Comparing Misery

When Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway proclaimed, "This is our tsunami," I was a bit taken aback. There's no doubt that Hurricane Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters in American history. It was a catastrophe for the residents of the Gulf states, most especially the city of New Orleans, which Mayor Ray Nagin estimates will "not be functional" for the next three months or so.

Hundreds of thousands of people were able to get out of harm's way thanks to early warnings -- and their cars. Still, death tolls could run into the thousands, tens of thousands have had their homes ruined and the situation of those still trapped in the city is clearly dire.

But with Katrina firmly in the category of catastrophe, we might just have to invent a new word to describe the Indian Ocean tsunami last December. (Can anyone think of a stronger word than catastrophe? Thesaurus.com was no help.) The tsunami killed a quarter of a million people -- 150,000 in one Indonesian province alone. At least another half million people lost their homes -- among them some 40,000 pregnant women -- and even now, many are still unable to rebuild. Unlike with the hurricane, there was no warning before the tsunami swept entire villages out to sea. (The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, recalled in the Post's lead editorial on Thursday, is perhaps a more apt comparison.)

Sheer numbers aside, Greg at the Metasurface blog makes an important point: It's not helpful to try to "compare misery." Very true. Those who lost loved ones in the hurricane are suffering a great trauma, just as Southeast Asians suffered, and as San Franciscans did a hundred years ago.

Want to try to help alieviate the suffering? Craigslist is one of many good places you can find volunteer opportunities, offer shelter to hurricane victims and even seek out the missing.

By Emily Messner |  September 2, 2005; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Your Take
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This reminds me of the early days in Iraq. We allowed the infrastructure to be destroyed and then allowed chaos to ensue.Our government blamed it on being thousands of miles from the US then. Now who can Bush blame? Once again, in an emergency, he spent the first few days hiding out. I know Clinton would have been out there in his shirt sleeves seeing the need up close.When will this country get a clue that this government only takes care of its own. Sure, we can't let the oil guys suffer. We can let them price gouge everyone in the country cause they're W's friends. But those poor folks in NO probably didn't even vote, so why bother to get them food and water? The mayor of NO is right on. Get off your G_D_ asses, stop holding press conferences where one politician praises another politician and talks about what is in the works and DO SOMETHING. Drop food and water to these folks.

Posted by: hansab1 | September 2, 2005 07:40 AM

Australia is Amazed and dumbfounded that you cannot help your needy quicker than you have. We evacuated Darwin when flattened by a cyclone in 1974 within 2/3 days. Same with the tsunami this year. Having lived in tropical storm areas you have our heartfelt sympathy and prayers all in New Orleans and area.

Watching our news reports as the storm was approaching we laughed at the stupidty of allowing one car on the highway in, beside three EMPTY lanes, why were cars not diverted from the gridlocked other side of the highway to allow all lanes but one outbound ? Why cannot you organise relief help quicker - Are Americans a nation of Brains, loud mouths but no common sense ? I say this from experience, even though I love holidaying there amongst ordinary folk, not dumb beaurocrats. HELP those folk.

Posted by: Mary Abbott | September 2, 2005 09:57 AM

HURRICANE KATRINA - Alternate Ideas for handling crisis NOW! I have some ideas. Can't get through to media! Oprah can!!!! Please read this.

Water purification: Dropping WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS so people can purify water. They have containers!!! Telling people to get BLEACH from the stores and how to purify water. Use bleach to clean. Get cleaning products from the stores. Pour on the concrete. Anything. Have newspeople use blowhorns to tell people how to do so.

At the edges where people with guns are - TRADE FOOD AND WATER FOR GUNS. Where that doesn't work...LEAVE BUSES FOR THEM. THEN CATCH THEM AWAY FROM THE CITY.

Don't try just to get into the center of the city. Strenghten people from the edges of the city. Turn those people into a STRONG GRASS ROOTS CITIZEN ARMY.

If people knew how to help themselves right now, I believe they would.

In third-world countries, people wouldn't leave the dead lying all over. Blowhorns...move them together. Pull them out of the water. Cover them with plastic sheeting. It can't be a worse experience than letting them lay where they are. We just don't know how to survive in these crises. We all need to know how to be survivalists and to help each other.

Other issues: Where is Walmart in all this. They have stores all over the South. HELP PEOPLE FROM THE EDGES IF YOU CAN'T GET TO THE CENTER!!!

I work for NIH.

Posted by: Rosemary Ward | September 2, 2005 11:02 AM

These people need food, water, housing (tents). In every disaster we've ever responded to around the world. We drop these things until help can arrive. The idea of moving everyone is insane. Bush turned down the idea of assistance (other than cash), from other countries. Sounds like the same macho BS Putin does in Russia when there's a catastrophe, at least Bush ended his vacation.
I look forward to N.O. being rebuilt, why not dump alll the debris from the hurricane disaster (Mississippsi, Alabama) into that hole than build on top of it?
HELP THESE PEOPLE NOW!!!!

Posted by: Wesley Babula | September 2, 2005 12:02 PM

Good point, Mary. As a fellow Aussie, I also recall the catastrophe that was Cyclone Tracy that ravaged the city of Darwin in the Northern Territory at Christmas time, 1974. One of Australia's 10 largest cities, and the capital of the Northern Territory, was flattened almost entirely. Within only a day or two, the Royal Australian Air Force flew in transport planes with supplies, and flew out survivors to other major cities across the country. The government also commandeered commercial jets from the major airlines at the time (Qantas, Ansett and Trans Australian) to fly refugees to cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and even to Tasmania. Here, survivors were given medical attention and were billeted out in the homes of either relatives or complete strangers in this time of national emergency. The Australian response was far more rapid and highly effective. And the numbers of refugees from Darwin were comparable to those of New Orleans, and although Australia is a first world country, we do not (and certainly did not then) have the immense resources and capacity that the U.S. possesses.

The American response is truly a national disgrace. Over 20 countries including the U.K. and the Netherlands have now offered help to the U.S., in the form of money, rescue teams and supplies. To the U.S. government, I say swallow your pride and accept the aid!!!

Posted by: J. | September 2, 2005 01:07 PM

I agree with Greg at Metasurface. I think comparing disasters in terms of their size is counter-productive. Each disaster is a catastrophe in its own unique way, and hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands in the case of the tsunami are killed and millions affected. Don't tell a grieving mother who lost a child in New Orleans that "well, your disaster was not as big as the last one".

The only comparison between disasters that can be made is comparing the effectiveness of the responses. Here, comparison is not only useful, it is critical, for the purposes of learning lessons and applying them to the next disaster. How is it that international non-profits, the UN and various foreign governments responded to the tsunami, that affected multiple third-world countries over a massive area of the globe, practically overnight, and yet the U.S., the government with the greatest capabilities of any nation on earth, can't respond as quickly or effectively to only a couple of states on its own soil?

I agree with J. This truly is a national disgrace!

Could I respond any better? No, but that's not my job. Am I saying these things from an ivory tower, criticizing the relief effort while not involving myself? Maybe, but again, even if I went to New Orleans, I would only get in the way of the professionals.

