Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina 2

I don’t have to reiterate that the images from Katrina are shocking. But here’s what I find even more shocking. Before it made landfall, predictions were that Katrina’s winds would hit 140 miles per hour in New Orleans. It only reached 100. Predictions were that many/most of the cities levees would be breached. Only a few were. There was 24 hour notice.

How is it that the city was not entirely evacuated? Many people stayed in the city because they didn’t have the means. Others stayed out of foolishness and either died or have to be extracted. No, it’s not possible to force everyone to evacuate, but the numbers are shameful.

How is it that as late as yesterday, the only police on the street were the 1,500 local police? Why weren’t there federal reinforcements from the start? Is it news that when a place is evacuated (even only partially) looting occurs?

I could of course go on and on, and I don’t have most of the facts. But it seems like the only group that was ahead of the crest here was the media. Emergency management seems to be following events with wallow-through-mud slowness… It feels like we’re a third world country.


At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couple of comments. First, one big reason everyone doesn't evacuate (you might have made a similar calculation if you were living in New Orleans) is because of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" syndrome. Just last year, during hurricane season, there were many gov't-ordered evacuations of towns that ended up experiencing no damage, and often no hurricane.
Second, cops. This is a local and state matter. Not federal. There is no federal police force in the US, except the FBI. It's the states that control law enforcement, including the deployment of National Guard. Today's Journal reports there were 8000 National Guard troops in Louisiana available for post-Katrina duty. They took a long time to get there, and in fact, as still not really doing much.
The real problem, which you also display, is this nonsensical expectation that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the government will do something well in an emergency. Government (by which I mean all agencies on federal, state and local level) is by its nature bureaucratic, inefficient, unaccountable, wasteful, slow. There are counter examples, of course, of gov't action that is timely and effective. But, they are rare. The main story again and again is of gov't sloth and incompetence. It was the same, to choose one example among millions, last year during the spree of four hurricanes in succession. But, it applies to everything gov't does and touches. Too many people have a belief in the power of gov't that is on par with a belief in the Tooth Fairy.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger cosmopolitan life said...

You're saying the problem is that I expect good emergency relief from the government? That's not the problem. That's the fact. If there's one thing that I undoubtedly expect the government to provide it's effective emergency relief. That should come from the top. And when it doesn't, heads should roll.

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, your view, however valid, doesn't comport to the reality of a "Federal" system, where responsibilities are devolved to the lowest level possible -- the level closest to the people for whom the government is acting. Disaster relief is a local, then state and finally federal responsibility -- in that order. Ask yourself why the criticism has been so heavy of Bush but not the Democratic mayor of New Orleans (primary responsibility rests on him), or the Democratic governor of LA (secondary responsibility rests with her).
FEMA, the federal agency, has a role to play, but it isn't paramount. Think back to 9/11, to the central role Giuliani and NYC officials played. That's the way the US system is designed to operate.
So, then you need to analyze why the response was so bad in Louisiana? Easy. It's a poor, badly-run state. New Orleans has been run as a one-party fiefdom for years, with huge corruption and waste.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger cosmopolitan life said...

The mayor of New Orleans was completely incompetent, no question about it. And Louisiana is a poor badly-run state, that's definitely true too. But that doesn't absolve the federal government from the responsibity to step in. That's why we're the United States, and not the Separate States.


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