Affixing the blame

by Dave Schuler on September 2, 2005

I’m fuming after listening to various newscasters, commentators, and others trying to nail the blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina on somebody.

It is extremely early—less than 100 hours—in the relief process. We’re just beginning. We’re a rich, powerful country and, of course, we could have done better. The breast-beating that I’ve been seeing is unwarranted but, still, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

There’s one group that is completely and utterly blameless: the poorest of the poor in New Orleans, the sick, and the elderly who didn’t have cars to flee, couldn’t get buses to flee, and didn’t have any place to go or the money to stay there. These people put their reliance on city authorities and, obviously, that trust was misplaced. You might ask why these people were in a city with an economy that provided no jobs and no hope of doing so at all but that’s a much, much larger question.

The thugs, criminals, and animals who’ve been preying off the unfortunates stranded by the storm deserve blame. Deserve worse than blame. These weren’t people who were starving or desparate. Reports of looting began less than 24 hours after the hurricane struck. Look up starvation. It takes weeks or months to starve. If feeling a mite peckish is considered justification for looting, there isn’t a 7/11 in the country that’ll be left standing. These people just saw an opportunity and seized it. Don’t justify their actions.

The government of the city of New Orleans has been corrupt, incompetent, and criminal for as long as I can remember. I’ve read valiant defenses of Mayor Nagin as being the exception. Maybe so but very obviously he didn’t do enough. Anybody who thinks you can shut up the poor, weak, sick, and elderly up with a bunch of criminals in an athletic stadium for days on end without something going very seriously wrong needs to have their heads examined. I don’t care whether the stadium is in New Orleans or Houston. Most of the blame belongs to the officials of the city of New Orleans. They should have gotten the people out. Commandeered buses. Used city trucks. Used their personal cars. Figured out where to go and what to do later.

The government of the State of Louisiana has been corrupt and incompetent for as long as I can remember. After the officials of the city of New Orleans I blame the officials of the State of Louisiana. Louisiana continues to be one of the poorest, worst educated states in the Union and now without New Orleans the state is losing revenue at an incredible level. They knew there were problems. The inevitability of a major hurricane didn’t come as a surprise and the state’s efforts were, obviously, inadequate. Obviously, they thought they could do well enough without New Orleans and they’ll have to learn how now. Hindsight? Heck, yes. But there was an enormous amount of foresight that told them exactly what was was likely to happen.

I blame the media. In this country nearly everybody has a TV set. 80% of poor people have TV sets. The private media are the principle means of the public dissemination of information. They didn’t get the word out. They didn’t do enough to make the people take the danger of the situation with the seriousness it deserved. And I blame the media for the misdirection of blame from where it mostly belongs—individuals, local, and state officials—to the federal government and the President.

I blame the federal government. Either FEMA needs to behave as though they were dealing with emergencies or it should be abolished. We need to know whether FEMA is worthy of our trust. We don’t need an enormous federal bureaucracy to handle emergencies when they get around to it.

The Army Corps of Engineers says that they did their job and what they were authorized to do. I blame Congress for authorizing funds to build interstate highways in states like Hawaii with no interstate land traffic and boondoggles like the Big Dig in Massachusetts but won’t authorize the engineering and building to keep the Port of New Orleans in operation. They knew. They could have done something. It was their responsibility. They didn’t give a damn.

I blame the President. When the hurricane struck he should have dropped everything, gotten his best speechwriters, made a strong statement, and gone back to Washington. I’ve never known a politician with such a tin ear.

I blame the system. I blame all of us. From the cries of the people stranded in New Orleans you can tell they expected to be taken care of. I think that that belief was ill-founded but they clearly have it. Either we need to live up to those expectations a helluva lot better or we have to ensure that people know that when disaster strikes, they’re on their own.

Technorati tag: Hurricane Katrina

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Strong September 2, 2005 at 10:39 pm

Well said.

Solomon2 September 2, 2005 at 11:32 pm

I hope to be proved wrong. But just maybe, N.O. could have avoided drowning, and a key problem was human error — or lack of imagination.

On the Levees of New Orleans

Mrs. du Toit September 2, 2005 at 11:36 pm

If the Congress wouldn’t authorize the money to shore up the levies, then it was the responsibility of Louisiana to do it.