I have no doubt that the professionals and trained volunteers on the ground are doing a superb job, working 25-hour days to the point of exhaustion. The Red Cross volunteers who leave their white-collar jobs in New York or DC and rush to New Orleans to volunteer in the relief effort; the firefighters from Miami who speed to Biloxi to help with the search effort; and electrical engineers who drive all the way from Canada to help restore power. You want national heroes? It's them. The people I am criticizing are the policy-makers who first failed to plan properly and give adequate funding to disaster preparedness (and bled FEMA dry) and then compounded the problem with a lacklustre, slow response. Would a Democratic administration have done any better? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? But what we do know is that this one has screwed up big time, and now hundreds of thousands are suffering because of it.

By the way, this blog just keeps getting better. I love being able to comment on it, something that few other blogs in the media world (even on Post.com) allow you to do.

Posted by: Derek | September 2, 2005 01:20 PM

Mary from Australia, if you're still up on this thread, the following is taken from a fact sheet on Cyclone Tracy--which you reference--http://www.naa.gov.au/fsheets/fs176.html

"At the time of the cyclone, Darwin's population was estimated at about 48,000. With essential services all severed, together with the risk of disease, and with food and shelter at a premium, a sizeable part of this population was evacuated. While many people left of their own accord by road, others were evacuated compulsorily by aircraft. The airlift began on Boxing Day and over the next six days more than 25,000 were evacuated to southern cities."

So in reality, about half of Darwin was evacuated--even being generous as to who the government actually evacuated and who left on their own--, it took 6+ days, the population was the tiniest fraction of what we're dealing with, and from what I can see Darwin wasn't under water making the evacuation a might easier. It hasn't been six days since Katrina and more than 25,000 have been evacuated already. Perhaps you could ratchet back the rhetoric just a tad since you don't know the situation here and are just a little hazy on your own history.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 03:04 PM

I agree with Derek that commenting on this blog is fun. I'm not sure we settled anything, but maybe we'll do better next week. I wonder what the topic will be? Maybe we can try "Which is the one true religion?"! Or "Who would win in a fight between Aqua Man and the Apache Chief?".

Posted by: Sonny | September 2, 2005 03:56 PM

Sonny: I think the topic next week will be "Which is the one true religion" and the answer of course is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Anyway, enough being off-topic. We'll talk about the all-powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster some other time.

Posted by: Derek | September 2, 2005 04:01 PM

Derek,

>>>How is it that international non-profits, the UN and various foreign governments responded to the tsunami, that affected multiple third-world countries over a massive area of the globe, practically overnight, and yet the U.S., the government with the greatest capabilities of any nation on earth, can't respond as quickly or effectively to only a couple of states on its own soil?>>The people I am criticizing are the policy-makers who first failed to plan properly and give adequate funding to disaster preparedness (and bled FEMA dry) and then compounded the problem with a lacklustre, slow response.<<<

You have got to be kidding me. the fastest rising money suck in the federal government is now DHS, to which FEMA belongs. What was improperly planned? You mean the cat 4 hurricane hits the gulf coast plan? Tell me what exactly could have been planned any differently? Is FEMA supposed to have a plan for a specific response to a hurricane hitting every gulf coast city? At what population levels does FEMA stop making specific plans for municipal hurricane repsonses? Houston, but not Corpus Christi, Tampa but not Ft Walton Beach? every Atlantic coast city? What about Missouri River floods but not Kansas River floods? You see the shortsidedness of your point here? The federal governemnt helps us best by being generally resourced, manned and trained to respond in a number of directions to what ever arises. I would rather they be generally right and able to adapt quickly (my belief) than exactly wrong and paralyzed (your belief) any time.

FEMA's benchmark response was Hurricane Ivan and, as a Pensacola resident, I can tell you FEMA did...and is still doing...and excellent job. Is it FEMA's fault the levees busted? Is FEMA supposed to ignore the 800,000 people in coastal MS and Mobile County AL because New Orleans is getting flooded?

The only goobers I would label with your "this one has screwed up big time" characterization are the sideline sitting policy wonks in government financed McMansions off the 270 spur or in McLean who are deluded into thinking that slapping doublespeak on paper in some DC think tank actually equates to getting something done.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 04:06 PM

Derek,

"How is it that international non-profits, the UN and various foreign governments responded to the tsunami, that affected multiple third-world countries over a massive area of the globe, practically overnight, and yet the U.S., the government with the greatest capabilities of any nation on earth, can't respond as quickly or effectively to only a couple of states on its own soil?"

From the CNN website encapsulating the Tsunami relief effort, it took from 26 Dec, the event itself, until 2 January for aid--not assessment teams to see what needed to be done--but real aid--to START arriving in Indonesia. So "pratically overnight" is more than a bit of a stretch. By that time there were 150,000 known dead.

Before you start indiscriminately lobbing blame grenades, perhaps you ought to seek some clarity and apply some perspective. FEMA teams were in the area before the storm left. The Coast Guard was rescuing people in winds that were pushing the edge of safe flight ops.

I live in Pensacola. On Tuesday afternoon, well after rescue and relief efforts had already started, the winds were still blowing in excess of a speed that would allow power crews to use bucket trucks to attempt restoring power. And that was in Pensacola which never got more than about a 60 mph gust. I'msure it was worse closer to the storm.

"The people I am criticizing are the policy-makers who first failed to plan properly and give adequate funding to disaster preparedness (and bled FEMA dry) and then compounded the problem with a lacklustre, slow response."

You have got to be kidding me. the fastest rising money suck in the federal government is now DHS, to which FEMA belongs. What was improperly planned? You mean the cat 4 hurricane hits the gulf coast plan? Tell me what exactly could have been planned any differently? Is FEMA supposed to have a plan for a specific response to a hurricane hitting every gulf coast city? At what population levels does FEMA stop making specific plans for municipal hurricane repsonses? Houston, but not Corpus Christi, Tampa but not Ft Walton Beach? every Atlantic coast city? What about Missouri River floods but not Kansas River floods? You see the shortsidedness of your point here? The federal governemnt helps us best by being generally resourced, manned and trained to respond in a number of directions to what ever arises. I would rather they be generally right and able to adapt quickly (my belief) than exactly wrong and paralyzed (your belief) any time.

FEMA's benchmark response was Hurricane Ivan and, as a Pensacola resident, I can tell you FEMA did...and is still doing...and excellent job. Is it FEMA's fault the levees busted? Is FEMA supposed to ignore the 800,000 people in coastal MS and Mobile County AL because New Orleans is getting flooded?

The only goobers I would label with your "this one has screwed up big time" characterization are the sideline sitting policy wonks in government financed McMansions off the 270 spur or in McLean who are deluded into thinking that slapping doublespeak on paper in some DC think tank actually equates to getting something done.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 04:09 PM

Willy--I regret to inform you, and regret generally, since I would love to be able to buy one, that McLean McMansions are well beyond the means of government financed policy wonks. I don't know what you think government salaries are, but you couldn't buy a place in the Reserve or Evans Farm on the President's salary, even using a negatively-amortizing option ARM.

Other than that, I agree with you. And I don't think it's primarily FEMA's issue anyway. I don't know how the mayor has the cajones to tell the Feds to get off their asses. He's the mayor! Doesn't he have to take some responsibility for pre-planning for an event everyone knew was a threat to his city. What was the city doing to round up people with nowhere to go on Sunday? And doesn't he have to take some responsibility for the action, or inaction, of his own police force, which has been seen permitting looting, participating in looting, fleeing the city, and locking themselves in their station for their own protection rather than ensuring the protection of the citizenry. And what about the state government? Louisiana certainly believes in States' Rights, as exemplified by its refusal to raise its drinking age to 21 for years in defiance of the Federal Highway money threat. You would think some acknowledgement of States' OBLIGATIONS should accompany a firm belief in States' Rights. But then again, maybe they were just influenced by the Beastie Boys assertion that you have to fight for your right to party rather than by the founders' conception of the proper balance between federal and local powers and obligations.

