September 4, 2005

"Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals."

The Washington Post reports on the power struggles in the Katrina aftermath:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

I can't imagine letting even one person die to protect my political reputation. How many people died because of self-protective decisions like what this article suggests Blanco did?

UPDATE: As to the last sentence of the WaPo quote, the newspaper now has a correction at the link:
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

There's much discussion in the comments, much of it fueled by seeing this mistake by the paper, about whether the administration officials are "lying" about their attempts to wrest control from the governor and her resistance. I'm not seeing any evidence that this part of the article is wrong.

135 comments:

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Doesn't this establish pretty clearly that, short of say sending in the FBI with guns drawn, there wasn't a bunch that Bush could have done?

L. Ron Halfelven said...

If you accept the Administration's version of events, Charles, which is pretty much what we're getting here. At this point it's hard to know whom to believe.

Brendan said...

Good Lord. It really is a banana republic down there. Everyone, and I mean everyone will be taken to the woodshed in good time, but that's hardly the most pressing concern at the moment.

Casey Brown said...

"How many people died because of self-protective decisions like what this article suggests Blanco did?"

The mounting evidence would suggest pretty much all of them.

Beldar said...

Local and state officials in New Orleans and Louisiana have the incredible luxury of knowing to a practical and moral certainty -- entirely without regard to any conceivable sequence of facts on the ground -- that no matter what they do or don't do, their political base will blame the Bush Administration for any- and everything that goes wrong, and deny credit to the Bush Administration for any- and everything that might (eventually) go right. Heads Bush loses, tails Bush's opponents win. Normal incentives for performance and disincentives for nonperformance simply don't apply; and innocent people will suffer for that.

Sloanasaurus said...

The media loves to fuel the political divide and hatred.

Since the media has now declared it a giant catastrophic faiure on the part of Bush and the federal government, maybe the federal government should just pack up and go home. How much worse of a failure can it be at this point?

Elizabeth said...

To save my sanity, I'm sitting back until things shake out. It's apparent failures have happened at all levels. But I want to warn againt getting comfortable with believing the debacle is all local. The two men in charge of federal emergency management, Brown of FEMA and Chertoff of Homeland Security, are woefully unqualified for their jobs. This is significant for the whole country. Brown, according to the Boston Herald, got the job through an old college buddy, and was fired for incompetence at his last job, running horse shows for god's sake. Chertoff has no experience, and is basically a political contributor. We shouldn't tolerate that from any administration, Democrat or Republican, not after 9/11 nor after this.

If this tragedy makes us smarter, and more demanding of how our officials staff, fund and empower our national security and emergency management agencies, then that's good. And if states and cities learn from Blanco and Nagin's failures how to better plan and act in the face of disaster, that's good, too.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Paul, this is pretty consistent with what's been reported before. Given the headline, I don't think you can reasonably suggest the WaPo is flacking for Bush.

And Elizabeth, I don't know much about Brown, but when Chertoff was confirmed he seemed to be generally well-regarded.

lindsey said...

"Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals."

This statement doesn't even make any sense. If they take control away from the local and state governments, then the feds are the ones in control. They then are responsible for what happens.

Rejoicing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
madcat said...

The Bush administration is lying. She DID declare a state of emergency, a week ago. See: "In anticipation of a possible landfall, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared states of emergency Friday."---http://www.cnn.com/2005/WEATHER/08/26/tropical.weather/.

lindsey said...

"Those sources support points that paint local officials in not the greatest light."

These sources aren't even necessary to paint local officials negatively. Buses! Over 200 buses in NOLA! Just sitting there! Not being used to evacuate the poor and elderly and infirm! My god!

No food, water, emergency generator, armed security or portable toilets provided for the people inside the Terrordome. You don't need anonymous sources to portray these people poorly.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Paul says:

If you accept the Administration's version of events, Charles, which is pretty much what we're getting here.

Unless Paul, you are being willfully blind and did not see, this:

...a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

or this:

...three state and federal officials said

Those sources support points that paint local officials in not the greatest light.

Sloanasaurus said...

Elizabeth, didn't Chertoff win confirmation 98-0? Was that a mistake?

Casey Brown said...

"Brown, according to the Boston Herald, got the job through an old college buddy, and was fired for incompetence at his last job"

Assuming this is indeed the case, it has exactly zero bearing on the current situation. FEMA is NOT the first responder. It is a support agency for the local government. Look at huricane Ivan for examble. It took FEMA 48-72 hours to get the supply/support pipe flowing to florida. In this case the "pipe" was stopped at the perimeter of the disaster while the the local/regional politicians in "charge" of coordinating the rescue effort were doing there best impression of a monkey fornicating a football.

Brando said...

As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

um, folks, this is false. Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26th.

hmmmm, another "senior adminstration official" spreading misinformation. I wonder who that could be?

lindsey said...

And from August 28th:

"In the face of a catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, a mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday for New Orleans by Mayor Ray Nagin.

The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines had already cancelled all flights.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding."


"Wait a minute. Are you kidding me? These ostensible chief executives couldn't seriously have been so clueless that the only reason they finally bothered to evacuate was because the President called them up on the telephone and told them how to do their jobs? I'd like to find an exact quote."

Sloanasaurus said...

"...FEMA is NOT the first responder...."

This is true. But the new argument being made in the press and by Democrats is that FEMA should have known that the locals would fail in being a first responder. Consider this quote from the WaPo article:

["Everybody shares the blame here," said Thomas. "But when you talk about the mightiest government in the world, that's a ludicrous and lame excuse. You're FEMA, and you're the big dog. And you weren't prepared either."]

Essentially Mr. Thomas (a N.O. council member) is arguing that FEMA should have been the first responder because it is a larger organization - it is DADDY!

I guess strict liability is the the lay of the land for the federal government when it comes to disasters. Lets hope the feds don't assume this and start taking over in all cases. This is what Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuala (he is federalizing all the local police forces).

madcat said...

In addition to the Bush administration lying about the governor not declaring a state of emergency (see my above comment with link to proof of the lie), there is NO excuse... NONE... for their failure to make emergency food and water drops to people dying on their roofs. Please, if you don't read anything else on the hurricane, at least go to this link and watch the testimony of someone who (barely) lived through it. If nothing else wakes people up and stirs their conscience, this will: http://www.wafb.com/global/video/popup/pop_player.asp?ClipID1=516003&h1=Charmaine%20Neville%3A%20New%20Orleans%20Evacuee&vt1=v&at1=News%20-%20Special%20Coverage&d1=363667&LaunchPageAdTag=Homepage&activePane=info&playerVersion=1&rnd=16078596

Casey Brown said...

"...there is NO excuse... NONE... for their failure to make emergency food and water drops to people dying on their roofs..."

Agreed, if the Gov. of LA had instructed the national Guard at her disposal to do that, it would have happened.

Better yet, if the Mayor had actually followed his own evacuation plan, there wouldn't have BEEN anybody (or at a minimum, damn few) on rooftops to begin with.

The Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool...

http://junkyardblog.net/archives/week_2005_08_28.html#004752

gs said...

Three chains of command? There are no words...

Brando said...

I guess strict liability is the the lay of the land for the federal government when it comes to disasters.

strict liability says that you can be accountable even though there wasn't contributory fault. you're trying to suggest that the Federal gov is going to be blamed when in fact state/local government actually messed up. While the state/local goverments no doubt have messed up, the Feds will and should be blamed because they failed on many levels to act adequately in a situation that clearly called for their intervention.

Sloan, are you on the Bush PR team?

Joan said...

madcat: try tinyURL for future megalinks...

Topic:...the Feds will and should be blamed because they failed on many levels to act adequately in a situation that clearly called for their intervention.

Be careful what you wish for, brando.

Jenny D. said...

Chertoff has a great reputation in NJ for running bureaucracies and prosecuting bad guys. He was, I believe, US attorney and put away mafia dudes. If he's having trouble corraling his resources, it's probably because they are hard to corral.

Brando said...

fair 'nuff, joan. let me ammend what i said to mean that contributory fault likely extends to all three levels of government, federal/state/local.

madcat said...

Thanks, Joan. Just joined blogger tonight, haven't figured it all out yet. Trying again: Please watch this video-- important.

madcat said...

More food for thought (at least SOME of us have food, water, bathrooms, and shelter tonight).

In yesterday's New York Times (sorry, no link... running outta steam here. Also, cuss words censored... does blogger allow cuss words in comments?):

"Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, concurred and he was particularly pungent in his criticism. Asserting that the whole recovery operation had been 'carried on the backs of the little guys for four godd@mn days,' he said 'the rest of the godd@mn nation can't get us any resources for security.'


"'We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm,' Colonel Ebbert said. 'It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane.'"

madcat said...

Casey Brown,
"Agreed, if the Gov. of LA had instructed the national Guard at her disposal to do that, it would have happened."

As stated before, she did declare a state of emergency and called on federal support on August 26. Do you have any kind of legal citation to point to requiring that she should have taken more steps than that before the National Guard started saving lives? (and in fact the Guard WAS there early in the week, just in miniscule numbers, so presumptively she DID take the legal steps needed to get them there... its just that the number sent was completely insufficient).

Decklin Foster said...

"I can't imagine letting even one person die to protect my political reputation."

Neither can I. Unfortunately, I can't imagine this sentiment going very far with the anti-Bush crowd, if you know what I mean.

I wish there were some way to get across this rhetorical divide, but I don't know what it is at this point.

XWL said...

Believe what you will about who is at fault regarding the evacuation of New Orleans, clearly there are more than one set of facts and a multiplicity of arguments can be spun from each set of facts.

