Hurricane Katrina:Terrorism! The View From Washington

If you haven't already read Eric Holdeman's op-ed in Tuesday's Post, I promise it's worth a look. I mentioned it in this week's main entry, but I think the piece raises a key issue that deserves a post of its own. America, Holdeman argues, is not well enough prepared for natural disasters because much of the funding and attention has been shifted to preparing for a terrorist attack.

He contends that things really started going downhill after 9/11 when the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security subsumed the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Holdeman likens DHS to the Borg collective; I can't help but picture Tom Ridge, stomping from agency to agency, pointing his robotic arm at various undersecretaries and barking, "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." That's an image that won't leave me any time soon.)

At a subcommittee hearing in March of last year, when the House was debating the FY 2005 budget, members on both sides of the aisle raised concerns that our disaster preparedness was lopsided. Ohio Republican Steven Latourette pushed for guarantees from FEMA official Michael Brown that the department would follow the administration's stated policy of "all-hazards preparedness" (translation: having broad plans, for things like evacuations, that can be put in place during pretty much any disaster.) Latourette and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate from Washington, D.C., questioned the sincerity of that commitment.

Norton made a prescient observation: "this balance challenge could come to hurt us in the worst way. If we have a huge natural disaster here one day, and somebody looks closely and sees that FEMA was lopsidedly into protect[ing] against terrorism ... we are left unprepared. ...Forewarned, I think, is what I am trying to get across here." (transcript)

A memo summarizing the concerns raised at the hearing states: "Since FY 2004, the Administration's budget request has consolidated all of the first responder preparedness programs within the Office for Domestic Preparedness," which, in the words of the memo, "was created to to provide preparedness funds for terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, a function it continues to perform." That doesn't bode well for getting grant money for first responders training to deal with natural disasters. "While the stated policy of the Administration is a coordinated All-Hazards approach to preparedness funding, it is not clear how transferring all preparedness programs to ODP, which does not have responsibility for all hazards, will achieve DHS' All-Hazards preparedness goal."

If you're interested in this subject, definitely read the memo. It's not terribly long, and it includes gems like this:

"The Administration's FY 2005 budget request for the Fire Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) Grant Program ... is $500 million. This is a reduction of $250 million from the FY 2004 enacted level of $750 million. The budget request also includes language requiring that priority be given to applications that enhance terrorism preparedness." House members in the hearing questioned the sensibility of such preferences, which are all over these budgets. In this case, they pointed out that the preferences could endanger areas that are at low risk for terrorism but high risk for fire.

And: "The Administration's FY 2005 budget request includes $700 million for the State Homeland Security Grants Program, which is a formula based first responder program. This is a reduction of $1 billion from the enacted FY 2004 level." The administration actually requested a billion dollar reduction in funding for first responders. Wow.

When asked about money for disaster relief during the hearing, Brown responded that various funding sources put us "back at the levels of the historical average of $2.9 billion per year. I feel very good that we will be able to sustain and keep that average going into the future, barring any unforeseen catastrophic event that none of us can imagine."

Hang on, didn't Hurricane Andrew cause upwards of $20 billion in damage? We're talking about the Disaster Relief Fund -- shouldn't it be funded at a level such that it can really make a difference when an unforeseen catastrophic event does occur? Isn't that precisely when a relief fund would be most necessary and useful? Or, if you're confident the funding level is fine where it is, who do you think should pay for the cleanup and reconstruction after a disaster of this magnitude?

By Emily Messner |  September 1, 2005; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Beltway Perspectives
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Comments

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Don't buy it Emily, if the spending had been there and was stripped to terrorism funding then there would at least been a outdated, but comprehensive plan of action. This is a case of poor advance planning with people sticking their head in the sand and hoping the hurricane won't hit.

Posted by: Thomas | September 1, 2005 02:02 PM

Em, this is awesome. Great coverage and analysis of a truly controversial issue. Some coworkers and I were discussing this though not so much about the responsibility of the government financially to its citizens but in relating priorities. For months (years really) after Sept. 11th we'd been inundated with stories about dirty bombs and mustard gas, etc. and now finally we're at the point where people are freaking out about Al Qaeda dressing up as homeless people.

Regarding the previous comment, I believe it was extremely difficult a) for people to comprehend the extent and location of this type of damage and b) a lot of people didn't have the option to run (refer to: babies in incubators, people in wheelchairs, etc.) but I also think that in the public's mind, the government has assumed responsibility for so much and has deemed terrorism a massive priority that weather may have been the least of their concerns.

Excellent job, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Posted by: Ritija | September 1, 2005 02:20 PM

It's not an either-or case. The response to a terrorist attack (say a low-yield nuke) would differ very little from the response to Katrina; medical help, evacuation, food, water, security. Fact is, in either case, there is simply always going to be some gearing-up and mobilizing before rescue and relief efforts hit full stride. And it would probably help if soime folks in New Orleans would stop shooting at the helicoptors sent to help them. Sometimes all you can do is all you can do . . . there is no such thing as a perfect response.

Posted by: Mike | September 1, 2005 02:25 PM

You need to do something about the ADD. If a bomb goes off next week in Boston, will you be complaining about how we didn't put enough effort into preventing terrorist attacks?

Posted by: Scott | September 1, 2005 02:28 PM

Good point.

* Where are the National Guard? Iraq.
* Where is the $25B New Orleans will need? Iraq.

This could have been a disaster caused by terrorists. It shows we are not prepared for the war on terror, we've been diverted into a fruitless adventure in nation building in the middle east.

Posted by: ManinDC | September 1, 2005 02:39 PM

Scott, even though it's off topic, I feel like mentioning that people should reserve the right to analyze the government's response to an attack no matter how many billions of dollars Bush and Congress have poured into preventing one. Even after all the blue-ribbon commissions, Pulitzer-baiting investigations and crappy TV punditry, I don't think President Bush could have prevented 9/11, nor do I think he can prevent the next hurricane.

But his heavy-handed pre-emptive strike against Iraq was a gross overreaction to 9/11, and I fear he may be poised to over-react to this hurricane with his energy, environmental and fiscal policies in an attempt to convince everyone he's working hard at his job.

Posted by: Susan W. | September 1, 2005 02:59 PM

I agree with Mike. The cause of emergency situations matters little. If the levies were destroyed by bombs instead of a hurricane, would we still need emergency services? If a plague is relased by nature or by a bio-weapon, would the response be any different? If a fire burning a high density residential area is from a cigarette or terrorist arson, does it really make a difference?

