« Katrina Again | Main | At All Levels »

September 05, 2005

Comments

Is it any wonder why good decent people just absolutely loathe Bush and his conservative cronies?

Makes you wonder which "senior Bush official" has been making calls lately to spread misinformation about the timing of Governor Blanco's declaration of emergency. Smells like classic Rove to me.

Another slightly unexpected data point: http://leninology.blogspot.com/2005/09/everything-has-gone-according-to-plan.html by China Mieville. (via Making Light)

As I noted elsewhere, unless the president is bringing his chainsaw to help clear debris, what's the point of this follow-up visit?

Gary- How the heck do you manage to compile all that stuff? It doesn't sound like you have a staff. How many hours are there in a day where you are at?

In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.

Ah, understatement.

Incidentally, hilzoy, don't forget this.

Don't worry, by next weekend's propaganda march, you'll have forgotten all about this little catastrophe; just like Neo when he finished the cookie.

We are at War! Support the troops. Freedom is on the march. 9/11 changed everything. You're either with us or with the terrorists.

From a Washington Post article on Bush's new political offensive:

"Almost every Republican I have spoken with is disappointed" in Bush's performance, said William Kristol, a conservative columnist with close White House ties. "He is a strong president . . . but he has never really focused on the importance of good execution. I think that is true in many parts of his presidency." [Emph added]

WTF kind of definition of "strength" do you need to have in order to make sense of that sentence?

It sounds like your standard is that two wrongs make a right, Hil. I agree that the Bush administration is trying to put their best political face on this, but it doesn't take away your own attempts to politicize this tragedy by putting all of your ire and focus on the federal government and not on all levels where it belongs.

CB: Do you think Operation CBA* is an appropriate use of White House resources at this moment in time?

----------------
*B = Bush's

Charles, serious question: How do you think this all reflects on what the hell Bush, Congress, DHS and the rest of the Feds have been doing the past four years to prepare for the country's safety and security in the event of another major terrorist attack? Keeping in mind that doing EXACTLY THAT was what Bush ran, and won, on in 2004?

Anarch and hilzoy,

Laura has an update about the German TV coverage.
http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/002504.html
Citing two German TV channels including links to the videos.

But don't say FEMA doesn't offer us good cheer! Sing it! For inspiration!

Charles, out of this whole fiasco, if there is anything more glaringly and inexcusably incompetent than the Federal relief effort, what was it? It's not enough to say blame belongs at all levels of government, as if everyone is equally culpable on principle alone. What errors on the part of the NO or LA governments can even compare to the titanic clusterf*ck of the Federal disaster relief effort? Bush's advisors couldn't be bothered to cancel their vacations to prepare for the worst storm to hit the U.S. in decades. The Sec. of Homeland Security is blaming the locals and the media for his own ignorance and lack of preparedness. The head of FEMA was blissfully unaware of tens of thousands of desperate refugees while the Mayor of NO was literally screaming for help. And now Karl Rove, who was busy posing for snapshots with pro-war counter-protestors, has switched his efforts to crafting a smear campaign against the leaders of a devestated U.S. community to cover the President's and his toadies' asses.

What a bunch of bullsh*t.

Criticizing someone who screwed up is not "partisan" just because he happens to belong to the other party.

Bush screwed up. I'd have hammered him on no matter WHAT party he belonged to. Sadly to some folks, ANY criticism of members of the other party are "mere partisanship".

I've asked, several times, but none have ever given me an example of when it would be "okay" to criticise Bush. Perhaps if he was got raping a small girl on film, but even then I wouldn't take bets on it.

Charles Bird,

Hilzoy seems to be demanding accountability from all responsible parties, including the federal government, with the obvious goal of fixing the problems.

Bush and his apologists are reflexively denying ANY responsibility for this fiasco, with the goal of maintaining political power.

You think these are equivalent?

I agree that the Bush administration is trying to put their best political face on this, but it doesn't take away your own attempts to politicize this tragedy by putting all of your ire and focus on the federal government and not on all levels where it belongs.

No, Charles.

They are not trying to put the "best face" on this. That's miles too generous. They are lying about other officials, working harder on photo ops than on relief, and generally pretending that everything they did was fine. They are sticking up for their bungling crony who made mess of the relief effort, and are accepting zero blame. If the planning for Katrina had been as important as the planning of this propaganda campaign, the propaganda would be unnecessary.

And by the way, what the hell does it mean when Bill Kristol says Bush is a "strong president" who can't execute? That's like calling someone a strong pitcher, who unfortunately never gets anyone out.

"Gary- How the heck do you manage to compile all that stuff? It doesn't sound like you have a staff. How many hours are there in a day where you are at?"

Oh, I cut back to light blogging two days ago. Now I'm just being casual, and letting hours at a time go past without blogging.

I read fast, though, and after a childhood of often reading 20 hours in a row, I applied doing that sort of thing regularly, decades ago, to proofreading and copyediting and manuscript reading jobs, so bringing it to online reading more than a decade ago was natural, as was bringing it to blogging nearly four years ago. (But that's why I get grumpy when friends [not strangers] make recommendations that make me feel neglected, bad me that I am.)

