September 2, 2005

"They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will."

Said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who strikes me as incredibly inept.
Governor Blanco told ABC she had "no idea" how many people had died, when asked about fatalities because of the inadequacy of the response.

"We're not into the blame game... I've been trying to save lives," she said.

Well, I can see why she wouldn't be into the "blame game." And, you know, it's not always a game. Some people really do deserve blame. The city and the state failed in this one, it would seem. Now it's time — past time — for the feds to do what needs to be done.


Steven Taylor said...

I concur here as well--Blanco is coming across as inept.

I think there is a difference between pointing finger and playing the blame game over why this happened and criticizing the relief effort.

Clearly there is a general lack of leadership here--at least that is how it is coming across to me.

I commented on the shoot-to-kill order here:

Bruce Hayden said...

Someone suggested last night that it would be the worst, with all the bad guys knowing that as of today, they would be outgunned.

I really don't think that you are going to see that much shooting. The bad guys are not that stupid.

So, to some extent, I see this as grandstanding on the part of the governor. Maybe necessary, but still grandstanding.

carla said...

I don't think Blanco had much choice. There haven't been enough National Guard and law enforcement to help...and that's not her fault.

The main responsibility for a disaster of this scale falls to the feds..specifically FEMA. The head of FEMA says this morning that they still won't have the extra Guard folks until Sunday.

This is ridiculous.

Kim said...

Oh, it's just a "temporary disruption."

Oops, was that mike on?

Earth Girl said...

Practically the first line of relief/defense is local, then state and then federal. Let me amend that, the first line is individual and neighborhood. It is unrealistic to expect FEMA to show up in my neighborhood to rescue me.

DaveG said...

I don't think Blanco had much choice. There haven't been enough National Guard and law enforcement to help...and that's not her fault.

I'm not so sure. FEMA is a national response agency, and as such cannot be poised and ready to go at any possible location within the US, although aruguably they had plenty of warning and time to prepare for this.

While it is true that some portion of the LA National Guard is unavailable due to assignment in Iraq, that was no secret to LA government and should have been planned for. It seems to me, and I readily confess to knowing very little about civil disaster planning, that any major city should be ready to handle the first few days of a crisis knowing that it will be some time before federal assistance can be brought in. And, knowing that, they should update their plans to compensate for a partial reduction in their state national guard.

As I've said before, the National Guard has two major missions. One is national defense, and the other is local disaster support. It should never come as a surprise that some portion of the local guard is overseas, and it should, in fact, be the responsibility of state gov't. to compensate for that.

Rebecca said...

While the response from the Feds has been slower than I would like I am reminded that I don't expect the Feds to put out my house if it is on fire. Where and What was NO evacuation plan? I understand that plans can falter when faced with reality but this is ridiculous.

Tom said...

I can't help but think that part of the reason for the incompetent response from the city and state to the disaster is the political corruption that New Orleans and Louisiana is infamous for. How many of the people in important positions who have failed to perform in the past week were doomed to fail because they achieved those positions in back-room deals instead of on merit? How much of the bureaucratic machinery that should be helping the survivors is bogged down by corruption and incompetence? How much preparation work never got done because the money intended to fix this or that ended up in someone's pocket? Corruption can't be blamed for everything, but I'm sure it isn't making things easier.

I also have to ask, did it not occur to anyone in city government that if they were going to declare the Superdome and convention center safe havens, that maybe they should have stocked them with food and water in the days leading up to the hurricane?

Eric said...

I'm not entirely sure who she's talking to, since the looters, unless they're commuting, don't have electricity for their TVs. They may have radios, but then they'd need to be tuned into a station outside N.O.

I agree that she doesn't seem particularly on top of things.

Cat said...

Carla, first and foremost, the state should have been ready. State police, local police and LA National Guard (of which there are 8,000 stateside and available) should have been ready on Sunday, before the storm. They weren't. That is the fault of the Gov, not the feds. The Mayor seemed equally uncoordinated and there doesn't seem to be any coordination between state and locals so how is FEMA (who apparently rec'd most of their info from the news, not from the Gov and Mayor).

I am not bragging or meaning to sound obnoxious, but in NYC we had a central command center that was used to coordinate everything that this city needs during an emergency (weather like the huge blizzard of '96, blackout or terrorism). It was destroyed on 9/11, but the point is a plan - wherever the "command post was" - is in place to get the NY national guard no matter what was happen, coordinate police, fireman and sanitation workers locally and statewide (through the governer). Now there was no flooding on 9/11, but the National Guard was there that night and all cops were on duty and had their instructions.

Now I hear 20% N.O. cops aren't showing up for work or have turned in their badges?

God knows, if we had a massive flood like N.O. it would be a nightmare, but I think the mayor and gov offices would have handled it better together. I can't imagine (well, maybe Mayor Dinkins would have done this...he let those riots go unchecked for 4 days in '89) the Mayor sending out an "SOS" or Gov. Pataki saying, "I don't know what we are going to do," on National television.

Also, being so many feet under sea level in the first place, it's not like this disaster was out of the realm of possibility. Where was the planning?

hoosthere said...