Posted by: Sonny | September 2, 2005 04:26 PM

Sonny, touche`, I must have witnessed the last straw fall on my pet camel. Yeah, I have a feeling the mayor feels bad enough already and doesn't need any gratuitous body slamming. Although I did see one picture today of what looks like the entire N.O. school bus fleet neatly parked in a lot with water up to the windows...oops.

Finger pointing and blame grenades that seem to be tossed around so glibly on these threads are exactly the wrong approach. The goofy articles about emergency response funding being adversely affected by terrorist incident responding are just appear to us provincials to be more wonk word-play for its own sake--the proverbial self licking ice cream cone. I don't think FEMA particularly cares what caused the levees to bust, hurricane surge back-pressure or islamofacist truck bomb. They just gotta help local and state officals deal with the consequences and dealing they are as we speak.

I just get disgusted by the finger pointer crowd that offers only criticsm when real people are trying really hard to work real problems. I mean we were less that 72 hours from the storm hitting the coast and we had (at the time) some cutsie tele-journalist--and I use that term derisively--demanding that Sen Landrieu agree with her that it's ok to select the 'national disgrace' setting on the overheated rhetoric knob. I can understand the mayor of N.O. letting off some steam, but a 'several state removed and only on TV connected' journalist losing her temper?--huh? I read one guy yesterday on a similar Messner thread that wanted accountability as to why there weren't levee patches stockpiled, to be dropped presumbaly by GPS aided precision guided weapons from a B-2, to fix the levees.

I don't know about those mcmansions though. I'll bet there are plenty of dual income SES types populating them. But you're right they are probably more likely populated by lawyers for corporate HQs that exist in DC soley to lobby Congresspersons, or overpaid, undereducated cable news talking heads..or maybe overpaid Washington Post Blognalists.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 06:03 PM

J. see previous post to Mary the other Aussie. You are utterly ignorant to your own history except to hazily recall a distant event.

"The Australian response was far more rapid and highly effective. And the numbers of refugees from Darwin were comparable to those of New Orleans, and although Australia is a first world country, we do not (and certainly did not then) have the immense resources and capacity that the U.S. possesses."

At the time of Cyclone Tracy, Darwin had a population of ~48,000. That is not remotely comparable to Metarie (suburb of N.O~ 150,000) much less N.O proper, ~ 500,000. I haven't seen any mention of Darwin flooding. It took 6+ days to get roughly half of Darwin's population away and hey we've only been at this for about 72 hours and we've already evacuated more than you did. Maybe before you start firing for effect, you should turn on a light or two oi-oi-oi.

"The American response is truly a national disgrace. Over 20 countries including the U.K. and the Netherlands have now offered help to the U.S., in the form of money, rescue teams and supplies. To the U.S. government, I say swallow your pride and accept the aid!!!"

I wish I was standing right in front of you right now. Maybe you should listen less to rumor and more to those with authority to speak. SECSTATE Rice has stated categorically that no aid has been refused. However, there is no since yelling for stuff if you don't know yet exactly what you need. Maybe you ought to let us do a little planning first. If we just willy-nilly issued requests for stuff from halfway around the world, chances are the stuff would show about the time we don't need it anymore. Maybe your government's kind offer needs to take the form of things we can more effectively use when we figure out what would be most needed about the time the stuff could get here. Maybe you ought to let the professionals who do this kind of planning for a living just get on with it.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 07:38 PM

Since we're suddenly discussing "requests for assistance" from our overseas friends, and since I conveniently live in Europe and get to shake my head in disgust at what is going on in my homeland, maybe we could request a plasma or LCD flat-screen HDTV, so that I can better see the disgrace and roll my eyes even more.

I mean, since I can't join in the fun and loot one for myself from WalMart...

Posted by: EchoMike66 | September 3, 2005 01:45 AM

Emily,

What you're forgetting in your commentary is that a fairly large portion of New Orleans citizens don't have cars to flee.

What good is evacuation orders when they can't jump into a SUV loaded with creature comforts to ride out of town?

This is a calling card for every city in the country -- you must factor in your EMS plans a population that doesn't have transportation out (which means double and triple your shelter ratios and make sure there's enough food/water/medicine to handle the most needy -- as they'll probably have lost everything, including their medicine). All those folks who depend on public transportation (NYC and Washington metro populations -- HINT, HINT) won't have a way to flee, they're stuck.

It takes a national disaster to make folks realize "the reality" of disasters, let's just hope all cities around the country now understand the real face of disaster prepareness -- it's more than a converted school gym and some pillows, sometimes it'll take months before folks can return home again.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | September 3, 2005 05:26 AM

bush's recent picture taking session in al. miss. and la. was really disgusting and was all show. he should have taken the money it took to fly that god damn plane and all down there and used it on relief efforts. what a big show !!!!!!

Posted by: kirk | September 3, 2005 10:36 AM

also he ask's americans to conserve gas as he drives a big 1 ton ford around his ranch in texas. speak as you do!!!! mr. president, and i use that term loosely.

Posted by: kirk | September 3, 2005 10:49 AM

also he ask's americans to conserve gas as he drives a big 1 ton ford around his ranch in texas. speak as you do!!!! mr. president, and i use that term loosely.

Posted by: kirk | September 3, 2005 10:51 AM

You are scaring us shitless

I have seen americans fail at this so many times, in wartorn and poor countries around the world. But it really hurts and scares me to see how weak and broken down your society now is.

Most Africans know how to organise their shelters for internally displaced people in such a way to prevent their women and children from being raped. It is a basic skill. You obviously don't seem to think it necessary, as USA is supposed to be a decent country with decent people.

How wrong. The civil society broke down in a matter of hours. Where owning a gun is a human right, people get shot at and killed, women and children are raped, gangs loot and prevent rescue workers from assisting those in need, houses burn while floating in water. Police deserting their people is a common sight in countries where law enforcement don't feel loyalty to their authorities, like in many dictatorships.

How could the authorities allow most people to leave the city while leaving those without any means of transport behind? Being incompetent can be forgiven. Having lost all sense of solidarity and ability to protect your most vulnerable citiziens cannot be forgiven.

Now I understand why we always have to fight the US interests in Africa and Asia when we want to organise protection for the most vulnerable groups of refugees, internally displaced, children and women, why you often work against it and seldom manage to coordinate any aid efforts if the issue of basic human rights is at stake.

Those responsible, your administration, are truly a threat to human dignity. All my thoughts and symphaty goes to those who are still awaiting rescue, shelter, food, water and protection after Katrina hit. What a shame.

Deeply disturbed Norwegian aid worker

Posted by: Hanne, Oslo | September 3, 2005 03:46 PM

Hanne, sorry you feel this way. I'm sure you've seen your share of horrors. Please try to look behind the folks with the microphones. They usually have an angle and it isn't always in the best interests of the activity in the background.

