Thursday, September 08, 2005

"Katrina Revisited"

These are the responses to my September 7 article, "Katrina Revisited." Thanks to all, please continue to provide us with your feedback.


  1. I do not defend any of the mistakes that the people made in their decision not to build for a Cat 5. However, people are always going to error from time to time. It is those mistakes that lead us to not make the mistakes in the future if we learn from the past. Trouble with most Republicans they do not learn from the past. Then again neither do the Democrats.

  2. 2. Your criticism of the President and the federal response was right on target. Local and state officials and their agencies are also responsible. Unfortunately, it removes any confidence anyone could possibly have within the 50 mile radius of Indian Point (which includes the Bronx and Manhattan). Another case of everyone knowing about and nothing being done about it (except a totally unrealistic evacuation plan).

  3. 3. This is truly a wonderful article. But then again-you always write great informative upfront to the point articles-you do not need to beat around the bush. By the way-did you think about writing an article how our President Bush called out for helping in this disaster for fundraising efforts and help - who did he ask? I was told his daddy and Bill Clinton. Do all incompetent boys run to their daddy for help and someone from another political party? Strange-hummmm! Well - at least he is smart enough to ask help from people who might help him.

  4. I was living in Miami in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew struck. Bush the Elder sent in the Army after 3 days, but lost the state of Florida to Clinton in the November election that followed, in part because of complaints that his handling of the aftermath of the hurricane had been slow and inept.

    As an attorney, I worked on disaster relief projects in Miami in the aftermath of Andrew (half my law partners’ homes were destroyed, all of them south of downtown in Kendall and Homestead). It was very, very bad. Many people didn’t have power restored for almost eight months. In theory, local and state officials are the “first responders” after such a hit. They have an emergency plan which they follow, but no one can predict exactly how bad the storm will be, or what things will look like in the aftermath. FEMA and the feds provide the backup response at the request of local and state authorities, coming in to buttress local and state efforts. My memory is that everything seemed to take too much time. The response was slow. Power was out, fallen trees blocked roads and crushed roofs and cars, and thousands of boats had sunk at their moorings or washed hundreds of yards inland. The wind had knocked down street signs and traffic lights, making driving impossible. Armed guards protected my high-rise building on the waterfront from looters. Our five story underground garage had flooded (we had moved the cars to the highest level, and they were spared). Half my neighbors’ windows had been blown out, and their furniture sucked out of their apartments by tornado force winds. Three days later, I saw sofas and tables floating in Biscayne Bay and in our pool, a dozen yards away. A foolish neighbor had refused to evacuate the building, and described fleeing his 28th floor apartment in terror when the plate-glass picture windows blew out, sending his furniture and pictures swirling around in a blizzard of flying glass and debris as they smashed huge holes in his walls, and then disappeared through his windows. He spent the rest of the night cowering in the internal fire escape in the dark as the building swayed fifteen feet back and forth.

    Thousands of homes in Kendall and Homestead were wrecked by the winds. Andrew was a small, fast-moving storm compared to Katrina, with very high winds, but relatively little rain. It was bad enough. Disaster recovery took many months. Full recovery took six years.

    The Wall Street Journal’s detailed coverage of what went wrong with the response to Katrina seemed fair and balanced to me. In short, the local and state authorities had an emergency response plan, but the sheer size of the catastrophe overwhelmed them. Opportunities were missed (the mayor’s failure to deploy the city’s school buses to evacuate the poorest citizens seems most obvious—your idea about trains is clever, but passenger rail is NOT a major transportation asset in the South, unlike New York), and flaws in the plan were exposed by the catastrophe that ensued when two flood walls (not levees) ruptured in the aftermath. At least one of those walls had been recently reconstructed with reinforced concrete, and was neither old nor ill-maintained. One caller who identified himself as a New Orleans refugee on talk radio noted a “boy that cried wolf” syndrome where previous false alarms had jaded much of the city’s population, and local and state politicians, wary of the political consequences of yet another false alarm, were less than enthusiastic about the mandatory evacuation order. President Bush called the Louisiana governor in advance of the storm to beg her to declare a state of emergency.