They have been working on the levies since 1965–a 10 year project. In the 1980s the problems were well known. Still nothing.

We are a nation of STATES, each responsible for their own internal matters. While I can agree, in principle, that some of our national priorities are screwed up, when there is a breakdown at the national level, then it is the responsibility of the States and the locals to fix the problem.

The Feds gave NO $40M for the levies. A $60M shortfall from what the Corps of Engineers needed. Are you suggesting that NEW ORLEANS, the home of Mardi Gras, one of the most famous tourist cities, on the mouth of the Mississippi, the 5th largest port in the WORLD, was incapable of raising the $60M shortfall? If that’s the case, there’s a whole lot more wrong in New Orleans than this.

We need to stop looking to the Feds for ANYTHING. That’s not their function. If NO is mismanaged, that is a problem for Louisiana to resolve.

We should not forget ANY of this as we move forward in the coming months. If Louisiana citizens are incapable of electing competent government, then the rest of the nation will take over. So much for “States Rights.” The state of Louisiana has surrendered their rights in incompetence and criminal negligence.

Dave Schuler September 3, 2005 at 12:11 am

Solomon2, you’re at least in part right. The pumps were the responsibility of the city; the levees of the Corps of Engineers (IIRC).

Connie, I agree with you in principle. But the Army Corps of Engineers has had complete responsibility for flood control along the Mississippi for quite some time now. It’s a classic governmental turf war. The ACE takes its direction from the Congress and the Chief Executive not the city of New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans should have been much more active on their own behalf. But as things stand (or, rather, stood) the levees were Congress’s baby.

And, no, New Orleans probably couldn’t have raised the money. It’s one of the poorest large cities in the nation. And it’s hopelessly corrupt. That’s two different kinds of “can’t”.

Marvin September 3, 2005 at 6:56 am

The police department of NO is corrupt, looting, deserting their posts. The Louisiana state government is incompetent and corrupt. Time to be honest about all this. Sugar coating the responsibility of the locals for the devastation and anarchy is not smart. It doesn’t help solve the problem.

Yes, New Orleans could have raised the money. But corruption prevented the local government from doing it. But they could have done it. What kind of idiot chooses to live inside a low lying storm basin?

Jack September 4, 2005 at 1:37 pm

I agree with what you wrote. I have a post that covers much the same ground as you do (except for the corrupt governments at all levels in New Orleans and Louisiana), and assigns more responsibility for the systemic problems to us, the citizens, who have through our votes or non-votes allowed the system to get to such a state.

Exo September 4, 2005 at 5:34 pm

Listen, I’m a foreigner, I don’t understand all this back and forth about states rights and federal government, but I know one thing: Either you are a country, a nation, a superpower or your NOT.

And you want Iraq to adopt the same federalist constitution? It is a recipe for disunity, greed, every man/state for itself style of government.

This is a major moment for America, your reputation as a country is stained. It has a big watermark. This is goes way beyond states rights or beyond race. This is America’s “Berlin Wall” moment. ALL your houses are exposed and your president’s clothes are floating in the street. Its up to the American people now. Start holding your leadership accountable.

Dave Schuler September 4, 2005 at 6:51 pm

You’re right, Exo, you don’t understand. Neither the city of New Orleans nor the state of Louisiana are departments of the federal government as they would be in many countries. The President of the United States explicitly does not have the power to order the military into New Orleans to preserve order without being asked to do so by the governor of Louisiana. Doing so would be a grave abuse of power and would be grounds for impeachment. However we might dislike the outcome failing to order the military into New Orleans to preserve order is not, on the other hand, an impeachable offense.

The governor of Louisiana did not make such a request on a timely basis nor did she order the National Guard into New Orleans as she has the power to do.

Being the most powerful nation in the world does not mean we’re all powerful. Believe me, we’re painfully aware of this. And it in no way indemnifies us against hurricane damage or flooding.

Iraq is not relevant to this discussion, I frankly don’t give a damn about what kind of constitution they have (or whether Iraq continues to exist), and as far as the U. S. is concerned their constitution is up to them. Do we have suggestions? Sure.