My college roommate works for Blanco in the legislative department for Oil and Gas. As you might imagine he is VERY busy. He tells me that, behind the scenes, Blanco is an extremely capable administrator and organizer. I remember him telling me a few months ago, however, that she has never been good in front of cameras and that she has never "struck" anybody as a good leader, but that, in fact, she is highly capable...and that she does have competent people around her.

In my opinion, it's very easy to cast potshots based on impressions, and I think Blanco is the unlucky recipient of such potshots due to her demeanor.

Cat said...

Carla - you just repeated what you said above IGNORING facts.

FEMA does NOT call the national guard - the GOV does! Fema is not going to risk the lives of aid workers if there are no State or Local police to protect them.

The first people who are going to help you in any disaster are the local authorities - everything needs to be coordinated through THEM. They know the city, the state - all of the planning.


Cat said...

Woops - Carla - sorry - you didn't reply. My 'puter wasn't loading new comments.

Never mind...

leeontheroad said...

I agree the Gov. appears inept-- both in the press conferences I have seen and based on the results of the human disater in the state and, especially, NO (and all of Jefferson and Orleans parishes).

The state's plan was inadequate, starting with-- I woudl argue-- the state and city emergency shelters are adminsitered by the Dept. of Social Services. That dept. has no particualr specialization in emergency preparedness. See for yourselves.

Blanco and Nagin are responsible for the people in need, directly and obviosuly. And they haven't served them well, because, yes, adequate supplies in those shelters should have already been there-- with the staff to oversee supply distribution, the well-being of the children and infirm, and the safety of all. (Note: DSS administerig those sheters, says the press release, is long-standing practice in the state. It didn't beginw ith Blanco.)

I do not know the role Blanco and Nagin expected FEMA to take: I think FEMA hasn't responded well, either. They participated in the 2004 exercise, along with state officials, so they should not have been surprised at either: 1) the potential for infrastructure damage and failure; and/or 2) the problems with state planning.

Dave Schuler said...

There's plenty of blame to go around (I've just posted to that effect). The thugs and criminals in New Orleans; the city government; the state government. Why should Blanco be any better than every other Louisiana governor since Reconstruction? Louisiana has been a mess for as long as anyone can remember.

Sure, blame Bush. But if you think that the primary responsibility for every potential disaster everywhere in the country resides in the federal government how do you think that would work? How large a bureaucracy would be needed? How fast could it respond?

Elizabeth said...

I am amused by the posturing of the rugged individualists here. Earthgirl, there is no local defense, there are no local resources; the local police are engulfed by the same waters that filled the rest of the city. Their patrol cars were flooded, as were their stations. Their radios don't work. They're out of ammunition.

If you ever find yourself trying to guard your home while surrounded by floodwaters, dead bodies, and rioting looters, you'll be on your libertarian knees praying for help from somewhere, anywhere.

Elizabeth said...

leeontheroad is right about pretty much everything. Living in New Orleans, we're not oblivious and our plans for hurricanes aren't restricted to "we'll pray." I've seen our news cover state and local exercises to plan for evacuations, explosions, mediical crises and so forth.

But it's clear the state and the city did not plan for the food and water needs of those who would be stuck, and, obviously, the evacuation of the poor, the ill, and those without transportation for whatever reasons.

There is blame to go around, as I've said before, all the way up from the city to the feds. The city police are not sufficient to keep order, not with their own resources under the effects of the hurricane. It's simply taken too long for the federal and state help to get to the city, whether in the form of food and water, transportation or security. And now, Bush agrees with me: he's said today that the efforts have not been acceptable.

PatCA said...

Well said, Cat. There simply was no organization in NO comparable to the one that whipped NYC into action, and that's the fault of the local and state people, and Blanco and Nagin are actually the best in LA for a while, but blubbering on TV after a foreseeable disaster doesn't cut it. With any luck, Katrina will destroy this political machine. Why again should black people vote for Democrats???

Bush should have federalized it quicker, sure, but then he would have been accused of being heavy handed.

Lesson of the day: start building your own preparedness kits NOW.

Eddie said...

Marshal law should have been immediately implemented. During the earthquake of 1906, the Mayor said that anyone caught looting would be shot and killed. The reaction to this has been slow and inadequate.

I posted an article on whether we should be rebuilding New Orleans, which is 8 feet under sea level, yesterday.

Elizabeth said...

"With any luck, Katrina will destroy this political machine. Why again should black people vote for Democrats??? "

Tell me, patca, why should they vote for GOP either? The previous governor, before Blanco, was Republican and had a much worse, unworkable evacuation plan. I was stuck in that one during Ivan; Blanco followed the plan Mike Foster's administration had in place and it was an abject failure. Other Republican governors in Louisiana have been corrupt--a charge on one levels at Blanco, by the way.

The federal portion of this debacle is likewise run by the GOP. Why turn this into a false dichotomy to score political points? Louisiana has a healthy mix of both GOP and Democrats in office; I've voted across party for who I hoped would be competent and align most closely with my interests and values. For example, I didn't vote for the GOP candidate for governor back in the early 90s, opting for a crooked Democrat over the Neo-Nazi-KKK grand wizard David Duke. I bet a lot of black people voted Democrat that election, too!