But what is truly infuriating is that there are many outlets around the world that are cheering the chaos (and the worst of it is from our sworn friends, not enemies)

Follow this link and be amazed (or sadly, don't be surprised at all)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4210674.stm

Mr. Wells is lucky that there are no photographs of him accompanying this article, cause I also live in "the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica" and that ghoulish, snarling, disgusting article deserves more than a verbal rebuke.

(and I know it won't happen, and if it did he would love to play the martyr, I sure wish his visa would be revoked, he has crossed a line that shouldn't be crossed)

Casey Brown said...

"...and in fact the Guard WAS there early in the week, just in miniscule numbers, so presumptively she DID take the legal steps needed to get them there... its just that the number sent was completely insufficient..."

Yep, the Guard was there almost instantly , ready and waiting for orders from the Gov. on how to proceed. The NG does not function autonomously it requires orders from the civilian command, and since the Gov. refused to relinquish her command to the Feds, that would mean they were sitting on there thumbs waiting for HER orders on were and how to proceed. As for the "insuffecient numbers", within hours there were apprx. 6000 pair of boots on the ground. Maybe not enough to secure NO (not that the Gov. told them to), but more than enough to set up air drops (again, if the Gov. told them to).

As I said before, the preferable option would have been for the honorable Mayor Ray Nagin to follow his own evacuation plan...Oh look, more buses...

http://wizbangblog.com/archives/006972.php

Decklin Foster said...

LeRoy, what exactly do you find offensive about that article? The writer seems to be lamenting the sad state of affairs, not cheering for it.

More emphasis could be placed on the local government, but it is certainly not portrayed as blameless. Obviously you are upset about something else. What is it?

Gerry said...

"As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said."

I wonder if this was some misleading (or an error) by the senior Bush official, or if this is some shoddy reporting.

As of *last Saturday*, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency. She did so shortly after 5PM last Saturday. Given that the models had just been revised to show a La landfall, that sounds to me like about the right time for her to have done so.

What was not done in a timely fashion, was the evacuation order. By NO's own emergency plan, it is supposed to be issued 72 hours in advance of landfall. Given that the predictions of a hit were made initially too late for that deadline, it was imperative for the evac order to be given immediately-- like 5:01 PM Saturday. But Nagin waited until after Bush called Blanco and pleaded for an evac, and Blanco called Nagin at dinner to implore him to do so.

And the emergency plan knew some people would not have the means to go, or anywhere to go. It was the responsibility of the Mayor, according to the emergency plan, to have arranged for these beforehand-- including by commandeering city vehicles like busses to do so.

And before someone jumps on me for being partisan--- note that above I just defended Blanco to an extent. Further, even if one places the blame squarely on Nagin (a Democrat), there is no chance that a Republican is going to be elected in his stead the next time around. Further, Nagin has been friendly to Republicans, having donated to Bush's campaign and having endorsed Jindal when he ran against Blanco.

But the fact of the matter is, while there is plenty of blame to spead around, the one who screwed the pooch the greatest is Mayor Nagin-- which makes his aftermath race-baiting and blame-everyone-but-me comments even more inexcusable.

EddieP said...

The majority of the blame is at the feet of the hapless Mayor.

That said, the city had a CAT3 plan and defense,which may have been adequate. CAT4 and the levee breech predicted by such a storm, doomed them to the mess that exists today.

The possibilities of a CAT 4 or 5 storm have been systematically ignored for decades. It has long been known that a CAT 4 coming at Ponchartrain would inundate the city.

Stiles said...

It will be interesting to see if this is corroborated by the blue-ribbon panels in the months to come. If this proves out, it shows (at least) that Blanco significantly underestimated the problem despite years of planning and modeling for this very scenario.

Two points that I will be interested in following.

1. Was a similar early request to federalize made of Mississippi, and what did Mississippi do?

2. FEMA has been saying that they were overwhelmed because they did not, and they assert no one could, foresee the extent of the disaster. Yet, federalizing 60 hours before landfall is, I think, unprecedented and suggests an accurate foreknowledge of the likely disaster. Can anyone verify whether this had been done before? It will be interesting to see what the ultimate narrative is and whether parts of FEMA/DHS were operating at different levels of urgency.

The NHC forecast shifted west at 10PM CDT on Friday (8/26) and more so at 4AM on Saturday (8/27), after which it was very stable and accurate. This is actually above average forecast accuracy, but left about 48 hours to evacuate (allowing that the last few hours before landfall are not fit for evacuation due to conditions). Part of the tragedy is that you can't do a 72 hour task in 48, although it's pretty clear that more could have been evacuated had officials pushed hard for mandatory evacuations immediately.

Gerry said...

"The NHC forecast shifted west at 10PM CDT on Friday (8/26) and more so at 4AM on Saturday (8/27),"

Shift it forward eight hours. The models started showing La landfall at 2PM Saturday. The NHC updated their projection (which is a mean of the other models) by 5PM.

As for pre-declaring a state of emergency, yes, this has been done before-- fairly regularly with Florida.

Gerry said...

"Part of the tragedy is that you can't do a 72 hour task in 48,"

Right-- but it seems that what happened was that instead of squeezing as much of the 72 hour task in 48 hours, the Mayor waited to start until 24 hours-- and then didn't attempt much of what should have been in that condensed timeframe.

I found this comment by Robert Modean on Donald Sensing's blog (hat tip, Betsy Newmark) to be informative and insightful:

--
"Disclosure: I’m a volunteer coordinator for MEMA (The Missouri Emergency Management Agency), I’ve been through three major floods and a few big storms that generated enough tornado damage to get the affected counties disaster relief – believe me when I tell you what we are seeing from FEMA now is lightyears ahead of what I’ve seen from them in the past. Typically it took two to three days just to get the disaster declaration, then another two to three to get FEMA deployed – of course by then the local guys had been on the ground working around the clock for five or six days and we were more than happy to dump everything in FEMA’s lap. That’s the way the system is designed. Bush saw that and tried to skip a few steps to speed things up, he pre-declared the areas disaster areas. So what we are seeing in NO is the result of a convergence of factors:

"First, the storm damage was bad, but the flooding has made relief efforts ten times harder than anything they could have imagined. Second, Mayor Nagin’s performance has been pathetic. This is the worst case of poor planning and criminal incompetence I’ve ever seen. Like I said, Bush declared the gulf coast area a Federal Disaster area on Saturday – two days before Katrina hit. That freed up FEMA resources for local and state coordinators and allowed for the pre-positioning of supplies so they could be rapidly deployed to the affected areas. Mayor Nagin waited until the last minute to call for an evacuation of the city, but the poorest people could not evacuate – why weren’t school busses used to get them out of town? Mayor Nagin made the last minute decision to declare the Superdome and COnvention centers as refuge relocation points – why weren’t they stocked with water, food, bedding, generators, and fuel? Why weren’t hospitals offered additional resources by the Mayors office? Mayor Nagin made the decision to allow looting and told the police to focus on Search and Rescue – but looting hinders S&R efforts (as we’ve seen) and no one I know could believe that decision – it’s emergency management 101, preserving order preserves life. There’s plenty of blame to go around – Blanco deserves her share too – but the real culprit in the aftermath here is Nagin."

---

In 24 hours, the city of NO should have been able to get port-o-johns, water, generators, fuel and food to the Superdome and convention center. At a minimum.

MrsWhatsit said...

It might be more productive for all of us to stop arguing over who is more blameworthy for just a moment while we take a look at the disaster plans for our own cities. Does New York have an evacuation plan already in place for its poor and infirm residents? Does Los Angeles? Does Chicago? Does Miami? Do the plans stand up to close examination, in the light of what we have learned this week about the system-wide ramifications of enormous disasters like Katrina?

It is all very well to point at satellite photos of drowned busses sitting unused in New Orleans parking lots -- but if Nagin had ordered them into use on Saturday or Sunday, who would have driven them? Remember that school and city bus drivers are civilians, whose first priority would naturally have been the evacuation of their own families. Some of them might have shown up for work in response to an evacuation order, but would enough have done so? If not, who else could have been pressed into service to drive those busses -- police officers? The National Guard? City officials? Careful planning could provide an adequate answer, but such problems can't be solved at the last minute. If we are going to carry anything positive away from this terrible event, we might want to step away from the chorus of criticism for just a moment and make sure that our own communities are better prepared for catastrophe than New Orleans was.

Stiles said...

Gerry,

Right. NO was actually under the gun from early AM Saturday on. By the afternoon NHC discussion, it was three straight advisories pointing to the mouth of the Mississippi.

I've seen the early disaster declarations (which happened) before. What I am wondering is whether federalizing the entire operation so far in advance was unprecedented or standard.

And Mrs.Whatsit makes a great point. We all need to examine the plans in our own communities.

Gerry said...

Stiles,

I couldn't agree more. But it is not just our own areas' emergency plans. We need to look a bit at the culture (for lack of a better word) locally. Have we been tolerating a substandard police force for ages, like NO had, or like NYC had in the early 70s? Have we been winking at political corruption, saying it is part of the local color?

The best of plans won't work unless the first responders are of the highest quality. The best of plans won't work if those responsible for designing and implementing them have their own interests most at heart.

So yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. But every locality needs to look to see if they need to do some housecleaning--- and party does not matter.

Elliott said...

You see that comment by a senior Bush official that Louisiana didn't declare an emergency as of Saturday. It's a lie. (http://gov.louisiana.gov/2005%20%20proclamations/48pro2005-Emergency-HurricaneKatrina.pdf)
I'm not going to detail every lie in this article. Lies that dutiful minions will repeat over and over. Jennifer in another thread is hawking the lie that I have stated that the Red Cross was not allowed to help. What I did state was that the Red Cross was not allowed in New Orleans to help. Life is literally too short to keep up with this kind of cr*p, but when does it cross the line from incompetence and ignorance to malevolence.