Posted by: NC | September 1, 2005 03:08 PM

Review of the structural integrity of the infrastructure, and advanced planning for either building up the infrastructure or getting prepared to quickly patch it up, was sadly lacking in this major US city. I think responsibility for planning to avoid or cope with this is shared at all levels; city, state and federal. Now we are facing major dislocations in the south and into the heartland. Questions re funding, of course, flow from identifying deficiencies. If FEMA is all about emergency preparedness, then why did they at least not stockpile materials needed to shore up the levies? The infrastructure for transport of this material from distant locations is now blocked, and the city is inundated as a result.

Posted by: John | September 1, 2005 03:08 PM

The very same elected and appointed officials and career civil servants and military people who are directing the Gulf Coast response are the ones who would respond to a terrorist attack. Their performance doesn't inspire confidence. And that "federal" assistance sure is taking a long time to get to the streets.
They are trying to do it by the book. With all the plans and prepositioned this and that, they can't deliver a bottle of water to the Superdome or the convention center.
Why the sloth?

Posted by: Confidenceman | September 1, 2005 03:10 PM

Em & the commentator: ManinDC,

Please don't embarass yourself with ignorance and intellectually dishonest criticism of funding for US natural disaster relief in the face of the War On Terrorism. First, 70% of the Lousiana National Guard is still in LA. Second, where's your attack on the pork-filled for $287 Billion Transporation Bill if you really want to address bad Washington spending?? Where's your commentary on all the tac receipts we've collected that has reduced the budget deficit by more than 50% percent??

Posted by: Kevin Leo | September 1, 2005 03:16 PM

For years and years the possibility of New Orleans being completely flooded during a big storm has been talked about. It's obvious that no actual planning took place. Sending folks to the superdome without any assistance in place is unbelievably horrible. And FEMA/Homeland Security's response has been frightening. What if it had been bombs and not a hurricane that broke the levies? How can any citizen have confidence in the government after this? Thank goodness for the press - for the first time in a long time they are really doing their jobs - getting the true stories out -

Posted by: Kathy | September 1, 2005 03:18 PM

If FEMA is unprepared to evacuate a major city following a natural disaster, as they clearly have been post-Katrina, what is the likelihood that they are prepared to evacuate a major city following a terrorist attack?

Posted by: Jean | September 1, 2005 03:24 PM

It seems to me that this argument about the misallocation of resources by the federal government is all wrong. It confuses what is nice to have, which is a government with enough resources to respond to human suffering from natural disasters, in support of those at local and state levels with basic responsibilites with what the federal government must do. The latter is of course to provide for homeland security in the face of enemies foreign and domestic. This is not something that states and locals can do and it is something that only the federal government can do. If it can afford to provide disaster relief and provide for national security well and good. If it cannot do both it should do the latter first and foremost. If a President fails in that regard he has failed in his constitutional responsibility.

Posted by: John Eley | September 1, 2005 03:51 PM

Can anyone provide a link to the 2001 FEMA report that describes the 3 most likely disasters to strike the US? This report supposedly mentioned a terrorist strike on NYC and flooding in New Orleans.

Posted by: Vito | September 1, 2005 03:54 PM

kevin leo,

please don't embarass YOURself with your ignorance. As far as all 'tac receipts we've collected that has [sic] reduced the budget deficity by more than 50%' -- in what country [or on which planet] did that happen? it sure wasn't here. and even if it had, we would STILL be looking at gigantic and balooning deficits in a couple years as more tax cuts kick in and baby boomers start to retire.

but don't waste your breath wondering why new orleans was allowed to go under. you think bush cares about a city of, primarily, poor black folks? now if it had been houston, that would have been a different story. at least they would have tried to save it. but being incompetent as they are, they probably couldn't have managed that either.

Posted by: claudia | September 1, 2005 03:59 PM

They clearly are not prepared and it really calls into question exactly where all this money and effort has been spent in the past three years. I will be interested to see how the administration avoids admitting any mistakes this time. My guess is they will use the old "but we couln't anticipate anything like this" dodge.

Posted by: Jim | September 1, 2005 03:59 PM

Who builds a city on land that is below sea-level? Although what can we expect from the ancestors of people who think it's a good idea to stay in such a place during a hurricane, or to shoot at those trying to help them? As long as all the chefs got out and we still have gumbo, etouffee, and fried shrimp po-boys, I think everything will be for the best. Oooh, and the beignets, can't forget those!

Posted by: Sonny | September 1, 2005 04:08 PM

Are we safer yet? How about now? I get tired of the same old blame game that gets tossed around every time there's a disaster.

The fact is that a huge amount of money has poured into the states from the federal government to respond to "All Hazards". Is all the spending effective? No, of course not. There was, and still is, a lot of red tape to cut through. But much of that red tape is there to prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and cronyism. You can't expect the Feds to just hand over checks for millions of dollars to state governments and expect them to spend it effectively without giving them time to do the needs assessments and planning needed to not only buy a bunch of stuff, but to develop coherent strategies that link local, state and federal governments.

Before 9/11, local governments had their own communications systems, their own, 10-codes, and their own response plan that were seperate and incompatible with their neighboring jurisdictions. The various Federal agencies were even worse about communicating and working together. Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, we have had, for the first time ever, a nation-wide plan to address these huge weaknesses in our response plans. We've come a really long way so far, but we're not there yet. It just takes time.

As for New Orleans, it is the primary responsibility of City and State emergency planners to develop and exercise response plans for their jurisdictions. The Feds try to develop response plans for a broad range of scenarios - from nuclear bombs to environmental disasters to whatever you can think of. But it is not the job of the Feds to develop response plans that are specific to every single city or community in the Nation.

As far as recent reductions in funding from the Federal Budget, Keep 3 things in mind: 1. In many cases, the states have yet to spend all the money they have been allocated in the past 2 years. 2. The initial funding was meant for the initial purchases of hardware and infrastructure, with the understanding that these up-front costs would be high and that the upkeep and maintenance costs would be lower in future years. 3. More money does not always equal better preparedness - it's not how much you spend, it's what you get that counts.

In summary, the very pretext that the focus on preparedness against terrorism, or the creation of DHS, has had a negative impact on hurricane preparedness is 100% false.

Posted by: Michael Magner | September 1, 2005 04:09 PM

Is it really possible to prepare for a 100-year flood or a 1000-year flood. This whole disaster is the equivilent of that. Had more people left NO when first told to, it would not be so bad. Were more people trying to help themsleves rather than whining about federal aid, it would be better.

The truth is that most people did leave the area, as told to, and though they have lost everything, are at least safe. The governments have to get the others safe and begin to build an infrastructure of housing, etc. This is not a happy situation for anyone involved, but these things take time. Patience is hard, but there are a milllion or so who need help. We can not build houses for all of those in a couple of days.