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

correction to my typo:
"a charge NO one levels at Blanco"

Elizabeth said...

If you've seen too much vituperation, why add to it with your nasty little satire? That's a tired rhetorical trick. "Let's end this ugly soon as I get in a good suckerpunch!"

Elizabeth said...

And did you read the text on that photo? Those buses are all flooded! Maybe Bush can use his super double secret transformation powers and put water wings on 'em so they can skim across the water. But he'll have to dry out their distributer caps, change their sparks and plugs and get the water our of their gas tanks first. He'd look cute in a little mechanics outfit. We could get little Bush mechanic action dolls to match our Flight Suit Barbie Bush dolls!

My beef today is with you, bud, and your Fantasy Bush, not with Bush himself. I wish he'd come out front more assertively much earlier, but I'm thankful today that he's going to be in New Orleans, on the ground, and he's taking responsibility and urging the bureaucracy into action. Good for him.

SippicanCottage said...

Elizabeth, they're all flooded because they were parked in a lot instead of put to use bringing evacuees to a safe area. The mayor ordered the evacuation of the city, and left the means to do it parked in a lot in the middle of the city.

But it's George Bush's fault. You told me so.

justkim said...

Those buses weren't flooded over the weekend. They probably weren't flooded on Monday or early Tuesday. All the people who are stranded in New Orleans because they had no transportation out of the city could have been bused out earlier, including the many tourists who got stranded only because the airports closed. How many tourists are inadvertant drains on local resources just because they didn't have to be there?

The disuse of those buses is solely the fault of local government.

PatCA said...

Elizabeth, agreed, the Reps are bad, too. That's true anywhere. I am an independent.

It's time that people wake up and realize the old alliances are not working and just because a mayor is black doesn't mean he is going to chang a damn thing in the schools or on the streets or in a disaster shelter. There's blame to go around everywhere for the dead people in the streets, including the Democrats who run the city.

Elizabeth said...


I did not tell you it was Bush's fault. I have criticized Bush for several specific issues and policies, along with Blanco and Nagin as well. But go ahead, make crap up if you need to.

They're flooded because they were parked in a lot during a hurricane and subsequent levee break. That's why NOLA needs buses to come in from outside the city. These can't operate anymore.

If you read my posts, you'll see I've judged Nagin harshly specifically for not arranging buses for the poor before the hurricane hit. But now that the storm and floods have passed, these buses are of no use.

Earth Girl said...

Elizabeth, only up to a certain point am I a rugged individualist, thank you very much, and I come from a stock of rugged people. Please note as an individualist, I would take care of my neighbors, the elderly couple down the street for example, those who I could personally help. I cannot help everyone though and the government has a critical role; as I stated, the government's role starts with the local government (eg use those buses!) and moves out from there to the state and then the national level. Why yes, my house flooded in 1983 and I was evacuated but without the horror of dead bodies and anarchy and not on this scale. So I'm on my knees as you suggested and my pocketbook is open. What else can I do?

PatCA said...

Not to nit-pick, but I've read emails from firefighters from Florida who say that their SOP drill is when it starts raining they drive their vehicles to higher ground. Again, no plan for this in NO.

It's just a tragedy all around, okay?

SippicanCottage said...
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F15C said...

The question needs to be asked as to why there is such a difference in the response in NO vs. the response to Ivan last year in Florida and other hurricanes and tornadoes in recent years. The common components are from the federal government, the differences are at the state and local levels. So if the fed is so incompetent then why has this not been so apparent in prior disasters?

Simon Kenton said...

If the governor wants martial law, she can invoke it. The Constitution no longer obtains, and the military can shoot in defense of property. Actually, they can pretty much shoot however they please. A disadvantage is that martial law continues until the military authorities choose to hand it back to the elected officials, but generally they do so eventually.

Civilian authorities, and presumably military 'acting like civilians' (eg Guard acting as cops) are trained to shoot in defense of life. (Some areas still allow shooting to halt commission of a felony, but it doesn't take too many people shot for shoplifting more than $100 of merchandise to make that policy odious.)

The looters are unlikely to hear about this; the productive looting was doubtless finished days ago; the law enforcement people who actually believe her run the terrible emotional risk of converting themselves into killers for dreck like TVs; and while the looting will assuredly stop once a few have been killed for it, the governor who invokes it now will undoubtedly get an attack of politician-scoliosis later when the shit hits the fan.

Speaking as a former officer, this was an unconscionable remark.

miklos rosza said...

Think of how much outrage would have been whipped up if there had been film (or just unverified reports) of black teenagers being shot dead, say on Monday night.

How much outrage has there been over the Brazilian shot dead in London when thought to be a terrorist?

What if the looters turned out not to have a gun?

If I was a cop (white or black) I wouldn't shoot anybody. You'd be suspended and everything you ever did in your life would be scrutinized with prosecutorial zeal.