I'm glad that Paul Zrimsek can see the spin in this article, but he's the one who suggested in another thread that we didn't have enough facts to point out the federal govt.'s failings. I think I do and my sense of urgency in holding these people accountable is not based on making a judgement before the facts are available; it's based on that their machinery of lies is already in gear.

(Let's be clear here. I'm calling Jennifer a liar in the service to her preconcieved political notions. She doesn't seem malevolent, but she certainly plays fast and loose with the truth.)

Ann Althouse said...

Elliot and others: There's too much use of the word "lie" here. I quoted the Washington Post. Did it get facts wrong? Isn't there a distinction between the usual "state of emergency" that is about dealing with the weather emergency and the "state of emergency" that has to do with the breakdown of order and the need to quell rioting with the military? I'm not an expert on such legal matters, but I wish people would address that rather than just call people liars. Keep the standard of the comments up.

MrsWhatsit said...

It's a waste to ask Elliott to measure up to the usual standard of comments here, Ann. He has already made it perfectly clear in another thread on this blog that no remonstrations will deter him from continuing to use this human catastrophe to score points for partisan political gain. His justification amounts to kindergarten ethics: he believes that the other side, in the form of the Bush administration, is doing it -- so he can, too. (The other side is also working its tail off to get help to human beings who are in desperate trouble at this moment, of course, but Elliot has nothing but scorn for their efforts. And as for Elliott himself, typing comfortably from a warm, dry home? He would have liked to go to the Gulf Coast to help -- but his wife wouldn't let him.) Elliot likes to call other people liars, but his own intellectual honesty is nothing to write home about. His first "Blame Republicans First" comment insisted that the ubiquitous "they" should have informed people trapped in New Orleans that flood waters can be sanitized for drinking with bleach. When other commenters pointed out that this approach wouldn't remove chemical pollution and other non-organic contaminants, that Elliott's "instructions" on how to do it were fatally incomplete, that there was no way to provide such information to people in a city without communications, and that few, if any, of the refugees have any bleach or containers to use for such a purpose, did Elliot try to defend his half-assed suggestion? No -- he just fell silent and tried to pretend he hadn't said it. Really, there's nothing left to be done about this guy but to ignore him.

Elliott said...

Ann, I confess to being intemperate at times, but part of the strategy that this administration uses and a classic strategy in propaganda is to rely on people's reluctance to be certain in their views. I've been called self-righteous and I plead guilty, but whether it's intelligent design vs. evolution or WMD vs. lies, this administration plays to that unwillingness to recognize that your opponent may not be uninformed, may not have a different opinion, may be looking at different information; no, they may be deliberately lying.

Shape of Earth: views differ.

I will take a short vacation from the comment threads because I think my head is about to explode from rage at the lies and stupidity people peddle in defense of Bush.

Elliott said...

G-d. The CDC must be in on my conspiracy to kill people as well.

Jimmac said...

For 40 years poor and minorities have been told by the left vote for us and we'll take care of you.
This is the revealed lie from this week. Those who were self reliant filled the car with gas and got out of town. Those who have bought the big lie that government can solve all problems were left in dire straits.
Obviously that the sick and elderly were not evacuated while hundreds of busses lingered in soon to be flooded parking lots is a disgrace. But the stark fact remains that those who take care of themselves are infinitely better off than those who depend on the largesse and response of government.

Larry said...

You don't suppose Elliot himself could be one of those lying liars who lie, do you? Well, more likely his "lie" motif is just giving us all an illustration of what of political desperation on the left looks like, in their fear that, as more facts emerge, it might be revealed that Bu$h (the Great Satan) did some things right.

On a broader point, though, I think articles like this might be a hint (as Ann said in a different context earlier) that many people who leaped with both feet into the blame games early on may well look a little silly, and certainly less credible, "as more facts emerge". Maybe the more general lesson is for us all to be little less certain in assigning blame and responsibility at this point. Lest, as Elliot now fears, your head explode.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Charles: I wasn't suggesting that the Post was flacking for Bush (especially given that outrageously biased sub-head); my point, had I made it better, would have been that the parts of the article which tend to exculpate the Administration are mostly quotes from members of it. Though not entirely; Finn was right to call me out on that-- sorry.

Elliott is dead wrong, as always. I didn't "see the spin" in the article; for all I know the quotes from federal sources (aside from the falsehood about when the state of emergency was declared) could be the plain truth. I'm merely allowing for the possibility that they're spin.

Lots of stuff more or less connected with Mrs. Whatsit's excellent point about the buses: here.

Elizabeth said...

Sloan,

Yeah, I think that 98-0 affirmation of Chertoff was a mistake. I don't think his past work, however admirable in running a bureaucracy and prosecuting well, leads to success in homeland security. That's not his fault; my point is we assume the wrong things, that organizational skills transfer to any kind of task. I'd much rather see someone with military experience, who has experience mobilizing, establishing lines of communication, and being accountable, rather than political.

madcat said...

Ok, everyone seems to be (silently) conceding that the Bush administration's statement that the Governor Blanco didn't declare a state of emergency is untrue, since I and others have posted evidence of her August 26 declaration.

Now the argument seems to be that the National Guard and other federal agencies had no power to drop food and water to dying people without Governor Blanco micromanaging them and telling them what to do step by step.

I'd appreciate it if those making this argument would provide real sources for the implied claim here that it is the governor's job to micromanage each critical step of the National Guard's efforts before they are allowed to act, once they are actually on the ground.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Sorry, Paul, I didn't mean to suggest you meant to suggest (gack!) that the WaPo was flacking for Bush, just that given the Post's reputation it increased the probative value of the contents of the article.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Elizabeth, I think you're right that Chertoff's background wasn't the perfect choice --- but then we had a guy with a reasonable fit, and dropped him because he couldn't keep his zipper zipped.

But then, come to think of it, I think you could make a case that an expert +3 Bureaucracy User is what they most needed. Since I personally suspect the response has actually been about as good as logistical limits allow, it may not be fair to criticize Chertoff.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Madcat, just to make it clear, I'm not accepting your contention that the state declaring an emergency is the same as requesting the Federal government to federalize all efforts; posse commitatus and all, I think that's a very big step. But I'm a math geek with DoD and intelligence background, the lawyers will have to answer that. (Come to think of it, Ann, do you suppose someone at Volokh knows about this?)

But for real knowledge from a real military officer with experience in this, try Jason's blog. This guy at Don Sensing's blog has experience as well.

(BTW: administrativia note: I'm the same "Charles" that wrote "Paul, this is pretty consistent with what's been reported before." I just finally bothered to figure out how to get Blogger to use my usual web cognomen.)

Brando said...

There's too much use of the word "lie" here.

I think the administration has long since squandered its truth capital. It is time for the administration to start explaining how they are not purposely misleading us, i.e. lying.

Ann Althouse said...

Madcap: I'm relying on news reports from respected papers, like the Washington Post. Have they run a correction on that story? Post URLs of other stories in from respected papers.

madcat said...

Ann,

I certainly wish they WOULD have included in the story a reference to the state of emergency declaration that WAS made, contrary to the "senior Bush official's" statement in the story. Here, again, are the links evidencing that Governor Blanco DID declare a state of emergency on August 26, contrary to the statement of the Bush official:

1. ; and
2.
The actual declaration.

(See also more detailed discussion of the false "no declaration made" statement in my blog entry).

I certainly wish the Post HAD checked the veracity of the statement from an anonymous Bush official source before printing it.

madcat said...

Charlie,

What *I* am asking, and what remains unanswered, is support for the claim that once the National Guard was there (and they WERE there, as has been conceded, as soon as the hurricane hit), their hands were tied because Governor Blanco did not specfically order them to make food and water drops.

I've searched fruitlessly for ANY such description of the National Guard's lack of authority to save lives *once they are at the disaster cite* if the governor isn't micromanaging them every step of the way. They were clearly there with her permission from the start. Why couldn't they act affectively in saving lives?

The burden of proof is now on those claiming some mysterious law is out there that Blanco didn't follow in the granting of such authority to the National Guard and other federal relief forces. If you show me exactly *what* steps she didn't take as required by law, with a source to that law, I'll concede that it was her fault the feds' hands were tied in failing to get food and water to dying people.

Til then, the burden of proof is on those trying to lay the blame on her.

Ann Althouse said...

Madcat: Thanks for the link to the declaration, which I read. It says:

The state of Louisiana's emergency response and recovery program is activated under the command of the director of the state office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to prepare for and provide emergency support services and/or to minimize the effects of the storm's damage.

Under the declaration, it would appear that the state government was asserting its leadership. The Bush Administration, per WaPo, pressured the governor to cede that leadership to the feds. Really, I'm not seeing the point that the governor already authorized the feds to take over. Do you have any other URLs to share?

madcat said...

Ann,

What do you mean by "taking over"? In an earlier comment, I posted a quote from the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security Director expressing dismay that the feds weren't helping out, though he, Nagin, and the governor had asked for help.

Are you saying (as others seem to be) that even though Blanco declared a state of emergency and locals were begging for federal help and the National Guard was there on the ground with her consent, that food and water drops couldn't have been made without Blanco turning over ALL authority to the feds more than she had already done so?

What provision of the law demands this??

Ann Althouse said...

Madcat: What I mean is to explain why the WaPo article made sense!

Kurt said...