I agree that many terrorism prepartions can be used for other disasters. But if FEMA had fully stocked against this possible disaster, and it had not happened, people would be complaining about the many millions spent for the disaster that didn't come. We can only prepare so much.

Posted by: Victoria | September 1, 2005 04:15 PM

A little off topic here but clearly its worth pondering whether the "golden age" of the metroplis is over. Should New Orleans be rebuilt in areas as much as 15-20 below mean high water? Is the centralization and concentration of human resources and infrastructure consistent with the common good?

Second topic. Just got off the phone with the local director of the Red Cross. Five full time staff, scrambling to train teams of volunteers to send down south to erect the tent cities. A vital cog in the machine of a huge military style mobilization.
But why mobilize Monday? Why not on Saturday, after all it was already a Category 5. Anyone who bothered to read National Hurricane Center reports knew then that there was big trouble coming. Yet clearly some hoped that Katrina would fizzle or hook back around to Mexico!? (no more rational than proclaiming "mission accomplished"). FEMA bureacrats had to be pondering the following issues. If we mobilize in advance of a disaster we create potential for quicker response and saving more lives. But if the storm fizzles and we have done so we have expended enoromous resources for what? In an environment of over extended budgets, huge federal deficits, resource scarcity, depleted and exhausted militias the decision was made. So I ask myself, and all of you, would our state and national governmental agencies and NGO's have been waiting to mobilize till after the storm hit if they were not all so strapped for resources? I will be asking the local Red Cross director that very question when we interview her tonight at 6:15 Eastern... Maybe this will inspire the debate about the future of our country that might have taken place in the aftermath of 9/11 and, sadly, did not.

Douglas Simmons
WSCA Portsmouth Community Radio, Portsmouth NH

Posted by: Doug Simmons | September 1, 2005 04:27 PM

To me, the solution is simple...get the troops out of Iraq, and help the people in New Orleans. They're Americans. We need to take care of our home first. Let the Iraqis help themselves.

Posted by: Miguel Mora | September 1, 2005 04:28 PM

It's interesting that the issues that most damage the president's popularity aren't "values" issues at all. The president's approval ratings are falling because of the economic effects of Katrina and spiraling gas prices on US citizens, issues over which - in all fairness - the president has little control. Much of the American public has been willing to give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt for most of his foreign and domestic policies as long as they were not affected personally. Now that we're feeling the immediate pinch in our wallets, we're not so sure we like the guy anymore.

Posted by: James | September 1, 2005 04:44 PM

First of all - the states and localities have primary responsibility to plan for these emergencies in their AORs. When disasters happen FEMA's response is LED by state officials.

The 'policy' of FEMA is to provide SUPPORT to state and local responses. FEMA Planning directives to states and localities has always been to be sufficient for 72 hours.

FEMA cannot act in certain capacities unless directly requested by states. The reality is that States are often slow at formulating an articulate request. And FEMA and responding federal agencies are nailed when they can't resolve complex situations within 12 hours of the delayed state request.

Confidenceman - let me assure you there is no sloth in this response. Bureaucratic inefficiencies, I'll agree. Not sloth.

Posted by: FedWorker | September 1, 2005 05:14 PM

The natural disaster in the US is not about terrorism. Many of you in this debate have lost your focus. This is about natural disaters and the unpreparedness of the US to handle such a crisis on its own soil. There is no if's or what's. A storm dislocated the US in the South and your government is weak in dealing with it. Why? Because it did not prepare itself for such a happening, believing maybe, that God was too kind to the US for its horrors done in the Middle East? A lesson well learned by you people, at least I do hope!

Thanks

Posted by: kazi | September 1, 2005 05:33 PM

From the outside, I don't know which jurisdiction is most responsible for which aspects of emergency preparedness or response. But the results have been unimpressive at best. Clearly, it is not possible to fully "prepare" for the total devastation of a large city. But in this case the doomsday scenario was well known and even anticipated by recent close calls. Several basic specific failures are appalling:
- The police radios don't work? Of all things, there weren't adequate backup generators or transmitter locations above the flood levels? They now have federally coordinated radio frequencies for dead radios!
- Via the media, officials seemed to be scratching their heads and mulling over various ways to repair the levees as the water poured through. Were there no contingency plans in place? What do engineers do? They engineer! Hard to believe no one was tasked ahead of time to develop an intervention plan. Even if it had failed, the effort would have been heartening.
- The Superdome has apparently been the evacuation site of choice for years. Was it not anticipated that power, water and sanitary sewer might not function? Unclear whether there was ultimately adequate food and water, but the evacuees were told to bring their own.
- Some of the earlier posters appeared to be blaming people who didn't leave in time for being dependent. It is not news that NO is a poor city. What are folks without a reliable car, a credit card, or extra gas money supposed to do? The bus stations were closed. The order of magnitude of the numbers of stranded people should not have been a total surprise.
- The devastated infrastructure is clearly a huge barrier to relief efforts. But this was part of the doomsday scenario, and again should not have been a total surprise. Were there no plans to use aircraft to effect deliveries of food, water and medicine?
I trust there will be accountability eventually.

Posted by: Alan | September 1, 2005 05:53 PM

I see you are a blonde. It figures

Posted by: | September 1, 2005 05:57 PM

Alan: You are exactly spot on.

Posted by: katielou | September 1, 2005 06:32 PM

This article is a cheap shot. So no, I don't think "this is awesome. Great coverage."...it's more like yellow journalism that shows, at best, ignorance of how the federal government interplays with state governments...almost inexcusable for a writer for the major paper in the nation's capital, and at worst, is a calculated cheap dart at the administration.

Let's try to remember that this is Thursday...barely 48 hours after the storm blew out of the area. "Sloth" is another cheap shot. FEMA had already prepositioned teams and resources within driving distance of the projected landfall of the storm. The response had to be planned around previous learning. The benchmark in FEMA's response...in light of it's relatively recent ascendency into the nation's internal 911 agency...was the Hurricane Ivan response, which on extensive personal experience from THIS Pensacola resident, was pretty damn good. The current approach is still generally the right response, it just doesn't cover the extent of the damaged area and displacement of the population.

What we need now is to look at Katrina like Operation PROVIDE COMFORT in Northern Iraq or like Tsunami relief in SE Asia. Like Ivan there are an incredible number of damaged and destroyed houses. However, most of us didn't have to leave the area. There was the ability to park trailers on property, live with friends or relatives, etc.