Amygdala does, however, maintain a large staff, so we can have lots of people to fire for our errors and mistakes. We especially hate it when our subtitles turn Swedish.

Bernard Yomtov: And by the way, what the hell does it mean when Bill Kristol says Bush is a "strong president" who can't execute? That's like calling someone a strong pitcher, who unfortunately never gets anyone out.

I think it means something similar to what Bush means when he says that the response has been great, but the results have been unacceptable. Fundamental disconnect. Or, as certain political persuasions like to put it "trying to have it both ways".

I can't believe the number of stories over the past few days that I have read that contained the following, "We had X ready to help but FEMA didn't ask/said no." The head of FEMA must resign or be fired over this.

A strong president who nevertheless cannot execute any of the functions of the presidency.

A perfect definition of the Potemkin President.

And *that's* from one of his slavish admirers, too.

No wonder they have to keep insisting the shell is strong--it is entirely hollow inside.

Redstate.org:

Adam Nagourney and Annie Kornblut, writing in the New York Times Monday, have concocted what they describe as most assuredly a Karl Rove plot, based on the word of anonymous "Republicans familiar with the White House plan" and anonymous "Republican Congressional aides.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

I can't believe the number of stories over the past few days that I have read that contained the following, "We had X ready to help but FEMA didn't ask/said no." The head of FEMA must resign or be fired over this.

In all seriousness, I think I've seen counts as high as 15 distinct versions of this story. If that's the case, we need a public, independent investigation to ascertain what exactly FEMA's policy was and why it was instituted, as well as to analyze the way it was executed. Heads should, and must, roll.

Q: What do you call an executive who can't execute (besides a "miserable failure", I mean)?

A: A figurehead.

Try "define:figurehead" at Google for an interesting selection of definitions. [Yes, "miserable failure" still works.]

One has to wonder as to the nature of the thought process, as such, that goes through the head of blinkered Bush apologists like Charles when posting their upthread comments. Hilzoy points out the ways in which the government bungled and continues to bungle the response to Katrina, and in their eyes she's politicizing the disaster. Hilzoy then points out ways in which the Bush administration really is politicizing it in ways not only blatantly dishonest, but which continue to have a materially negative effect on the relief efforts, and that's politicizing it too.

Priceless. It's been long known that there's a solid core of Republican partisans so loyal to party over country that they'll defend almost any level of dishonesty or incompetence, and--when unable to do that--still refuse to withhold their support from the man in charge. They make up that perhaps 15-20% of the American public that should simply be written off and never taken seriously on any political matter for any reason, because there is no reaching them--they will vote for the most corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest Republican imaginable before they'll vote for a liberal of any sort.

What I can't grasp is why you waste time and energy trying to reach people like this, Hilzoy. It's not like they're lacking in sufficient evidence of the Bush administration's perfidy and incompetence, they simply put the elephant before the stars and stripes.

Hilzoy then points out ways in which the Bush administration really is politicizing it in ways not only blatantly dishonest, but which continue to have a materially negative effect on the relief efforts, and that's politicizing it too.

Worth repeating that for some reason Bush's earlier visit shut down aerial relief operations for the day. Very classy; very nice.

Priceless. It's been long known that there's a solid core of Republican partisans so loyal to party over country that they'll defend almost any level of dishonesty or incompetence, and--when unable to do that--still refuse to withhold their support from the man in charge.

What's your BTKWB limit?

Anarch- Thanks I really needed that laugh.

I´m watching this disaster and its aftermath from Germany. Obviously I don´t have all the information an American viewer could have but here is my opinion so far. Just in case anyone is interested. :)

Mayor of New Orleans:
Speaking from my heart, he should have utilized anything that rolled to get people out of the city. Including school buses. Then I switch on my brain and discover some (possibly big) obstacles.

1) Probably not enough city personnel to actually force/encourage/convince all people to evacuate.

2) And the far bigger problem:
Where´s the destination of these buses?
If you order an evacuation, you should have prepared shelters somewhere. You just can´t throw them out somewhere in a field. Those shelters should have been prepared by state and federal authorities. (Federal because of the sheer amount of people.)
And where are the ambulances to transport all the sick and disabled persons? Not to mention the hospitals prepared to accept the patients?
According to this article that problem remained unsolved.
Just last year [2004], FEMA hired a private company, IEM Inc. of Baton Rouge, to help conduct an eight-day drill for a fictional Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans named Pam. It included staging a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, a prediction of 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of 1-million people.

But the second part of the company's work - to design a plan to fix unresolved problems, such as evacuating sick and injured people and housing thousands of stranded residents - never occurred because the funding was cut.

I don´t know if he could have done anymore after the hurricane. Without communications and without much help from outside I doubt it.

Now on the Governor of Louisiana:
I admit I don´t know that much about the powers of a governor. In my opinion she could have done more with the National Guard. And she should have started to provide some shelters for people from New Orleans in Baton Rouge for example. And then telling the mayor of NOLA to send some buses there. Ordering all she could on her own and then following that up by a loud scream for federal and other states assistence and help.
Of course according to this article:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.

Reading this I´m not sure if she could have gotten more help in time?