It is very hard to move anywhere with any appreciable load of supplies after a major hurricane. The roads are impassable due to debris and down (sometimes live) power lines. In this case the flooding compounded the problem for New Orleans but I encourage you to get a good map of the entire area from Southern LA North to at least Hattiesburg MS and then in a large curve down to Mobile AL to understand the size of the area that is devastated. Air ports were unuasable and had to be cleared. Ports are destroyed. Rail lines are impassable and the road system has to be cleared in order to get supplies in. Trucks have to bring their own gas becasue there isn't any on the way. Communications are disrupted because the cel towers are down. Extensive rescue and relief work can only be done during daytime because there is no power for after dark activities so aid workers are tied to their generators which are precious even in America. It is way more complicated than CNN/FOX/MSNBC/HN/NBC/ABC/CBS has led everybody to believe. They ought to be flayed for it but that would be the letting the inmates run the prison.

I hope you are watching now. You see what Americans can do. It would be wrong to presume that all that you now see just happened over night. It was the result of rapid crisis planning and execution that some say wasn't rapid enough, but takes time none the less. Keep watching. I am connfident you will be reassured/enlightened? that nobody energizes like Americans with a mission.

I can't speak for other crises you have aided, but I would bet the Americans are always there to help.

Posted by: Willy | September 3, 2005 07:39 PM

What concerns me most about hurricane Katrina is not just comparing disasters but one article that was written recently in the post about the propsed racism that is taking place in the Gulf Region. It quoted a person who likened the displacement of persons back to the Civil War. I feel that we as a nation are greiving and praying for everyone regardless of race or religion or ethnicity. Its a terrible thing that happened, and the hurricane didn't discriminate among its victims. It could have it anywhere and the cry of racism needs to be put aside for the good of all the nation.

Posted by: Laura | September 3, 2005 09:23 PM

This isn't to you but to everyone who will can and will read. I just about threw up my supper listening to Christianne Ammanpour on Larry King Live tonight talking about the world's general impression that the Katrina response is a racial issue. I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing. If that is the best Ms Ammanpour can do then she needs to GET OFF THE AIR. If the world's impression is that somehow the American government has shortchanged African-Americans in the Katrina response, then that is because the television media, CNN in particular and Anderson Cooper specifically has made it so. They made it so by continuously reporting on one tiny speck of the disaster to the exclusion of all other areas, totally ignoring the tens of thousands of square miles of devastation that knew no color boundaries. They made it so by not giving any context, perspective or background WHATSOEVER as to why there are a large concentration of African-American survivors in and around the Super Dome. NONE. No intelligent or even objective analysis as to why this might be so. No perspective on municipal plans that might have pre-ordained that condition, little to no parallel reporting on the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama communities that were just as hard hit so that there might be an accurate portrayal of the extent of this disaster. Just a constant diet of Superdome. And Ms Ammanpour is surprised that caring people around the globe gradually conclude there are human rights violations visited upon one segment of the American population by a seemingly uncaring government. To me, and I live in Pensacola so I've seen my share of hurricane damage lately, this has been at once the best--the cameras...when allowed...when allowed to display all the damage throughout the gulf coast...have left an unmistakable image of how extensive this devastation is--and at the same time the most shameful display of television reporter narcisscism and irresponsible demogoguery I have ever seen. If there are misperceptions across the globe, and they are msperceeptions if not outright slander, they are entirely the fault of the US media coverage. Where else does anybody get their news? I have read numerous calls for accountability throughout these threads. I hope everyone watches the media reporting from here on out with a more critical eye and takes the television media to task for it. To me Ms Ammanpour, once a favorite for her ability to get anywhere and report, has lost all credibility in my eyes by showing up in New Orleans for a few minutes with conclusions already drawn and then using her considerable world recognition to lend credence to an incomplete story that misrepresents the truth to a believing world audience just to keep her face refreshed on the world's TV screens. Shameful.

Posted by: Willy | September 3, 2005 09:48 PM

I think the governor of Louisiana should resign immediately. Obviously she has failed in doing her job in every way.

I heard Mr. Nagin's angry response and although I am far away, I think I would have benn at least that angry. How come relief aid didn´t show up until 4 days after the disaster? Everyone knew there would be one. And this is America 2005!! Looks more a third world country to me, sorry to say.

I also believe the Federal government has failed. They seem to care more about the law of preperty and the right to carry a gun to shoot and kill.

Seems to me that America hasn't changed that much since Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated in 1968. Those who are worst off are once and again the African-Americans.

God be with you all.

Posted by: thordur in Iceland | September 3, 2005 10:24 PM

Thordur, see above

Posted by: Willy | September 3, 2005 10:46 PM

For me the enduring image of the official response is George W. peering out of his airplane looking concerned, while below him people were dying. Then he fronted at a press conference and came out with a stream of platitudes while old people in nursing homes were suffering dehydration, because there was no way to evacuate them.
One of the reasons why the English still respect their royal family is that during World War II, when London was being bombed, the King and Queen refused to be evacuated. They visited people whose homes had been destroyed in the Blitz, not just as a photo op but because they were their leaders and their job was to give heart. That's what leadership is all about and that's what the US no longer has.

Posted by: Joanna | September 4, 2005 05:07 AM

This is a letter I could have never imagined myself writing for several reasons. The most pertinent info I need to get through to anyone that cares or can make a difference is that my wife's mother and sister are in Loranger , LA (19362 Lanier Creek rd.) . This small town is located a couple miles north of Hammond,LA Which is not far from Lake Ponchatrain's north shore. My wife's mother and sister are like thousands of families affected by this hurricane and they are trapped. I will explain their situation.
Currently They have no Ice , no food,no electricity and almost no water There is a tree on their house and part of the outer wall to the house is missing. They have been able to get a couple of calls out and we have been able to get a couple to them. They responded to a radio announcement informing them of a food/water/ice distribution site at a school in another town they used what gas they had left in their vehicle to go there only to find that there was no food .
They also attempted to wait in line at a gas station for over 8 hours only to be told there will be no gas coming anytime soon. The people in line at the gas station and around them became more angry and violent so instead of risking bodily harm or being in unfamiliar territory due to mis-information over the radio they went back to their home and are now completely out of gas. Due to the heat and lack of food, water etc... the two of them are now showing signs of dehydration ( vomiting, , loose bowls etc...) The roads in their town are passable for the most part but the have no fuel to go anywhere.
I have been in contact with a lot of people in there area. When I first contacted the Tangipahoa Sheriffs Office they told me that they would send a deputy to check on them. When I called the Sheriffs office back they said that" they went to the address and no one was there and the home had no damage and was secure". When we contacted my mother-in-law she stated no one had come to them and they had not left the house at that point. I had also contacted the Office of Emergency preparedness in Amite, LA (not far from their home), I was informed by them that they can't send people to check on people and then they started on a rant on how they should've been more prepared, all they could tell me is where to tell them to go for food, which at an earlier point would've been helpful if it wasn't mis-information but at this point the info was mute given there circumstances. the person i was speaking with them hung up on me. I also contacted the red cross and told them of there circumstances they informed me again on where they could drive to get food...again mute point and when asked "What plan they had on rescuing the thousands of other people that need rescuing that are not in New Orleans?" they said "I'm sorry we have not been informed on what to do as of yet.".
I could go into a rant about our government and "my approval rating for the job they are doing in this matter" but given my situation in would be biased and not a balanced view. Instead I am trying to reach someone with resources greater then my own to help rescue another "human being" regardless of there race or political view. I will assure you though my views on the competence of my current government will be reflected in my voting , both locally and federally.