I think your last paragraph is overwrought. The United States is the oldest liberal democracy in the world. We’ve had natural disasters before and lived through them. We’ll live through this one, too. If you study the history of the United States, you’ll learn that the process that you’re seeing right now of squabbling and criticizing and pointing fingers gives our system strength. There are lots of voices here struggling to be heard. Our national motto is E pluribus unum, “from many, one”. You’re seeing the many right now.

We’ll hold our leadership accountable—at the polling booths. I doubt that either the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana or the head of FEMA will hold onto their jobs. And, of course, Bush is ineligible to run for election again.

Marvin September 4, 2005 at 7:15 pm

It is valuable to hear from people such as Exo, for americans to understand the vast ignorance that people from other countries have regarding the american system of government. I would suggest that were the Netherlands within a major hurricane zone, that much worse devastation and human behaviour and ineptitude would display itself, due to the growing influx of muslim immigrants there.

Jack September 5, 2005 at 12:13 am

Americans do not only need to undersand the vast ignorance that people from other countries have about the system of government in the United States, Americans need to understand their own vast ignorance of the rest of the world.

The ignorance goes both ways, as one who considered myself well-educated AND well-traveled, my experience as an expatriate has taught me many things, including how much I did NOT know, despite all of my active attempts of before to learn as much about the world at large as I could.

If I had been actively trying to learn about the world and fell short, how much does the average citizen who is mainly concerned about every-day survival really know?

Don’t be so sanguine about the ignorance of others without first looking in the mirror.

Dave Schuler September 5, 2005 at 1:51 am

Just for the record, Jack, I’ve lived and worked in Europe and speak several languages other than English. I agree with you that it would be excellent if Americans were more knowledgeable and understanding about other countries. And less cocksure and reflexively xenophobic.

I also think, however, that the ignorance of Americans about other countries is somewhat overstated. There are nearly as many Francophones in the United States as there are in France and as many German-speakers in the United States as there are in Germany. There are probably more Spanish-speakers in the United States than in any country other than Mexico. There are probably as many Russian-speakers in the United States as there are in any country other than Russia. Significantly more Americans have visited or worked in France than vice versa. The same is true for for Germany and the United Kingdom. The reason: the United States is a big, rich country and we travel a lot.

SherAn September 5, 2005 at 3:48 am

The mayor did not personally select the Superdome as the shelter of choice. It was mandated by a commission. The governor declared an emergency on Saturday, sent the president a letter asking him to declare Louisiana a national disaster area (and he did so) on Saturday BEFORE the storm. Once an area is declared a national disaster area, then it is the responsibility of FEMA to coordinate all operations. The governor also activated the Louisiana National Guard on Saturday before the storm, but the paperwork had to go through all the channels — including the bureaucracy in D.C. — and the request wasn’t approved by national until the 1st, three days after the storm hit. These are all facts; I’m not making this up. It appears to me that you’ve succumbed to the spin cycle.

I’m frankly fed up with all the lies coming out of this administration. It’s gone on for four and a half years, it never stops, and it seems to become more ingrained by the day, by the week. I can no longer trust any report coming out of D.C. I can no longer trust anything coming from the mouths of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al. Once the trust is gone, what — please tell me — is left?

While we citizens of these “United States” pay record gasoline prices, Bush sits and twiddles his thumbs. During the last crisis, Nixon put in price controls, lowered the speed limit, and took several other actions that made a huge difference.

While the impact from the “typical” natural disaster is generally transient, that will not be the case in Hurricane Katrina. The port of New Orleans was one of the five busiest in the world. The imports/exports going through that port dwarf the revenue from the petrochemical industry in the same area by a factor of something like five to one. These port facilities are in utter shambles and will not again be operational for quite some time. That is the national emergency, aside from the human tragedy that is unfoldiing. The loss of that port will profoundly impact our national economy.

So for all the right-wing, uber-partisan flacks and hacks, stuff a sock in it. Your boy Georgie effed up major big time. The loss of New Orleans is realistically placed among the top three disasters at the top of the list for the reasons above as well as a number of others.