Unlike Ivan, the population involved is overwhelming. Escambia, Santa Rosa counties in FL and Baldwin County in AL (the hardest hit from Ivan) combined have about the population of coastal MS. So we are talking about 30% of the total population problem of Katrina. Additionally Pensacola was the only urban area deeply affected by Ivan and it is about the size of Biloxi. New Orleans and Mobile are major urban areas. The folks in NO and MS have got to leave. There is no "there" for them to go back to or friends and relatives in the local area to lean on. What we need are several medium sized and large, long-term refugee camps that will be close enough to population centers that will allow kids to attend existing schools, allow people to get jobs either rebuilding cities and towns or industries that will have to compensate for the lost industry. And there will be plenty of jobs. Four major hurricanes hurt Florida deeply last year, but as a result of the rebuild effort, the Florida economy is BOOMING.

>>>"If FEMA is all about emergency preparedness, then why did they at least not stockpile materials needed to shore up the levies?">>"It seems to me that this argument about the misallocation of resources by the federal government is all wrong. It confuses what is nice to have, which is a government with enough resources to respond to human suffering from natural disasters, in support of those at local and state levels with basic responsibilites with what the federal government must do."<<< I agree 100%. I would much rather be generally right than exactly wrong anytime...stockpiling levee patches indeed.

Using Ivan as a model FEMA coordinated with state agencies and prepared itself. OK the storm damage shut down the road system and to be cleared to get close enough to start relief in the volume required by the emergency. The levees busted and zeroed out any plans to drive into the city with relief supplies. Incidentally, the flooded streets didn't turn New Orleans into Venice either. Boats are out. There are only so many helicopters that can carry food/water in. Don't forget how many of those copters were just trying to rescue folks and get them out of immediate danger.

I would also like to remind everybody that New Orleans isn't the only damage area. The entire Gulf Goast from New Orleans to Mobile, about 150 miles, is reeling from Katrina. FEMA and the states can't ignore those areas and concentrate on N.O. The 3 MS Gulf Coast counties have as many people as New Orleans does and Mobile County alone is almost as large as New Orleans.

Once again the media is doing a fine job of covering the destruction and giving America a good feel for the grimness of the picture, but once again the 24 hour news cycle needs to feed itself and they can only show so many destroyed buildings before national viewer numbness sets in. Thus the media turns to the only other viable target for creating viewer interest, the response. Legitimate questions by concerned journalists turn into fodder for those with political axes to grind and those with chronic finger-pointing syndrome. Shame on you cheap shot artists that drag Iraq into every discussion. Shame on you that can't wait even 48 hours before denigrating those who are doing their damndest to create order out of this chaos. Shame on you. If you can't volunteer to come down here and lend a hand or give CONSTRUCTIVE advice from to overprotected confines of your suburban DC ivory towers, then perhaps we can at least count on you to shut the hell up and butt out. We don't need you.

Posted by: Willy | September 1, 2005 06:48 PM

Sonny:

"Who builds a city on land that is below sea-level?"

Um, our entire country is below the sea level (here in the Nederlands) and we cope OK because we manage our dykes effectively - we spend as much on them as we need to. You can build a civilisation below sea level if you manage its defences properly.

Anonymous:

"I see you are a blonde. It figures"

Whaaa? Actually, I think she is blond-brunette. But anyway, if a fat white man said the exact same thing, what clever insult would you have to throw then? Go back to the monkey cage and throw feces instead of mindless insults. I see that you lack the balls to even post your name, you coward hiding behind your anonimity.

Wil
(formerly of Amsterdam, now of Alexandria)

Posted by: | September 1, 2005 06:48 PM

One only has to read about the administration's blocking of funding to Homeland Security to realize its all about tax cuts and nothing else. The Bush tax cuts have undermined social security, anti-terrorism, disaster preparedness, and our ability to compete in the global economy.
Outside of airport security little else has been done.

Posted by: Jim | September 1, 2005 07:04 PM

Anyone who has performed a Vulnerability Analysis on a utility or city (I have) can tell you that altho the Terrorist Threat are awful "sexy", they are fairly unlikey. Whereas natural disasters are going to happen. CA has its earthquakes, the plains will suffer severe droughts, NO has been overdue. While I am not sure that shoe patrol at the airport has any value or the check of library records have yeilded anything, I know that natural disasters will occur.

Before anyone starts hammering engineers (I am a civil), this was forseen and Katrina wasnt the "big one". The next storm could be the 5 that smacks NO directly.

If the apologists what to say only 30 % of the national guard where in Iraq (I thought I saw 40%), the next question is how many first responders also were called out?

Ever seen "report cards" given out (for example ASCE)for civil works in this country. It is dismal. This will happen again until we invest in our bridges, levees, roads, and other infrastructure. Hey at least the billionaires got thier tax cuts.

Lastly, with great regret I suggest not rebuilding NO. Let it go, its tragically flawed location is unsuitable for a city.

Posted by: Lee | September 1, 2005 07:43 PM

>>>Alan: You are exactly spot on.<<<

No Alan, you are a cheap shot artist like the rest of the finger pointers. Accountability my eye. You want to hold somebody accountable how about giving the rescue and relief effort an honest chance to react, plan, execute and rebuild. Your pseudo-gravitas might seem profound to some, but offers nothing constructive.

Posted by: Willy | September 1, 2005 07:44 PM

>>>is not well enough prepared for natural disasters because much of the funding and attention has been shifted to preparing for a terrorist attack.>>That doesn't bode well for getting grant money for first responders training to deal with natural disasters.>>$20 billion in damage? We're talking about the Disaster Relief Fund<<<

Again not so much emergency relief damage as insured damage handled by insurance companies as it should have been. More ammunition to the "not well thought out article" charge.

And I wouldn't be using anybody from the DC government as support for any point whatsoever. What a dollar sink hole of ineptitude and corruption.

Posted by: Willy | September 1, 2005 07:57 PM

I would have to agree with the points brought up by Alan and Willy. Stop trying to pin the blame on the Federal donkey.

The blame for the scenes depicting the plight of the poor, now-homeless, residents of New Orleans, that we are watching on TV should first go to local and state officials responsible for immediate or first response, not the Federal Government that is rallying military personnel and equipment to augment overwhelmed city and state officials and National Guardsmen.

Why not try for some responsible journalism and check out how many other cities and states are inadequately prepared for the immediate response to a disaster and report on their condition as opposed to going for the easy cheap shot and pointing the finger at the Feds? For instance, try any city that still has an operational Army chemical depot in the vicinity, or your average American nuke power plant, or even Houston - since somebody brought it up. Why not check in with city officials in Houston and see if they have any contingencies and plans in place to deal with a major refinery fire of the sort that occurred in 1947?