Now to the Federal level:
Sorry Charles!!!
Watching it I got the distinct feeling that nobody was in charge at that level. Total confusion and bureaucrats trying to cover their a**es by forbiding anything not following their established rules and timetables. Just read all the articles where FEMA officials disapproved of private help and initiative.
According to the Stafford Act
Immediately upon his declaration of a major disaster or emergency, the President shall appoint a Federal coordinating officer to operate in the affected area.
That declaration happened on August 27.
WHO was the Federal coordinating officer?
I sure couldn´t discover him watching TV!

Not to mention the delay in accepting foreign help. Like those Canadian specialized disaster aid teams or the Dutch dyke/levee experts offered days ago.

Things only started to move after Bush and Rice (and I don´t know who else) returned to Washington at the end of last week.

Are you telling me that your federal agencies can´t function without explicit orders by a cabinet member? If the top members of your administration have a vacation, nobody else dares to make decisions?

---

WOW!!!
You should tell Osama Bin Laden that he is required to announce any future terrorist act inside the USA a week in advance. Obviously 2-3 days advance warning (in case of a natural disaster) isn´t enough time for the Department of Homeland Security to start moving. Especially during vacation time. And it would help if he would post his warning in triplicate too!

I apologize for the last few sentences in advance!
But reading and hearing the apologies for the disorganized Federal aid efforts, I couldn´t resist.

a straightforward answer to your question:
*If a Bush adminstration official lies, smears others, or attempts to distract the public from any assessment of accountability, then it's not politicizing--it's standing strong behind Fearless Leader.
*If a Republican, Democrat, independent, or human being comments upon the reality of the situation, questions the incompetence that will result in thousands of dead people, or demands more effective action, that's politicizing.
Silly Hilzoy. It's really quite simple.

Just an addition to my earlier comment.

Northern Command isn't happy

According to them BBCWorld published an interview with NorthCom Lt. Commander Sean Kelly. The Command responsible for supporting the Gulf coast in case of disasters.

According to them:
Northcom started planning before the storm even hit. We were ready when it hit Florida, because, as you remember, it hit the bottom part of Florida, and then we were planning once it was pointed towards the Gulf Coast.

So, what we did, we activated what we call 'defense coordinating officers' to work with the states to say, 'OK, what do you think you will need?' And we set up staging bases that could be started.

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."

Detlef--

"Just in case anyone is interested. :)"

I am, for one. Thanks for your reports.

Sorry to be off-topic here but anyone notice that Bush has just announced his nomination of John Roberts to succeed Rhenquist as Chief Justice?

What next?

Charles: "I agree that the Bush administration is trying to put their best political face on this, but it doesn't take away your own attempts to politicize this tragedy by putting all of your ire and focus on the federal government and not on all levels where it belongs."

I have posted two (2) explanations of what I think counts as politicization and what I think does not. You responded that you thought that I had a double standard, since I wasn't blaming local and state officials. I explained why I hadn't yet posted on that, though I am prepared to do so when I know more. You haven't replied to that. So I'm wondering: do you think my explanation is wrong? If so, why? If not, why go on calling what I'm doing politicization?

Also, Charles: is it your view that a failure to post on something implies anything at all about what one does or does not think about it, or how seriously one takes it?

Charles has been posting on Katrina, but at RedState.

Jackmormon: yeah, I know. The point of the question was rather: I haven't said anything about the state and local governments, other than that when I understand that part of the story well enough, I will be perfectly willing to blame anyone who deserves it. Charles seems to think that my not having said anything is not, as I said yesterday, due to my not having a handle on the situation, plus thinking the federal response is more important (since the feds will be involved in all disasters while the NO and LA governments will not), but a sign that I am politicizing things. After writing my first comment (what about my explanation don't you accept?). it occurred to me that drawing conclusions about someone's views on stuff from the fact that they haven't posted on it ("you have posted on an annoying article by Rich Lowry, but not on the Black Death, so obviously you think that Lowry's errors are more important than the death of a large chunk of the population of Europe!") is something we normally don't do here: we take it for granted that one can't post on everything. But it seems to me that it's hard to make sense of Charles' remark without the idea that you can, in fact, draw these sorts of inferences from someone's failure to post on something. So I wanted to see if he thought that.

BTW, to those who carry water for the ridiculous notion that the Democrats don't have any ideas:

Choke on it.

In that Redstate post of Charles, he says this:

But the difference that floats to the top of my list is leadership. New York City had it and New Orleans does not. New Orleans does not have its own version of Rudy Giuliani. New York State has a Pataki and Louisiana does not.
Which coincidentally also happens to say that NY had Republicans, while Louisiana, alas, had only Democrats.

It's less easy to worship Rudy if you lived under him as Mayor, and watched him defend everything from black people being pumped full of bullets time after time for being black while holding a wallet or a lighter or not having a broomstick shoved up their a** or something, or who concluded in the mid-Nineties that he was insane when he announced the contstruction of a new hundred-million-dollars (or so) Emergency Center to be built many stories above ground as part of the World Trade Center complex; everyone I talked to at the time -- after we were all shattered by the 1992 attack on the WTC -- couldn't make sense of it other than to explain it must be drugs (alternatively, corruption, but Rudy's managed to stay fairly clean on that), and, yes, that was our reaction at the time.