Much of the physical damage could have been mitigated. The liabilities were well studied, the plans were laid, and the funding was denied. How many of us can successfully argue that $100-150 million to repair and upgrade the levee system protecting New Orleans is less a priority than a $300 million bridge in Alaska that will connect a village of 50 people to the mainland? Ted Stevens, king of pork, got his bridge to nowhere funded, and the levee system was cast aside but for an allocation of some $5-6 million.

It is estimated that thousands of people have lost their lives in Louisiana and Mississippi. Were it not for the greed of the developers and politicans along the Mississippi coast, the Mississippi portion of that toll would have been substantially fewer than the 150-200 projected. But for the dishonesty and greed of our national politicians, how many thousands in Louisiana would still be alive and cleaning up the debris in their yards if this Congress and this president had not cut funds for levee repair and upgrade every year since Bush has been in office? Every year, not just this year!

So, please, stop listening to the spin and get your facts straight.

cirby September 5, 2005 at 4:24 am

SherAn:

“Once an area is declared a national disaster area, then it is the responsibility of FEMA to coordinate all operations”

This is explicitly false. The fact that you can say it seriously shows that you have not one single clue about how the system works.

Once an area is declared a disaster area, it’s the responsibility of the locals to coordinate all of their operations, to request aid from the state (who orders in the National Guard, for example), and to request aid from organizations like FEMA (who writes checks and sends in people to help the locals).

Most of FEMA’s job is to write checks to pay for the things above, with some management of parts of the coordination. They only have 2500 full-time employees nationwide, and very few of them are field disaster workers.

TS September 5, 2005 at 10:41 am

Okay. Instead of all the guessing, I actually took the time to look up the course of action from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) handbook published in December 2004 and here is what I found:

Department of Homeland Security

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 established DHS to
prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;
reduce the vulnerability of the United States to
terrorism, natural disasters, and other emergencies; and
minimize the damage and assist in the recovery from
terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other
emergencies. The act also designates DHS as “a focal
point regarding natural and manmade crises and
emergency planning.”

Secretary of Homeland Security
Pursuant to HSPD-5, the Secretary of Homeland Security
is responsible for coordinating Federal operations
within the United States to prepare for, respond to, and
recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other
emergencies. HSPD-5 further designates the Secretary
of Homeland Security as the “principal Federal official”
for domestic incident management.
In this role, the Secretary is also responsible for
coordinating Federal resources utilized in response to or
recovery from terrorist attacks, major disasters, or other
emergencies if and when any of the following four
conditions applies:
(1) a Federal department or agency acting under its
own authority has requested DHS assistance;
(2) the resources of State and local authorities are overwhelmed
and Federal assistance has been requested;
(3) more than one Federal department or agency has
become substantially involved in responding to the
incident; or
(4) the Secretary has been directed to assume incident
management responsibilities by the President.

You can read more at http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRPbaseplan.pdf

It seems to me that many individuals did not carry out their full duty to protect the people left in harms way, which is actually very sad. We can continue to place blame and escalate the angry feelings we have toward those who didn’t do their job, but that would waste a great deal of energy that is needed to tend to the individuals that need our help.

My husband is a mental health counselor who is trained in crisis intervention during disasters, such as this, and he is a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Needless to say, he has spent a great deal of time providing support not only to some of the citizens that have been brought to our city, but also some of the volunteers that are having a difficult time seeing others suffer so much. The majority of people in the USA do care about others and are feeling very helpless about what they can do to ease the pain of those that were devasted (that is why we have all these discussion sites).

I believe the most important action the American people can take is to become more educated and involved our government (local, state and federal) and what laws and policies they are proposing and enacting. Knowledge is power! It is what takes us from crisis intervention to crisis prevention. Knowing the facts beforehand allows us to make better decisions overall. It also sends a message to our elected officials that we understand what is going on and are going to hold them accountable……or else we will use our vote on someone else.

Susan Yarborough September 5, 2005 at 8:51 pm

Thanks to SherAn and Exo. For the rest of you, I am appalled that you know so little about the history, geography, and ecology of the Mississippi Delta, and the importance of that area to the U.S. economy. Don’t you know that the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins, to name but three, are at the core of the Great Plains and Midwest commercial routes? This is a national disaster for the national economy, so try to focus. Also, a small point of geography, a large proportion of the Netherlands it’s most populous part, actually, is below sea level. The Dutch have a tremendous dike system that protects them from the storm surges of the North Sea, and the last thing in the world their their legislature would try to cut from the budget is funds to keep those dikes in the best possible shape. But then they are more in touch with the physical realities of their lives than the vast majority of Americans seem to be. And Mrs. du Toit, isn’t it time you figured out that you cannot run a nation on the proceeds from bake sales.

