September 6, 2005

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF KATRINA:

Miss. politicians may flex muscle for aid (LAURIE KELLMAN, September 6, 2005, Associated Press)

A triumvirate of Republican power brokers may give Mississippi first dibs in the post-Hurricane Katrina grab for federal disaster funds, even though the federal government focused its initial response to the storm on New Orleans.

The state's senior senator, Thad Cochran, is the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel charged with determining how much and where the recovery money will be spent.

Its junior senator's home - a place where GOP leaders from across the county once bantered about politics from rocking chairs on a porch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico - was flattened by Katrina.

"There's nothing there now," Sen. Trent Lott said of his historic Pascagoula house, which had been 12 feet above sea level. "I found my refrigerator, from my kitchen. It went down the street two blocks, turned left and went into a neighbor's yard."

Add Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Mississippi packs more political muscle than the other storm-ravaged states of Louisiana and Alabama.


Mayor slams Blanco for stalling (James G. Lakely, September 7, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has been critical of the Bush administration's response to the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but, according to the mayor of New Orleans, her indecision when President Bush offered help delayed rescue efforts and cost lives.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin told CNN's "American Morning" Monday that he met with Mr. Bush and Mrs. Blanco on Air Force One on Friday and implored the two to "get in sync."

"If you don't get in sync, more people are going to die," Mr. Nagin said.

Mr. Bush met privately first with Mrs. Blanco, then called Mr. Nagin in for a meeting.

"He called me in that office," Mr. Nagin said. "And he said, 'Mr. Mayor, I offered two options to the governor.' I was ready to move. The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision."

That decision was a request by Mr. Bush to allow the federal government to take over the evacuation of New Orleans, which had been marked by chaos for days. The Democratic governor, who has clashed behind the scenes with the Bush administration since the storm hit, refused.

The insistence of LA on staying in the Blue column and of blacks on remaining virtual captives of the Democratic Party at a time when the country has shifted well to the Right has paid terrible dividends in New Orleans (a 67% black city), both in terms of governance and of political clout. Just consider the difference it might have made if Mayor Nagin had remained a Republican for his mayoral run and won. A Republican mayor of N.O. would likely have been enough to defeat Mary Landrieu in her '02 run-off and carry Bobby Jindahl into the governor's office in '03. Then -- whether the more powerful congressional delegation had been able to secure more public works money or not -- when the Hurricane was coming, instead of falling prey to bush Derangement Syndrome and treating the feds as adversaries, the city and state officials may have worked with them better. It likely wouldn't have made a decisive difference but even improvement at the margins would have helped.

MORE:
Mandatory evacuation ordered for New Orleans (The Associated Press, 8/28/05)

In the face of a catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, a mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday for New Orleans by Mayor Ray Nagin.

Acknowledging that large numbers of people, many of them stranded tourists, would be unable to leave, the city set up 10 places of last resort for people to go, including the Superdome.

The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines had already cancelled all flights.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.


Was President Bush Forced to Use the Insurrection Act? (Barbara J. Stock, September 06, 2005, Chron Watch)
While the governors of both Mississippi and Alabama put in a formal request for federal assistance before Katrina even made landfall, the governor of Louisiana refused to relinquish any of her power for the good of the people. Now she and her party point the finger of blame at the White House.

Liberal blogs and websites are pointing to the Department of Homeland Security’s website which states that it can take control in any disaster, natural or otherwise, but this is not true. The Department of Homeland Security can only work with the state and local officials in organizing relief efforts such as food, water, and shelter. There is no military arm of the Department of Homeland Security or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the military is what was needed and everyone knew that. [...]

Because there was no one in charge, the initial rescue operations were feeble at best and there was chaos. The scope and magnitude of the disaster, which covers an area the size of Great Britain, still had not been realized by Governor Blanco who steadfastly refused to declare martial law and officially request that the federal government “send in the troops.”

It has come to light that all during the night on Friday, September 2, the president of the United States was forced to “negotiate” with Governor Blanco for the lives of the suffering and dying people of New Orleans. She feared that allowing the federal government to take control would make her administration appear as though it had failed. How she would be judged was more important to her than the lives of those people who were dying in the squalor. How many died as Blanco maneuvered to protect her reputation?