    In a crisis like this, the competence of local and state officials is severely tested. The best (like Giuliani) show off their profound talents. In his autobiography, Giuliani himself noted that he had painstakingly built a team, of whom you were one, of very talented people, and that the team performed brilliantly on and after 9/11. Most important, they were trained and in place to serve the people of New York in a crisis. New Orleans clearly lacked such a local and state infrastructure.) The second and third stringers choke in the clutch. Louisiana had third stringers, and they choked. The local authorities should have provisioned and secured the initial shelter in the Superdome for a week. The Louisiana National Guard (controlled by the governor) should have been ready to move into the city in the immediate aftermath to restore order. Local and state authorities should have identified staging areas for emergency workers, and prepared them with provisions and sleeping quarters. And of course, the feds should have moved much faster to back up overwhelmed local and state officials when the scale of the catastrophe became obvious. I won’t repeat what the Wall Street Journal already has reported about FEMA being gutted by its absorption into the Department of Homeland Security, with its emphasis on terrorism rather than conventional natural disasters. The juxtaposition of its director declaring everything under control with the televised scenes of chaos and crime broadcast from the Superdome was pathetic. There’s only one silver lining in this dark cloud: it exposes the flaws in the emergency response network here at home, and is an opportunity to do better in future.

  5. 5. Thank you for making so much of what's being said out there re: Katrina and it's devastation beyond imagining which should, in itself, teach all of us a basic lesson. As one who has been fortunate enough to spend a little time on the waters of New England, both off-shore and doing coast-wise trips, we know how frightening the sea can become in matter of minutes. We were keeping some track of Katrina as she went across Florida and began to recharge sucking up the moisture of the Gulf as she headed for the most vulnerable of all our cities plus Mississippi and Alabama. I happened to clip a small piece in the NY Times which wrote of a young man - in way inland Indiana - who is a weather nerd (plus a law student). He sent off an email to whomsoever it concerned in the area the hurricane was aiming at, namely New Orleans, its Mayor and maybe other city officials. He said it was a monstrous storm and ANYONE with the ability to see the Weather TV channel's storm tracking maps should have recognized the terrifying potential of torrential rains heading their way. And others in positions of responsibility at the uppermost levels of our government could have seen those weather maps as well.

    This horrifying and increasingly tragic disaster should be THE WAKE-UP CALL that we need to recognize how vulnerable we all are in this country which has been so blessed by countless natural blessings and yet can also be subjected as well to the myriad and sometimes vicious vagaries of nature. No one can ever predict these with total certainty but which should be looked upon with the greatest respect and, more importantly, with preparedness and respect

  6. 6. Normally I have nothing but praise for you and your columns. today's, however, seem unduly harsh, a bit irrelevant, and carping in a not-helpful way. All against Bush, noyt against the more complicit elements in this epic tragedy.

  7. 7. All this chatter – and nothing good is coming along yet. We ase a notion of talkers; we once were a nation of doers

  8. 8. There was a 5 part series in the Times-Picayune in 2002.

    Some quotes:

    "Evacuation is what�s necessary: evacuation, evacuation, evacuation," Jefferson Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Walter Maestri said. "We anticipate that (even) with refuges of last resort in place, some 5 (percent) to 10 percent of the individuals who remain in the face of catastrophic storms are going to lose their lives."

    The region�s sinking coast and rising flood risk also make the task of getting people out harder than it is elsewhere. South Louisiana presents some of the most daunting evacuation problems in the United States because:
    The region�s large population, including more than 1 million people in the New Orleans area, requires a 72- to 84-hour window for evacuation, well ahead of the time that forecasters can accurately predict a storm�s track and strength.
    Few north-south escape routes exist to move residents away from the coast, and many of those include low-lying sections that can flood days before a hurricane makes landfall.
    Evacuees must travel more than 80 miles to reach high ground, meaning more cars on the highways for a longer time as the storm approaches.
    A large population of low-income residents do not own cars and would have to depend on an untested emergency public transportation system to evacuate them.
    Much of the area is below sea level and vulnerable to catastrophic flooding. Based on the danger to refugees and workers, the Red Cross has decided not to operate shelters south of the Interstate 10-Interstate 12 corridor, leaving refuges of last resort that offer only minimal protection and no food or bedding.