Any help would be greatly appreciated,

Thank you,
James Davis(Frederick, MD)

Posted by: James | September 4, 2005 10:07 AM

James Davis, read your post, sorry. I went to the web and got the 1-800# for the 1st Army Joint Ops Center (1-800 496-6286) and was eventually transferred to the folks inputting on-call tasking for rescue efforts. I gave them the address and descriptions and conditions you wrote. No promises because there are a lot of stories like yours but they were going to load this into their system. Hope it all goes ok. Maybe you could call them and update them on what you know.

Posted by: Willy | September 4, 2005 02:10 PM

This may not be the forum to discuss my reaction to two articles that I just completed reading.
One stated that The White House and FEMA were not to blame for the lack of response to Katrina victims. The entire blame is the local and state governmental levels. It is interesting to me that in a time like this that time is being wasted discussing who is at fault rather than how do we fix this problem.
All throughout this week, CNN, MSNBC, CBS etc. all had people there reporting on the dire conditions of the victims and the situation pictures included. There was an SOS put out by the Mayor of New Orleans through the news media, who as we all are aware (other than the National level of government) had no means of communication as all phones, computer access, and cell towers were down. The Governor of Louisianna also declared it a state of emergency. What does it take to get the message across. Then there were the comments that it was unsafe and that is why no one wanted to go into New Orleans. News media personnel all stated that there were pockets of violence (such as seen in Bagdad, Viet Nam, and most cities one photographer stated) but the rest of the city needed help desperately. If we can drop supplies in Bagdad, Viet Nam, and elsewhere why not here?
Solution to the problem of the National Governmental Quamire:
Day of the disaster or at the very least the day after:
Officials WITH AUTHORITY from FEMA, Military, White House, all go to the scene and evaluate the need of food, medical supplies, relief for the medical personnel in the hospitals, and evacuation necessary to save and preserve life.

Why does it take an "invitation" to get involved? Everything that has happened this past week is appauling to me. I never thought that I would live to see this type of treatment of anyone anywhere in this country.
There is nothing else to say, except that I would respect the National level of Government more if the statements made right now were that this will never happen again; not, as Michael Chertoff, Head of Homeland Security stated, that there is no blueprint for this type of disaster. It only takes common sense to see that help was needed and that people were dying.
News media personnel were there, but no one else seemed to be.

Posted by: Marge | September 4, 2005 06:42 PM

I think this whole shmozzle shows what can can happen when too many people are far too poor, too many guns are far too easy to get, and too many drug addicts are simultaneously suddenly forced to go cold turkey. I mean let's face it - who ELSE would bother to actually shoot at people who are trying to help?

Or are the criminal classes really, actually _that_ low and disgusting?

I feel so dreadfully sorry for all the innocent people involved.

Kim...

Posted by: Kim | September 4, 2005 10:32 PM

Marge,

Take a second look at CNN, you'll find a new nugget at who dropped the ball in why the aid was slow.

Apparently when Bush, Nagin, the Louisanna governor and other bigwigs got together to discuss what to do, the president offered 2 alternatives, with each the governor said she'll wait 24hrs to make a decision.

I don't like playing the blame game so early, but that revelation is ugly. A 24hr wait could've killed untold numbers (like that EMS director's own mom, who drowned in a personal care facility on friday -- after her son promised for 3 days to get her out).

Hope that governor is plagued by nightmares for playing politics while thousands were in need suffered or died. Let her have to view all of the dead bodies for a week, up close and personal, to remind her that waiting isn't an option during a disaster.

Shame.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | September 5, 2005 09:00 AM

With regard to the idea that aid to other countries is faster than aid to New Orleans, this may often be a misperception. Tsunami strikes and 2 days later the President promises US will help. In the third day 1 planeload of food aid arrives at 1 site and is shown on US TV. That's where our attention span as a nation ends. In the case of New Orleans, the 24 hour coverage on cable news kept us constantly aware of what was not being done to help the people stranded in New Orleans.
I agree with the assertion that New Orleans was not adequately prepared. All levels of government, except perhaps President Bu8sh,knew a category 4 or 5 hurricane would break the levee system and all levels of government knew that 60-80% of N.O. was below sea level. With a storm surge raising the level of Lake Ponchartrain to 20 feet above sea level, of course there is going to be a massive flood. Much of the city would be uninhabitable. The fact that when the mayor announced a mandatory evacuation, 80% left, probsbly did wonders to reduce the suffering of that 80%. But there was no plan to deal with the 20% who remained beyond telling them to go to the Super Dome. Nobody seemed to really anticipate how they would handle 25,000 living in the Super Dome with no functioning toilets. With an adequate plan, there might have been 5,000 portable toilets placed in the Superdome. As far as I can tell nobody planned for the fact that 25,000 in the Super Dome would inevitably include sick people, many of whom would be seperated from their medications. A plan to provide medical care would have eased the plight of a good many people and reduced the death toll. If we were in a war, the military would quickly establish a field hospital near the front lines. So even absent a plan, a quicker respnse to provide medical care to those stuck in the city should have been feasible. The city should have realized that with a flood and no electric power that both land-line and cell phone service would be out and set up a way for police, fire, the mayor, the person left in charge of the Super Dome, etc. to communicate similar to the way the military communicates in the field. I could go on and on, but I think that I have already listed a significant number of ways that there should have been better planning.

Posted by: Mike Mavroidis | September 5, 2005 04:45 PM

What some folks aren't getting is, the push by the GOP devotees of being "positive" has backfired. As you can tell from their talking points of late they're giving a positive spin on everything -- even this disaster (i.e., the FEMA director praising the "good work" of little relief -- with folks literally blinking their eyes in disbelief of these bigwigs taking hours praising a F on the disaster relief report card!).

This could've explain why Bush was so misinformed: his chiefs were taking the talking points, literally, and giving Bush positive spin, despite it not checking with reality. He had no choice but to get on a plane and see it for himself (yet I still think he rather believe a Never Never Land story). With loyality trumped more important than intelligence and reason, Bush won't condemn his disaster chiefs, despite they fumbled at the goal line on national TV. So don't expect anyone to be held responsible, despite the hundreds to thousands dead.

But reality bites, and no GOP forerunner is going to survive this disaster unscathed. Billions spent on "Homeland Security" only to find it wasted (probably on some fancy new office, and 6 figured salaries for political/financial backers) -- we haven't learned crap from 9/11.

>:(

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | September 6, 2005 08:59 AM

If you ask me if the Katrina disaster can be compared to any other disaster where people died in the thousands my answer would be yes and no. No two disasters are exactly alike nor for that matter totally unlike. The destruction caused by the Asian tsunami was truly unprecedented but so was Katrina combined with the flooding that occurred due to sheer human error.

What seems to me most atrocious is the stereotyping that's been going on in some of the journalistic writings. I am alluding specifically to those reports and analyses where the situation of Katrina evacuees was described as "a scene from the Third World." What is not pleasing to our senses, what we disapprove of becomes "Third World." What a terrible comparison! Is this is a way of consoling ourselves that we are not worse off than others, after all? What a poor consolation!

What is "Third World" any way? Are we in the First World or Second World? And who decides who comes first, second or third?