Posted by: Edwin | September 1, 2005 08:04 PM

Anyone stupid enough to attribute a "prescient observation" to Norton clearly has found a home at the Post.

Posted by: Joe Drager | September 1, 2005 08:28 PM

The following question, posted Thursday by a reader of "talkingpointsmemo.com" seems worth repeating here:

Josh, I have a question that no one has raised so far. Wouldn't part of any homeland security preparation be the handling of refugees? Virtually any serious terrorist attack (explosion, nuclear, biological) would entail a large number of displaced persons. Wasn't anything done along these lines? I would have thought we would have pre-positioned refugee resources (tents, MRE's, water purification, generators, emergency medical care) near major population centers in the event of mass exodus. Am I crazy? JY

Posted by: Franco | September 1, 2005 08:48 PM

Hooray for the GOP. The Speaker of the House of Representatives said we should bulldoze New Orleans.

Posted by: GOP fan | September 1, 2005 09:52 PM

The problem with this whole debate is that the catastrophe that hit New Orleans and the Mississippi coast was foreseen a long time ago, right after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and the Congress and administration failed to fund it. The latest of this inaction was not because of the focus on terrorism but because of the FALSE focus on terrorism that has caused A QUARTER OF A TRILLION DOLLARS to be spent inappropriately in Iraq. We need US money to be spent at home. The flooding in New Orleans could and should have been prevented, as should the invasion of Iraq. It is a national SHAME that we elect leadership like the United States has. Let everyone remember the tragic legacy of the current administration. It is a national disgrace. Let us never elect such officials again!

Posted by: N.O. LA native | September 1, 2005 09:56 PM

Willy, I acknowledge that my earlier comments offer no help on moving forward from this moment to help in this disaster. However, the precursor to progress is accountability for past failures. I noted several specific problems that more thorough planning for events that were known to be possible if not likely could have prevented or improved. Certainly I do not hold any institutions responsible for the overwhelming scale of devastation and resulting human misery, but we as a society are responsible to each other. Part of that responsibility is a competent stewardship - which has not been evident in some of these infrastructure and organizational failures. We will do better in the future if we learn our lessons. I hope we can do this in a spirit of working together as a people.

Posted by: Alan | September 1, 2005 09:58 PM

FEMA is absolutely responsible for responding and assuming control in emergencies. Mike Brown reports to George Bush.

You live in New Orleans. You are a cop. Your home is wiped out. You don't know if your family can make it without you. Do you stay on the job or do you do the family thing?

Cramming 10's of thousands of poor and unfed people into a dome is a very bad game plan. Have you ever been to a major sports event? It takes alot of logistics to keep the peace. Now, kill the ac, fail to bring in any food or water... Peace? These people have lost everything, people are dying next to them because of the conditions -- not the hurricane, but due to ongoing emergency conditions. And where was our government?

As pointed out by another poster local, state and Federal government fully understood that over 100,000 New Orleans residents would not eave or could not leave (there was not only a shortage of buses, but the roads were clogged up as well).

When you have an individual, sure you have individual responsibility, maybe even god. When you have hundreds of thousands in harms way and the national economy is at risk: You have Federal responsibilities.

This week, the Bush administration failed miserably.

Posted by: vicweast | September 2, 2005 12:18 AM

Alan,

>>>However, the precursor to progress is accountability for past failures.>>Certainly I do not hold any institutions responsible for the overwhelming scale of devastation and resulting human misery, but we as a society are responsible to each other.<<<

But your earlier post had a stern hope that there would be some accountability. So which is it?

Whose infrastructure and organizational failures are these? Is there a levee big enough to contain the Mississippi or Lake P for all cases? Seems to have worked pretty well until Katrina. NO has been around a long time and has never seen this. How many times do you successfully weather a storm until you gain some confidence in your levee system?

Tell me who should know best the average NO citizen's ability to actually evacuate the city...the federal government or the mayor's administration? If he thought evacuation was going to be a major problem, then why didn't the mayor plan his evacuation better? Why did he wait so long to issue the mandatory evacuation, despite a steady storm track from about Thursday prior that NO was the target? Why didn't he mobilize the cities considerable resources to get those who couldn't evacuate out using rapid transit and school buses? Did he even have a clue that getting his people out of the city was going to be a problem? Did he a clue on where he was going to deposit 200,000 evacuees that can barely provide for themselves in the best of circumstances? It seems common knowledge, to paraphrase an earlier post, that NO is a city full of poor people? The mayor must have had an inkling that many wouldn't be able to leave on their own accord. Why, why, why???

You know what, those are the wrong questions to be asking now. The right questions are aimed at the logistics that are going to gain control of this emergency. There are immediate needs to get stricken people someplace they can get clean water, healthy food, medication, rest and air conditioning. Anything else is wasted breath.

Another team of folks needs to be concerned with what to do to bring some normalcy to a million displaced people. There isn't another city in the area that can absorb everything that is going to put these folks back on their feet. They're all gone. Towns like those constructed to house Hoover dam workers are what is needed for large numbers of folks. The Hoover dam in this scenario is city reconstruction. The folks displaced will need jobs. The construction industry is going to get a big boost and the labor will be those rebuilding their cities.

The fortunate and the quick have already started making other plans. My son came home from high school today with the news that 20 kids from MS and LA enrolled into his school today. I'm sure it is the same story in every Escambia and Santa Rosa school. Tip of the iceberg. Kinda blows the Florida teacher to student ratio mandate out of the water, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

Area hospitals already have a program in the works to bring, not only patients here, but the doctors, nurses, therapists, techs, etc. with them because they need the work too and our system won't be able to handle the load. Just gotta find houses for all of them. Area employment agencies are placing evacuees in jobs as fast as they can. Might mot be exactly what they're trained for, but it puts money in their pockets.

The people of Pensacola and smaller towns around loaded up about 10 truck trailers of food and clothes in the last two days and sent it west...all private donations from people still hurting from two storms in 10 months. RED Cross said thanks but what they really need is cash. OK we'll give that too.

We provincials would be way better served by your concern if you would just send the money without the trenchant analysis of who shot John.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 12:25 AM

Alan,

>>>However, the precursor to progress is accountability for past failures.>>Certainly I do not hold any institutions responsible for the overwhelming scale of devastation and resulting human misery, but we as a society are responsible to each other.<<<

But your earlier post had a stern hope that there would be some accountability. So which is it?

Whose infrastructure and organizational failures are these? Is there a levee big enough to contain the Mississippi or Lake P for all cases? Seems to have worked pretty well until Katrina. NO has been around a long time and has never seen this. How many times do you successfully weather a storm until you gain some confidence in your levee system?