Jennifer in New Orleans September 6, 2005 at 5:43 am

First, let me applaud this editorial. I agree that everyone — beginning with the Feds who refused to fund coastal reclaimation projects, continuing through the Mayor, who failed to find a means for the immobile to evacuate, and finally on to FEMA who was totally clueless — has failed New Orleans.

But I must also take issue with Mrs. du Toit, not only because of her insistence that Louisiana handle “their” problem, but also because she is sorely ignorant of the facts.

1. Do you perceive Mardi Gras as some giant moneymaking scheme that leaves New Orleans awash in funds? Or even more so, that the government could some how turn funds away from supporting Mardi Gras and use them for levees? If so, you are wrong. Mardi Gras is a boon to the economy — to the hotels and restaurants that hosts visitors. However, the city does NOT pay for Mardi Gras. The krewes — one of which I was formerly a member of (and publicity director for) — pay for Mardi Gras in its entirety. They even pay the city to provide police protection, crowd control, the cost of setting up and tearing down public stands, and every other city-incurred expense. Regarding profits, Louisiana nets a boon in hotel/motel tax, and the city gets some of that, but I can assure you that amount of money is carefully calculated into the budget.

Additionally, were you aware that New Orleans largely supports the state of Louisiana? It provides by far the lion’s share of tax (especially hotel/motel tax) revenues and does not receive an equal amount in services or returned funds. That has long been a problem that plagues the city. Despite its poverty, many rural areas (such as Poverty Point) are even worse off and depend on New Orleans as their Boeuf Gras (Fatted Bull or Cow for the uninformed).

Additionally, New Orleans gives a property tax exclusion for the first $75,000 of all properties to enable low-income families to keep their homes. This has long been debated as idiotic, as it applies to everyone (even those with $2 million homes), but it is a fact, nonetheless, that has affected New Orleans’ ability to raise funds.

Finally, Louisiana and New Orleans do not receive a fair share of the revenues generated by the oil and gas economy that they largely support. This is due to stupid deals that politicians made in the 70s and 80s to shore up the economy and pat some backs at the same time. Again, a bad decision, but one that affects the current situation, just the same.

Oh, and by the way, before you resign responsibility for the situation to New Orleans, let’s talk about the wetlands again — and the Corps of Engineers. The Corps (a national agency) was the shortsighted fool who designed the current levee system in the first place, strangling the wetlands that protect New Orleans. (It did not build the first levees, but it most definitely had a guiding hand in the current water diversion projects that are destroying the coast.

If we had not been losing wetlands below New Orleans at the rate of 25 square miles per year, Katrina might well have expended more of her fury down there.

Second, they were charged with this duty originally because of New Orleans’ strategic importance (it WAS the initial impetus for the Louisiana Purchase, you know). In 1995, the Federal government considered New Orleans important enough (that silly “largest port in the US and fifth largest in the world” thing) to allocate over $400 million dollars to shoring up levees and building pumping stations. However, more pressing matters — namely rebuilding the garden they call Iraq and, ironically, funding Homeland Security, reduce the flow of federal dollars to a trickle. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

The Feds botched it, and now you say that impoverished Louisiana, which generously produces or imports 1/3 of the oil used by the US without receiving a fair share of revenues in return, should suck it up and foot the bill?

Get a grip. Get a clue. Heck, get a life. That’s what hundreds of thousands of suffering New Orleanians are trying to do at this moment.

cwb September 7, 2005 at 9:28 am

varieated and passionate discussion thread.
some good some not so good.

Steve Anonymous September 7, 2005 at 10:01 am

Just FYI, according to this report…

http://www.timbro.com/euvsusa/pdf/EU_vs_USA_English.pdf

… 97.3% of US poor households have a color TV. Also, 55.3% have 2 or more color TV sets. And 62.6% have cable or satellite TV.