That there is poverty in our midst is beyond dispute and yet we want to pretend that the "Third World" is worse off. That there is a glaring racial divide here is clear as daylight and yet we want to say that the Iraqis are divided on ethnic lines. That we ignore norms of the civilized world (when it suits our political ideology) as it happened in the prisoner "abuse" cases of Abu Ghribe is there for all the world to see and yet we would rather blame Vladimir Putin for human rights abuses.

Why bring in the Third World? Why are we afraid to admit that "Third World" exists right here in our midst? It is not just Katrina that "caused" a Third World situation, rather Katrina just laid bare what was "invisible" because we did not want to "see" the ugly reality. No doubt, the world we live in is just not "ONE," it is "MANY" because there is this glaring inequality that sets apart a large segment of the population whom one would rather forget than acknowledge. Correct diagnosis of the malady must precede any prescription for cure. So, let us not stereotype, but try to see with a discerning eye the reality staraing at us.

Posted by: Lea | September 7, 2005 11:31 PM

Out of Touch President
Don't Bother me on my Vacation-I have brush to cut


In this day and age, when a mass murdering tyrant like Saddam is sitting in luxury eating spicy Doritos, our America families i n New Orleans are treading in feces up to their necks looking for help! How would you like your mother sitting in front of the Super Dome for five days waiting to be rescued, starving, drenched in sweat, tears, and urine How could you , George Bush , who pledged to protect us from terrorists have let thousands of Americans needlessly die. You have killed more Americas than any terrorist ever did, by just not responding to their needs and cries for help!
These Americans only crime was to be born poor in a state that has only 9 electoral votes. I wonder if Louiana had a Bush relative for governor and a hefty 27 electoral votes if aid would be so slow in coming. These American people are someone's' beloved family and they deserve the same dignity as prisoners of war. Being left in their own filth with floating corpses is not the American Dream.
Well now, George, after playing the spinning blame game, just have some lowly person order about 10,000 body bags and get billions of dollars from Congress to clean up the mess. I dare you to get out of your private fly by jet and take a photo- op next to the body bags stacked like fire wood. Thousands have suffered while on your Watch. This is your Legacy, your page in History! Gee, George, I wonder did you ever think, {" What Would Jesus Do?}

Posted by: Moon | September 8, 2005 02:20 PM

LEADERSHIP AND DISASTER IN HURRICANE KATRINA

The news about Hurricane Katrina from the USA presents an appalling situation, one that most US citizens will find hard to comprehend given their notions of pre-eminence as The Superpower. Although this is a tragedy for the US I am sure that this will affect many around the world, even if only by being affected by higher oil prices.

I have noticed that many fundamentalists (Christian and Muslim) are assured that this is the work of God/Allah as repayment for US Foreign Policy in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The more sensible amongst us can see that there appears to have been a massive failure to prepare for and respond to a natural and predictable disaster. In fact with modern modelling tools, as used by US AID for example, one should be able to produce a very accurate model of the area and scale of devastation; this level of prediction should have been underway from the moment the hurricane had been identified as a hazard, then the preparations such as pre-positioning emergency relief teams and supplies, warnings and preparations for evacuation to safe areas should have been underway. It is hard to believe that this failed - so much was at risk - people, cities, refineries, commercial activities and livelihoods, farming etc.

I sincerely hope that the intended inquiry announced by President Bush, reveals the actions of public persons such as the city mayors, and governors and how FEMA and the Office of the President supported them. For example, the inquiry should discover if mayors set up crisis management teams and the governors did likewise, and how these teams were managed and staffed and given authority and resources. It is critical to discover how these key people functioned over the period prior to, during and post hurricane and flood - did they stay or did they flee, did they lead, or did they abandon their responsibilities passing the buck upwards as fast as they could? To have abandoned their responsibilities in such a manner would undoubtedly be an act of criminal negligence. Moreover, the leadership displayed by these key people, including the President, would have set a standard for others to follow. With this in mind it seems that President Bush, who had the most important role, appears to have failed to act appropriately, yet he is leading the inquiry! Surely the President should appoint a judge to lead the inquiry, preferably one whose integrity is beyond doubt; a person acceptable to Democrat and Republican alike, with the power to call anyone, even the President to account.

For some it seems that criminal responsibility cries out from every flooded avenue of this disaster. In the land where litigation reigns supreme - many will want those who failed to be called to account publicly. Yet with prison sentences and personal liability ahead of them one can imagine that the audit trail of "what went right and what went wrong" to be as murky as the New Orleans flood waters they are trying to clear.
Beyond the current problems there lie further concerns:
• The US failed to deal with a predictable disaster in which warning was provided thereby demonstrating just how poorly prepared the US is for any WMD attack which could devastate just as wide an area but probably with no warning. This event may be a green light for terrorists to seize the opportunity to attack the USA!
• NATO is heavily influenced by US concepts of disaster/crisis management to the extent that many new members have modelled their systems on the US FEMA one - a system which apparently failed; and
• The US will import ever more petroleum products to cover the lost production capacity and it will endeavour to increase and replace its emergency stocks thereby forcing up the price of raw petroleum materials - probably to the delight of many nations and organisations only to willing to exploit the US at this critical time of increased vulnerability. This may lead to changes in USA Foreign Policy whereby unsavoury oil producing nations will be brought in from the cold.
Although drawing comparisons between Aceh and USA is not the wisest thing to do, it is a natural thing to do. In Aceh a dirty war was underway when the Tsunami struck in 2004, yet we saw none of the atrocious behaviour such as rape, murder, looting etc. one hears in the news reports from USA. Additionally we hear US citizens pleading with and blaming their Government. The situation in Aceh was not one where citizens blamed their Government, but one where communities helped one another; they probably expected little from their Government. The point being that Indonesians had communities which functioned and the USA appears to have a selfish dysfunctional society with little depth and resilience, that rapidly fragments and falls apart under pressure. This is a severe vulnerability, probably one of the greatest, and one that US enemies will be keen to exploit.
No doubt our TV screens will soon show us the mass burials for months to come and I wonder if President Bush will be welcomed to mourn alongside families who have survived yet lost so much. It may be that Bush's day has come and gone. He appears to have missed his opportunity to lead in a critical moment in the history of the USA; attending funerals will not compensate for this error. The irony is that it may not be Iraq that ends Bush's term of office, but a politically neutral natural disaster that was predictable.
Tim Randall
International Disaster Management Consultant

Posted by: Tim Randall | September 8, 2005 05:30 PM

Sigh, more partisan muckruck.

In the end, every city/state/country is probably reviewing their disaster plans, knowing they also didn't factor in getting folks out, especially those without a car, and those who can't drive out.

In 20/20 hindsight everything is clear, but last Tuesday, few would've had a clue on how to evacuate that many people quickly -- troops, yes, civilians (many ill and elderly), no.

And Euthansia isn't an option.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | September 8, 2005 05:46 PM

AUTHOR: Justin
EMAIL:
IP: 129.170.160.122
URL:
DATE: 09/08/2005 06:28:04 PM

Posted by: Justin | September 8, 2005 06:28 PM

Lea (Sept 7) takes exception to comparing the third world population as worse off than the evacuees of NO. Well, it is because the third world has little hope of things improving. In our country, there are all kinds of structures and programs to help the poor (special admissions to college, advanced help in early childhood/schools, Special programs to make minorities upward-bound at work, etc. This is the differentiation --- one faces little hope, and the other has a lot of things to hope for. There are a LOT of poor whites who went to terrible schools, and did the old elbow grease routine to finish college (graduation at age 25-30 after military to save college money, taking 8-10 hours per semester so could work for financial self support, etc.