And Pataki! Sheesh. The guy is a cloud of cotton created by Al D'Amato as his brainless handpuppet. Give me a frigging break. Guiliani at least thinks for himself while he's bouncing off walls, trying to shut down museums for offending him with art, screaming in anger at people, cursing them, or trying to "get" them. I have at least some respect for the man. Pataki, on the other hand, barely exists at all.

From Anarch's link:

* Immediate access to Medicaid for displaced victims.
* No need to prove residency or assets
* No copayments
* No penalties for failing to sign up for Medicare Part B in time.

Yeah, this will really go over with the folks who were so concerned about nonexistent voter fraud in Georgia that they had to radically restrict the forms of valid ID that could be used at the polls. These middle-class white guys all kept asking each other "Do you know anybody who doesn't have photo ID? I sure don't!"

Remember, it is worse for folks to get stuff they don't deserve than it is for deserving folks to be denied.

BTW, to those who carry water for the ridiculous notion that the Democrats don't have any ideas:

Choke on it.

What I keep wanting to know is the answer to this question?

It's not particularly addressed at Democrats, mind. Not at all.

Charles has been posting on Katrina, but at RedState.

In an earlier thread I had predicted the response would be to "maximize blame placed on Democrats, minimize blame placed on Republicans, while simultaneously decrying politicization". He claimed I was "writing from ignorance and prejudice".

Turns out one of us was, and it wasn't me.

What I keep wanting to know is the answer to this question?

And it's a damn good question. I'm terribly afraid I know the answer but since it's too obvious -- and too horrible -- I'll forebear.

Turns out one of us was, and it wasn't me.

If that had been at all surprising, I'd totally be giving you mad propz right now ;)

Tad---

Thank you for your kind words!

I´m furious! Hopping mad!
Guess I´m just one of these orderly Germans looking for a PLAN, someone in charge. :)

It´s common practise in Germany that once a huge natural disaster happens we look for coordination from the federal level.
Looking back at the (really surprising) floodings of the river Elbe back in 2002, in less than 1-2 days we had a clearly established command and control structure. Including town, state and federal authorities. Not to mention the army and NGOs. Published in the media so everyone wanting to help knew which phone numbers to call.

Granted, it was a much smaller disaster than "Katrina". But that it took you almost a week to coordinate the American aid efforts given American resources puzzled/amazed/frightened us.

Given the resources of the USA and the forewarning of the hurricane weather stations, THIS is the best FEMA could do?

"...the forewarning of the hurricane weather stations,"

In fairness -- now that I've posted what seems like 900 articles criticizing the authorities -- it needs to be noted now and again that the Gulf Coast gets multiple hurricane warnings a year, and multiple hurricanes a year, and if they evacuated each time there was a clear warning of a major hurricane that's going to strike, they'd be doing so a few times a year. This is a case of people getting used to hurricanes and hurricane warnings on a regular basis, and reacting accordingly.

There's endless valid criticism to be made here, and heads should duly roll, but it shouldn't happen on the basis of pure hindsight.

Gary Farber--

I don't know why you're so hard on Giuliani. I think Mr. Bird has a point. After all, if Giuliani were president, this whole show would have been run by his trusted sidekick, the omnicompetent and incorruptible Bernard Kerik.

oops--

I think I got my "omni-" and my "in-" switched around there.

it needs to be noted now and again that the Gulf Coast gets multiple hurricane warnings a year

The Gulf Coast is threatened by hurricanes several times a year, but it isn't threatened by category 5 hurricanes several times a year:

Category 5 hurricanes, with winds faster than 155 mph, are rare with only three hitting the USA in the 20th century and only 23 known to have reached this strength at any time during their lives between 1928 and 2003.

So if the standard was "if any storm that was ever a category 5 comes within a day or two of the coast, evacuate", you would be evacuating some area of the US on average once every three and half years or so, as an absolute upper limit, and probably much less often.

Well, at least unless the Atlantic warms up a few more degrees and they have to add category 6...

In all seriousness, I think I've seen counts as high as 15 distinct versions of [the story that FEMA actively prevented aid from reaching NOLA].

For those of you who haven't seen it already, this collection of links at dKos is kind of staggering. I mean, I'd seen or heard of most of these things, but put them all together like that...

"...but it isn't threatened by category 5 hurricanes several times a year...."

Indeed, and the warning turned out to be wrong insofar as a cat-5 didn't end up hitting New Orleans, as I understand it. It instead diminished and hit as a Category 4, as well as having taken that jag right, which goes to show the unpredictability of the thing.

Detlef:
Here in the Netherlands it is the same; we assume the government will take appropriate action. So far, they did.
But, all those people in the US who were rooting for a strong government with extended power in the War On Terrorism (including CB): Suppose the levees were not breached by storm but blown op by terrorists; flooding without warning or evacuation! Wasn't dep. of Homeland Security designed to deal with this? It has been a key point of Bush policy.
You too, Charles B, cannot be satisfied with the present way of dealing with disaster.

Morning all,
Typhoon 14 is off the coast of Kagoshima, moving at about 20k an hour, so we should be able to say hello mid-morning. Will give it y'all's regards.