Does anyone know if the administration applied the same pressure to federalize things prior to the hurricane in Mississippi? And if so, what was Haley Barbour's response? I've heard that in Mississippi there are still many communities in dire need of assistance, but they're not getting the same press attention as the folks in New Orleans.

reader_iam said...

I have wondered that too--whether we made a mistake about not going with Bernie Kerik, despite the myriad issues. Btw, assuming that the person to whom you were referring, it wasn't just, or even mostly, about the "zipper" stuff. If memory serves, I think that he had a domestic worker who was an illegal alien (?) and/or for whom he had not paid taxes, SS, etc. In addition, again if memory serves, there was also concern over his ties with Taser and with Guiliani & Associates.

In retrospect, the former may seem petty when it comes to current situation and the talents required, and the latter may actually have been an advantage!!

Or not. Who really knows if he'd have done better ... but an a**-kicker with a huge store of emergency-related gravitas and friends with even more of the same does seem more to fit the bill.

And the idea of a someone from the military heading up Homeland makes sense to me, but I'm having a SERIOUS problem with believing that, absent the current situation, that would have been in anyway acceptable to our brethren located farthest to the left AND the right.

(P.S. Ann, I took your encouragement and signed up with blogger so that I could comment directly rather than send e-mails. But thanks for posting my "Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and "Amex" comments. I was very, very surprised, but I must say I got a bit of a thrill)

Jacques Cuze said...

State of Emergency declared by George Bush on August 26th, before landfall. Power given to FEMA then.

You people are completely shameless.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: Look, you're missing something here, so watch the name calling. I will delete the next post that takes this tone. We're talking about the rioting and anarchy. The first line of defense is local law enforcement. The feds defer to that. The weather emergency isn't the equivalent of martial law. I am not an expert on this, so there's a limit to what I can say, but commenters like you just sound like political hacks to me. Raise the standard of commenting or face deletion.

Jennifer said...

Elliott, I see that your rebuttals to my arguments have degenerated to "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

Jennifer in another thread is hawking the lie that I have stated that the Red Cross was not allowed to help.

Here is your exact statement:

I don't care about Prof. Althouse or Jennifer, but maybe someone who came to this thread will confirm that the Red Cross is not being allowed to help or that the hurricane warning included the probability of massive post-hurricane flooding and then will not swallow the lies the next time, or, most importantly, in 2006 or 2008.

Here is my response:

the Red Cross is not being allowed to help
As if the 40 shelters they have set up just in the state of Louisiana alone aren't "help".


So your next comment to me is:

I'm calling Jennifer a liar in the service to her preconcieved political notions. She doesn't seem malevolent, but she certainly plays fast and loose with the truth.

I quoted you directly. I responded directly to what you said.

The only lies I see here are yours.

The only preconceived political notions I see here are yours:

...my sense of urgency in holding these people accountable is not based on making a judgement before the facts are available; it's based on that their machinery of lies is already in gear.

Ann is right, you need to move your debate beyond the realm of he's a liar, she's a liar, everybody is a big fat liar. Until then, direct your vitriol at someone else, please.

peter hoh said...

Madcat wants to have some proof that the national guard's "hands were tied because Governor Blanco did not specfically order them to make food and water drops."

I don't have that, but here's an AP piece I read on Salon that sheds some light on the issues surrounding the guard.

Here's what I found most troubling:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.

Also:

Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, who leads the Michigan National Guard, said he anticipated a call for police units and started preparing them, but couldn't go until states in the hurricane zone asked them to come.

"We could have had people on the road Tuesday," Cutler said. "We have to wait and respond to their need."

The Michigan National Guard was asked for military police by Mississippi late Tuesday and by Louisiana officials late Wednesday. The state sent 182 MPs to Mississippi on Friday and had 242 headed to Louisiana on Saturday.

One factor that may have further complicated post-Katrina deployment arose when Louisiana discovered it needed Guardsmen to do more law enforcement duty because a large portion of the New Orleans police force was not functioning, according to Lt. Gen. Steven H. Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.

Because the agreement that was already in existence for states to contribute Guard troops to Louisiana did not include a provision on their use in law enforcement, Blum said, Gov. Blanco had to get separate written agreements authorizing Guardsmen to do police-type duty.

Still, Blum said, this took only minutes to execute.

J said...

Ann, I should hope you retract this entry & note that the "senior official" in the Bush administration is a big fat liar.

see here:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_09/007048.php

madcat said...

Thanks for the info, Peter. Clearly, there's plenty of blame to be shared here all around, with much of it lying in the intrinsic incompatibility between government bureaucracy and rapidly developing disasters. At BOTH the national AND the state level, it seems to me, we needs to lift any stringent bureaucratic measures that might prevent relief (I'm talking food and water here) from getting to dying people in rapidly developing disaster situations. Issues of blame aside, people shouldn't be dying for lack of crossed T's and dotted I's.

Ann Althouse said...

J: You need to read my comments more carefully. I'm not going to repeat myself, but no, nothing I've written needs retracting as far as I can tell. You have not engaged with the problem other than superficially.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Jeff Goldsein of all people has posted a link-filled exegesis of the laws and orders. I'm a geek, not a lawyer, but it looks pretty conclusive that the Guard remained under the Governor's command.

reader_iam said...

As an interesting exercise, may I suggest that you all go into the archives of major local and regional papers and scan some of the articles that were being printed in the days leading up to Katrina (i.e., Wed.-Sat., Aug. 24-27--after that, it got pretty clear quickly, but then, the preparation window of opportunity was already gone)?

I just spent some time looking over what was being printed in the Time Picayune, at least as is listed in online archies, for the period leading up to last weekend and the weekend itself.

You will not necessarily find the high sense of urgency, generally speaking, that we are all implying was emanating from the region of LA itself at that time. Look at what people were doing and considering then (for example, the Times Picayune published an article that Saturday stating that Gov. Blanco had not yet decided whether to cancel her attendance at the Southern Governors Association, where she was to be sworn in as chairperson on Tuesday). Look at what articles the papers chose to print. My point is not to assign blame to newspapers now. It is to say that our recollections of urgency, much less officials' recollections of their urgency, is being filtered through the prism of what has happened SINCE.

I am a former daily-newspaper journalist, including stints as assistant city editor and assistant copy desk chief working nightside (meaning, the team of people who make the decisions about what's most important at deadline at the last possible moment). I'm pretty darn good at sussing out the mood of a newsroom and pinpointing its priorities based on the decisions they made about their product (the actual newspaper). It seems VERY clear to me that at in NOLA, at least, there was no sense of urgency at the level that was needed or that is being "recalled" now. Look at the articles. Look at where key people were, what they were quoted as saying, whether they even turned up in the paper at all. Sure, newspapers miss things ... but it's hard to imagine that if the mayor had called up the paper with urgent declarations about Katrina, the staff would simply have ignored them.

(As an aside, a front page that simply said "GET OUT NOW. SCHOOL BUSES AT CON CTR & SUPERDOME, for example, and appearing Saturday morning, for example, would have done a world of good. If that actually had been the story. If those buses had/could have been [tbd] been available. Not everyone reads papers, of course. But that sort of thing would have been clearly visible through paper kiosks, and those would DID read it would pass it around by word of mouth. That's just how that stuff works, folks.)

In CONTRAST, look at what newspapers in Gulf Coast Mississippi were choosing to print for the same time period (for example, Sun-Herald in Biloxi). WHAT a horse of a different color ...

I could go on, but it's not my blog (so I apologize, Ann; maybe I'll start one someday). One final note, though: for perspective, trying searching FLA newspapers (pick a hurricane, any hurricane) and look at what info is given, who's doing what and wehre, etc.. As pertains to HARD news, newspapers tend to VERY much reflect the mood of local & state officials as well as the community character overall.

With that at mind, what conclusions do you all draw?

Ann Althouse said...

reader iam: Thanks. Don't worry about writing too much. That's very helpful.

Also, I see Glenn Reynolds is struggling with the same issues about the governor's role and the "state of emergency" that I am.

reader_iam said...

And, no, I'm not a "former" newspaper journalist due to typos ... one of the first rules there is NOT to edit your own stuff. Sorry. Rueful, but smiling here.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Nicely summarized in The Corner:

If Bush was a Dictator things would have gone smoother:

- He wouldn't have had to ASK Gov. Blanco to order a mandatory evacuation, he would have done it himself.

- He wouldn't have had to ASK Gov. Blanco to send in her National Guard, he would have done it himself.

- He wouldn't have to ASK Gov. Blanco to let the feds come in and run the show. (below)

If Bush was a dictator he could have FORCED residents to evacuate at gunpoint. He would be giving orders to the Governor, not requests. It may come as news to the moveon.org crowd, but BUSH IS NOT A DICTATOR!

madcat said...

More info to help distinguish between spin and facts: Under FEMA rules, once a governor (and then the President) declares a state of emergency, FEMA is authorized to come in and start saving lives.

SPIN: FEMA and the Bush administration are both claiming that Louisiana Governor Blanco never declared a state of emergency , and that consequently (this is Homeland Security/FEMA's contribution to the spin:) twenty million dollars of stockpiled FEMA supplies that could have saved lives were never released to Louisiana.

LIE EXPOSED: Governor Blanco most certainly DID issue a state of emergency declaration on August 26, (links already posted numerous times in this thread) as soon as she saw that Katrina was growing in strength and was about to hit Louisiana. Bush confirmed the state of emergency the same day, which should have (under FEMA rules, linked to above) triggered the release of the TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS OF EMERGENCY RELIEF SUPPLIES that has been sitting untapped in FEMA warehouses.