Unfortunately, many of the black leaders have kept their own people back by refusing to subscribe to policies that can help them. A split off the good old democrats.

Oh well.

Posted by: hammerx12 | September 8, 2005 06:33 PM

I don't quite agree with Hammerx12's comment on my posting of Sept. 7. This is why. He/she seems to say that poor whites are hardworking whereas poor blacks are not. Besides, there is hope in our country but not in the third world.

Now, THIS is what I have called stereotyping. One particular nation (or a group of nations) is good because it is said to have hope, but another nation (or group of nations - in this case two-thirds of the world) is said to be without hope. Come on! You know as well as I do that life is not that starkly black and white.

Let us abandon this kind of stereotyping and get down to identify what is hopeful and hopeless in our own country. You don't have to measure you against the misery of another (and cast a slur) to do something about eliminating the class and racial divide in our country. How do you explain so much poverty and misery in a country where (as you say) there is hope and whose leaders are pursuing helpful policies?

Posted by: Lea | September 8, 2005 07:48 PM

yes I agree there was a failure by a lot of people but I think The Mayor has been shirking a major part of his responsibility and should be blamed 1st and formost. He had adaquate warning of Katrina. He expected thousands to show up at the Dome. Why were there no supplies already there and at the convention center. He should of had porta-pottys, water,food, cots and police there. If i'm right the Mayor and police /fire are considered first responders and are responsible for the initial response in most diaster drills. So MR Mayor answer these questions where was you response and per-plan quit blaming everybody else and be a Man and accept more of the blame yourself.

Posted by: mike from arlington | September 8, 2005 09:16 PM

For much of the past week the media, including the Washington Post, have focused on assessing blame and the performance of local, state, and federal governments and agencies in the evolving Katrina debacle. I would like to suggest the real story and problem have been missed. I think the real problem is the lack of cooperation by a significant number people living in New Orleans and near the coast. The authorities told them to leave, but they didn't leave.

Review all of the survivor stories run in The Post and other newspapers, every single one of the people in those stories could have done more to assure their personal safety. They could have walked to the convention center or Astrodome, some turned down rides out of town with others, they could have left town knowing that they'd have to sleep in their cars, etc. The videos and reports of police having to go door-to-door in New Orleans to physically extract vigorous and vocally protesting people who want to stay in their homes shows clearly that a number of people just didn't want to evacuate, as they were asked to.

I suggest the principal cause of death in the Katrina debacle was non-cooperation by the affected people as opposed to local, state, or federal government ineptitude. That's the real story.

I also think the debacle in New Orleans and along the gulf coast can serve as a cautionary tale to people living in other metropolitan areas, such as Washington D.C.. When the authorities tell you that it's time to leave an area, then you need to cooperate and leave.

I'm confident that many people in the Washington D.C. area have the same mentality as people in New Orleans, I know I did. If the authorities announced an evacuation of the D.C. metropolitan area I'm sure that many people plan to go to their homes and wait out the emergency. The road system in the D.C. area is marginally able to handle routine daily traffic, in an emergency evacuation I expect there would be wall-to-wall traffic gridlock as far as the eye could see. Better to just wait it out at home, right? New Orleans tells you: maybe not, maybe you'd better try to cooperate with the authorities.

In terms of evacuating the Washington metropolitan area it would be very helpful if the Metropolitan Council of Governments (MCoG) could announce a general strategy (e.g. people in D.C. and Maryland evacuate to the north, west, and east, people in Virginia evacuate to the south and west-minimize cross town and bridge traffic). It would also be useful to the citizenry if the MCoG could announce which roads would be reversed, where refueling, maintenance and towing support would be provided. Citizens could use that information to plan personal evacuation routes.

It would also be very useful if FEMA, the states, or whoever, could pre-announce "go to" points, such as Ft. Richey, Ft, Story, etc where sanitation, water, and food would be provided. Citizens could use that information right now, today, to help plan evacuation strategies, identify rendevous points with other family memebers, etc.

There's been discussion that FEMA did not provide food and water quickly, perhaps citizens should be asked to carry a days food and water, minimum, and disaster agencies expected to react in a more reasonable time frame like 2 or 3 days. Sanitation would have to be provided immediately, it could be pre-deployed to the go-to locations.

All of the above should be public information available now, in Washington and every metropolitan area, long before any emergency, since it helps the citizenry plan their personal evacuation route and strategies, what to bring, how to link up with other family members and friends, etc.

And there should be plans and mechanisms in place for the relatively few of us who cannot personally evacuate an area, or who cannot seek shelter; but those people still have to pick up the telephone and call, or contact a neighbor, or get on the bus, or do something. Even the poor, the crippled, and the sick have to assume some responsibility for their personal safety and seek help in an emergency.

But whether or not the local, state, and federal governmental agencies ever get their collective act together, the core lesson from Katrina seems to me that it is up to the individual citizen to cooperate with authorities and get out of harms way when the time comes. When you're asked to evacuate the area, evacuate.

Posted by: Dave Lewis | September 9, 2005 11:33 AM

Dave Lewis rightly points out that many people had refused to leave New Orleans even after they were told to do so. It is right to demand that "individual citizens cooperate with authorities and get out of harm's way."

The problem is there were thousands who just could not leave their homes for lack of transportation. They did not have cars. Thousands were stranded in hospitals. Several persons were elderly and there was no one to help them out. A simple announcement to leave the City did not apply to the poorer sections of New Orleans because they did not have the material means to leave the City. The authorities just did not consider the fact that there were people who were poor, elderly, sick, bed-ridden, handicapped who needed more than a call to evacuate. What the City, the State, and the Nation failed to provide was the means necessary for these disadvantaged citizens to escape the disaster.

Also, when the levees broke there was no immediate efforts at rescuing the most vulnerable persons.

So, once again, it is the victims that get the blame. Authorities did not act in a timely manner and that certainly compounded the situation.

Thd fundamental problem with the lopsided rescue effort was the failure on the part of authorities to recognize the fact that there was a whole section of "underprivileged persons" (pace Barbara Bush)in New Orleans who needed more help than others who were better equipped than others.

Dave Lewis writes: "I suggest the principal cause of death in the Katrina debacle was non-cooperation by the affected people as opposed to local, state, or federal government ineptitude. That's the real story."

I beg to disagree.

Posted by: Lea | September 9, 2005 07:10 PM

I think it is sad that everyone is blaming everyone eles. First off the Mayor and Govener should of done there job they are paid to do and that was to get the people out of harms way.I've said from the start that they should of bused these people out days before it hit. They were only worried about there own familes. How do they sleep at night? They knew that it was a poor area and THEY did not make them leave or help them out. It is soo sad that people had to loot, rape and shoot at the people tring to help them. I think its because they didn't have there drugs and alchol. They have to make a natual disater into a racial problem, and they are right, it is all racial, "Mother nature" when to N.O. because of all the blacks that live there. As I see wath is going on down there and how disrespectful, ungrateful, and ignorant they are it makes me not want to help, but I did for the children and those that are greatful.

