Free Markets, Free People

So how’s it going in Sandyland?

You may remember, prior to the election but after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, that the New York Times pronounced that “A Big Storm Requires A Big Government”.

Of course, in the time since that pronouncement, we’ve seen “Big Government” show us that big bureaucracies are still just as unwieldy and unresponsive as they ‘ve always been, regardless of attempts to build a myth to claim otherwise.

Or said another way, FEMA’s response to Sandy has not been particularly impressive nor has it at all validated the New York Times editorial claim.

Of course, NE unions haven’t covered themselves in glory either:

Barry Moline, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, said Long Island could have received 125 additional workers from utilities across Florida as soon as two days after the storm if a dispute about the letters had been resolved sooner. He said most of the crews from Florida who were available were nonunion and refused to join Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, even if only temporarily.


Crews that could have come to Long Island went instead to Pennsylvania, Moline said. “We could have been there on Wednesday, and instead we arrived on Sunday,” he said, after the union rescinded the requirement. [Emphasis added.]

But again, the story here is “Big Government” in general and FEMA – Big Government’s representative – in particular.  How has FEMA done?  Not as well as you’d expect, given the supposed failures of Katrina and the claimed lessons learned from that storm.  It appears those lessons are still being learned.

For instance:

It took days for FEMA to hit the ground in hard-hit parts of NYC. More than a week after the storm, FEMA representatives were just getting on the ground and opening temporary offices in New Jersey. When a nor’easter blew in, several of their offices shut down because of— wait for it— severe weather.

Huh.  A week after the storm?  Where’s the outcry?

Where are the news crews with weeping reporters telling us how horrible it is for the poor residents of Staten Island and spreading rumors about rape and murder?  Nowhere to be seen.

But back to FEMA.  FEMA is a bureaucracy, folks.  A big bureaucracy.  And big bureaucracies are neither responsive nor quick.  It’s just a fact of bureaucratic reality.  Expecting that to change is, well, simply a denial of reality.

So, you read stories like this:

“FEMA hasn’t done anything else. The inspector came out and he inspected the damage and that was it. He said he was going to forward it to his headquarters and I will hear from them, that’s it.” When asked if he has heard from anyone? Daily quickly responded, “No.”

And remember the promise to cut red tape?

“You have to get a copy from your landlord saying that it was your living space,” Jones said. “If you get denied (from flood insurance), get a letter in writing saying what (your insurance provider) won’t cover. Then submit that letter to FEMA and FEMA can send an inspector to inspect your home.”

In reality, it’s even worse than that:

Over the weekend, a source (who wishes to remain anonymous) reported that contractors contracted—as well as, generators, water, and other supplies paid for—by FEMA are being idled at New York’s Floyd Bennett Field by “red tape” requirements, while unions deploy their members and many storm victims sit in the dark.

While there are about 4,000 National Guardsmen at Bennett Field, there are hundreds of out-of-state contractors for FEMA, many of them linemen and electricians, that are not being deployed to help turn power pack on for residents because of the red tape.

On Sunday, out of the 400-500 workers available, according to the source, only three crews went out. Crews, he said, are usually two-man teams.

The union crews, the source stated, are free to come and go as they please, yet the non-union FEMA contractors are being held back because of red tape requirements.

The red-tape bottleneck, he said, comes from the Corps of Engineers. They get work orders in (places that need help), but the work orders don’t come out as they should.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the source said over the weekend.

On Sunday night, FEMA contractors put in one generator for a 14-floor building. Just one.


Immediately after the storm, beer maker Budweiser converted its beer lines in Georgia to produce water—44,000 cases of water. That water was trucked into the storm ravaged area, but much of it is still sitting as residents in across Brooklyn and in Far Rockaway, Queens continue to boil their water as of Saturday.

Even the NY Times hasn’t been able to completely ignore the debacle:

Two weeks. Monday was the 14th day since Hurricane Sandy upended lives on the Eastern Seaboard, the longest two weeks of many people’s lives. Plastic bottles. Warming buses. Charging stations. These are just a few of the signposts in a changed world. Help is coming, the people are told, but some have lost the desire to trust.

“I don’t believe,” said Lioudmila Korableva, 71, a resident of a darkened Coney Island building project filled with older people.

Meanwhile, smaller and more flexible and mostly private organizations have stepped in to try to make a difference.

Yup, a big storm needs a big government doesn’t it?

Sandy again proves the point that such thinking is simply wishful and has no basis in real fact.

