Sunday, September 04, 2005

Massive Reality Check

Skip this post if you like.

I'm going to feel like a major dick if I don't mention Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and I just continue on with my dumb little Boob War in my Happy Little Blogland. I don't mean to get all heavy on your ass, but I feel vaguely guilty glibly chatting about comic books while my brothers and sisters from the Gulf States are hurting, so I thought I'd take a moment to vent and encourage you to help if you can.

I don't think I'm alone among Americans who is more than a little pissed about the way the rescue and relief efforts were handled, particularly by the jokers who run FEMA and Homeland Security and by a certain executive branch. What exactly was their evacuation plan? "Everybody drive your Lexus north out of the city - everybody else goes to Thunderdome!" To put it in comic book terms, it was just shy of the Batman No Man's Land storyline. These are the people who are going to take care of business if somebody sets off a dirty bomb in Chicago?
You can't "blame" a hurricane on anyone, and the total breakdown in the aftermath was not solely the fault of the feds - I'm certain there were some major cock-ups on the state and local level as well. But the long and the short of it is that for several critical days this past week, the government didn't take care of its own citizens - and that sucks. I'm not being partisan here, I'm just calling it like I see it.
There are many valid ways to help other than donating to the American Red Cross (I'm not, I'm doing a donation thing at my office) but I thought I'd put a link up as a token of support. I know if Mt. Rainier erupted or if Puget Sound got hit by a tsunami, I'd want my fellow Americans to help me out - particularly my government.

Okay, I feel better. Back to the funny ha-ha.


Anonymous said...

FYI: Apple has made it ridiculously easy to donate to the Red Cross through the iTunes Music Store.

If you already buy music through it, it's quick and painless.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you communist.


Woody! said...

It's funny how you mentioned No Man's Land because I really couldn't buy into the overall concept. The fact that the U.S. Government would abandon one of their cities, no matter how far gone, seemed ludicrous. I never felt they would write it off as lost cause.

Until now.

Matt Shepherd said...

I'm glad you mentioned No Man's Land too, largely because it was one of the first things to cross my mind and I felt a little weird about seeing the dystopian nightmares of DC Comics spring to life before my very eyes.

And yeah, Woody, the NML scenario is wayyyy closer to plausible in my mind now than they were a week ago, too.

Chris Arndt said...

I'll just point out that it isn't the responsibility of the federal government to plan natural disaster protocols for the cities.

In fact, state law for the relevent location, as well as a few federal ones, prevent and forbid the POTUS to order mandatory evacuations of cities in LA or to intefere with certain bits of business.

In other words, POTUS advised the Mayor to order a mandatory evacuation, the Mayor did dick until hours later, and the city hurricane protocol sent citizens to a so-called shelter that had no officials in charge.

Mayor Nagin let his own constituents twist in the wind while the federal government finally got the permit to go ahead and.... show us that the federal government is not the pinnacle of disaster competence, regardless of who is President.

When the feds come, I don't expect Superman. I expect Ambush Bug.

Anonymous said...

I'll second what Chris A said. Compare and contrast the situations in MS, AL, and LA and see where the breakdown was. All the federal preparation in the world won't help if local & state officials can't get their people out of the way and secure to the best of their ability. If nothing else, we can draw a couple lessons from this: government is not always going to be able to protect you, learn to prepare for yourself; and stuff like this is always (horribly) a learning experience: what worked, what didn't, what can be done differently next time both before and after it hits the fan.

gorjus said...

I disagree in the most strenuous terms possible. Chris, you're talking like we're on the Beltway, sketching for space in the margins of the budget.

We're not. This isn't trimming pork off a spreadsheet, this is lives. The federal government has immense powers to step in when ANYTHING goes across state lines, or when imminent disaster is threatened that has a multi-state impact. Quite frankly, the response was terrible.

One thing that the government often handles quite well and with great efficiency (through its military powers) is transport of personnel and equipment. Distribution is a key part of any large entity, and the military has it down pat. Smaller entities--like parishes, counties, and so forth--cannot handle large-scale movement of persons or items. This is also why your Bud Lite is cheaper at Wal-Mart than a local store.

So while there may be legitimate arguments that government is not the most efficient model in providing other goods and services, when we're talking about human lives? We do quite well.

Similarly, Ryan W, I'm not sure what you're talking about at all when you're wanting to contrast Mississippi and New Orleans. NOLA has more people in it than my state does AT ALL, let alone only the bottom half of the state, which was most impacted by Katrina (although power outages went up as far north as you can go). The physical challenges contrasted between a beach/coastal area with a relatively less-dense population area in Mississippi is far, far different than even navigating through uptown in New Orleans.

As I could tell you, because I've never gotten lost down on (what was) Highway 90, but I've gotten drunk and lost in New Orleans in a heartbeat. Hell, I've gotten sober and lost.

Sorry if I'm cranky. My power just came on and I just now found gasoline--only had to wait in line a half-hour, which is better than the three-hour waits a couple days back.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Gorjus on this one.

"Learn to prepare for yourself"? Many of the people stuck behind were too poor, sick, elderly, or young to effectively help themselves. Where do you go when you don't have a car, or money to buy gas? Or if you're stuck in a nursing home? Or if you're Crazy Old Cat Lady?

It's the responsibility of all levels of government to make sure our most vulnerable citizens are taken care of. This idea seems in direct contrast to the small government, everybody-for-themselves philosophy of the folks running our federal government.


gorjus said...

I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but I disagreed with my colleagues' earlier comments simply on the basis of who should bear the burden. I didn't know that they were also factually incorrect.

According to this well-sourced timeline at , Mayor Nagin declared a mandatory evacuation on the morning of Katrina. By the next day, the president was still eating birthday cake.

In addition, a friend of mine who is a little brighter about this stuff reminded me that the levees are certainly under the control of the federal government, as they are the brainchildren/stepchildren of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Okay, I swear I'm going to talk about Boob War, now.

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