Taking the title of the post to heart, I hope you will excuse some tin-foil hat speculation.

I think you will see an interesting thing occur in regards to the Bush CYA campaign. I see the strategy as to shore up Nagin and make Blanco the bad guy. It might not be too hard to do, Nagin was a registered Republican and shifted his affiliation just before he entered the mayoral race as well as controversial endorsement of Bobby Jindahl, the Republican candidate for governor and I think you'll see (or are seeing?) Nagin next to Bush on every photo op, and he'll be brought into the inner circle and be told that the Feds want to help more, but were blocked by the governor's decisions.

I think this is why you have the claims from Nagin about Bush and Blanco being unable to come to some agreement on federal control of the disaster. It seems to me that the plan (which included having Rumsfeld, Myers and Condi show up) was have Blanco turn everyone over to the Feds, and soon, the taps would be opened. Nagin on CNN described Bush's explanation as Blanco being given two choices on AirForce One on the first visit and Blanco needing 24 hours.

It would be useful to know precisely what those two choices were (and interesting that if it was so gd important, why didn't Bush lay the two options out publically instead of talking about swinging on Trent Lott's porch or how everyone in Houston went over to N'Awlins to over-enjoy himself), and I imagine them to be having the state gov completely cut out and turn over all command and control functions to the Feds or turn over the resources as a lump to state officials and let them handle the effort. For the former, you would have probably seen military units with embedded reporters a la Desert Storm, with some information officer helpfully explaining why the local officials screwed up, while with the latter, you would have seen numerous examples of 'following to rule', where the Feds would basically dump all the assets and then go on TV saying they can't understand why this mountain of MREs is not getting out. This strategy would be made easier by the mass of political appointees in FEMA.

That Blanco seems to have (according to Nagin) punted makes either of these options difficult, so the next step is to try to have the mayor explode against Blanco and play both sides against the middle as well as portray Blanco as an indecisive woman (note the highlighted quote). I've grown pessimistic enough to think that this might work, as you have a virtual hit squad of RW bloggers who have set the groundwork for a character assassination of Blanco and one could bring up sub rosa those notions of women not really being up to the task and such (an attack which would also be effective on Mary Landrieu, btw). Already, maximum effort is being placed into obsfucating the timeline, and we will see narrow readings of particular laws invoked to justify federal non-response. Furthermore, Anarch's DKos link above shows the sort of "work to rule" that will continue to hamper efforts. This ironically appeals to small goverment types who will make assertions like this:

After decades of Democrats attempting to utterly destroy the federal system of government on which this country was founded, people like Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin freeze in the face of disaster. They no longer do what they need to do at the state and local level to help their citizens. Instead, they look for the federal government to come step in and save them. The federal government as our great American mommy has utterly and completely failed us. (from the Redstate link above)

The only satisfaction we would get would be to see some have to eat their words about the character assasination of Nagin, but cognitive dissonance coupled with a refusal to defend their positions after posting or commenting should alleviate any difficulties they feel.

Of course, to point this out is to be pro-hurricane, I suppose.

hilzoy,

ackmormon: yeah, I know. The point of the question was rather: I haven't said anything about the state and local governments, other than that when I understand that part of the story well enough, I will be perfectly willing to blame anyone who deserves it.

I´ve read his post on redstate.org after it was mentioned here.
Sorry to say it but his post is b*llsh*t!!!

Just to say it, I´m a German, and I simply don´t care about your American political affiliations. :)

----

Let´s start looking at this diary from an "Old European" wimpy way.

The list of differences between post-9/11 New York City and post-Katrina New Orleans is a long one. One was an atrocity, the other a tragedy, for example.

Very right!
One might also mention that the atrocity happened 4 years ago. And that 4 years later the Department of Homeland Security still can´t protect American citizens from natural disasters even with 2-4 days forewarning. One wonders how the DHS might protect American citizens now from an "atrocity"?
Given that they can´t protect them from a "tragedy" (with forewarning)?

One might also ask why New Orleans is called a "tragedy" here? Tragedy normally describes something "unavoidably". Like the Tsunami in SE Asia for example. The New Orleans disaster wasn´t unavoidably IMO. It was pretty clear what might happen given a hurricane of cat. 4 or 5 strenght. Avoiding that disaster though would have needed vigorous state and federal help.

One struck a relatively small area, the other struck pretty much an entire city.

Yery big sigh!!!
Obviously Charles Bird doesn´t understand the difference between "a relatively small area" and "an entire city".
In the first case, you still have the resources inside the city available. Like police, fire fighters, ambulances...
Communications and the help of the state around of that "relatively small area".
In the second case, you have to deal with a city and all the surrounding area destroyed by a hurricane.

One was evil, the other a force of nature. And so on and so forth.

Charles!
Just go into your cellar, okay?
Don´t forget your duct tape.
If your DHS can´t deal with "a force of nature" (with forewarning), why do you suppose it can deal with "evil" in the future?

But the difference that floats to the top of my list is leadership. New York City had it and New Orleans does not. New Orleans does not have its own version of Rudy Giuliani.