But the twenty million dollars of lifesaving equipment never came because, the FEMA/Department of Homeland Security spinners say with a sigh, it's so sad, but Governor Blanco just never asked for it...

___________

It's some bloody spin, it is. But, ok, I won't use the L word.

madcat said...

(oops, sorry. I honestly did mean to leave out the "L" word, but left one in while pasting this info from my blog. Apologies.)

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Madcat, go read the stuff at Jeff Goldstein's site and get back to us. You're either misinformed or mendacious, and I'd prefer the think the former.

In the mean time, just to extend on the "Bush can't possibly do anything that's acceptible" point, there's this:

My sister's unit just got back to Ft.Hood from Iraq. She was heading home to take time off when she was recalled for her deployment to NOLA. I guess she used the words Martial Law, and made it sound like the information she received about the mission was made to sound a lot more aggressive than what the news is reporting.

It could just be that the person calling her was just a little excited at the time. She's just in communications, but the units she supports are just getting back from banging heads door-to-door with little accountability. I'd hate to think that the same action type of action is about to take place in [the continental United States].


So Bush's to blame for the regular Army not being in place, but ....

I'm going to the mall.

madcat said...

Ann,

Interesting link to Glenn Reynolds' commentary. However, as he writes, quoting the LA Times,
"MORE STILL: Several readers note that the Post story seems to be wrong -- at least here is a proclamation of a state of emergency by Gov. Blanco from August 26. I suspect, however, that what the Post article refers to is a declaration that would place the National Guard under federal control. Here's a piece from the L.A. Times on that:


Although active-duty U.S. troops are being used in the relief effort, constitutional limits prevent them from performing law enforcement duties.

Pentagon officials stressed that only National Guard troops, which are under the control of governors when operating within the United States, may be given law enforcement duties..."

All of which only further begs the question for me. I've been asking all along (because my friends in Louisiana have been screaming the same question all week as they watch people starving around them) why the National Guard could not have been doing food and water drops since Monday.

As the above clarifies, if there WAS any lack of authority for the National Guard to act (without either express authorization or relinquishing of powers to the feds from Governor Blanco) it was ONLY in their law enforcement capacity. This does not explain why they couldn't engage in more effective disaster assistance through food and water drops. It simply makes it an even more valid question.

Elizabeth said...

Charlie (colorado); the Corner has a strawman-production unit working overtime, I see. No offense to those who do read that blog, but I take a lot of what comes out of that bunch with a grain of salt.

I notice instapundit is posting a range of comments, including a couple take FEMA's Brown to task and acknowledging that Chertoff isn't the best guy for the job. Why isn't be being roundly attacked? Could it be partisanship? Dunno, but it's funny that for many commentators, it ain't the message but the messenger that counts. I'm on the left side of the aisle, so my comments on Brown and Chertoff must be misinformed Bush Derangment Syndrome, but Glenn Reynolds asks the same questions, and the same folks are nodding safely, saying "heh indeed." Go figure.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Elizabeth, I quoted the Corner quoting an email. I think the email is correct, but for an argument why it's correct, you should follow the Jeff Goldstein link.

As to what Glenn's posting, I've said I don't know anything about Brown but note that Chertoff was supposed to be very good for the job a few months ago, while saying that I wasn't sure how well he was doing myself.

If you're reading that as unqualified support for Chertoff (or reading what I said to you as forceful disagreement) I think you might should get away from the keyboard for a while. As, in fact, I plan to.

And madcat, there's an extensive post with many references and links at Jeff's site. He considers some of the points you're making. Are you actually interested in the counter-argument or are you just trolling?

Ann Althouse said...

Madcat: How was WaPo wrong? That's been the issue all along. You're avoiding it now.

Ann Althouse said...

WaPo has a correction on its article now: "Correction to This Article: "A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26."

No correction however about the feds trying to get Blanco to put them in control. That's the question I've been trying to get a focus on.

madcat said...

Re. the Jeff Goldstein blog.
As he quotes, "In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort."
Nothing else in his post contradicts what I'm saying -- that once Blanco issued a state of emergency, *three days before* the hurricane hit, as the above rules provide, it then became FEMA/Homeland Security's "PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY" to prepare AND MOUNT (which words Goldstein kinda ignores in his closing summary) a recovery effort. Once again, I'm talking about the release of the 20 million dollars of stockpiled FEMA emergency supplies here and food and water drops that never happened. Nothing on Goldstein's blog provides support for concluding that Blanco's state of emergency declaration was insufficient to trigger those acts by FEMA and the National Guard. Rather, the above passage makes it pretty clear that FEMA had primary responsibility for making the relief efforts happen, once the state of emergency was declared, not the governor (though as my earlier comments show, it WAS the locals who pulled off the vast majority of relief efforts for the first 4 days).

madcat said...

Ann,

The WaPo article was wrong in the respect their correction just acknowledged.

I've never debated that the feds tried to get Blanco to turn over all law enforcement control to them this weekend, as reported in the Post, and that she said no.

We're talking different issues.

I'm talking basic food and water issues here. The Bush administration and FEMA (and their defenders) are claiming they didn't have the authority to make *food and water* drops or to release the *twenty million dollars of relief supplies in storage down south* because Blanco didn't ask them to.

THAT assertion is what I'm questioning. The way FEMA's rules are written, once she issued the state of emergency declaration, FEMA had all the authority it needed to take charge of the relief effort and release those supplies. Their statements to the contrary are just as false (see my link to the FEMA rules in past comment) as the Bush official's statement that no declaration was issued.

I will grant you this: your questions are intertwined with mine to the extent that the Bush administration may eventually say they *couldn't* do food and water drops because doing so would have required law enforcement actions, and THAT's what they needed the governor's authority for. So far, though, that doesn't seem to be their argument. Their argument is that they didn't have the authority to even release the emergency supplies at all... and no justification (by the government) has been given for the lack of food and water drops. Only speculation from us backseat drivers.

peter hoh said...

reader iam: thanks for your insights. Comments like yours are one of the reasons I keep reading this blog. Kudos to you, Ann, for attracting such readers.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Well, it's nice you managed to follow the link, madcat. However, you could also try to follow the argument.

But I can help. I happen to have in my hand (because I followed the link on Jeff's site and printed the PDF) a copy of Gov Blanco's complete letter of 28 August, requesting assistance. She requests the following:

"Individual assistance, including the Individual and Household Program (IHP), Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Public Assistance (Category A-G funding at 100%), Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans and Direct Federal Assistance (DFA) funding at 100 percent...."

"LANG and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP): providing generators and suppose staff for SNS and Pubic Shelters and field personbel and equipment." (Emphasis mine.)

You can easily download the same document, so you're welcome to check me, but I can't find anything in there about requesting the effort to be federalized, or for US assistance in law enforcement.

madcat said...

Charlie-

First, please lay off the personal attacks on my reading ability.

Second, you keep saying that "I can't find anything in there about requesting the effort to be federalized, or for US assistance in law enforcement."...

all I can do (because I've repeated it too many times now) is point you to my comment I just left for Ann.

My question all along has been about *food and water and emergency supplies.*

Once again, everything here is just begging the question I keep answering that doesn't get answered.

As to the law enforcement issue, again, reread everything I've written. Please. I have *never* claimed that Blanco requested or consented to a law enforcement takeover. That's what everyone debating me is focused on, but my point is that any claims by the feds that they lacked jurisdictional authority to release food, water, and FEMA supplies because of Blanco are false.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Okay, as long as we're following links for people's convenience, here's another one, a story from 29 August entitled "Federal Agencies Plan Emergency Response" (AP):

"As the Category 4 the storm surged ashore just east of New Orleans on Monday, FEMA had medical teams, rescue squads and groups prepared to supply food and water poised in a semicircle around the city, said agency Director Michael Brown."

....

"The American Red Cross said it had about 200,000 volunteers mobilized for the hurricane, the "largest single mobilization that we've done for any single natural disaster," said spokesman Bradley Hague. The organization set up operational headquarters in Baton Rouge."

....

"Former Army Corps of Engineers commander Robert B. Flowers said a major hurricane striking near New Orleans is a worst case scenario.

"'I couldn't even begin to estimate the billions of dollars in damage that are going to result. You could have water several feet deep in the city for days before the pumps can discharge it,' said Flowers, now CEO of HNTB Federal Services in Arlington, Va.

"Speaking earlier Monday from Baton Rouge, just upriver from New Orleans, Brown said that his agency had 'planned for this kind of disaster for many years because we've always known about New Orleans' situation.' Much of the city is below sea level, making it extremely vulnerable to storm flooding.

"The potential damage of such a storm striking New Orleans has long been a worry of federal agencies including the National Weather Service, FEMA and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others."

Notice the date: 29 August.

Ann Althouse said...

Madcat: I raised an issue in my post. I have never attempted to talk about anything else here. You keep disagreeing with me and trying to change the topic. I'm not doing that here. I've discussed such things in other threads, but I'm not interested in caving to someone avoiding the topic. You've introduced a lot of confusion. Stay on topic! Or at least be clear that you've digressed.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Madcat, I quoted the actual request by the Governor. You can follow the same links and read the same stuff. Check me.

And let's be precise: I didn't question your reading ability, I questioned your ability or willingness to follow the argument that Jeff makes.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Ann, you're the law professor: can you find anything in the August 28 letter than would justify federalizing the response or invoking the Insurrection Act --- or anything I'm unaware of that would allow the President to unilaterally take control?

This is a serious question, I'm only too aware that being a logician doesn't sometimes prepare me well for legal argument.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Me: "Notice the date: 29 August."

