katrina and the lowering of the collective punditry iq 9.02.2005

I wasn't going to blog on Hurricane Katrina. I really wasn't; it's a disaster, and there is little to be said except please donate. However, it appears that it's more than a couple of levees that have been broken by Katrina. It also appears the punditry have lost their collective minds--including many otherwise sane and reasonable bloggers.

Lets kick off with a few simple posts, by people who I had hoped would know better. Take Orin Kerr on The Volokh Conspiracy: Where's George?:
I think the question for the government response to Katrina is not so much "Where's Rudy?," as Todd asks below, but rather, "Where's George?" Rudy Giuliani was an effective leader post-9/11 in part because he assumed control and understood the gravity of the situation. Giuliani was direct, realistic, and 100% focused on the problem, and as the longtime Mayor of the devastated area he was uniquely situated to understand the scope of it.

Before I deconstruct this comment, let's go to the money quote of that post:
I'm no expert in crisis response, and I don't have any special skills when it comes to putting my finger in the air and getting a sense of the national psyche. But...

First, let me note that any paragraph which contains the word "but" should be puncutated just before the word "But" with a full stop. Anything after the "but" is either a contradiction of the stuff prior to the "but", a passive-agressive attack (as "but" is the passive-agressive of the English language), or--in this case--a betrayal of the ignorance of the writer.

In this case, the reason why George Bush cannot be Rudy Giuliani after 9/11 is simple: the government is a hierarchical organization composed of many layers, from local to state to national government. Structurally the Federal Government cannot do very much except dump money in an area, remove some legal barriers (which are almost automatically done anyways), and otherwise get the hell out of the way so the local officials can operate. What the Federal Government is good at is reconstruction and clean-up. But the Federal Government cannot take the place of local emergency response officials at knowing the local terrain. Further, the Federal Government is legally not allowed to get involved in many cases, such as with mobilizing federal troops for local assistance, unless asked. (And let's be serious: the last time Federal Troops were mobilized and authorized to act in a given area, it was in the early 1860's during our Civil War.)

If there is to be a new Rudy Giuliani, it would have to be someone at the local level. But unfortunately, it appears the only thing the mayor of New Orleans seems willing to do is complain that the Federal Government hasn't stepped up when he was unable to do so. And many of the Democrats in the hierarchy there seem more concerned with scoring political points than with actually helping fix anything. (On the other hand, with emergency response moving as fast as it can, as a leader you often can make some spare time to score points with your Democratic leaders.)

So the answer "Where's George" is simple: he is doing what he can--but as President of the United States, supprisingly enough that isn't very much. Unless George wants to wage another civil war, I suppose.

Then we have the New Sisyphus, who seems to be on a role bashing Bush, who apparently has fallen into the same blame game as above--forgetting that the only thing under Bush's direct command as Commander In Chief is an invasion force that, the last time it was used locally was during the Late Unpleasentness. The money shot here, however, is a bit more ironic:
The fact that the President could simply stand up and recite a laundry-list of FEMA action items when there are people with automatic weapons taking control of sections of a major American city and when women and infants are huddled on interstate bypasses without shelter or water raises the most serious concerns about the President's continued viability as a political leader.

One of course has to wonder why people with automatic weapons have taken control of sections of a major American city--but naturally the New Sisyphus, who is a self-professed conservative, appears to have fallen into one of the biggest liberal traps out there--that the behavior of the people on the ground is unimportant compared to what the bureaucrats in Washington do. (That is, the trap here is that he has asked why the President hasn't acted, instead of asking why the people have taken up arms--as if individual reaction is unimportant, only what Washington does.)

Now it is true that conservatives do believe in law and order--and backing that up with a gun--but conservatives also believe that law and order has to be enforced locally. But in a city where local law enforcement is borderline corrupt to begin with, where everyone but the poor and the downtrodden have evacuated the city--and in an atmosphere of entitlements where the poor are constantly kept down by mechanisms of welfare under the guise of "compassion"--it's no wonder things fell apart. It's the same thing as what happened during the L.A. riots: the poor and downtrodden, caught in a welfare system which is mind-numbingly destructive to one's ego, surrounded by some of the wealthiest people in the world--when given an opportunity, they vented their frustration in an orgy of destruction.

And which political party has advocated against welfare reform or forcing people to take responsibility for their own lives? I'll give you a hint: it doesn't being with an 'R'.

At least a few blogs get it right: Vodkapundit's Elegy:
And among the harshest of the catastrophie's side-effects, the very worst of the city has been on display to the world this week. Inept public officials, lack of planning and preparation, and the lethal unleashing of a hard-core criminal element so brutal, it's been attacking aid workers who were the first to try and help.

Now for the really painful part, said not with anger, but with a heavy heart: As sad and awful as it is, Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular did a lot of this to themselves.

And the readers of Power Line: Our Readers Weigh In:
... The initial responsibility for any disaster starts with the municipality, then county/parrish, state, and then finally federal government. It seems that since there was a collapse of all levels of government from municipal through state, the only thing left to do is blame the feds. For a bit of perspective, I was a firefighter with a volunteer fire department in southeast Florida. The town is located on barrier island and our sop requires us, when there is a mandatory evacuation of flood zones during a hurricane, to relocate our fire engines and firefighters to a safe area until after the storm passes. At first blush it seems a little callous to leave when we know a certain percentage of the population will refuse to evacuate, but high winds and flooding could destroy the rescue equipment and turn first responders into victims.

Once the storm has passed we can move in and start rescue operations. We make sure we have the ability to operate for at least 72 hours on our own without having to rely on any of the surrounding communuties, county, or state.

I bring this up because I saw a lot of ambulances, police cars, and fire equipment flooded in the Katrina footage. It will be interesting to see what the NO preplanning was since their director of emergency response is all over the tv blaming Bush. We went through Frances (cat 4) and three weeks later Jeanne (cat 3) last year and I think Palm Beach County and Jeb Bush did a pretty good job. It's up to local and state people to tell the feds what they need and to run the emergency command centers, not just throw their arms up in the air and start blaming everyone else.

posted by William Woody at 11:00 AM

Great Blog, I added it to my list and will check in often!

Best Wishes,
Speed Reading

Anonymous Anonymous at 11:55 AM  

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A moderate conservative living in the left coast, surrounded by the sureal, wonders if there is a sane life living amongst those who have lost touch with reality.

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