Let’s be blunt. Our poor our comparatively rich.

Melissa September 7, 2005 at 11:31 am

Criminal politicians and just plain criminals have long called New Orleans and Louisiana home. Self-interest trumped civic interest. This is not so strange–Detroit and Las Vegas come to mind as similar examples.

But New Orleans had even more strikes against it–location, pervasive ignorance and pervasive poverty.

First location: being a huge port should be huge economic boon but there’s that corruption thing–selling out the future for selfish graft today. The negative of course is its geography and exposure to potential natural disasters.

Second ignorance: the voters continually voted for people who hurt them, their city and their future.

Third poverty: when you elect people who serve themselves, they aren’t serving you. Chances are, no help is coming from your local elected officials.

Is the federal government, army corp of engineers, Homeland Security, culpable as well? Yes. But a state run by servants and advocates rather than bloated beurocrats and buffoons would fight for their own survival.

These voters lived in a carved out bowl surrounded by levees–by choice. These voters voted, repeatedly, for people who were either filled with apathy and disregard or completely inept or fully corrupt or all of the above.

Nobody, including the residents, truly believed anything bad was going to happen. Approximately 186,000 and counting out of 462,269 people (2004′s number) stayed behind as a Category 5 Hurricane barrelled their way. How many people chose to stay behind? A lot more people than couldn’t leave is my prediction. (Hopefully hard numbers will be found through studies. This whole tragedy is a study in human behavior in crisis.)

New Orleans has long suffered a state of denial. Now it suffers death and destruction.

Nancy Reyes September 7, 2005 at 1:47 pm

Thousands of Americans are helping, but they don’t get on CNNI which is bash bush all the time (although their CNNUSA feeds are more balanced).
On my blog, I decided to post what people are actually doing…
Lots of the stuff I am reading ignores reality.
First, you have to wait til the winds die down and then for reports who needs stuff beforeyou send in the Feds…
So all too often, the local Baptist church is the place that sends the first help.
As for evacuation…the hospitals and nursing homes should have been empty. Shame on them…but to evacuate a city costs money and will actually cause deaths… You need local officials with plans…and then you have to follow the plans…
But outsiders need to figure out which area needs the most help…and that takes time…

SDN September 7, 2005 at 4:38 pm

I found the following facts with about 30 minutes of Googling.

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act,
as amended by Public Law 106-390, October 30, __2000__

http://www.fema.gov/library/stafact.shtm#sec501

1) § 5191. PROCEDURE FOR DECLARATION {Sec. 501}
a.Request and declaration

All requests for a declaration by the President that an emergency
exists shall be made by the Governor of the affected State. Such
a request shall be based on a finding that the situation is of
such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the
capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and
that Federal assistance is necessary. As a part of such request,
and as a prerequisite to emergency assistance under this Act, the
Governor shall take appropriate action under State law and direct
execution of the State’s emergency plan. The Governor shall
furnish information describing the State and local efforts and
resources which have been or will be used to alleviate the
emergency, and will define the type and extent of Federal aid
required. Based upon such Governor’s request, the President may
declare that an emergency exists.

The law which set up DHS did not supersede that:
http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?theme=16&content=353
“The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Act, Public Law 93-288, as amended (the Stafford Act) was enacted
to support State and local governments and their citizens when
disasters overwhelm them. This law establishes a process for
requesting and obtaining a Presidential disaster declaration,
defines the type and scope of assistance available under the
Stafford Act, and sets the conditions for obtaining that assistance.”

The governor of Louisiana refused to request the aid, according
to CNN and the Mayor of New Orleans.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0509/05/ltm.01.html

The city of New Orleans had a disaster plan:

http://www.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?portal=46&tabid=26

They just didn’t follow any of it.

It specifically dealt with evacuations:

“The safe evacuation of threatened populations when endangered by
a major catastrophic event is one of the principle reasons for
developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The
thorough identification of at-risk populations, transportation
and sheltering resources, evacuation routes and potential
bottlenecks and choke points, and the establishment of the
management team that will coordinate not only the evacuation but
which will monitor and direct the sheltering and return of
affected populations, are the primary tasks of evacuation
planning. Due to the geography of New Orleans and the varying
scales of potential disasters and their resulting emergency
evacuations, different plans are in place for small-scale
evacuations and for citywide relocations of whole populations.