Damn typos. The letter is dated 28 August.

madcat said...

Ann,

The point you raised in your original post was the Governor Blanco may have blood on her hands if what the Bush official said was true- that she hadn't declared the prerequisite state of emergency needed for the federal government to get in there and save lives.

Everything I have written has been DIRECTLY on point and written to clear up this issue: that YES, a state of emergency IS required to get emergency resources into a disaster area, that the governor issued such a declaration, and that the emergency resources still *did not get there* in a meaningful way.

As to the law enforcement issue, I'm trying to explain that that issue (yes, as raised by the Post article) is a red herring which does not back up the Bush administration's claims (and your suggestion in the original) post that lives were lost *because of Blanco*. There were some deaths from violence this week, but the vast majority were from lack of food and water.

If people starving and dehydrating to death isn't relavent to the issue of why people so many people died in New Orleans, if all you meant for people to write about was whether Blanco should have handed over all her law enforcement reins to the federal government, then you shouldn't have ended the original post the way you did, or raised the emergency declaration issue.

Ann Althouse said...

Madcat: Read the post title. That's what I've been talking about all along. If I had it to do over again I wouldn't have included the last sentence of the block quote, which I'd never paid much attention to. That's not the focus of the quote or my comment in the post and it has clouded the discussion. I'm talking about Blanco's seemingly self-protective resistance in the wake of the violence after the flood. I'm not going to get into any other topic in this thread.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Madcat, if all you're after is why the federal government didn't get more stuff to more people faster once they had control, then the answer appears to be physical impossibility. Go back and read Jason von Steenwyk's discussions of the logistical problems.

If it's impossible, federalizing it doesn't make it more possible.

madcat said...

I'm sorry you don't consider people starving and dehydrating to death to be relevant to the issue of government accountability in the Katrina aftermath, and to Blanco's role in protecting her people (which very much includes issuing emergency declarations which the feds then failed to act on)... but so be it.

Since you don't wish me to post any more about that (very important) aspect of the Post article and the Katrina disaster, I will say no more in this thread.

reader_iam said...

To the degree that lawlessness and violence (actual and threatened) prevented, hindered, or even discouraged effective and/or timely relief efforts, they certainly DID cause at least some--probably quite a few--deaths related to dehydration (and starvation, although, technically speaking, people don't generally actually starve to death in a matter days; obviously, there are the--well--obvious exceptions).

I don't believe these issues can entirely be delinked, for that reason. But then, I do come from the point of view that, at least on the large scale and for maximum effectiveness, order is a necessary--if not sufficient--condition for relief. In fact--again for maximum, broadest effectiveness--order must precede relief. That's a philosophical point of view, and no doubt reasonable people will disagree--but I hope only in degree.

One other thing: I'd caution against throwing around terms such as "food drop" and "water drop" as if these are simple, straightforward operations that can easily and quickly occur under any and all circumstances. Logistics is a difficult business for a reason. Then there is the issue of in what shape said "drops" would arrive.

Please don't think I'm being trivial or that I don't know why the following isn't a pristine test, demo or analogy, but: Just for the heck of it, I went up to the second floor of my house (tall, old structure built into the side of a pretty steep hill) and threw a couple of 20-ounce bottles of water out of the window. They didn't exactly "take a licking and keep on ticking," and the puddle in which one landed didn't look too appetizing, clean or safe either (and it couldn't possibly be as toxic as the flood waters in NOLA).

Finally, none of this is to act as an apologist for feds etc. I'm pretty much of an equal-opportunity blamer, in this case: plenty to go around, and pretty much of it completely useless at this point.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

A link to some useful questions and information. It's Free Republic, so double check anything you find questionable, but it's pretty heavily sourced.

Jennifer said...

Reader_iam:

Just for the heck of it, I went up to the second floor of my house (tall, old structure built into the side of a pretty steep hill) and threw a couple of 20-ounce bottles of water out of the window. They didn't exactly "take a licking and keep on ticking," and the puddle in which one landed didn't look too appetizing, clean or safe either (and it couldn't possibly be as toxic as the flood waters in NOLA).

My husband said the same thing - when they would throw boxes of bottled water and the like out of Guard towers in Iraq, most of the water bottles would burst. The MREs of course were ok.

To me it seems it would not have been safe to drop supplies, even if logistically possible (which I don't know that it was.) For heaven's sake, people wouldn't even get out of the way for helicopters to land at the convention center with food and water. How many people would have died if we dropped large pallets of food and water onto areas dense with people?

And the areas that weren't dense with people were under water. Did we really want people diving in toxic sludge for food and water?

I don't know - it seems to me that although people suffered, few died from dehydration and starvation. More seem to have died from lawlessness. I guess it seems logical to have focused on restoring order and evacuating people. Horrible to watch, of course, but logical.

I guess we'll have to see how everything pans out before we're really able to tell what decisions and actions were good and bad.

Right now, everything seems like a gut level, emotional reaction rather than informed debate.

leeontheroad said...

If the state strategy was merely not to get blamed, then they clearly miscalculated. The WaPo story demonstrates this. An Admin. that supposedly doesn't leak and has been calling for folks to withhold judgment is now pointing a finger at Blanco.

That's politics, for ya: CYA.

I don't see a basis in ther WaPo artcile for an objective final assessment that that people died primarily because Blanco did not cede state authority to the federal gov't-- an issue of particualr sensitivity throughout the South, regardless of political party. (And I'm not so anyoen else woudl like it, either, on its face, though of course it may at times of natral disaster be advisable.)

Before I decide that Blanco's was a politcial connivance rather than a planning failure, I would like to know:

1. Did MIssissppi sign the multi-state compact and did folks in Biloxi and Gulfport etc. get better emergency relief because of it?

2. Why was the Friday proposal for only a unified federal command (and would it have suspended habeus corpus)?

3. Was such a proposal a curve ball? Was it part of or a recommendation resulting from the 2004 fed-state-local Hurricane Pam exercise, or amy previous communique?

3. Were resources withheld because of the state's refusal? Last week, FEMA was saying they couldn't have acted more quickly and the Pres. said no one anticipated the brech of the levees (which was silly thing to say). So why this recrimination now? Because the "buck is stopping' at the feds' door (with which I have also consistently disagreed).

leaddog2 said...

For all of those ignorant of facts, Michael Chertoff was a sitting Federal Judge with a LIFETIME APPOINTMENT. He was and is highly regarded for numerous reasons. That is the reason for the 98-0 Senate vote.

He became Homeland Security Director as a favor to America because he was needed. (Look up his previous record). In his way, he is as well regarded as Rudy Gulliani and mostly for the same reasons.

Sloanasaurus said...

This from AP

"...In the first official count in the New Orleans area, Louisiana emergency medical director Louis Cataldie said authorities had verified 59 deaths — 10 of them at the Superdome...."

I think you can clearly apply some blame to the late response for these deaths, if it is determined that the late response was negligence.

this also reported by the AP:

"...As authorities struggled to keep order, police shot eight people, killing five or six, after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs..."

This is a little hard to believe.. "Gunmen?" Isn't that the same term applied to Zarquawi's thugs in Iraq? Why would criminals in N.O. just randomly open fire on contractors trying to repair a bridge? Are the fanatical Jazz Jihadists? The story seems a little suspicious.....

Charlie (Colorado) said...

"... we became more civilized."

Jennifer said...

Sloanasaurus: I'm glad we finally have some facts coming out - wish they were more cheerful.

As far as the Superdome deaths, I guess it depends on your perspective. You can blame them on a local or state failure to evacuate or prepare the shelter. Or you can blame them on a state or federal failure to get them out fast enough. Or both, frankly.

But you are right - it also depends on whether or not the state and federal response is determined to be late, or as fast as was humanly possible but unfortunately not fast enough.

While the contractor story is certainly mindboggling - I don't know if that necessarily makes it unbelievable. I don't really understand why armed thugs have been shooting any of the people they've been shooting. Why shoot sherriff's deputies and firefighters who aren't even coming after you? Why shoot hospital personnel trying to evacuate sick people?

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I think you can clearly apply some blame to the late response for these deaths, if it is determined that the late response was negligence.

Prediction: when we get the information, we'll find there was no late response by anyone except the disappearing NOPD.

Sloanasaurus said...

It is a mystery regarding the random "gunmen" attacks. Perhaps it was a bunch of kids pretending to live in Falluja or something. Maybe they were just thugs thinking they could get away with murder?

I wonder if this is a good example of what happens in Iraq. The military doesn't publish the death toll for the enemy.

Sloanasaurus said...

"....Prediction: when we get the information, we'll find there was no late response by anyone except the disappearing NOPD..."

Maybe you will be right. However, remember that the truth is meaningless. This will be a talking point on the left for years and years. Maybe Pet goat will get merged into the story.

reader_iam said...

I don't know if this has been linked anywhere here, but it does give one some pause and is on point to Ann's original post/query regarding Gov. Blanco:

http://www.gov.state.la.us/Press_Release_detail.asp?id=991

Thursday seems a little late to take this particular action; if done earlier, it does seem logical to think that school buses from other parts of the state could have been rolling and perhaps ready. Of course, there are probably a variety of logistical issues, including fueling, but still, I do find this troublesome.

Elizabeth said...

Re: it seems to me that although people suffered, few died from dehydration and starvation. More seem to have died from lawlessness. I doubt that, and it should be quantifiable at some point. Ultimately, most of the dead will have died from drowning, though.

As for this becoming a talking point of the left, complete with My Pet Goat, it's clear that the right has already taken up the Bush is a Victim meme, so I guess that will even out. The prediction that everyone--i.e., the feds, FEMA and the respected judge Chertoff--did just fine and only the cowardly NOPD will have been lax in responding is, I think, not going to hold up.

Here's a novel political spin, though: I know very few well-educated, professional people who remained in the city, and had to either be rescued or get out of town after suffering deprivation. And four of those were Nader voters. 'Sup with that?

Elizabeth said...

charlie (colorado): I am glad to see someone posted a link (we became more civilized) to that wonderful report on how French Quarter residents are adapting. It originated in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, I believe. Thanks.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

The prediction that everyone--i.e., the feds, FEMA and the respected judge Chertoff--did just fine and only the cowardly NOPD will have been lax in responding is, I think, not going to hold up.

Now, let's be careful here: I didn't say "everyone did just fine", I said "no late response." The odds that there will be any part of this whole operation that won't be vulnerable to some 20-20 hindsight seem very poor. I'm just saying that the FEMA people did everything in plenty of time, the NO and LA people did things with what they believed at the time to be appropriate speed (I am suspicious of the actual execution, but not the speed.)

On the other hand, this press release showing the Governor made school buses available by executive order on 1 SEP.

For those playing the home game, that would be, um, Thursday.

Elizabeth said...

Ok, given the criteria being "on time" I still think that prediction won't hold up, except for the fact that we'll have subjective definitions of what "on time" means. And I'll stipulate right now that Blanco and Nagin blew it on getting the poor out of the city before the storm hit. I suspect no one looked at the plan and asked "who'll be driving those buses?"

In a Saturday election last year, some Orleans Parish voting precincts didn't get their machines delivered on time--and there's nothing subjective about the term here; I mean the machines were not in place when voting officially opened--in part because the clerk of court, a former city administrator that Nagin had fired, had not arranged drivers for the delivery trucks, nor janitors to open the schools for the machines to be installed. Incompetence abounds.

Jennifer said...

Re: Ultimately, most of the dead will have died from drowning, though.

I think you're definitely right there. And it bears out what you've said all along about the broad failure to help evacuate those who couldn't on their own.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Ok, given the criteria being "on time" I still think that prediction won't hold up, except for the fact that we'll have subjective definitions of what "on time" means.

Well, having just given you a counter-example, I'm hardly gonna argue that one. But I don't see this as a "Bush as victim" argument. It looks increasingly to me like the Governor and Mayor are trying to cover up, and doing so about as effectively as aa cat on a linoleum floor.

(Personally, I think they're afraid they'd be lynched if they didn't find a scapegoat. They might even be right.)

A bunch of people, right and left, most all of whom seem to have in the back of their head what someone called the "I Dream of Jeannie" model of the Presidency (if GWB would just wiggle his nose, there'd be a little blip of sound-effect music, and *poof*) are mad because, as far as I can see, the fact that it can take days to move people across country and through a couple hundred miles of fetid, hurricane-ravaged swamp doesn't suit their notion of what Should Be Done This Is America Dammit. It's those people who seem to be calling for Chertoff and Brown's heads.

But every time we look at facts --- not some bloviating pundit announcing that it's "obvious" someone must have screwed up --- we seem to find that Bush, Chertoff, and Brown did everything they could have possibly done without violating both statute and the Constiutution.

Too Many Jims said...

Without saying whether what she did was right or wrong, if this (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/05/national/nationalspecial/05bush.html?pagewanted=print) NY Times story is accurate, state and local officials were not off in thinking that a big part of the administration's strategy is to blame state and local officials. "In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats."

Too Many Jims said...

Charlie,

I agree that blame towards Bush is misplaced. I could only fault him for not being well served by his subordinates and, less-importantly, for having a mismanaged PR approach. Chertoff? I don't know.

Brown from FEMA? I think if we are ready to blame the mayor and the governor, we should be ready to blame Brown. As far as I can tell, none of them performed very well. The difference is Bush can fire Brown.

Larry said...

Way back when on this post, Elizabeth made this interesting point:
Dunno, but it's funny that for many commentators, it ain't the message but the messenger that counts. I'm on the left side of the aisle, so my comments on Brown and Chertoff must be misinformed Bush Derangment Syndrome, but Glenn Reynolds asks the same questions, and the same folks are nodding safely, saying "heh indeed." Go figure.

Sorry for the delay, and for getting a bit off-topic, but this does have to do with how the Blame Game gets played. The point is that, in reacting to a particular move in that game, we all tend to evaluate the blamer's credibility and judgment. People who leap immediately to conclusions that flatter their own political belief systems, for example, tend to score low on such evaluations. As do people who throw around political lables as though they were curses, who throw around actual curses and school-yard insults, who exhibit clinical signs of paranoia (e.g., disagreements or mistakes routinely descibed as lies), or who just think talking IN A LOUD VOICE is somehow impressive. You don't have to be left-wing to manifest these sorts of credibility and judgment flaws, and not everyone who is left-wing does so -- as Elizabeth herself illustrates. But these are some of the reasons why it's true that, in part at least, the messenger does count. And if I were still on the left I'd be increasingly embarrassed and concerned at the displays by some of its messengers these days.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

... state and local officials were not off in thinking that a big part of the administration's strategy is to blame state and local officials.

Well, I've got to say, "so what?" It's pretty clear that the state and local strategy is to "shift the blame" to the federal government. (And of course the phrasing "shift the blame" seems to presuppose a lot.)

Personally, I think the preponderance of the evidence is pretty heavily in the direction of finding fault with the state and city.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I think if we are ready to blame the mayor and the governor, we should be ready to blame Brown.

For what? What could Brown or the federal government have done, that was both physically possible and legal, that they didn't do?

Sloanasaurus said...

"...And I'll stipulate right now that Blanco and Nagin blew it on getting the poor out of the city before the storm hit..."

When the real facts start coming in we will find that some of the 59 deaths already identified may have been attributable to exposure and to the "delay" in providing aid. However, compare this to the thousands that will have died from drowning on the day of the flood and the amount and direction of blame will become more identifiable.

Too Many Jims said...

"For what? What could Brown or the federal government have done, that was both physically possible and legal, that they didn't do?"

Mainly, I think he prepared himself and the resources available to him for the "standard hurricane". I think if he had a more realistic expectation beginning on say the Saturday before the storm, he could have marshalled more adequate resources which could have been placed closer to the regiion.

I also suspect that he did a poor job of monitoring what was going on at the state and local level; coordinating with them when they fell short and stepping in for them when they fail.

I understand the "legal" argument that they could not do certain things. I just do not think it absolves FEMA of responsiblity. If there is something that FEMA thought should be done but wasn't getting done, they should have tried to get it done. If it was federal agencies which said "we can't help until xyz gets done", FEMA should make the calls to get xyz done or call as high up as they need to get a waiver. If the state is saying they won't do something, call in the congressional delegation to put pressure on the governor, if need be have the President tell her to get off her ass or he will do something. It sounds like this last approach has been taken, unfortunately, that happened this Friday rather than Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Mainly, I think he prepared himself and the resources available to him for the "standard hurricane". I think if he had a more realistic expectation beginning on say the Saturday before the storm, he could have marshalled more adequate resources which could have been placed closer to the regiion.

Why do you believe this, and what would you have done differently?

You might find this timeline useful.

If the state is saying they won't do something, call in the congressional delegation to put pressure on the governor, if need be have the President tell her to get off her ass or he will do something. It sounds like this last approach has been taken, unfortunately, that happened this Friday rather than Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

I don't think that's consistent with the timeline, since the WaPo is reporting that Bush was pressing for a mandatory evacuation, and the Governor was quoted (I think, may have been the mayor) as saying they were responding to a request for a mandatory evacuation by President Bush on the 28th. I realize the WaPo story is a little ambiguous (which Friday?) but putting it on Friday the 2nd would put Bush pressuring the Louisiana authorities to let the Feds take over two days after Nagin called them six kinds of bastard for not doing enough. I just don't think it makes any sense.

Susan said...

reader_iam: I found your take on the lack of urgency coming from the local LA newspapers interesting because it kind of confirmed something that I had in the back of my mind. First though, I do think that most people get their news from the TV stations and not newspapers. Living in FL, I’ve been through many years of hurricane preparations (most of which thankfully were unnecessary because they either fizzle out or go off in some other direction or we are merely skirted). But I’ve seen lots of local reporting leading up to hurricanes including the times (3 last year alone) when they go into 24-hour emergency preparedness mode. I remember thinking in the days leading up to Katrina’s landfall that the local officials in LA didn’t seem to be seeing the same storm that I saw: that huge red un-striated radar image with the perfectly formed eye: the largest, most powerful storm EVER, headed for the most vulnerable place along the entire US coastline. (and it was stronger and more directly headed toward NO earlier that weekend). But I dismissed my misgivings because I figured I was really seeing local officials and the hurricane preparations only through the eyes of the national media and not through the eyes of the local NO media which would at that point be far more focused and surely telling viewers in no uncertain terms that to stay is to die. Of course, urgency is in the eye of the beholder, as I recall one Althouse commenter in the days before landfall, complaining about the “hype” he was seeing.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I remember thinking in the days leading up to Katrina’s landfall that the local officials in LA didn’t seem to be seeing the same storm that I saw: that huge red un-striated radar image with the perfectly formed eye: the largest, most powerful storm EVER, headed for the most vulnerable place along the entire US coastline. (and it was stronger and more directly headed toward NO earlier that weekend).

What she said.

Too Many Jims said...

Charlie,

Second things first. My reading of the Post story is that the Friday they are talking about is this past Friday (9/2). If they meant Friday 8/26 it would mean that the Feds wanted the power to evacuate NO before an evacuation had been requested/ordered. It would also mean that Blanco was worried about being blamed before the storm hit. Blamed for what?

As to what I would have done. Honestly, specifically, I do not know; but then again I am not the head of FEMA. Generally, my impression is that he did not know what was happening in the city of NO and the coordination between the various levels was inept or nonexistent.

I think it goes back to preparation and expectations. As you and Susan noted it was quite remarkable that the local officials did not appreciate the danger of the situation even though the rest of us could but watching TV. Here is what Brown said about the storm on Saturday 9/3: "Saturday and Sunday[8/27-8/28], we thought it was a typical hurricane situation -- not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly." So I think it is fair to add him to the list of people who did not see "the largest, most powerful storm EVER, headed for the most vulnerable place along the entire US coastline". I think that this shows he did not appreciate the gravity of the situation just as the state/local officials failed in that regard.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Jim, as I said I don't think that's consistent with the timeline --- or else the Governor and Mayor are being just amazingly mendacious, because that would mean they were resisting federalization days after they were saying the feds were responsible in public.

On the other hand, I suppose the notion that the Governor and mayor are amazingly mendacious isn't outside the realm of believability either.

On the other point, well, I'm not director of FEMA either, but you're accusing Brown of negligence and/or incompetence. It would seem incumbent on you to suggest what should have been done differently. I don't think it's sufficient to say that he didn't say he thought it was gonna be as awful as it was, given the prepositioning of supplies, the fact that he was actually in the command center in Baton Rouge before the hurricane, or the numbewr of people in a position to understand the problems who say the response wasn't amazingly slow, but amazingly fast.

Too Many Jims said...

Charlie,

I suspect there is plenty of mendacity emanating from several places in this situation. If you want a specific of how he messed up, I think not knowing that there were thousands of people at the convention center without food, water, etc was pretty significant (even if it wasn't his fault they were there). [I can't recall whether it was him or Chertoff, but a journalist had to tell him about the situation while they were on air. The FEMA/DHS rep initially denied it. If it was Chetoff rather than Brown, Brown failed his boss by putting him in that situation.]

I think you and I are going to have to agree to disagree.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Jim, I'm still trying to figure out what you think FEMA would have done differently. Are you under the impression that Brown qwas directing every bus and humvee on the ground in N.O.?

For that matter, by your interpretation of the WaPo story, FEMA and Brown didn't have control of the NG or emergency services folks on 2 Sept ... so they weren't calling the shots anyway.

I still see nothing to justify your conclusion, and lots to contraqict it.

Elizabeth said...

Charlie, we'll continue to disagree on FEMA, but I must compliment your metaphors. "Like a cat on linoleum" is pretty fine.

Just a comment on the timeline, for what it's worth. As Katrina approached Florida from the Atlantic, the predictions from the national weather service was that it would cross, then make a sharp turn north and dance along the west coast up to the panhandle. I remember thinking on Wednesday and Thursday that that just seemed unlikely. But it wasn't until Friday mid-day that it became apparent that the storm was moving steadily west. The cone of probability kept moving westward every few hours, along the panhandle, through Alabama and finally to Mississippi/Louisiana by midday Friday.

I'd been at work all day Friday and had plans for dinner that night. We sat down at 7 and started thinking we might have to make plans. After dinner, a friend called at 10:30 and said that Katrina was on a direct path and strengthening. That decided it. We went to the gas station to fill up before it got crazy, but at midnight, cars were already lined up.

We spent the night in deep depression, but got up Saturday, no question about leaving, and started doing all we could to get on the road with our four pets, interspersed with calls to persuade friends, discuss plans with those planning to go so we wouldn't lose contact, and resting along the way, because the heat was terrible. We hit the road at 1 a.m. Sunday, after packing and securing the house all day.

But the point is, despite knowing Katrina was out there beginning late Wednesday, it wasn't clear at all what her path would be until late Friday. It may have been due a bit to denial, or complancency--it just seems like everything had taken aim at the Alabama/Florida coast lately, but even the weather reports were clashing, up to late Friday. One local weatherman kept saying "We'll definately have effects!" and I finally screamed at him, "What the hell does that mean?" I assume they're terrified of liability, of committing to anything specific. But on the other channels, thank goodness, the weather folks were more committed, and all said: Get the hell out, and do it now! That was late Friday.

Sloanasaurus said...

I think the debate over what to do about New Orleans will be quite interesting. I cannot think of another recent example where the citizens of an entire large city leave for a long period of time. It has to be an urban planner's dream.

It could be that many of the citizens of New Orleans who lived off the government may not return. They may in fact merge in to their societies of "temporary
destination and some may be bumped out of complacency. How could this affect the new New Orleans?

Elizabeth said...

sloanasaurus,

It's likely some will stay where they've ended up, but the culture of New Orleans is oriented around family, and roots, and doesn't move easily. Certainly, though, there's history of diaspora among various ethnic groups. You'll find African-American communities in Chicago of folks who originated in Houston, New Orleans, and Atlanta, for instance, and they've taken their culture there.

But I hope that the folks you're speaking of return to the city in large part. They are part of the heart and soul. I'd much rather see the conditions of poverty change as part of our rebuilding, than see the people go away. The political culture has to change, and along with it the roles of education and crime need to be inverted.

But there's a lot more to these folks than their dependency on government--our music, food, language, storytelling and history, our roots, are more grounded in the mostly poor, mostly black neighborhoods of the city than they are in the prosperous, white Garden District. I'd probably be less worried about a diaspora of the "Americans" as opposed to the French, Creole and Black, no matter what they contribute economically to the city. I'm using "American" in an old sense, as it has been used in New Orleans to describe the people settling and building on the other side of Canal Street, the Americans as opposed to the Europeans and Africans of the Quarter, Esplanade, and Marigny. We are all, of course, Americans now.

I realize I'm not expressing this well right now--it's late and I'm tired. I just feel strongly that people outside New Orleans might not understand that economics and politics are not the most important elements of what defines my city.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Hi, Elizabeth --- didn't realize you were out ahead of Katrina. I'm always willing to believe that a government agency is stupid (hell, I've worked for DoD AND NASA), I just want to see one example of something FEMA didn't do that it *could* do.

On the other thing: I understand what you're saying. The whole issue of what to do under uncertainty is more or less what I do, and you're right, it's hard to make those decisions. To some extent, Nagin and Blanco made a bet, and lost. You can say the same thing about the people back to LBJ who put off the cat-5 levees.

In any case, I'm glad you got away, and I hope you won't be going back to anything too awful.

Too Many Jims said...

Charlie,

Like I said previously, we are going to have to agree to disagree. You think FEMA has done all it *could* do; I think FEMA could have done more sooner. If I were to give you a specific (e.g. knowing (or doing something) about what was happening at the convention center), you will tell me it is impossible or illegal. I understand either of those positions on your part but I just don't buy them.

[I will say, if this *is* the best FEMA can do, we are either spending far too much or far too little on it.]

With regard to whether the story references Friday 9/2 or it references Friday 8/26, I will cast aside any hedging language and say that the story refers to 9/2. Here is the paragraph in question:

"Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday."

If I am sitting down to read my Sunday paper on 9/4 and the story says someone said something on "Saturday" which Saturday do they mean? It has to mean Saturday 9/3. If you add this to the context around the situation (e.g. the politization of the catastrophe began after 8/26), I think the only reading of this paragraph is that 9/2 is the Friday to which it refers.

If you think this bolsters the argument that FEMA did everything it could, so be it.

Elizabeth said...

Charlie, thank you for your good wishes. I have the fortune to live in an area of high ground, a few blocks from the river Uptown, and the word I've gotten is that area has escaped flooding. The looting stories were wildly exaggerated. The Whole Foods store three blocks from me was "looted," of food. The wine racks are still full, as is the gourmet cheese case. People took what they needed to survive.

But where I live is just a part of my life in New Orleans. We haven't heard from some of our colleagues in my department at University of New Orleans, and I'm worried about my students, many of whom were from out of state and were unprepared for this conceptually. And between my home and the university is about 15 miles of city--UNO is on the lake, I'm on the river, and New Orleans is inbetween. There will be much sorrow, even as I thank God for our own good luck, and for the wisdom in getting out, with our pets.

I think there's been good examples of what FEMA could have done, but at this point, I am wanting to see hearings held to determine that. FEMA prepared for a standard hurricane, and it looks like the city and state might have been hoping for that as well. FEMA took days to react to the evacuees in the Convention Center, then said they didn't know they were there (unbelievable, and if so, unexcusable), then finally lied about having brought in a couple of meals a day for them. It just didn't happen. I don't want Brown's scalp just for emotional satisfaction. I want to see us learn from this crisis, and I'm concerned we'll see instead another Medal of Freedom awarded instead. A fair observer can see that loyalty means more than accountability to this administration, and it will serve our country ill if we allow that model to prevail here.

I'll keep an open mind, and look at the evidence that is presented in hearings, and in the press, and in the stories of people who were in the city, on the ground, and in the surrounding areas as emergency responses were staged. I hope you'll do the same.

Elizabeth said...

I'm reading the updates on wwltv.com, and the mayor of Gretna (this is a conservative, white suburb on the Westbank of New Orleans) says FEMA took five days to get food and water in to Gretna. There's another example of a problem, Charles. It's on the river--use a boat! Why five days? Bad management. Mayor Harris says, and I tend to agree, that FEMA is performing more poorly as a part of Homeland Security than it has in the past as an independent agency. I also don't think Brown is qualified for his job, but that will no doubt be looked at more in depth down the road.