The Posse Comitatus Act prevents, by federal law, the president of the United States from sending federal troops into any state without the direct request of the elected governor of that state. A frustrated President Bush could only stand by and watch as the horror unfolded until he received the request for help. Despite the finger-pointing at President Bush, there was little that he could do until he was formally asked for assistance. No matter how loudly the liberals scream, they know full well that the president was helpless to do much of anything. [...]

There is reason to believe that President Bush, running out of patience with Blanco by Saturday morning, used the only option that remained to him. It is being reported that Bush went around Blanco and utilized the Insurrection Act to federalize the National Guard and send in active military troops to take over the rescue and put down the lawlessness that had taken over New Orleans. The forces that Bush had poised to move into the city, swung into action. It was no accident that the major, organized rescues began when the sun came up on Saturday morning. At 6:30 AM, when the sky over New Orleans was suddenly filled with military helicopters and military convoys poured into the streets, they were there because of President Bush, not Governor Blanco.


Blame Amid the Tragedy: Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin failed their constituents. (BOB WILLIAMS, September 7, 2005, Opinion Journal)
The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.

In addition to the plans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.

A year ago, as Hurricane Ivan approached, New Orleans ordered an evacuation but did not use city or school buses to help people evacuate. As a result many of the poorest citizens were unable to evacuate. Fortunately, the hurricane changed course and did not hit New Orleans, but both Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin acknowledged the need for a better evacuation plan. Again, they did not take corrective actions. In 1998, during a threat by Hurricane George, 14,000 people were sent to the Superdome and theft and vandalism were rampant due to inadequate security. Again, these problems were not corrected.

The New Orleans contingency plan is still, as of this writing, on the city's Web site, and states: "The safe evacuation of threatened populations is one of the principle [sic] reasons for developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan." But the plan was apparently ignored.

Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His Office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.

The city's evacuation plan states: "The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas." But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded. The plan also states that "special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific lifesaving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed." This was not done.

The evacuation plan warned that "if an evacuation order is issued without the mechanisms needed to disseminate the information to the affected persons, then we face the possibility of having large numbers of people either stranded and left to the mercy of a storm, or left in an area impacted by toxic materials." That is precisely what happened because of the mayor's failure.

Instead of evacuating the people, the mayor ordered the refugees to the Superdome and Convention Center without adequate security and no provisions for food, water and sanitary conditions. As a result people died, and there was even rape committed, in these facilities. Mayor Nagin failed in his responsibility to provide public safety and to manage the orderly evacuation of the citizens of New Orleans. Now he wants to blame Gov. Blanco and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an emergency the first requirement is for the city's emergency center to be linked to the state emergency operations center. This was not done.

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.

In addition, unlike the governors of New York, Oklahoma and California in past disasters, Gov. Blanco failed to take charge of the situation and ensure that the state emergency operation facility was in constant contact with Mayor Nagin and FEMA. It is likely that thousands of people died because of the failure of Gov. Blanco to implement the state plan, which mentions the possible need to evacuate up to one million people. The plan clearly gives the governor the authority for declaring an emergency, sending in state resources to the disaster area and requesting necessary federal assistance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2005 5:03 PM
Comments

No decisive difference?!?!? If it had saved just a handful of lives, that would have been decisive enough for them, don't ya think?

Posted by: obc at September 6, 2005 6:31 PM

No.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 7:03 PM

No.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 7:03 PM

The most important lesson of Katrina is that we need to be responsible for saving ourselves, our families and our neighbors. Bureaucratic cock-ups are eternal. Only by assuming responsibility for saving ourselves, can we be assured of salvation.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 9:56 PM

Ps 146:
[3] Put not your trust in princes,
in the sons of man, in whom there is no help.
[4] When his breath departs he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
[5] Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
[6] who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
[7] who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
[8] the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
[9] The LORD watches over the sojourners,
He upholds the widow and the orphan;
but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.
[10] The LORD will reign for ever,
thy God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 10:03 PM

If the second article is correct (that Bush utilized the Insurrection Act - there have been some rumours to that effect) then Blanco is toast and the whole Blame Bush meme goes out the window. I would think that this act required some type of paperwork to be filed. If so Bush (or perhaps Gonzalez as AG) shows this paperwork to the media and explains that Bush was the first president since the civil war to take this action because the LA governor was being obstructionist.