Authority to issue evacuations of elements of the population is
vested in the Mayor. By Executive Order, the chief elected
official, the Mayor of the City of New Orleans, has the authority
to order the evacuation of residents threatened by an approaching
hurricane.”

And what resources could the Mayor have used, under his control?
How about the 205 school buses less than two miles (by
interstate) from the dome. Here’s a satellite shot of the
relevant area. Dome lower left, busses upper right.

http://static.flickr.com/29/40244779_2dae39be47_o.jpg

Note that the NO public transit had an additional 364 busses
available. And both sets had the fuel they use for everyday
operations.

The state government had a plan from 2000:
http://www.ohsep.louisiana.gov/plans/EOPSupplement1a.pdf

Paragraph 5 on page 13 states:
“5. The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal
vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles
and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to
provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation
and require assistance in evacuating.”

Also see page 18, paragraph 2a 2 and 3.

Page 20, paragraph 3a 5.

Page 21, paragraph c 4.

Page 29, all of it.

This little quote from Army regs is interesting:

http://www.webpal.org/webpal/a_reconstruction/immediate/martial_law/fm100_19.pdf

“State and local officials have primary responsibility for emergency preparedness planning and responsibilities.” Field Manual 100-19, Domestic Support Operations, p. 2-9

Now, I know that you guys would want President Bush to ignore all those laws anytime he feels like.

This is why you keep the government limited folks: someday, your side might not control it!

As for trashing FEMA:

FEMA (as an agency) hasn’t been worth the powder it would take to
blow it away for years. This article was written in 1995 (under whose Administration? what party?):

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2005/0509.franklin.html

“In everything it did, FEMA appeared to live up to the
description once given to it by South Carolina Sen. Ernest
Hollings: “the sorriest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses I’ve ever
known.” ”

So what was the suggestion of the Congress to improve it? Stack
another layer of bureaucracy on top called DHS, AGAINST PRES.
BUSH’S WISHES:

http://cfrterrorism.org/security/dhs.html

“Did the Bush administration initially want a cabinet department
on homeland security?
No. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
the Bush administration tried a more modest restructuring of
America’s homeland defenses by creating a White House office to
handle domestic security, headed by Tom Ridge. But congressional
critics warned that the White House homeland security office fell
short, noting that federal agencies were trying to buck Ridge’s
oversight and that Ridge had no budgetary authority over the
agencies he sought to coordinate.”

“Moreover, some policy experts warn that important agency
missions unrelated to homeland security—such as the main focus of
the Coast Guard, search and rescue at sea—could suffer.”

And, of course, congresscritters (from both parties) are still
squabbling over the allocation of money, each trying to carve off
money for their states, whether they need it or not.

Which brings up the next point: logistics (you know, what the
professionals study).

http://moltenthought.blogspot.com/2005/09/katrina-aftermath-choke-lwm-moment-749.html

On another site, this is a simple set of calculations I found:

> Let n be the number of buses needed to to shift people from
> one place to the other. Let x be the number of miles you need
> to shift these people to get them to “saftey”. Let y be the
> number of people you can shift per bus. Let p be the total
> population you’ve got to move. Let h be the time you’ve got to
> move them in.
>
> The simple calculation is: n=p/y
>
> How many people on a bus? Well, let’s assume a big bus, I
> think that’s around 70 people, and we’re going to move them
> 300 miles from the coast (the effected area reaches inland /at
> least/ 120 miles, my daughter lives in Central MS, and as of 3
> this afternoon they were w/out power and she was heading to
> Atlanta to be with her mom)
>
> How many people have we got to move? 2000:
>
> 29=2000/70 (this is integer math, we get whole buses so we
> round up).
>
> 10000 people: 143 buses.
>
> 100,000 people: 1429 busses.
>
> Now, 1429 buses is a lot. And that’s also 1429 drivers that
> have to be gotten somewhere on time etc. Where are you going
> to get that many? You won’t. You can’t. The buses in the
> damaged areas cannot be planned on, nor can the drivers (they
> have families etc.). So you do with fewer buses but make
> multiple trips, this gets even worse, because now you add time
> into it, and it becomes about how long it takes to shift
> people, and how many you can shift per trip or hour.

