-interest.html>Um, isn't that a conflict of interest? on Bush's decision to personally lead the investigation into the screwups (many of which were made by his appointees).

Unfortunately, on the fire-Brown-now front, it appears the next two people in line to lead FEMA are http://thinkprogress.org/2005/09/06/fema-deputies/>even less qualified than Brown.

Slartibartfast: even if we assume (for silliness' sake) that the only things FEMA should have been providing -per the Governor's state Emergency declaration - were road clearance and not-impeding-other-efforts, how would you rate their performance? When did the I-10 into west N.O. get cleared (this one I'm genuinely unsure of)? Did they avoid hindering the state and private efforts (this one I'm not)?

Buffy owns the Superdome? Is it built on a Hellmouth or something?

Notice how they don't tell you anywhere on the SMG website (that I could find in five minutes of looking) what "SMG" stands for? In addition to the cast initials that set this off, it could just as easily stand for Sunnydale Management Group.

It would explain quite a bit.

Not as funny as rilkefan's (though given the fact that her most recent film was _The Grudge_, I am a bit worried) but there is this from Gene Weingarten's online chat

My favorite Bush quote on gasoline was when he urged people not to buy gas if they don't need it. Who buys gas if they don't need it?

Tom the Butcher said: "Yeah, I usually buy a few gallons to display on my mantelpiece. Perhaps I'll cut back on those discretionary uses."

"actual partisan" and "unprincipled partisan."

You know, Bob, these are not actually identical categories.

Anarch,
I updated the post regarding when the state of emergency declared by Bush. The reference as to when the Bataan actually showed up is just too much minutiae to follow.

You know, it has been a generally-accepted and well-respected rule at this blog (and I have myself been deservedly rapped on the nose when I have broken it) that we don't make up stuff about people based on what they don't blog about.

Hilzoy has made clear - specifically, repeatedly clear - that she is presently not blogging about the shortcomings of state and local officials because currently, it's not clear exactly what went wrong at that level.

I made nothing up about Hilzoy, Jes. I gave my opinion, and it's a fact that she made no acknowledgement of the failures at the state and local levels in the bodies of any of her many posts. This, to me, is astounding.

And your post focuses on the state failures to the exclusion of the federal ones and omits information about the federal responsibilities that was posted on this very weblog.

You're missing the point, Katherine. First, you must have missed this: "The bottom line is that the federal government was not up to snuff in responding to Lake New Orleans." I've acknowledged that the federal government has failed in handling the post-Katrina aftermath, both here and in other threads on multiple occasions. The point of this post is (1) to reconstruct a timeline and (2) to demonstrate that this was a failure at all levels, not just federal, using Nagin and evacuation timing as a primary example.

So why does Charles try to make this political by trying to recast blame on the non-Feds (and then only those that are not Republican)?

You're mischaracterizing me yet again, dm. I've always said the responsibility lies at all levels, and I've never apportioned what heaps of blame go where.

I'll take your criticisms more seriously when you take the time to respond to me.

This post is a response, Hil. The facts--those things you've been seeking before posting further about non-federal responsibility--about Nagin have been around for at least a week, for example. Delaying mandatory evacuations had a huge impact on the storm's aftermath and contributed directly to the problems the feds eventually became faced with. This isn't about your "intellectual integrity", it's about you seeing--consciously or subconsciously--part of the picture, and it inexorably flows down that same old path. While I understand your concerns about being criticized for not writing something (and believe me, I've faced those accusations quite a bit here), not even a slightest whiff of a word toward state and local lapses strikes me as not balanced or fair. Like I said, I didn't write this challenge lightly and if you think I crossed a line by being "dishonest and dishonorable", well, I really don't know what to say.

CMatt
Thanks for going to the trouble of going through Brendan Loy's blog. Amazing how Charles could have missed those posts...

Chas, as for your post being a 'response', the fact that you didn't address any of the multiple comments that Hilzoy made to your comments to her post show that to be another, well, misstatement....

I'd also point out that your NYTimes excerpt about the Corps of Engineers was misreported as it was a private contractor (Boh Brothers) that eventually used steel sheets to block that levee. Furthermore, quoting NYTimes about Mississippi and Alabama National Guard has nothing to do with the efforts in New Orleans.

Of course, I'm sure you feel these are small details like this

Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, told the Times-Picayune Sunday afternoon that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, including FEMA Director Mike Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, listened in on electronic briefings given by his staff in advance of Hurricane Katrina slamming Louisiana and Mississippi--and were advised of the storm’s potential deadly effects.

"Mayfield said the strength of the storm and the potential disaster it could bring were made clear during both the briefings and in formal advisories, which warned of a storm surge capable of overtopping levees in New Orleans and winds strong enough to blow out windows of high-rise buildings," the paper reported. "He said the briefings included information on expected wind speed, storm surge, rainfall and the potential for tornados to accompany the storm as it came ashore.

"We were briefing them way before landfall," Mayfield said. "It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."

Chertoff told reporters Saturday that government officials had not expected the damaging combination of a powerful hurricane levee breaches that flooded New Orleans.

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