    In an evacuation, buses would be dispatched along their regular routes throughout the city to pick up people and go to the Superdome, which would be used as a staging area. From there, people would be taken out of the city to shelters to the north.

    Some experts familiar with the plans say they won�t work.

    "That�s never going to happen because there�s not enough buses in the city," said Charley Ireland, who retired as deputy director of the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness in 2000. "Between the RTA and the school buses, you�ve got maybe 500 buses, and they hold maybe 40 people each. It ain�t going to happen."

  9. 9. I cannot say I am surprised by the number E-mails received from your readers in response to the Katrina disaster if only for the reason that N.Y. Civic and yourself understand that whatever level a servant of the public serves at, he/she has a responsibility, indeed , an obligation, to serve the Commonweal.

    Unfortunately, this view of the trust that the public places in its servants at all levels of government, local, State and Federal is not shared by many in government today. Rather, they come from an agenda that rings true to the words spoken by Pliny centuries ago: “Multi faman, conscientiam paucer verentur.”. Many fear their reputation, few their conscience.

    The very thought that a man in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would first consider how his agency would look in responding to a tragedy so dire as Katrina is as bilious as the water sustaining those who choose to remain in their homes in New Orleans.

    The fact that the initial reaction of his principal, the President of the United States, is: “…Brownie, you are doing a heck of a job…“should require both Brownie and his boss to drink of the waters of New Orleans and eat of the food sustaining these desperate persons and families longingly trying to hold on to their homes because that is all they have in this world. Unfortunately, these suffering citizens have no stable or fine stallion to spare or time to linger at their ranch.

  10. 10. Two friends of mine-paramedics attending a conference-were trapped in New
    Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. This is their eyewitness report. --PG

    Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences
    Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky

    Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at
    the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display
    case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without
    electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were
    beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked
    up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside
    Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and

    The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the
    windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The
    cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit
    juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did
    not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing
    away the looters.

    We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home
    yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a
    newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or
    front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the
    Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

    We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the
    National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims"
    of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real
    heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief
    effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a
    fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged,
    nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised
    thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity
    we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took
    over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing
    air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who
    rescued folks stuck in elevators.
    Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their
    neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped
    hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And
    the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising
    communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

    Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members
    of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for
    the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

    On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the
    French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like
    ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter
    from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends
    outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources
    including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the
    City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because
    none of us had seen them.

    We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with
    $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did
    not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did
    have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12
    hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had.
    We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born
    babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the
    buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived
    to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

    By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was
    dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime
    as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked
    their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the
    convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the
    City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would
    not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had
    descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole.
    The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the
    Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the
    police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we
    can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The
    guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra
    water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with
    callous and hostile "law enforcement".

    We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were
    told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water
    to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to
    decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command
    post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly
    visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we
    could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short
    order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He
    told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway
    and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up
    to take us out of the City.
    The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained
    to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong
    information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The
    commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that
    the buses are there."

    We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great
    excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals
    saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We
    told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few
    belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in
    strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and
    others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up
    the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did
    not dampen our enthusiasm.

    As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the
    foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing
    their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various
    directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched
    forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told
    them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's
    assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The
    commander had lied to us to get us to move.

    We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there
    was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank
    was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in
    their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not
    crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

    Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain
    under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an
    encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center
    divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be
    visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated
    freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen

    All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same
    trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned
    away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be
    verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented
    and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot.
    Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and
    disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers
    stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be
    hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New
    Orleans had become.

    Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck
    and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the
    freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight
    turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts.
    Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community,
    and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from
    the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated
    a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for
    privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even
    organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of
    C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

    This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When
    individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for
    yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or
    food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look
    out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

    If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in
    the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness
    would not have set in.

    Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families
    and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80
    or 90 people.

    From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was
    talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news
    organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked
    what they were going to do about all those families living up on the
    freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us.
    Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to

    Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was
    correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his
    patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking
    freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow
    away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck
    with our food and water.

    Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law
    enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed
    into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims"
    they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay
    together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small
    atomized groups.

    In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered
    once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought
    refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were
    hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were
    hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and
    shoot-to-kill policies.

    The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New
    Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search
    and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a
    ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the
    limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large
    section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and
    were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

    We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The
    airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of
    humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed
    briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast
    guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

    There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort
    continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were
    forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have
    air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two
    filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any
    possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were
    subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

    Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated
    at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food
    had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat
    for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not
    carrying any communicable diseases.

    This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt
    reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give
    her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us
    money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief
    effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need
    be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

  11. Anonymous2:34 PM

    Every level of government must share the blame in this horrific event. All levels were aware of the fragile state of the levee that helped to protect this city. Just as major American Corporations are out sourcing jobs to other countries, leaving the citizens here to fend for themselves, our government is out sourcing its military and guardsmen, leaving the home front defenseless in one of its greatess times of need. The residents of New Orleans may not have been high on the economic food chain of our society, but they were still tax paying citizens and deserved better then what government provided for them. This same government now further delays a recovery process by being selective of whose aid they will accept from the many offers around the world. Where is the humanity from our government? Will Haliburton be the only beneficiary from this disaster, being awarded the rebuilding contract of this wonderful city as they were for Bagdad? Wake up America. We need a government for all the people, not a selected few

  12. 12. Yes, it is easy to be critical and take cheap shots, and the first concern
    > now should be for the welfare of all those whose lives have been
    > It is hard to even think of the work that needs to be done--- draining the
    > flood waters, cleaning up, rebuilding, recreating an infrastructure, etc.
    > There are some legitimate concerns, and thank goodness we live in a free
    > society where we can vent our frustrations and anger.
    > First--- there was plenty of advance notice--- days before the hurricane
    > hit, all the
    > TV news stations broadcast about the threat of a direct Cat. 5 storm to
    > smack into New Orleans. This was going to
    > be a major destructive storm, striking multiple states. So with this
    > advance notice, what was done?
    > What recovery mechanisms were in place? What Nationa Guard units were
    > what ships
    > were sent to deal with the aftermath?
    > Second, who did the President choose to head FEMA? Mr. Brown, who had
    > experience?
    > Heading and Arabian Hourse Association--- oh, and he knew Bush campaign
    > people and he needed a job.
    > I don't know what I would do--- but at least I hope I wouldn't lead 20,000
    > people to a sports
    > stadium--- without any food or water or working plumbing. The
    > seems to have a problem with long term plans--- like what happens
    > And it appears there was looting and crime--- which isn't Bush's fault,
    > what does one do for
    > food when the stores are closed and one's family is literally starving?
    > That doesn't justify
    > the criminal behaviour of thugs and gang members, stealing and terrorizing
    > their own community.
    > It is a sad sight to see the United States looking like a sub-Sahara
    > dictatorship. Was this Ethiopia
    > or Darfur on the nightly news--- or the US? What does this do to our image
    > as the shining example for the world?
    > All this finger pointing and scapegoating does nothing, however, to solve
    > very real problem.
    > Our President seems to lack the capacity to deal with the crises we face
    > a nation--- the
    > very core of leadership. This was not Bush's finest hour--- flying over
    > scene two or three days late to check things out.
    > So what can we do better? Certainly we need better mechanisms for dealing
    > with future disasters---
    > which will, of course, happen. New Orleans has been flooded before, and
    > be flooded again.
    > And what about trying to think bigger--- how can we slow or minimize
    > in the future? What better ways can we evacuate cities, or build better
    > systems of dykes and levees, as in the Netherlands.
    > Who is doing long term meteorolgical study on hurricanes and how they
    > be avoided?
    > We are a nation of many brilliant and savvy people. We need to think
    > new and original solutions.
    > Ben Franklin was an autodidact with little scientific training--- but he
    > invented the lightning rod
    > and saved thousands of lives from "acts of God." And took out no patent,
    > earned
    > no money from that invention.
    > Where are our Franklins and Jeffersons and Edisons and
    > the BIGGER
    > problems--- bring the skies and our heavens into man's grasp.....