Tell me who should know best the average NO citizen's ability to actually evacuate the city...the federal government or the mayor's administration? If he thought evacuation was going to be a major problem, then why didn't the mayor plan his evacuation better? Why did he wait so long to issue the mandatory evacuation, despite a steady storm track from about Thursday prior that NO was the target? Why didn't he mobilize the cities considerable resources to get those who couldn't evacuate out using rapid transit and school buses? Did he even have a clue that getting his people out of the city was going to be a problem? Did he a clue on where he was going to deposit 200,000 evacuees that can barely provide for themselves in the best of circumstances? It seems common knowledge, to paraphrase an earlier post, that NO is a city full of poor people? The mayor must have had an inkling that many wouldn't be able to leave on their own accord. Why, why, why???

You know what, those are the wrong questions to be asking now. The right questions are aimed at the logistics that are going to gain control of this emergency. There are immediate needs to get stricken people someplace they can get clean water, healthy food, medication, rest and air conditioning. Anything else is wasted breath.

Another team of folks needs to be concerned with what to do to bring some normalcy to a million displaced people. There isn't another city in the area that can absorb everything that is going to put these folks back on their feet. They're all gone. Towns like those constructed to house Hoover dam workers are what is needed for large numbers of folks. The Hoover dam in this scenario is city reconstruction. The folks displaced will need jobs. The construction industry is going to get a big boost and the labor will be those rebuilding their cities.

The fortunate and the quick have already started making other plans. My son came home from high school today with the news that 20 kids from MS and LA enrolled into his school today. I'm sure it is the same story in every Escambia and Santa Rosa school. Tip of the iceberg. Kinda blows the Florida teacher to student ratio mandate out of the water, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

Area hospitals already have a program in the works to bring, not only patients here, but the doctors, nurses, therapists, techs, etc. with them because they need the work too and our system won't be able to handle the load. Just gotta find houses for all of them. Area employment agencies are placing evacuees in jobs as fast as they can. Might mot be exactly what they're trained for, but it puts money in their pockets.

The people of Pensacola and smaller towns around loaded up about 10 truck trailers of food and clothes in the last two days and sent it west...all private donations from people still hurting from two storms in 10 months. RED Cross said thanks but what they really need is cash. OK we'll give that too.

We provincials would be way better served by your concern if you would just send the money without the trenchant analysis of who shot John.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 12:36 AM

>>>This week, the Bush administration failed miserably.<<<

Maybe you ought to give them a week...just to be sort of fair.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 12:38 AM

>>>Cramming 10's of thousands of poor and unfed people into a dome is a very bad game plan.>>(there was not only a shortage of buses, but the roads were clogged up as well).<<<

Not really. NO's rapid transit system has busses and there are plenty of school busses. They just weren't used. Also not the federal government's job. Maybe you should concentrate more on what you can do to help instead of just pointing fingers. I know your way is easier, but who does it help?

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 12:45 AM

>>>Cramming 10's of thousands of poor and unfed people into a dome is a very bad game plan.>>

Maybe you ought to read what your city plans to use for dedicated shelters. I would be willing to bet that every major indoor arena in every city has similar plans for their indoor arenas. The Pensacola civic center housed hundreds for Ivan, Dennis and is still holding hundreds from Katrina. Arenas are large areas that can hold a lot of people, have kitchen and restroom facilities and can also house the infrastructure for service agencies too. Not a bad plan at all.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 01:14 AM

In a perfect world, government would have the funding for and be prepared for the worse possible disaster in each and every locale within the jurisdiction.

But, there is no possible way for that to exist in the real world. There is not enough money, There are not enough resources -- even in this resourse rich country.

As I was evacuating my now flooded home, the national guard was assembling in Memphis to be ready for where they were needed. Those men are now needed across the gulf coast, not just in New Orleans.

When I look at pictures of the city I have lived in for my 53 years, I am having a hard time identifying what part of the city I am looking at. I need the dome and tall buildings for any hope of reference.

If a lifetime native can not figure out what is what and where is where, how is a national guard person from someplace else going to be able to do it? They are doing the best they can and far more than I could.

In a perfect world, neighbors would be helping neighbors -- like we did after Hurricaine Betsy. Today, neighbors are trying to protect neighbors from other neighbors with guns and hate in their hearts. So many are working together in this time of peril. So few are terrorizing the many.

The compassion that I have found, and that I see being expressed is amazing. We should rejoice and give praise to those so many who are doing so much at this time. Those so many in many many different places around the world.

Let us not look for who to blame right now. There is always time for that later and it does nothing to help resolve the problems at hand. And let's face it, the other guy, or the other political group, or the other government agency is at fault. Certainly not me or my friends or associates.

But I have lived in a city below sea level for 53 years. When I was a kid, it was 7' below sea level. Sunday it was 22' below sea level. Today it is, more or less, at sea level.

Mother nature has defined the power of water and land, not man. Some time ago, nature determined that the Mississippi river had run the course long enough and it was time to move. Modern man did not want the Mississippi river to move and started constructing levees and spillways and diversions to manipulate the waters into saying put. Under the rules of mother nature, New Orleans -- a flood plane -- kept drying out and sinking in an effort to invite the river to make a move.

Thank God the river has stayed in place this week -- if the river levee broke, there would be no buildings or suvivors in New Olreans.

The Romans understood Nature better than we do today, I think. The code Justinian did not address stopping nature, it defined how to deal with the consequences. The Romans said that if a piece of land became aluvium, the ownership traveled with the land to the new location. Roman law said that if a river moved, the owner of the land that has been taken over by the river gets, in exchange, the land where the river used to be.

In law school, I did not appreciate the comprehension that went into those articles of the code. I could not grasp why those sections passed through the French and Spanish lawmakers to become part of the Louisiana Code. I have a much better appreciation today.

The river did not get us, the gulf of Mexico did! Say what you will for the failure of the levees that have given way from the lake water surge, the Mississippi river levees held on.

There is much political debate today on the future of New Orleans. It is all political and very few are looking to mother nature for her advice. Unless we pump 22' of fill into New Orleans, a rebuilt New Orleans will once again be something like 22' below sea level and will remain in the center of the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and swamps. And there will be more storms . . . perhaps even before the end of this season.

All that was the physical history of New Orleans is now gone. Only politics would try to raise that history from the depths. The energy of New Orleans lives on in her children and visitors whereever they are.

We are all seeing the depravity on the flooded streets in the city. No one in Baton Rouge or Washington contacted those criminals and suggested that they forget all reason and civility. There is much energy being expended on passing the blame for those actions. The individual choices for those actions were made by each individual just as you have made your individual choice to continue reading this . . . or not.