Bear in mind that you also have to consider gasoline, motor oil, tires, etc., all of which have to be positioned within bus radius of the coast, WITHIN the zone of destruction which means that like the busses and drivers mentioned above they cannot be relied on once the emergency is over. But before the emergency part begins, those resources are available within the local jurisdiction, if you are willing to use them in advance and accept the disruptions to normal life that will result, even when you guess wrong. Yes, that does include gasoline; you just issue the drivers a license that authorizes them to fill up at local gas stations, and you make sure that the state’s gasoline wholesalers understand that when the state of emergency is declared, the gas stations along the evacuation route have absolute priority on delivery. And as I noted above, Hizzonor the (Democratic) Mayor of New Orleans, and Her Excellency (Democratic) Governor Blanco had all the authority they needed to kick this off.

Here’s another logistics post, from a guy who’s actually done it.

http://iraqnow.blogspot.com/2005/09/what-does-it-take-to-move-just-one.html
“Think the shortage of available fuel for 300 miles might put a crimp on any Federal response?”

Let’s dispose of another myth: “All the National Guard’s in Iraq so we didn’t have enough!”

The LA National Guard has 11,500 troops.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/arng-la.htm

Approximately 3500 of them are deployed, most as part of the 256th Infantry brigade (Mech).

3,500/11,500 = 30%

Notably at least one Combat Engineer Group, the 225th, is still in LA. And, again, any group you bring in just adds more to the logistics burden.

I realize that trashing Bush trumps all other considerations, but I pray to the God of the Engineer that none of you is responsible for running something I need for anything besides entertainment.

SDN September 7, 2005 at 4:41 pm

Probably should make it clear that this comment was directed against the SherAnn side of the house.

Responsibility September 7, 2005 at 6:30 pm

You’re right. Know why things were so bad in LA?

BECAUSE THE MEDIA LET THOSE FOLKS DOWN.

The talking heads and whining libs who are crying about how big poppa Bush didn’t save everyone right away are the same idiots who were NOT running serious warnings to folks in the path of a hurricane to evacuate. They had a duty to use their public airwaves and media outlets to warn the public that one of the most serious disasters ever seen in this country was bearing down on them. But, the victims didn’t get the overwhelming chorus telling them what was about to happen, their families didn’t call them from Maryland to demand they evacuate, and the local grifter-politicos didn’t feel the heat to put some sort of response together–because the national news networks was more concerned about some crazy woman in Texas than with the lives of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans.

Next time someone asks why things were so bad in LA, you tell them it was Keith Olberman’s fault.

TS September 9, 2005 at 9:22 pm

To SDN

The National Response Plan published in December 2004 takes into account the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, but it is put into context of a new organization.

This is the first paragraph from the Preface page

“In Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5, the President directed the development of a new National
Response Plan (NRP) to align Federal coordination structures, capabilities, and resources into a unified, alldiscipline,
and all-hazards approach to domestic incident management. This approach is unique and far reaching in
that it, for the first time, eliminates critical seams and ties together a complete spectrum of incident management
activities to include the prevention of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from terrorism, major natural
disasters, and other major emergencies. The end result is vastly improved coordination among Federal, State, local,
and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America’s communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness,
and efficiency of incident management.

This document does override all others and specifically states that the secretary of FEMA is the point person. Please read the document so that you fully understand the process.

Brady Westwater September 20, 2005 at 9:45 am

Meanwhile… the President – again – has had to force Nagin to stop putting the citizens of New Orleans in danger. After Mayor Nagin tried to move a quarter of a million people BACK into a city with no safe running water, spotty power, deadly standing water, no working sewers or sanitation – and levees that could burst with even moderate rainfall, it still has taken repeated demands from everyone in the federal government to stop him.

And once the WWL-TV interview he gave on Sunday morning where he lied and lied and lied to the citizens of New Orleans about the dangers facing them (even afer he was forced to declare a ‘mandatory’ evacuation) is again shown, maybe the press will finally expose him for the deadly nut case he is.

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