I can´t really answer that.
Since Giuliani only had to deal with the twin towers? The rest of the city stayed intact?
How would Giuliani have reacted if 80% of his city was under water and he couldn´t reach anyone because communications where down?

New York State has a Pataki and Louisiana does not.

Don´t know anything about Pataki...

Exacerbating the situation further, George W. Bush was a better leader after 9/11 than after Katrina.

If you mean that a lot of the world supported him after 9/11 before he insulted them all before the Iraq war.....
You´re right! :)

When the terrorists struck, Giuliani understood immediately the nature of the attacks and what needed to be done. He put himself in charge, front and center, and he used all resources available to help the city recover, including his own bully pulpit.

See above.
There is a difference between striking the "twin towers" and destroying a whole city.

Many coastal areas evacuate for Cat 3s, but comparing anywhere else to New Orleans is not a good idea in the first place. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the ocean when a Cat 3 hit. You don't want to be the first thing the wall of wind and water runs into. Even being on the downwind side of an inland lake can buy you a lot more damage than the people across the water.

We're going to have to see several more years' worth of data to judge whether this is a trend or not. So far, we haven't seen a decade of hurricanes that matches the 1940s. THAT there decade, that was Global Warming. Still, we've got quite a hunk of this decade left.

Having unfairly criticized CB yesterday, today I'm feeling a little more circumspect. I don't know enough about Louisiana politics to know who is what -- party labels often have very different meanings at lower levels, and in the South -- or to know what authorities and capabilities the governor really had.

It does seem to me that the first failure here was state/local. And it's not a failure of personality, but of the current civic paradigm. I strongly suspect that one reason, maybe the main reason, the state/city didn't send all available busses into NO as the storm approached, was that there was no place to put the people. Certainly no one was setting up facilities for 100,000 more poor refugees, and no locality within La. would have put up with it. Paying refugees they'll take, but until a flood hits, the charitable impulse is not strong enough to overcome bigotry/apathy. The city of NO obviously couldn't have solved this question: any solutions would be beyond its jurisdiction, and way beyond its capabilities. Whether the state has the legal authority to do so, I think it's fair to say that it did not have the political authority to do so.

And this isn't a knock on Louisiana: I don't think Maryland has a plan for housing say 100,000 residents of Baltimore who live below the poverty line for six days, much less six weeks or longer, in the event of a dirty bomb or something equivalent. I don't think any state can take on this many poor people (most of whom are African-American) -- both in absolute and relative numbers -- for anything more than a day. If that. It's just not who we actually are right now, or who we've ever been.

Maybe we will someday be a people capable of this. And I guess we're now going to get a chance to see.

As for FEMA and the President -- I'm not sure there is such thing as too cynical here. My own feeling is that the Base wasn't really fired up until there were looters, and people dying publicly and needlessly at the Civic Center. This offended two different self-images the Base has, and had to be rectified. The President will completely succeed in vindicating the Base's self-image in a few more days, and all will be well again in Bushworld.

Rob,

I raised exactly the same points after you posted your comment, I believe.

New Orleans got hours, days of forewarning of the incoming hurricane. Unlike a terrorist attack.

And don´t confuse "strong American government" with a "government fighting against terrorism".
Seems that we define things differently.

I'm curious about Cheney. Where is he? Is he dead and no one has noticed yet? When 911 happened Bush looked like the strong decisive leader because he did the media events and Cheney did the work. In this mess Bush looks like a twat because he is doing the media events and no one is doing the work. So where is Cheney and why hasn't he been out saving Bush's butt?

So far, we haven't seen a decade of hurricanes that matches the 1940s. THAT there decade, that was Global Warming. Still, we've got quite a hunk of this decade left.

Not according to this:

Most Active Atlantic Hurricane Seasons on record

1. 1933 season, 21 systems (11–5–5)
2. 1995 season, 19 systems (8–6–5)
3. 1969 season, 18 systems (5–7–5) and 1 subtropical storm
4. 1936 season, 16 systems (9–6–1)
5. 2003 season, 16 systems (9–4–3)
6. 2004 season, 15 systems (7–2–5) and 1 subtropical storm
7. 2001 season, 15 systems (6–5–4)
8. 2000 season, 15 systems (6–5–3) and 1 subtropical storm
9. 1998 season, 14 systems (4–7–3)
10. 1990 season, 14 systems (6–7–1)
11. 2005 season, 13 systems* (9–2–3)
12. 1996 season, 13 systems (4–3–6)
13. 2002 season, 12 systems (8–2–2)

Note: the 2005 season is currently not finished until Nov. 30

[See also the deadliest and costliest lists, very few of which are from the 1940s.]

Not according to this

Satellites didn't start monitoring them until the '60s...so who knows?

To all those criticizing DHS for not being prepared:

That's really unfair. See, DHS doesn't need to be ready for terrorist attacks. That's why we're fighting them Over There, remember? So they can't attack us at home?

Our only mistake was neglecting to attack the homeland of hurricanes as well. Hmm... Katrina... You know, that sounds sort of Communist doesn't it? Communist like... Cuba! Cuba, where they have lots of hurricanes! It all fits. I smell regime change.

There is this from Brenden Loy.