If we must blame someone, I have an idea. Let's blame Abraham Lincoln. It's his fault. If he had not excluded the slaves in Greater New Orleans from the emancipation proclamation, then none of this would be happening. He should have foreseen that back in the 1860s.

Or maybe it is God's fault. Give a person free will and the next thing you know there is looting and rape. That should have been considered fixed on the sixth day . . . or maybe the seventh.

Are these choices any more obsurd than any other?

I am grateful to my friends for their support from across the country in this hour of need. I am grateful to my new friends in this new land whom have adopted me in this time of loss and journey. I am grateful for my free will and choice to leave the city that I love for the first time in fear of a storm. I am grateful to the many who advised me and encouraged me to make that choice.

I am also grateful to those many risking their lives along the gulf coast helping those who were not as blessed as I was.

I am grateful to Mayor Nagin for providing leadership, compassion, tough love and integrity at a time when New Orleans needs it most.

Thank you all.

Posted by: taxrice | September 2, 2005 03:15 AM

The city state and federal govts KNEW a level 5 storm was headed toward NO; they've known for years that the levees were only good to a level 3. There is no excuse for the level of unpreparedness. So what if the storm downgraded at the last minute to a 4. In my memory of mathematics, that is still more than a 3. Does the Army Corps of Engineers not pay attention to its own reports? This wasn't the worst-case scenario. It was THE scenario for any storm stronger than a category 3. Incompetence rules!

Posted by: hansab1 | September 2, 2005 12:26 PM

Hansab, the aforementioned govts knew as much as anybody else who watches hurricane projection websites--which I can assure you is about everybody here on the gulf coast. What's your point? Do you have any idea who decides to issue an evacuation order? Are you deluded into thinking it is the federal government? Tell me just who you think is incompetent here, I'd really like to know.

Posted by: Willy | September 2, 2005 07:18 PM

hansab1,

Yes, the ACofE knew that the levee system was only adequate up to a level 3 storm. They also statistically projected that this level of protection would be adequate for 200-300 years. So, it appears that they made a trade-off, because rather than insist upon worst-case scenario protection, now, they were looking at upgrading the levee system over a period of over 25 years. Sounds reasonable given a 300 year timeline, but "Oops!!", Mother Nature decided to sneak Katrina in for a little fun on her part.

All this demonstrates is economics and decision-making in action ("questionable" in both parts). Sure, jump on the "It's Bush's fault! If we didn't spend the money in Iraq..." bandwagon now. It's easy to do. Come on, you know you want to.

However, if you want to reallistically look at this issue, look at the politics, decision-making and pork-barrel spending that have been made in Washington and Louisiana for generations prior. The money for building, upkeep and upgrading these levees comes from somewhere. Could that somewhere by chance be the taxpayer wallet???

Come next election time, maybe all the short-sighted folk out there who have been pointing fingers at the Federal-level executives and agencies all week long will finally vote with their "informed" brains as opposed to voting for candidate who strikes the chord with the "feel-good" feelings in their hearts.

This disaster was long in the making before Bush & Co. entered the White House.

Posted by: EchoMike66 | September 3, 2005 01:32 AM

on the other side of the pond we are
seeing chaos in new orleans.
this right wing american govt is able to
come up with billions when they want to invade another country. the equation changes when it is a natural disaster in
one of america's poorer areas!

Posted by: frances brackley | September 3, 2005 04:08 AM

Katrina killed 11 people in Fl as a cat 1 storm and then we started seeing the images of this gigantic strm taking up most of the Gulf and heading right for NO. First I blame the mayor who is the first line of defencse for his city. At first I thought his diatribe at the Feds was warranted, but the more time passes, the more I think, what kind of leader is he? If anyone should know the neighborhoods and needs of a city it's the mayor. I'm not trying to simplify a complex situation. The logistics of clearing out a city are staggering, but the one thing he had on his side was time and he did not use it.

Posted by: hansab1 | September 3, 2005 08:17 AM

Karl Rowe didn't deliver to Shrub's desk the NOA report on Katrina. That's who to blame.
Come on, don't be ridiculous. Shrub was checking his agenda for fund raising, and didn't pay any attention to what was brewing in the Gulf. His ranch wasn't threaten, so, why worry?
I agree with Willy. Let's look forward.
We need to start formulating a plan for rebuilding the south. And any ableminded person can see that NO got to go to the history of have beens. We need to rebuild a port. We need to rebuild the industry. Not in the same place. Move the core of the life-giving economic activity to higher ground and at a distance to be safe from storm surges.
Everything is possible if we have foresight, but to have it, we must sweep the GOP from the federal level for good.
No need to dwell on it.

Posted by: Rommeytx | September 3, 2005 08:49 AM

Rom,

"we must sweep the GOP from the federal level for good."

You know, FEMA, DOD, DHS, DOS, all don't really react to what party is in office...especially for an emergency like this. The mid-level planners and foot soldiers who actually get the work done just don't care. It is transparent to them as it should be to you and anybody else who can't divorce necessary action from the wasteful dissipation of political pillow fighting.

To those of you on the other side of the pond. Please try to remember the 24 hour news cycle is voracious and indiscriminate. Barely 72 hours after Katrina coasted inbound, when the roads were blocked for miles in every direction and had to be cleared, when the airports were closed, with the shipping channels and port facilities in shambles, with a response team in place and already rescuing people from roof tops with every means available at the time, there were (uninvolved) telegenic tv talking heads already calling this a national disgrace because some TV cameras happened to be on one high-visibility speck of land (the Superdome) amid thousands of square miles of destruction and pre-programmed fools all over the country...and apparently the world...were spring-loaded to believe every word without any independent analysis at all.

Did the press help or hurt? Sure Anderson Cooper can stand amid the rubble and paint us a grim picture. He's got his own generator that allows him to do it. I didn't see CNN in Hattiesburg, 80 miles North, which was flattened by a cat 3 storm, but you can be sure FEMA was there working with local officials. New Orleans gets all the press, but there wasn't any national press in Slidell or Kiln or Lucedale or Pass Christian or Bogalusa or Picayune much less any of the tiny farm towns in between. No the talking heads just began playing up the race card which just energized the race-based chest thumping crowd to crow in with their two cents, totally ignored the rest of the gulf coast stricken by Katrina, and injected another artificially generated hurdle for mid-level planners and worker bees to have to deal with--thanks for all the help Anderson.