Posted by: AWW at September 6, 2005 11:19 PM

If true, Bush's use of the Insurrection Act just proves that we are already a Fascist Empire, and there's nothing that will stop the Evil Bushitler. It's now certain that he will declare martial law in October 2008 (after a suitable "incident" that can be used as a pretext, probably involving Black Helicopters) so that he can suspend the elections and stay in office indefinitely.

So, do I have any future as a writer-analyst at a Left-wing weblog?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 6, 2005 11:53 PM

I read a rumor on the net a deal was cut and the feds would pick up the entire cost, not the 75/25 split.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 7, 2005 12:08 AM

well, i've been away awhile, but i'm not surprised to see the blind adoration of the connecticut cowboy is undiminished here in juddworld.

to begin: gov. blanco formally requested federal assistance on 8/28, thereby activating FEMA and the La. National Guard.

the difference between a state asking for emergency assistance from the federal gov't and allowing it's National Guard units to be federalized is quite significant. and because dubya has long wanted to federalize the national guard he left gov. blanco with an all-or-nothing proposition and played golf while new orleaneans were left to, as robert put it so well above, save themselves.

the karl rove-spawned blame the locals plan has no legs and will not stand.

what we have here is willful malfeasance and yet another impeachable offense.

Posted by: lonbud at September 7, 2005 12:34 AM

That's right, lonbud, what did her letter request?

MONEY.

And she did activate the LANG which is still under her control, IIRC. I don't think those guarding the Dome had bullets, tho. If she had activated the buses like the plan called for....

So, why is MS which is arguably worse off, handling it better?

And the fine people of NO were due to get a DVD very shortly about hurricane safety which basically said, "you're on your own," so, willful malfeasance and impeachable offense, but not W.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 7, 2005 2:13 AM

lonbud -- why did she need Bush's help at all if she's not responsible for her own state? Isn't she the governor?

Posted by: Randall Voth at September 7, 2005 2:28 AM

Gov Blanco on 8/28 asked $130 million in federal funds to pay for anticipated cleanup and debris removal after the hurricane. That's all.

She did not ask for out-of-state help (e.g., out-of-state NG or FEMA), for supplies, for medical help, for transportation, for evacuation shelter, or anything else.

To this day she has refused to federalize the control of the NG.

Posted by: Gideon at September 7, 2005 4:31 AM

lonbud:

...yet another impeachable offence

It's the gift that just won't stop giving, isn't it?

Posted by: Peter B at September 7, 2005 6:22 AM

lonbud: let me see if I can get inside your thinking here.

Instead of sending his jackbooted thugs to Iraq to oppress the innocent Ba'athists in defiance of international law, President Bush should have sent them storming into Louisiana in defiance of federal law to oppress the poor black people of New Orleans.

Am I getting it?

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 7, 2005 6:24 AM

Raoul:

You left out how he caused the Hurricane in order to invoke the Act.

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2005 8:56 AM

OJ --

But he thought the hurricane would do the job by itself. However, when it incompetently shifted to the east and missed hitting New Orleans full-force, he sent his minons to blow up the 17th Street levee Tuesday morning. And he did all that so that he could rub out William Rhenquist while no one was looking on Saturday and create another opening for a neo-facist appointment to the Supreme Court, because the crisis in New Orleans is really all about supressing abortion rights and taking away our civil liberties.

Posted by: John at September 7, 2005 9:47 AM

Now you're getting the hang of it. The only thing you have to add is that the shoddy workmanship on the original levees was done by his great-great-grandfather's company and the repairs will be done by the secretive Carlyle Group....

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2005 9:53 AM

dubya is not nearly the creative actor y'all fantasize my criticism to indicate. blanco's declarations DID in fact invoke FEMA on the 26th and the 28th. new orleans did not need a federalized national guard response nearly so much as it needed water and transportation, which FEMA not only witheld but prevented for two days after the hurricane. you fellas think bullets and the military are the answer to everything.