Meanwhile the press is on to sex and tittilation.  The Obama/Sandy photo op has passed and so has their interest in following up on the disaster, even though the parallels are amazing:

So: late warnings, confused and inadequate responses, FEMA foul-ups and suffering refugees. In this regard, Sandy is looking a lot like Katrina on the Hudson. Well, things go wrong in disasters. That’s why they’re called disasters. But there is one difference.

Under Katrina, the national press credulously reported all sorts of horror stories: rapes, children with slit throats, even cannibalism. These stories were pretty much all false. Worse, as Lou Dolinar cataloged later, the press also ignored many very real stories of heroism and competence. We haven’t seen such one-sided coverage of Sandy, where the press coverage of problems, though somewhat muted before the election, hasn’t been marked by absurd rumors or ham-handed efforts to push a particular narrative.

But hey, pointing that out now would destroy the “big storms require big government” myth, would it? And besides, we all know the election’s over.  Screw the victims. The photo op is done.  It’s the preservation of the myth that’s important.


32 Responses to So how’s it going in Sandyland?

  • The conservative-entertainment-pseudo-news-complex can complain about government assistance all they want, but without the help of FEMA, for example, and pre-disaster planning, like building codes, our disaster would resemble one in Pakistan—with 100,000 dead and injured.

    • Uh huh – I suppose those per-disaster planning codes that Obama implemented along the Jersey Shore were what saved ( or created!) countless houses, right?
      And you are an idiot, you know that – 100,000 dead?   you really ARE a flucking idiot Tad.  Are you reading that estimate from the same teleprompter that Big Ears was using when he cited 10,000 dead from the Kansas tornadoes.,2933,270852,00.html
      Why not a bigger number tad, shoot, go for a million since you constantly just pull numbers out of the air (and I’m being kind about where you pull them from…)

    • So, can I conclude you were busy watching the cloudcuckoocuckooland-news-complex when it was acknowledged that FEMA ran out of WATER for the relief area?    Water is a pretty fundamental survival element, and they had allegedly prepositioned adequate stockpiles of the item in secure locations proximate to the area where the storm was going to hit, yet, they ran out.

    • This is a scandal … We’ll call it First-Union-Gate .. err .. F-U-Gate
      .. after Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

    • Odd, I don’t remember such a rigorous defense of FEMA in the aftermath of Katrina.  Could it have something to do with who the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is?  Naaaah, must be the cynic in me…

      • Excellent point. Lots of us oppose FEMA no matter who is in the White House. It’s a stilted government bureaucracy, with vast ability to hide incompetence because it shows no consequences of incompetence on a day to day basis.

        But to the left, they must constantly balance the cognitive dissonance of always believing government is the solution to every problem with the need to point out how bad government works when their opponents are in office. So, to them, FEMA can simultaneously be (1) absolutely necessary, because FedGov has responsibility for disasters as far as they’re concernece, (2) totally incompetent when a Republican president is in office, (3) just fine and dandy (with the same people) when a Democrat president is in office.

        • There seems to be a problem with energizing the electric lines because with the main circuit breakers closed in houses that were flooded, the fear is there could be fires as a result. No one has to enter the homes, they can disconnect at the pole’s transformers and restore the power for downstream safe areas. Power to the disconnected houses could be restored once they are certified safe to re-energize.
          The NG is the backbone of the FEMA response, but to coordinate that help it works best when the NG is federalized; cutting out the state bureaucracy. To my knowledge this has not happened, so we have a continuing disaster replicating the first few days of the Katrina disaster when the Louisiana governor would not authorize federalization. And the NYC mayor said he doesn’t want more guns (NG) on the streets, but the NYCPD is stretched too thin and can’t protect citizens; especially in a state where you have to obtain an expensive permit just to be able to purchase a firearm. The bad guys don’t worry about the legal requirements.
          I have worked in NYC where those 17 story public housing units are still without power, I can imagine the heartache the people are experiencing. And the violent crime that must be occurring. In one building the back entrance door had a few bullet holes in it when I was there.

    • So Obama wasn’t exaggerating when he said at his inauguration “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow,…”, he was pre-planning. Very impressive.

  • Obama’s (very, very quiet) Katrina.
    Small government does what little it does well.
    BIG GOVERNMENT does nothing well but ruin.

    • BIG GOVERNMENT is good at cronyism, to favored folks like unions, and NOTHING else.
      And, regarding teachers unions, creating several million mush-brained, no-information voters like Tad.

    • “Small government does what little it does well.”
      Not really. There are plenty of screwups by small governments.

      • tim, it is just a fact that smaller organizations TEND to be more efficient, and that BIG ramifying governments fail to do even basic, elemental stuff…and everything else…well.  Exceptions prove the rule.

  • Well, you know what they say “George Bush, doesn’t like, New York and New Jersey, people.”
    Oh, wait that was the last presidency.   We don’t worry about FEMA failure at the press level any more, or through jackass loud mouthed artist ad-libs during relief drives.
    In fact, I’m sure NO mistakes were made by FEMA under the Obama administration in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, it’s probably a glittering sample of genius and efficiency, and anything reported otherwise is the product of the right wing fever swamp’s anger about the election.

  • Big Govt also failed in LIPA oversight for years so today people are STILL without power.
    I love it. I hope we get another blizzard here soon. Let the NYC chapter of the free sh*t coalition be cold and hungry next Thurs. Maybe big govt can get them all some turkey.

    • What will happen is they will provide some turkey and gravy, and be BIG heroes for ‘saving’ people that shouldn’t have needed saving in the first place.

      • Have you seen the private sector response this? It’s been incredible. If FEMA would get out of the way people could actually get things done.
        Mah, I really don’t care. The victims are now living in the world they wanted, that suits me just fine as well

  • I hate to say this, but it seems as if America has sub par infrastructure. In Taiwan, we get many typhoons, but power almost never fails and it would be incomprehensible for it to be out for more than a day during the actual storm. Seriously, figure out how to restore power and get on with it. If you need to bury power lines, then start planning. (What is so sad about Keynesism is that once you outlay 800 billion dollars on nothing, you start to find all kinds of worthwhile projects.)
    Also, like Wal-Mart in America, 7-11 in Taiwan handles all the food and water relief needed in big cities.  After an 7.9 earthquake where thousands died, 7-11 had cases and cases of water outside each store within 24 hours. Ironically, the brand of water had come from the most devastated area of the earthquake. There are no laws against price gouging, so tents quickly came from areas not hit, and everyone could buy one. Not to mention the human spirit where people gave up their tent when they realized others needed it more.
    Taiwan has been gradually picking up our bad habits, but its still a country where both the private sector and government deliver on basic stuff.
    I don’t know what it is about America, but we seem to be craptastic about this stuff. This is why I caution people who think we can import institutions from Europe wholesale. America government, military excluded, just seems to be hard pressed to run anything efficiently.
    Oh, and a bunch of liberal Americans who have been praising Taiwan’s national health care system finally realized it does not pay for people’s contraception or abortion.  HA HA. My wife thought it incomprehensible we were even discussing free contraception. “That’s your own decision.”

    • I hate to say this, but it seems as if America has sub par infrastructure
      >>> LOL… think?  (Not making fun of you either) Terrorists, China, Russia must be looking at this and laughing. Who needs bombs and missles? Take down a few power lines and the northeast is gonna blackout again.

      • “Take down a few power lines and the northeast is gonna blackout again.”
        Legions of highly trained RED squirrels!    Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz POCK SQWERP FZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • There are essential pieces of power distribution equipment that DO NOT exist.  They would have to be built, and would take months to fabricate.
      Thank you, BIG GOVERNMENT.

      • Not to mention hardening the power systems against a ELP strike. Oh, sure, the government will have power, for every one of their offices, but the populace, well, they don’t need no stinkin’ power.

        • Gotta hand it to Texas in being wise enough to have their own power grid and refuse to hook it up to the national one.

    • “America government, military excluded,…”
      No need to exclude the military, I assure you.

    • Every time I see tree trimmers cutting off tree branches next to the road to keep them from falling on power lines I wonder why they don’t just cut down the dam trees and be done with it, instead of coming back year after year cutting more branches and leaving hideous, misshapen growths.

  • Katrina was a racist hurricane, and Bush was a racist for not responding more promptly to the plight of the people who chose not to leave NOLA. No one is taking the position that Sandy has been racist, but quite obviously it would be jaw-droppingly racist for anyone to utter even a minor criticism of President O’Bonehead’s response.

  • Not only did the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) refuse help from non-union workers, they required an inspection of homes before power could be restored to the structure.  The inspection had to be performed by a licensed electrician in the city in which the structure was located.  If you were licensed in another city or in the county, sorry, you couldn’t inspect the home.  The inspection required a form to be filled out and submitted to LIPA.
    In a town meeting, a LIPA representative told people all they had to do was to print out the form from their computer.
    The computer in homes without power.
    LIPA suspended the requirement this past weekend, but the question has to be “why was the requirement in place to begin with?”
    More here:

    • It was there in the first place because when all is said and done LIPA is a bureaucracy which happens to provide electricity.

    • Dang it you two, I mean, how much red tape did you think they were actually going to remove!   What about the children of those union people at the red tape factories, you want them to starve?