I'll guarandamntee you there were rescue operations going on in all those cities mentioned abovee too stretching thin any outside help that could be offered into conditions almost logistically impossible to support. There is still no power in places as far away as Hattiesburg--and from experience I can tell you it will be a few days yet before there is. I might remind everyone that in Indonesia last December it took from 26 Dec to 2 January for aid to START arriving into the tsunami stricken areas. It hasn't even been 6 days yet since Katrina blew through and the relief effort is in full swing. Here in Pensacola, the wind was still blowing hard enough on Tuesday afternoon to disallow power crews from addressing downed power lines...and we are 165 miles away from the storm.

Maybe, if you can't actually lend a hand or pour some of your own funds into this effort, you could at least take a few deep breaths. Hopefully this would preclude any and all of you from tapping out anymore blatantly absurd missives on something you know worse than nothing about--you only know a teeny bit of the story but feel compelled to judge based on partial truths that need no sensationalization, but yet are sensationalized anyway by talking heads who feel compelled to do so without regard to context, perspective or the damage done through irresponsible reporting that borders on demogoguery. Perhaps you should just say a silent prayer or two for the unfortunate souls caught up in this mess and one or two for the folks doing their damdest to restore order and rebuild people's lives.

Posted by: Willy | September 3, 2005 10:26 AM

Wil,

"Um, our entire country is below the sea level (here in the Nederlands) and we cope OK because we manage our dykes effectively - we spend as much on them as we need to. You can build a civilisation below sea level if you manage its defences properly."

Let's analyze this a bit. The Delta system in the Southern Netherlands was started in 1958 as a result of what? Primarily the North Sea flood of 1953 that took 1853 lives.

I guess it was a good thing there wasn't a 24 cable news cycle back then to villify and pillory those Ducth officials who 'SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS COULD HAPPEN AND SHOULD HAVE PREPARED BETTER FOR IT!!!' (emphasis added to sound just like a cutsie, shrill cable news talking head special expert).

"manage our dykes effectively"? you only have this system because the previous system was managed ineffectively and failed when you needed it most.

The flood was 1953, but the Delta system was only started in 1958 and finally finished in 1986. Again in my guise as special cable news talking head expert. WHY DID IT TAKE 5 YEARS TO BEGIN THIS EFFORT THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE NATION'S #1 PRIORITY? THIS IS TRULY A NATIONAL DISGRACE!!! THE QUEEN SHOULD BEHEADED. THE PRIME MINISTER SHOULD BE VOTED OUT IMMEDIATELY. HE WASN"T EVEN VOTED IN. HE STOLE THE ELECTION WITH THE HELP OF THOSE DRYLAND RICH DUTCH DUDES IN EASTERN HOLLAND.

Sorry, overdramatized, but similar to what you read on these threads and just as overblown and based on woefully inadequate knowledge.

Posted by: Willy | September 3, 2005 04:20 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 09:49 PM

I think that the networks were right to focus on the SuperDome, by all accounts that is where the most concentrated amount of human suffering was occurring. It is not the networks fault that people think the response was slow because of government indifference to the plight of the nations poor, it is the Federal governments fault for its slow response. I live in Japan and I can tell you that racism is the impression here. As of yet I have heard no other valid reason for the slow response.
If the Feds had engineered a massive response on day two of disaster, there wouldn`t had been anarchy, people would have acted civilized, no one would have shot at the helicopters. Desperation will make a man do crazy things and the Feds let the people of New Orleans suffer until they were desperate.

Posted by: Joe Stevens | September 4, 2005 11:07 AM

Joe, the networks were right to focus on suffering, but not to paint an inccurate picture of the suffering. For them to focus solely on one part of a story instead of the whole story was wrong. Your conclusions that this is a racial issue couldn't illustrate my point any better. The relief response has been slow ALL OVER not just New Orleans. The media has created a racial overtone to this disaster that Katrina didn't create. And your conclusion that the Feds "let" New Orleans suffer is also a misperception created by inaccurate reporting. As if there was malice aforethought. Had the television news media covered the destruction as widely as it exists there would have been no racial overtones to conclude because there aren't any. There is just a massive emergency in a large area. Now that the poor souls downtown aren't on the news every second, perhaps the world will get a more accurate picture of the suffering which knows no color difference.

Posted by: Willy | September 4, 2005 02:29 PM


Joe, sorry to beat this dead horse but as I reread: "I think that the networks were right to focus on the SuperDome, by all accounts that is where the most concentrated amount of human suffering was occurring."

Your assumptions are wrong. There were what, 20,000 people in and around the Dome? There are about 2 million peoploe affected by this. But again, you don't know that because you were fed a steady diet of Superdome. The unintended consequence was that the overwhelming majority of the folks you saw on film minute after minute were black folks and over time that picture became the face of this tragedy and race crept into it. Now the uninteneded consequence has become a central issue when more accurate reporting would have put better perspective on the total picture, and consequently this would not now be the distraction it has become detracting from the television news media's attempts to catch up to what it should have been reporting all along.

Posted by: Willy | September 4, 2005 02:38 PM

O good grief...The Corp of Engineers reported exactly what would happen if a class 4/5 storm hit New Orleans. Somewhere between their warnings and FEMA/Homeland Security responses [including the funding for responses] MAJOR MISTAKES WERE MADE! Amateurs are in charges! Amateurs mean well but KILL people. The Corp did identify the critical areas. If someone with the abilities of Gen. Powell had been in charge at FEMA/HOMELAND SECURITY, BEFORE the hurrican struck, alerts would have gone out; preparations would have begun;supplies lined up. When the winds stopped, Hueys [those big helicopters that can carry tanks, box cars, trucks etc.] WOULD have dropped mobile communication units into critical areas; mobile power units at the hospitals & selected command post around the city; placed mobile medic units in critical areas...cooperated with Coast Guard resque...Provided transportation... Military Police. Trained people, with equipment and the authority to act, could have saved lives and relieved the suffering of the victims. Furthermore, military bases and post all across the South [in various stages of closing] could have had been opened... housing, mess halls, med. clinics and hospitals, transportation facilities even school buildings could have been made ready. Why aren't refugees being placed where they can be easily identified, treated for medical problems, and housed like people rather than placed in the Asta Dome and other huge spaces where there aren't enough bath rooms for people attending sports events, let alone families with children, and elderly sick to care for.

Posted by: Macey | September 4, 2005 07:19 PM

To Jim, Bush is already trying to distract us from his dismantling of FEMA and his inability to assume responsibility. He's jumping to the next 'controversy', Roberts.

It's a classic strategy of the Bush administration to avoid admission of responsibility: If a topic becomes too hot, create a hotter topic to distract voters from the real issues.

Posted by: Responsible | September 5, 2005 01:49 PM

You left wing wacko's just have to get a new play book.....These blame America first plays are 40 years past their experation date.

Posted by: Chris | September 8, 2005 07:10 PM

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