Satellites didn't start monitoring them until the '60s...so who knows?

The list ostensibly goes back to 1900, although I'll grant you that it makes no claims of being perfect.

Satellites didn't start monitoring them until the '60s...so who knows?

The list ostensibly goes back to 1900, although I'll grant you that it makes no claims of being perfect.

Crap. Once again I play Leibniz to Giblets' Newton.

"So where is Cheney and why hasn't he been out saving Bush's butt?"

Like most of the admin, he was on vacation.

Just to clear up the record on what Mayor did or did not do:

He said today in a televised interview that after ordering a manditory evacuation of the city he sent buses around to collect people that did not have transportation. They were taken to the superdome, the refuge of last resort. He expected state or federal relief following the hurricane since his capacity to act was almost totally wiped out. He called FEMA, he called cabinet members, he called the President. Everyone promised that help would come, but none did.

Not according to this:

I was thinking this, Anarch. You're looking at single seasons. I'm thinking that trends are not made of single seasons.

Satellites didn't start monitoring them until the '60s...so who knows?

I'd guess that prior to then, mostly they were recorded because they made landfall.

Jack Lecou--

It's no shame to be scooped by fafblog. They are geniuses. We are not.

(Leibniz, on the other hand, was every bit the genius Newton was--but that's a story for another day, and nowhere near as funny as fafblog).

cont'd--

I, for instance, just discovered that billmon used the phrase "Potemkin President" on his blog yesterday; I used it above, this morning, without being aware of this.

billmon is a genius. I am not. (Not that it took any *great* genius to make this particular point).

[H]e sent buses around to collect people that did not have transportation.

This seems like exactly the right thing to do. In perfect hindsight maybe it looks like it would have been a good idea to fill up every available bus and just start driving toward Texas. Ex ante, though, that's a very risky thing to do. You need someplace to put them, for one thing.

It makes more sense to simply do your best to get people into shelters on high ground, then wait for the storm to clear and the cavalry to arrive. The real problems started when the cavalry didn't arrive...

Also, I'm not sure what that famous picture of drowned school buses really illustrates. They're barely up to their wheel wells - they may even still be drivable. Maybe there was a lot more flooding after the picture was taken, but otherwise that looks like (relatively) high ground, so it may have been considered a fairly safe place to leave them.

Tad: Thanks for the sympathy. Global War on Weather (GWoW) was probably pretty low hanging fruit. Anyway, I might still be the first to spot the Cuba connection. I even have a confidential source placing Fidel and Katrina together in Prague last year.

Apparently the superdome was always considered to be the refuge of last resort. After the mayor did what he could to get those willing to go to it his city was basically wiped out. When the superdome become overcrowed he then had the police unlock the convention center as a backup refuge. It too was on high ground.

The victims of this disaster did what they could to survive both individually and collectively. There where inumerable selfless acts of heroism by citizens helping others survive and get to safety.

The problem was that the federal government, under the exective leadership of George Bush, failed. Americans died because of that failure.

ken, is your point that the federal authorities were responsible for evacuating New Orleans?

Slarti- Sometimes I read what you have to say, and hate you.

One depressing thing about this disaster is that the evacuation was successful.

No one in the neighboring localities would have accepted thousands of poor black refugees before the flood.

Slart, the feds are responsible, according to law, according to FEMA mission statement and according the federal governments own disaster relief plan to provide rapid relief to disaster areas. The city did what it could, the state probably could have done more but the state was hit hard as well. The Feds had primary responsibilty for evacuating those people trapped in New Orleans.

frank, you have to take off the bold tag

i really do like the concept that Bush needed to be elected to protect us from danger, while at the same time, we mustn't assume Bush will be the one to rescue us danger.

what a magical world Bush defenders inhabit...

out darned -bold

help. I've bolded and I can't get up!

Slart, the feds are responsible, according to law

Which law is that?

I was thinking this, Anarch. You're looking at single seasons. I'm thinking that trends are not made of single seasons.

No, the difference appears to be that the chart I linked indicated the maximum strength of the 'canes, while the chart you linked indicated the maximum strength of the 'canes upon landfall. In particular, if you check the linked source from which the table was compiled, it specifically states that "Hurricanes are ranked by estimated central pressure at time of landfall." [Additionally, this NOAA source shows 9 hurricanes in the 2004 season, the entire total of all 2001-2004 seasons on the chart you linked. In fact, it's pretty darn obvious from a quick comparison of the numbers on the two tables that they have to be measuring different things.] The US has been extraordinarily fortune of late -- or perhaps there's something else at issue? -- that most of the turbocharged hurricanes of the past ten years have vented their fury elsewhere.

Incidentally, while I recognize that I was posting single seasons, did you not notice that every one of the past five seasons (2000-2005) is in the top 10 most active single seasons of all time and that none of the 1940 seasons are? [So are 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998 for that matter.] While I recognize that that isn't a formal decade-long average, I'd say that's a pretty damn clear trend.

I am only occasionally bold.

Which law is that?

presumably the law that gives them the authority to put this on their web site:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency - a former independent agency that became part of the new Department of Homeland Security in March 2003 - is tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disasters.

...

