Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back to a favorite meme

This time, however, I'm going to talk about a meme of the right.

Reference material: New Orleans' Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan

I can't remember who said it most--I'll give credit to Hugh Hewitt--but during the last Presidential campaign the starboard side of the blogosphere frequently argued that "facts are stubborn little things", offering up evidence of economic growth (jobs reports, income reports, spending reports, etc) to counter the left's doom-and-gloom predictions of economic strife that was right around the corner.

I've got news for you: facts are STILL stubborn little things. That is why I WOULD welcome an inquiry from the federal level into the breakdowns of the coordinated response to Katrina last week--if it was an all-out, comprehensive review. You know, the kind of review that actually looks at things like the responsibilities of local and state governments to protect their constituents. If a review is going to be done only concerning the FEDERAL response to the disaster, it isn't going to be worth much. Some things were done right, some things were done wrong, but overall the process did not go very well. It's not for lack of effort or desire to help--it's because from the moment the levees broke (a foreseeable happening) while there were still people in the city the entire response was put in an untenable situation. And yes, it's really that simple.

The disaster that is New Orleans is unique. Normally a hurricane blows through, does varying degrees of wind and water damage. . .and then LEAVES behind a wreckage on which the clean-up effort can begin. In fact, this is the case of Katrina's aftermath in Alabama and Mississippi and non-New Orleans parts of LA--an incredible mess, to be sure, with horrible and tragic loss of life. . .but as early as Tuesday we were seeing pictures of dry land. Shortly thereafter, work on reconstituting the infrastructure was begun so that supplies and personnel could get to the area and start working on helping the people left behind--and the people yet to return. Contrast that to New Orleans: Tuesday was just the beginning of the mess. The necessary rescue operations for THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE take time and resources--two things lacking for the task at hand FROM THE MINUTE THE LEVEES BROKE. Face it--even if all the proper resources were in the city on Tuesday morning (which would have been a miracle), by Tuesday afternoon we would have had to leave those resources behind until the levee was fixed (or, more accurately, we would have had to rescue the people behind the resources while the waters continued to rise, thereby engulfing the hardware of the "recovery" effort). Any way you slice it, once those levees gave way New Orleans was a city with a bleak immediate future--and the compromise of those levees was virtually guaranteed from the moment a Cat IV storm came onshore.

In an ideal world, the water through the broken levees would have drowned an empty city--tragic, to be sure, but totally devoid of the "time" element that escalated the desperation of the situation. Think about it: take the "human" element out of the problem in NO last week, and really all you have is a grotesque curiousity as a city slowly dies. Alas, such was not the case.

Again, I'm not covering for what even I believe was a disorganized and horribly slow evacuation effort (that's the worst element of last week). I've indirectly called for either the FEMA director's job or Chertoff's job--not right now, just at some point in time. But I will say this: the federal effort was greatly complicated by the presence of people in that city. Why they were there is for you to decide, but I really have a hard time swallowing any argument that the Federal government was responsible for getting the citizens of a city out of the way of an approaching storm. I don't think that's the kind of country we live in. . .

But back to the "investigations": IF the commission is tasked with doing a "bottom-up" review of the errors made in the foremath/aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it may be a worthwhile venture. If the inquiry, however, is just done to review the "federal" response to Katrina, it will be ugly.

That's the problem with a picture that lacks any background: you don't get art, you get agenda. (Think Rorschach Test, those inkblots that psychiatrists use to determine a patient's mindframe). Agenda won't help solve the problems uncovered in the response to Katrina--let's hope the commission realizes this and does a thorough job of looking at ALL aspects of the debacle from last week.


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3:12 PM  

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