01 September 2005

Trust Betrayed After Katrina

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast has dissolved into anarchy while the weak are left to suffer. Read selected posts from the Times-Picayune blog, read about thousands left to die without food or water or any kind of authority on hand at the New Orleans convention center, look at the pictures posted from various sources, read about the devistation in unthinkably poor Plaquemines Parish, look anywhere else you need to look. Mississippi South of Jackson isn't much better.

We have known since 2001, at least, that this was one of the three most likely major disasters to happen in the country. One of the others was a terrorist attack on New York, and the other was a major San Francisco earthquake. We knew that this particular storm was headed towards New Orleans eight days ago.

FEMA and the National Guard (many of whose members are in Iraq right now) have been unable to fulfill the basics of their mission, getting people out of the affected area in advance, maintaining some semblence of order, and getting help and evacuations for people who didn't leave in time. The storm hit five days ago. Getting water and food and rescue a week late is likely to be a death sentence. Private individuals who have sought to provide aid, even the Canadian government's offers of assistance have been rebuked. President Bush stayed on vacation, while Condaleeza Rice decided to buy shoes and take in Broadway shows while Canada begged to provide some assistance.

Authorities seem more concerned about people grabbing perishables out of grocery stores that would otherwise rot, when they are in dire need and no one can sell goods to them at any price, than they do about helping those in need.

The national government has done nothing as panics as a result of broken pipelines have sent gas prices above $6 a gallon (from below $3 a gallon) in Georgia, and spurred similar panic in North Carolina.

I can accept that people who could not be evacuated or refused to evacuate might die from the force of the storm, although the inability of some people who wanted to leave to do so for lack of transportation, many of whom have now spent days of privation in the Superdome, was itself inexcusable. I can accept that any hurricane of this force would have left thousands of people homeless.

But, I cannot accept that our government has let many, many people die after the event because it has bungled the job of providing aid to the victims. I cannot accept that New Orleans has flooded because the Bush Administration postponed levy work to spend the money on Iraq and tax cuts, as documented in nine seperate articles from 2004 and 2005 in the Times-Picayune.

This disaster has been as devistating as it has been because our leaders have failed us and betrayed our trust. This didn't have to be an event with deaths rivaling the Galveston Hurricane in 1900, or the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, or the Titanic shipwreck in 1912, or the Lake Okeechobee flood in Florida in 1928 or the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania in 1889, or 9-11, but those are the only events in U.S. history that are comparable. It didn't have to have property damage comparable to the great Chicago fire of 1871. But, it did.

Katrina will cost us thousands of lives, instead of hundreds. There will be hundreds of thousands of refugees for months, instead of thousand of refugees for weeks. The economic damage will be in the hundreds of billions, instead of the billions. This was a catastrophe and it was a needless one. There is nothing wrong with being an estate planning attorney from Colorado, I am one myself. But, that isn't the proper experience base for running the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is charged with responding to national disasters. This disaster was as bad as it was because President Bush and the people he chose to work for him and carry out his policies made decisions that were literally dead wrong.

To learn how to help, click on this link, where they noted this afternoon that: "The word is that in Jefferson Parish and Orleans, FEMA has 'bugged out.' They haven't brought supplies in." They know better than I do. I'm just a Colorado estate planning lawyer.

6 comments:

mile high delphi said...

O, glad I found you after all this time. Great site, never knew you had a math background...hope to see some predictions from you soon.

More on the point, I think that making this political can backfire on anyone...I wouldn't.

Kyle said...

Nice post, I wonder what other disasters we might not be prepared for.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Blogicus Maximus, Greetings. I hope life isn't too lonely over at Polstate. Do remind Temple Stark to take me off the list for Colorado when he gets a chance.

As far as looking at I disaster in a political way, I have this to say:

Disasters are moments when we recognize that we need government. Government can be incompetent, or government can do a good job. In a disaster, the truth of who is competent and who is not comes out.

Any government action is inherently political, because politicians run governments.

It isn't necessarily partisan. There are conservative Republicans in this country who are perfectly capable of responding adequately to a national disaster. Many of the heros of this situation are people who don't agree with me at all politically and have been lovingly in this case called "bubbas". But, it is beyond question that President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff, and a certain estate planning lawyer from Colorado who was fired from his job running an Arabian horse association in put in charge of FEMA, have done a dismal job have all acted in an incompetent way in handling this disaster. It is beyond question that this administration cut massive amounts of funds that could have made this disaster far less catestrophic and that contrary to President Bush's statement everyone knew this could happen.

There is plenty of blame to go around. The political elite of Louisianna and New Orleans doesn't come away from this disaster looking like a rose either. Some of them are Democrats. The Mayor is impotent. The national guard seeming cowardly and to have no clue. The Governor seems out of touch.

And, of course, one can look at the blogosphere's reaction. The liberal blogs have established relief funds, coordinated information on helping victims, and have gotten out new about government inaction in an effort to spur it to act. The Freepers have pattled on about lynching looters and blaming the victims. My views about which response is more intelligent and sane are pretty clear.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

It appears that I was unduly charitable in describing Brown as an estate planning lawyer.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

It appears that he lied on his resume for the job as well.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Brown has resigned.