Posted by: lonbud at September 7, 2005 11:01 AM

lonbud:

On whom would you rely if a natural disaster struck your neck of the woods? Blanco, Ray Nagin, or the federal government?

And would you offer looters bottled water, or bullets?

Should the army forcibly remove the 10,000 or so people who have not left New Orleans?

Who is responsible for the hundreds of unused school buses, now ruined?

Which branch of government is flying almost all the helicopters used in the rooftop rescues?

If the document is produced that shows Bush indeed invoked the Insurrection Act, will you congratulate him for saving lives?

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 7, 2005 11:21 AM

The Insurrection Act theme isn't getting picked up elsewhere so it is either not true or the Bush admin is holding this information back until it is necessary to present it.

Posted by: AWW at September 7, 2005 1:17 PM

With lonbud's reappearance, I can see just how pathetic my attempt really was. I'll leave such writings to the experts.

(I think the Insurrection Act stuff is urban legend myself, but a lack of factual basis for their rants never seems to get into the way of the lonbuds and perlsteins of the world...)

Oh, and those levees collaspsed because they were built on and over older levees originally built with slave labor. If only Bushitler and every white southerner had apologized for that, they would have held.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 7, 2005 5:37 PM

I can't believe the simplicity of thought that people express by blaming the President, whether it had been Bush, Kerry, or even Gore, for even 10% of the preventable suffering that occurred as a result of Katrina.

Here is the order of blame that I see based on nothing but logic, common sense, and a general understanding of the basics of our system of federal, state, and local governments here in America...

(and many of these are not to say that anyone should have known better at the time, we're not clairvoyant us humans)

1. Building a city below sea level that borders the ocean in the first place.

2. Building a levee system to withstand only up to a cat 3 hurricane.

3. Louisiana legislative sessions repeatedly appropriating funds away from upgrading the levee systems, considered by many legislators to be "pork".

4. The city or New Orleans lacking an effective hurricane evacuation plan.

5. The Mayor of New Orleans not using the hundreds of city buses and school buses to bus out people for FREE. (this is why the issue of being poor is moot point) Those buses just sat there and got swallowed up by the water.

6. The Governor of Louisiana refusing the President's midnight request to federalize the National Guard on Friday.

Now there are other bits that fit in there somewhere, like the sheer bureaucracy involved at all levels of government... it's just the world we live in. And here are some other facts to think about. The National Guard, no matter who they're controlled by, have to wait for requests for help before going into action. This tradition may be revised in the wake of this new level of disaster, but that will take a LOT of new legislation... and it will be fought over by the states. You have to appreciate the importance of state's rights in America. People fought and died over state's rights. It's why the Governor of Louisiana didn't want to give up control of the National Guard initially. In a sense, as per my disclaimer above, she can't really be blamed for her reaction. Only now, after the fact, will we be re-evaluating how the government responds to disasters of this magnitude. But I'm sure that will be argued wildly by those opposed to too much government authority, such as those who oppose the Patriot Act. Such is our system, and yes, it's still the best there is.

Finally, though I could go on about more, FEMA's mandate, and you can look this up, is to ASSIST state and local governments. It was never designed, back in 1979, or even after 9/11, to TAKE OVER and be ultimately RESPONSIBLE FOR disaster relief. Throughout our short history, it's been the first responders that have been expected to provide the initial relief people need in disasters, such as the relief in the first few days of Katrina's aftermath that everyone is complaining about. Well guess where the first responder's are situated? In the middle of the city and outlying areas where the disaster occurs. So you see, the first responders were surrounded by water, without communications, having lost even their own homes and families. This is perhaps the ultimate reason that people are looking for, the place where the rubber meets the road.

Unfortunately, this was one of those disasters so large that even those who knew what COULD happen, couldn't do anything to prevent it. Just like if people knew that those planes would be hijacked and flown into the Towers and the Pentagon, there's nothing anyone really could have done. Or if someone knew that Oswald was sitting in that 6th floor window, or if someone knew an actor was going to shoot Lincoln in the balcony, and so on and so forth...

Knowing what COULD happen, the best we could have done was to evacuate, and the order was given, and 80% did. And even now, many of the rest still refuse to leave a city in ruins...

Posted by: Alex at September 7, 2005 11:41 PM
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