  13. 13. There is one point from your previous column that bothered me and that is
    the charge that President Bush did not care.
    People point to the several minutes he took to finish reading to the
    children or to the time he spent at the ranch when he could have sped his
    way to the Gulf.

    To me, I think this shows the character and deliberateness of the man.

    What exactly can be accomplished breaking off reading a story to children?
    And his ranch is more of a place to work than to relax. Life goes on, even
    in tragedy. To abruptly tear himself away from the children would be a move
    worthy of a tawdry publicity hog like Clinton et. al. It also shows how
    eager some are to smear President Bush----it's a cheap shot and, I felt,
    unworthy of you. I agree with you that a politician must show concern, but I
    bet few predicted the impact of this particular hurricane in hurricane
    season. As two old sayings go, "haste is waste" and "hindsight is always

  14. Frank Chaney7:11 PM

    I read every one of the comments to your initial posting regarding Katrina. While I didn't agree with everyone, I found most to be at the very least thoughtful and/or heartfelt. But I was astounded by the comment by "d.p." that "Government should address issues and let capitalism take over and invest in our safety." Even Adam Smith acknowledged that the invisible hand of the free market would not provide for certain societal needs for which there is no market. The belief that the free market can or will provide police and fire protection, disaster relief, national defense, etc., etc., is more than naive, it is foolish and dangerous - as Katrina has vividly demonstrated.

    My father always said, "You get what you pay for." He didn't believe in being penny wise and pound foolish. Don't buy cheap, he always advised me; you'll only be sorry in the long run.

    For 17 of the last 25 years, we've had a Republican in the White House. For the past decade now, the Republicans have controlled Congress. For the last 5 years Republicans have controlled both and have pretty much had the run of the place. The guiding principle for all of them over this quarter of a century has been cut taxes, shrink government. But you get the government you pay for. You can't do government on the cheap and expect the same level of effectiveness and services. As my father would've advised, you can buy a cheap car and save a few bucks up front, but you'll wind up paying more in the long run - not just in terms of the cost of repairs, but in terms of the hassle and inconvenience.

    Well, the Republicans have opted for spending less up front on government (e.g., cutting the Army Corps budget for New Orleans levees from $105 million to $40 million) and now we are all paying the higher costs. Maybe d.p. could tell us why capitalism didn't step in and take over the maintenance and repair of the levees. It was well known for years that they were sinking and in great need of investment. Of all the many private businesses not only in New Orleans but all over the country who relied on the city's shipping and oil facilities, not one of them stepped forward to fix the levees or to pay for having them fixed even though they had much to lose if they failed. If capitalism is the best protector of our health and safety, as d.p. asserts, why didn't the levees get fixed? Why didn't capitalism take over? And where has the private sector been in the aftermath? Wal-mart sent a half-dozen trucks of supplies, which is commendable but hardly constitutes "taking over."

    The Republican article of faith that private spending will better provide for the common good than government spending - held by Reagan supply-siders and George W. tax cutters alike - was and is a false hope. All we've gotten to show for such policies is mountains of debt (again, under Bush II after Clinton - the only Democratic president during the last quarter century - paid off the first mountain accumulated by Reagan and Bush I), a weakened and ineffective government, and the biggest increase in the numbers of Americans living in poverty since the Great Depression. And d.p. thinks what we need is more of the same that brought us to this point?