Posted by: Sunny | September 10, 2005 08:03 PM

I think it is sad that everyone is blaming everyone eles. First off the Mayor and Govener should of done there job they are paid to do and that was to get the people out of harms way.I've said from the start that they should of bused these people out days before it hit. They were only worried about there own familes. How do they sleep at night? They knew that it was a poor area and THEY did not make them leave or help them out. It is soo sad that people had to loot, rape and shoot at the people tring to help them. I think its because they didn't have there drugs and alchol. They have to make a natual disater into a racial problem, and they are right, it is all racial, "Mother nature" when to N.O. because of all the blacks that live there. As I see wath is going on down there and how disrespectful, ungrateful, and ignorant they are it makes me not want to help, but I did for the children and those that are greatful.

Posted by: Sunny | September 10, 2005 08:04 PM

There may be some good news in all this - again, in their zeal to find failure, fault, and contention the media has missed the story. There were a few more than 1.3M people living in the metropolitan New Orleans area, current projections are for less than 10,000 dead. That's a death rate of less than 1% and a survival rate of better than 99%. For all the confusion, missed opportunities, bad decisions, etc, more than 99% of the people survived. Not bad in an area that was hit with 2 sequential humongeous disasters. It could easily have been much worse.

Thank goodness the authorities rehearsed in 2003 with their simulated emergency drill-that was a smart move. Most of what they did worked, good decisions. Thank goodness for the NOAA warning time. And thank goodness most of the populace cooperated.

There are some things that clearly went wrong and have to be corrected, but if your metric is deaths, as opposed to inconvenience, a lot appears to have gone right. It's still a disaster, but more than 99% appear to have survived. Really, not bad considering the extraordinary circumstances.

Posted by: Dave Lewis | September 11, 2005 12:55 PM

Anyone looking for an explanation of the behaviour of political conservatives as personified by Bush and his followers should read George Lapkoff's book, "Moral Politics." His model of conservative thinking and behaviour, strict father morality, is awesome in every sense of the word. After you have read the book you will know why the conservatives reward the haves and punish the have nots.

Posted by: Robert Castle | September 12, 2005 12:31 AM

TWO QUESTIONS FOR JUDGE ROBERTS:

1 - SCENARIO: YOU ARE THE FATHER OF A 21 YEAR OLD SINGLE DAUGHTER. SHE IS RAPED, AND BECOMES PREGNANT. SHE CHOOSES TO ABORT THE PREGNANCY: WOULD YOU RESPECT HER DECISION TO EXERCISE HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PRIVACY (DECIDING TO TAKE AN ACTION ON HER PERSON WITHOUT SUBJECTION TO FEDERAL LEGAL CRIMINAL VIOLATION)?

2 - SCENARIO: SAME AGE AS ABOVE, EXCEPT THAT YOUR DAUGHTER, MARRIED OR SINGLE, BECOMES PREGNANT. DURING HER PREGANCY, SHE IS INFORMED BY HER PHYSICIAN THAT A VERY STRONG OUTCOME EXISTS THAT IF SHE WERE TO CONTINUE HER PREGNANCY TO TERM, SHE WOULD PUT HER OWN LIFE AT RISK. SHE SEEKS SECOND AND THIRD MEDICAL OPINIONS THAT CONCUR WITH HER PHYSICIAN. SHE CHOOSES TO ABORT THE PREGNANCY TO SAVE HER LIFE, AND HER HUSBAND/PARTNER AGREES WITH HER WISHES: WOULD YOU RESPECT HER DECISION TO EXERCISE HER RIGHT TO PRIVACY (DECIDING TO TAKE AN ACTION ON HER PERSON VIOLATION?

Posted by: Greg | September 13, 2005 01:19 PM

TWO QUESTIONS FOR JUDGE ROBERTS:

1 - SCENARIO: YOU ARE THE FATHER OF A 21 YEAR OLD SINGLE DAUGHTER. SHE IS RAPED, AND BECOMES PREGNANT. SHE CHOOSES TO ABORT THE PREGNANCY: WOULD YOU RESPECT HER DECISION TO EXERCISE HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PRIVACY (DECIDING TO TAKE AN ACTION ON HER PERSON WITHOUT SUBJECTION TO FEDERAL LEGAL CRIMINAL VIOLATION)?

2 - SCENARIO: SAME AGE AS ABOVE, EXCEPT THAT YOUR DAUGHTER, MARRIED OR SINGLE, BECOMES PREGNANT. DURING HER PREGANCY, SHE IS INFORMED BY HER PHYSICIAN THAT A VERY STRONG OUTCOME EXISTS THAT IF SHE WERE TO CONTINUE HER PREGNANCY TO TERM, SHE WOULD PUT HER OWN LIFE AT RISK. SHE SEEKS SECOND AND THIRD MEDICAL OPINIONS THAT CONCUR WITH HER PHYSICIAN. SHE CHOOSES TO ABORT THE PREGNANCY TO SAVE HER LIFE, AND HER HUSBAND/PARTNER AGREES WITH HER WISHES: WOULD YOU RESPECT HER DECISION TO EXERCISE HER RIGHT TO PRIVACY (DECIDING TO TAKE AN ACTION ON HER PERSON VIOLATION?

Posted by: Greg | September 13, 2005 01:20 PM

I would like to post a question I have for debate. What have the alcohol and liquor companies contributed to our society. How have we benefited from having alcohol and liquor distributors in our neighborhoods. How much do they give back to the community. I live in Buffalo, New York and I believe that we should have a ban on purchasing alcohol in the month of January. I believe if we had an alcohol free enviroment that we might actually accomplish some of the goals that we set out. Our city at present is in financial ruins. The political enviroment is depressing. Nothing seems to get accomplished. What do you do with a city that collects grants for building up a waterfront that pretty much looks the same as it did 10 years ago. What about a community that wants a Casino yet have very few things for the children of our community. The young are leaving in droves. The family enviroment is primarily centered are local taverns! It's now come
to a point were I may be forced to challenge are political leaders. I'm asking does our government have any checks and balance system that might be of better influence than what we have. I suggest if we're unable to accomplish the items on our agenda within a year then it's time to look for new government officials. I do not want to see any more waste of tax dollars. I want to see results!!!!!!!

Posted by: maureenlynch | November 27, 2005 05:43 PM

I would like to post a question I have for debate. What have the alcohol and liquor companies contributed to our society. How have we benefited from having alcohol and liquor distributors in our neighborhoods. How much do they give back to the community. I live in Buffalo, New York and I believe that we should have a ban on purchasing alcohol in the month of January. I believe if we had an alcohol free enviroment that we might actually accomplish some of the goals that we set out. Our city at present is in financial ruins. The political enviroment is depressing. Nothing seems to get accomplished. What do you do with a city that collects grants for building up a waterfront that pretty much looks the same as it did 10 years ago. What about a community that wants a Casino yet have very few things for the children of our community. The young are leaving in droves. The family enviroment is primarily centered are local taverns! It's now come
to a point were I may be forced to challenge are political leaders. I'm asking does our government have any checks and balance system that might be of better influence than what we have. I suggest if we're unable to accomplish the items on our agenda within a year then it's time to look for new government officials. I do not want to see any more waste of tax dollars. I want to see results!!!!!!!

Posted by: maureenlynch | November 27, 2005 05:44 PM

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