As it has for more than 20 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of "A Nation Prepared." At no time in its history has this vision been more important to the country than in the aftermath of Sept. 11th.

maybe you'd like to find the exact law and parse it. have fun. the dead need that kind of clarity.

In fact, it's pretty darn obvious from a quick comparison of the numbers on the two tables that they have to be measuring different things

I agree; it's as you said: one is looking at total hurricanes and the other is looking at major hurricanes that made landfall. Two quite different things.

Incidentally, while I recognize that I was posting single seasons, did you not notice that every one of the past five seasons (2000-2005) is in the top 10 most active single seasons of all time and that none of the 1940 seasons are?

No, I didn't. Because, as I pointed out, historical data for hurricanes that didn't make landfall isn't kept that far back.

maybe you'd like to find the exact law and parse it. have fun. the dead need that kind of clarity.

Sweet, but that works on both sides of the discussion. If this sort of thing works for you, feel free to not participate.

Yeah, seriously slart, you cannot possibly not know that FEMA as well as the DHS were created by acts of Congress, otherwise known as "law"?

I don't want to get all snarky on you but you have to realize by now that the responsibility for evacuating those trapped in New Orleans was primarily with the Feds.

Yeah, seriously slart, you cannot possibly not know that FEMA as well as the DHS were created by acts of Congress, otherwise known as "law"?

And that "law", exactly what legal authority does it empower FEMA with, as regards evacuations?

I don't want to get all snarky on you but you have to realize by now that the responsibility for evacuating those trapped in New Orleans was primarily with the Feds.

You know, I'm willing to give you the benefit of a doubt. But just in case, I ask you to show me, because I'm curious to see at what point authority is taken from state and local authorities and handed over to Federal authorities.

So: snark or no snark, how exactly is this supposed to work?

If this sort of thing works for you, feel free to not participate.

oh, that's rich.

ken, is your point that the federal authorities were responsible for evacuating New Orleans?

and...


Which law is that?

and...

Sweet, but that works on both sides of the discussion. If this sort of thing works for you, feel free to not participate

Is there a point? Do you know the answer to these questions? It sounds like you do. Could you, perhaps, give the answers then?

And perhaps make a point?

You're really not doing your cause any good with this behaviour, for which you been criticized on other threads. You are, I think, driving people away.

Do you know the answer to these questions?

Nope. Hence, the continued asking of them.

And perhaps make a point?

It's a simple request for information, 2shoes.

I just wish Hilzoy would publish SOMETHING about Katrina. I'm just so tired of hearing about the WORST NATIONAL DISASTER of our lifetimes from the Center/Right posters of this site, Von and Sebastian and Charlesbird etc., stop creating new threads about it, it's just exhausting!

You know, I'm willing to give you the benefit of a doubt. But just in case, I ask you to show me, because I'm curious to see at what point authority is taken from state and local authorities and handed over to Federal authorities.

I haven't been able to read through this yet, but here's the National Response Plan. The main difficulty is that the bulk of it is written assuming that a Incident of National Significance which overwhelms the resources of the local government hasn't happened (e.g. Federal authorities are supposed to provide "supplemental assistance" which has entirely the wrong connotations for a disaster like Katrina). Someone with better chops than I will have to search through it to find out what it says about evacuation procedures.

You know, I'm willing to give you the benefit of a doubt. But just in case, I ask you to show me, because I'm curious to see at what point authority is taken from state and local authorities and handed over to Federal authorities.

The National Response Plan.

Seems like just yesterday I posted this link. Oh right, I did. The answer to the question is "when the Federal Government decides it's warranted", otherwise known as an Incident of National Significance.

It's more complicated than that, 2shoes. There are several variants of INS that do not necessitate the transfer from state and local authorities to Federal ones, at least as far as I can tell based on my preliminary read.

I've seen that, 2shoes. Which part of that do you think gives FEMA the authority to supercede local authority in this instance?

Slart, here is quote from the DHS web site under the tab for disasters and emergencies.


'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.'

I am sure this reflects the 'law' that established this departments function.

A document released in December of 2004, outlined in its entirety the Federal Governments responsibility for providing relief and specifically stated that they will not wait for local authorities to act or give authorization.

slart, you and people like you are the reason people died in New Orleans.

ken: completely out of line. Stop it.

Cut Slart some slack, here. He's only asking the same questions that Bush Administration officials spent, oh, 3 days after the floodwaters drowned New Orleans asking.

Because it's very important to know exactly what the law mandates and when. The Bush Admin is widely and well-known for its painstaking legality.

We certainly can't have "the Country's CEO" interpreting laws any old whichway he wants, can we? Good heavens, what if he decided to suspend habeus corpus, or the 4th and 5th Amendments? There'd be hell to pay!

And if the Bush Administration couldn't find a law requiring Federal assistance to a devastated disaster area where thousands were dying, in three days' worth of legal research, I doubt any of us can.

Good point, Slart!

Larry Johnson has Gov. Blanco's letter requesting federal aid here. I can't dissect this stuff, but maybe the lawyers here can.

Also, speaking of the National Response plan, will someone please read pages v through vii, then read this response to this comment, and explain to me why anyone on that site takes the responder seriously?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad