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The Moving Finger blames
Posted by: Jon Henke on Thursday, September 08, 2005

Howard Dean: "Now is a time for leadership not partisanship."

And here are the titles of DNC Press Releases about Hurricane Katrina:

Meanwhile, though Howard Dean says he doesn't want to point "the finger of blame", he still manages to claim "skin color, age and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not"...and to claim that Republicans "have not done enough to combat poverty".

But, really, this isn't the time to point the "finger of blame".

And Dean said the money spent on the Iraq war "could have saved lives in New Orleans". And that "GOP priorities have made a bad situation worse".

But—and I can't emphasize this enough—Howard Dean was not there to point the "finger of blame".

Anyway, he wanted to make sure that the "finger of blame" didn't get pointed at Mayor Nagin, who he said didn't deserve the criticism:
"He's an extraordinary man; he deserves our thanks. What he doesn't deserve is spin doctors in the Republican Party attacking him. The president doesn't want to have fights about who to blame, then let's not blame the local people."
You know, it's very interesting how quick the Left was to attack FEMA for allegedly preventing, for example, Wal-Mart trucks from delivering aid. Of course, that turned out to be a crock. According to Wal-Mart, the trucks were simply sent to "another location, which [FEMA] felt was in greater need than where they were headed." In other instances, it appears FEMA did prevent entry to various aid organizations. Criticism of the federal response was widespread....and, in many cases, justified

But, if such criticism is justified at the federal level, it's justified at the local level, when we discover things like this:

  • [Captain's Quarters] "New Orleans had an emergency response plan for hurricances and evacuations that somehow never got implemented", and "[Governor Kathleen Blanco's office said] that they never asked for evacuation assistance from the federal government as part of their interaction with FEMA, only for assistance with shelter and provisions. They assumed that the city of New Orleans had followed its own evacuation plan."


  • [Major Garrett] "[The Red Cross] had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. ... [But] the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state's homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come."


  • [Say Anything Blog] "[New Orleans and Louisiana officials] did not use federal money that was available for levee improvements or coastal reinforcement and often did not secure local matching funds that would have generated even more federal funding. ... By 1998, Louisiana’s state government had a $2 billion construction budget, but less than one tenth of one percent of that — $1.98 million — was dedicated to levee improvements in the New Orleans area."

So, why does Howard Dean say "let's not blame the local people"? And why, if they are genuinely worried about competence, do so many Lefty bloggers complain of failures at the Federal level, but remain stone silent about local and state failures?

UPDATE:

And let's be fair: I thought FEMA's deployment of firefighters to "disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA" (and stand in a Bush photo-op) was the best example of piss-poor bureaucracy...until I saw the FEMA Spokeswoman's response to firefighters who objected to the political stage management:
"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.
(sigh)
 
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And Dean said the money spent on the Iraq war "could have saved lives in New Orleans".
Oh, let’s play that game! The money spent on Welfare, AFDC, WIC, and other social programs could have saved lives in New Orleans. In fact, even more lives could have been saved because even more money is spent on those programs.

But it’s only the Republicans who play politics with disaster, right?
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com
Aside from the race card, there are few more unappealing aspects of the Democratic Party than its determination to simultaneously attack the GOP while arguing that it is illegitimate to attack Democrats, even on exactly the same subject. Clinton was a master at this, as is Hillary. And we all remember John "Bring it On" Kerry.

Can’t we all just not get along?
 
Written By: Crank
URL: http://www.baseballcrank.com
"And why, if they are genuinely worried about competence, do so many Lefty bloggers complain of failures at the Federal level, but remain stone silent about local and state failures?"

I know you know that the answer is obvious, but I haven’t seen anybody state it, so I guess I will. A: Partisan politics as usual. In general, Dems blame the federal government because it’s dominated by Republicans. Republicans blame local governments because they’re dominated by Democrats. Our side is pure and innocent and good. Their side is incompetent, evil and corrupt. Incompetence, corruption and deceit are not human traits, but Democratic or Republican traits (depending on one’s affiliation).
 
Written By: Doug Purdie
URL: http://www.onlybaseballmatters.com
I dunno, Doug, I think some goodly portion of the Democrats’ rancor toward the feds (and Republicans’ toward the locals) has to do with the fact that Democrats generally believe in the power of the federal government to solve all our problems, while the Republicans generally believe that local government is the appropriate problem-solving venue.
 
Written By: Wacky Hermit
URL: http://organicbabyfarm.blogspot.com
And why, if they are genuinely worried about competence, do so many Lefty bloggers complain of failures at the Federal level, but remain stone silent about local and state failures?
Ok, let’s talk about the state response. Here is what another blogger had to say about the subject:
Looking at Gov. Haley Barbour’s Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s news releases and announcements related to Katrina, it’s odd that not one release offers detailed plans for evacuations in general and nothing about evacuating citizens who don’t drive or own cars.

Here’s what MEMA said in its first August 27 release about evacuating: "At this time, no Mississippi local governments have began mandatory evacuations, but voluntary evacuations are recommended for coastal counties."

Nothing there about exactly how to get out, or where to find more information about evacuating, be it voluntary or mandatory.

The MEMA site has a link to a nine-page "Hurricane Evacuation Guide" pamphlet from the state Department of Transportation, but the only information in it about actually evacuating assumes everyone has a car. Absolutely no advice about what to do if you’re without an automobile or disabled or at poverty level.

The second MEMA release from August 27 announced, "All three Mississippi Gulf Coast counties are urging residents to evacuate, especially those residents who live in low-lying areas, mobile homes and campgrounds."

Again, no directions on exactly how to evacuate and what to do if you didn’t own a car.
Funny how you are so hung up on "first responders" but you say nothing about the first responders in states where Repubs are governors.

Why didn’t Haley comandeer buses? C’mon John - let’s talk about local authorities.

Right.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
C’mon John - let’s talk about local authorities.

I realize this is difficult for you to understand, MK, but local doesn’t mean state level government. You’re supposed to go from the bottom up not the top down. Even the county seat would be too far away for some people.


 
Written By: Mark
URL: http://
Funny how you are so hung up on "first responders" but you say nothing about the first responders in states where Repubs are governors. Why didn’t Haley comandeer buses? C’mon John - let’s talk about local authorities.
I don’t know. I focus on New Orleans, because that’s the epicenter of the real disaster—being under sea level and all—but I’m quite certain there’s plenty of blame to be spread at all levels.

That’s why I think there should be a proper investigation, and that we should wait until then to draw too many conclusions. Incidentally, if you want to be bipartisan, I’ve criticized Republicans. Where are your criticisms of the Democrats?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Hey MK - good to see you back with new material!

Well, I think the points are -

1. New Orleans - It’s kind of below sea level - so IF the water gets in, it has no where to go. I do not believe this to be the case in Mississippi

2. All the howling going on right now is about New Orleans - just look at Dean’s statements. He’s not complaining and pointing the finger of blame about MS - he’s bitching about the federal response in NO.

3. Another assumption - I’m betting that there were more people in one parrish than in all the outlying area’s of MS.

4. People that live in outlying areas tend to have vehicles. People that live in the middle of a city tend not to. You can survive in the city on buses and mass transit. You can not survive out in the bayou without a vehicle, access to one or a plan.

Or I could have just said ’nanny nanny boo boo’ and stuck my toungue out at you I guess...
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Jon, from the same article:

The firefighters - or at least the fire chiefs who assigned them to come to Atlanta - knew what the assignment would be, Hudak said.


"The initial call to action very specifically says we’re looking for two-person fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in communication], it was likely in their own departments."

Maybe they do that because almost nobody will distrust a fireman. Some folks really hate the police.

Maybe that’s not it, but I’d be willing to bet that using firemen for this duty was the result of some previous disaster’s AAR.

I’ll concede, however, that assigning them to photo-op duty instead of the original reason to ask them there does stink.

 
Written By: Mark
URL: http://
Also, to be fair, I call your attention to this post over at DailyKos. Bottom line is, investigate. Thoroughly and impartially. And let the chips fall where they may. If you have a problem with that, then you have a problem, I don’t care what your party affiliation or political leanings are.
 
Written By: David in AK
URL: http://
I don’t know. I focus on New Orleans, because that’s the epicenter of the real disaster—being under sea level and all—but I’m quite certain there’s plenty of blame to be spread at all levels.

That’s why I think there should be a proper investigation, and that we should wait until then to draw too many conclusions. Incidentally, if you want to be bipartisan, I’ve criticized Republicans. Where are your criticisms of the Democrats?
I thought you wanted to talk about local authorities. You said those on the left are "stone" silent about local authorities. So I did. I talked about a local authority. As far as I know, Haley Barbour does not work for the federal government. But I guess giving you what you asked for is not good enough. Talk about moving the goalposts.

My main criticism of Democrats is that they don’t stand up to GOP nutjobs.

But let’s assume that the local officials did not act perfectly. Just for the sake of argument.

So what? Whatever they did or failed to do simply pales in comparison to the problems at the federal level. It’s a problem that many on this site fail to grasp. In fact, it’s a common problem on this site. False moral equivalency.

For instance, many wingers believe that the failure to comandeer some school buses in the heat of the moment to take people out of New Orleans (to god knows where, in the middle of a storm) is equivalent to the federal government’s massive failure on so many levels.

It’s not.

You’ve got your thumb on the scale, Jon. That’s my complaint. If you cannot see the difference of scale between what the federals failed to do and what the locals failed to do, you need some time for reflection. A nice walk. A cool drink. A bath, perhaps. My guess is that if you had a chance to really think about it, you would understand.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Whatever they did or failed to do simply pales in comparison to the problems at the federal level.
*Grinding teeth*

MK - the point has been that whenever disaster strikes, it is the local authorities who have to handle it. They have to have a plan to at least get things going. Get people out. Maintain law and order. Do the things the federal government CAN NOT DO.

The school buses are just one of many failures of the locals.

...is equivalent to the federal government’s massive failure on so many levels.
What constitutes ’massive failure’? Following the rule of law? Waiting for the state to give permission to come in and take over? I would bet dollars to donuts you would be the first person posting in here if the Feds had gone in without permission
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
For instance, many wingers believe that the failure to comandeer some school buses in the heat of the moment to take people out of New Orleans (to god knows where, in the middle of a storm) is equivalent to the federal government’s massive failure on so many levels.
"Some" busses? Try hundreds that could have transported at least 10,000 additional people and saved many many deaths.

"In the middle of the storm"? I thought there was an evacuation before the storm hit.

What "massive" failure took place on the federal level?

  • Evacuation = local/state responsibility
  • Initial Law & Order = local/state responsibility
  • Specific Requests for Federal Aid = state responsibility
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
"For instance, many wingers believe that the failure to comandeer some school buses in the heat of the moment to take people out of New Orleans (to god knows where, in the middle of a storm) is equivalent to the federal government’s massive failure on so many level."

Actually the criticism is they should’ve been pressed into use (not commandeered as the city owns the buses in question) before the storm according to the state/local own evacuation plan (since it’s in the plan, it’s not a heat of the moment decisioneither). Three strawmen/misrepresentations in the same sentence - that’s Krugmanesque.

As far as massive federal failures, I’ve seen plently of examples of officious bureaucrats (at all levels), but I’ve not seen a massive failure at the federal level. Please cite. Keep in mind the mission of the feds in disaster relief is to support the state and local operations.
 
Written By: Jody
URL: polyscifi.blogspot.com
I see where JWG makes it 4 misrepresentations by mkultra in the same sentence with "some buses". I’m in awe.
 
Written By: Jody
URL: polyscifi.blogspot.com
not commandeered as the city owns the buses in question

I remember reading that the school busses are a state asset.

 
Written By: Mark
URL: http://
Interesting - the revelation that the firefighters were specifically recruited to do community outreach knocks down the last specific charge of incompetence against FEMA.

It’s easy to understand the fire-fighters desire to do more, but there is obvious logic to this in the cosmic scheme of things. FEMA only has 2500 employees, so one can see the need to bring in outside people for the unglamorous job of contacting the victims.

So if you are FEMA and you need to find a lot people TODAY, who do you call? Fire-fighters are already part of the emergency response "system". They have a general familiarity with what happens in these situations. They are healthy, physically tough and probably more tolerant to the "austere" conditions than random civilians. As somebody else noted, they don’t scare people by coming to their door, like the police might. The military is doesn’t seem like a better choice. There is no time to put out ads for volunteers. And if you suddenly find a need for additional search & rescue people, you have a pool of them in reserve to tap, unlike people recruited off the streets.

So I think we have another case where FEMA just did its job and got the people they needed to where they needed them, but somebody who wasn’t focused on the mission griped and the LeftMedia (oh so reluctantly) ran with the ball...
 
Written By: LagunaDave
URL: http://
"New Orleans had an emergency response plan for hurricances and evacuations that somehow never got implemented", and "[Governor Kathleen Blanco’s office said] that they never asked for evacuation assistance from the federal government as part of their interaction with FEMA, only for assistance with shelter and provisions. They assumed that the city of New Orleans had followed its own evacuation plan."

Um, well, actually, the NO evacuation plan was executed just as Blanco’s office said they expected and that evacuation plan included the expectation that on the order of 20,000 people would not make it out with many ending up at the Superdome. The plan also included having the main highway heading North have all traffic on both sides heading North. That means that any buses used to take people out of the city would make a 1-way trip and would leave many thousands with no way way to go anywhere. So, the mayor set up a feeder system with intermediate drop-off points from which people were then taken to the Superdome which was expected to house people for no more than 2 days before the Feds were to move people out of the city, except of course they didn’t. The city emergency plans were far from flawless, including the apparently late designation of the civic center as a shelter, but given less than 12 hours before the leading edge hit for the mandatory evacuatation, they did pretty damn well.

"[The Red Cross] had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. ... [But] the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state’s homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come."

True fact - with one rather important salient point missing, the time at which this occurred - BEFORE Katrina hit. Gee, ya think they should keep out more people who might get stranded when the hurricane hits?

According to Wal-Mart, the trucks were simply sent to "another location, which [FEMA] felt was in greater need than where they were headed."

That is what they were told, but please, tell me, where the hell was there a greater need than in New Orleans? Where did those trucks end up? Who got the water? I’ve not heard a word from any source as to the final destination and how many lives were saved as a result.
 
Written By: Joe in Wynnewood
URL: http://
Actually Joe, it wasn’t just before. The Red Cross said, "we are in constant contact" and " The state Homeland Security Department had requested—and continues to request—that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans."


As for the Wal-mart trucks, well given the qoutes above, and the fact that this
storm effected 90,000 square miles, I’m sure it went to good use. What do you think, NO is the only place that people don’t have food, water, power, homes ect. after this storm.
 
Written By: Wilky
URL: http://
Joe,

I don’t care what Blanco’s office said. The written plan was as stated in your excerpt. What you are describing was their audible. The feds certainly never signed off on moving people out in 48 hours. Logistically that was a nonstarter. In a case like that local assets would have been necessary, not federal, and those assets were allowed to sink under the rising waters. Also the reason they only had 12 hours was they waited and dithered.

As for the Wal Mart issue, you have not been following it. First of all the Wal Mart shipment that the lying little toad Broussard referred to was going to Jefferson Parish, not New Orleans. It was one shipment among hundreds, as long as it went to someone who needed it I don’t exactly see why we have to track it down. It is not as if there weren’t plenty of places that needed the shipment down here, about 90,000 square miles of places. The point of contacting Wal Mart was to see if Broussard was telling the truth. I knew he wasn’t when I first heard the story, but then I know way to much about Aaron Broussard and Harry Lee to believe much of anything those two say. You do have a point about New Orleans though, my guess is that is exactly where it went, or maybe two places in much worse shape than Jefferson and arguably worse than New Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard. Another possibility is Washington Parish which was so cut off from the rest of the world nobody even mentioned them until last weekend. I was there last Saturday when somebody besides a church group finally pulled in with food. Come to think of it I think it was a Wal Mart truck, but I am not sure.

You are correct about the Red Cross and it is certainly arguable that sending more food and help now is unwise. What is amusing is that when it was reported and the belief was it was the Federal Department of Homeland Security that held them up it was used as an example of what a mess FEMA was. Whatever. Like the fire fighters and Wal Mart we are seeing people rush to judgement based on the word of liars and an unwillingness to see the logic behind what is being done, from all sides. The decisions in all three cases are decisions people are welcome to decide are wrong, but they are all decisions which are defensible. My initial impression is that they all sound like good decisions, even if counterintuitive at first glance.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://
Wow, Joe in Wynnewood, a fine piece of intellectual work, that. So, let me get this straight.... You are DEFENDING the decision to use the Dome and the civic center as "shelters of last resort" AND the fact that the Louisiana Dept of Homeland Security (under Blanco’s jurisdiction) kept the Red Cross/Salvation Army away from said places DESPITE ALL OF THEIR SUPPLIES which were later so desperately needed? Wow...it boggles the mind.

And it seems to me that the most egregious charge against FEMA has been the one that said they kept the Red Cross away from the Dome....which has now been PROVEN definitively FALSE. Blanco’s people were guilty of that charge.
 
Written By: JABBER
URL: http://
Ooops, Lance....you made my point for me, and far better. Oh, well, the fact that we hit him with a double-whammy should have twice the impact, no? Didn’t think so...
 
Written By: JABBER
URL: http://
On a related note, you guys might get a kick out of this.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Matt, I did! What a great piece.... But did you read the comments? Sad...the Leftist disease has spread everywhere.
 
Written By: JABBER
URL: http://
Matt, I did! What a great piece.... But did you read the comments? Sad...the Leftist disease has spread everywhere.
 
Written By: JABBER
URL: http://
My main criticism of Democrats is that they don’t stand up to GOP nutjobs.
Of course it is. You’re not an objective observer, you’re an advocate.

So, why should I ever take your criticisms seriously??
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Those who argue that, whatever the local/state authorities did or did not do, it winds up in FedGov’s lap as to the greatest failures are basically unable to understand how small, local changes ultimately snowball.

The comparison would be to car repair. It’s the owner’s job to change the oil every 3500 miles or so. It’s a relatively small thing, takes a few hours (at most) at a Jiffy-Lube or the like.

But if the owner doesn’t do it, then more serious problems occur. So, if the car breaks down, and AAA isn’t there immediately, or worse, says that the engine’s burnt out and can’t be fixed, is it the car repair shop’s fault?

The owners (the local authorities) were responsible for basic planning and response. The tow truck and repair shop respond in a crisis, but are not and cannot ensure that the oil is changed on any kind of regular basis. To blame the latter, and somehow argue that the former’s sins are minor in comparison, is ludicrous.
 
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
What do you suppose the chances are that the firefighter raising hell about having to pose for a pic, thought that Sean Penn’s visit wasn’t a photo-op?

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com

 
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