  15. Anonymous9:56 PM

    Tom Lipscomb, a New Orleans native and Chicago journalist, has an explanation of why the New Orleans Police Department deserted en masse, and why an evacuation of the most violent ghetto neighborhoods could not be accomplished: the cops feared for their lives in attempting to enforce a mandatory evacauation. Check out for details.

  16. 16. Just got around to answering your Katrina questions of the other day.

    1) The Feds must control issues involving the Mississippi River flood basin, since then Corps of Engineers caused it in the first place in their efforts o make NO a major seaport for moving oil.

    2) The hurricane itself did not cause a vast majority of the deaths. They came about from criminal negligence on the part of an incompetent and uncaring bureaucracy.

    4) Brown had been fired from the Horseman's group most likely because he was a poor (or corrupt) manager and if he couldn't handle that size organization who'd want him for FEMSA except a political hack.

    6&7) They were totally dumbfounded at what happened because I suspect they had little or no training. Notice how quickly NYC well-trained police, fire and civilians went to effective work.

    9) Their aim: Increase the labor pool and thereby lower the wages paid using the faltering U.S. economy as an excuse. Hey -- they were slaves once they should be used to it.

  17. Anonymous12:01 AM

    Hey, S.D. (#10):

    Don't you think you should have identified the political bias of your communist "friends"?

    To wit: "LARRY BRADSHAW and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY are emergency medical services (EMS) workers from San Francisco and contributors to Socialist Worker", where the article originated?

  18. Anonymous9:00 AM

    What strikes me about the whole discussion of the Hurricane Katrina disaster is the extent to which the "blame game" dominates the discussion, and the intractible cultural factors aren't even considered. Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco started the fingerpointing, which endangers the relief effort by distracting energy and attention from it, no matter who is at fault. For that reason alone, there's a choice place in hell for them and their fingerpointing buddies, including the media.

    The central fact of this disaster is the strike by Hurricane Katrina itself. The lefty fingerpointers have the gall to blame Bush for this. They might as well blame the President because the forces of gravity caused their milk to spill on the floor this morning.

    More to the point, there are intractible cultural factors at work here which no elected official could control. This is best pointed out in Tom Lipscomb's article about New Orleans, in which he points out that the officers of the New Orleans Police Department likely deserted en masse because they feared for their lives if they attempted to force residents out of one of the most vicious and violent ghettos in the country. Read it here:

    That's cultural, not political.

    And of course, there's the unpleasant likelihood that the fear of sheltering poor, black refugees, some of whom who might be the very violent criminals who preyed upon the vulnerable in the television footage, reared its ugly head in the refusal of surrounding middle class communities to provide sanctuary. That's an intractible public safety problem, and a cultural issue unique to impoverished, violent, crime-infested ghettos.

    Yet these very real issues are being overlooked in the heat of the "blame game". We all lose from such unjust recrimination. The most important political consideration at this time is whether the massive amounts of aid voted by Congress will be entrusted to the very state and local public officials who indulged in grotesque pork barrel spending of public funds in the past, and participated in the current disgraceful orgy of fingerpointing to absolve themselves of their own past sins.

  19. I think that as part of the rebuilding effort, the Federal Govt must make every effort to construct a dike system such as is used in England on the Thames or by the Dutch to hold back the North Sea. The Dutch lost thousands of people due to floods in the 1950s and vowed that it will never happen again and engineered a system of dikes. We must have a program to protect vulnerable population centers such as they did in Europe. They did the engineering. It's a matter of anteing up the money and mustering up the political will to do so. The Dutch did so and so did the British to protect their population centers. The knowhow is available. We can do it to bring the city of New Orleans back. Call it a form of insurance. What is cheaper? The cost of this investment or the cost of cleanup of another category 5? The political debate must start NOW in the halls of Congress to make this happen. GH

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