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No, really, it's the Mayor's fault.
September 3, 2005 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Dept. of Homeland Security: Emergencies and Disasters
Preparing America In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.
Clearly, we are in good hands.
posted by Ethereal Bligh (83 comments total)

 
How does this merit a post? There's a ton of Katrina posts going right now and likely many more to come, virtually all of which would make better use of the space. This should be deleted.
posted by Sinner at 6:10 PM on September 3, 2005


I liked this part the best.

Revolution anyone? It's time we all got involved...
posted by thedoctorpants at 6:14 PM on September 3, 2005


Sounds like the federal government in view of typically local corrupt Democratic governance in New Orleans has decided to trump the issue. I say bravo. It pisses me off reading all these posts by the liberal illuminati whinging about Bush when he was constrained by deference to local corruption.
posted by paleocon at 6:15 PM on September 3, 2005


There were a bunch of MeFi folks who insisted in other threads that the Federal response in disasters like Katrina was set up to be a "tertiary role"-- perhaps this thread could be used to clarify that position: How does "assume primary responsibility" fit into that scenario?
posted by gwint at 6:16 PM on September 3, 2005


"There were a bunch of MeFi folks who insisted in other threads that the Federal response in disasters like Katrina was set up to be a "tertiary role"-- perhaps this thread could be used to clarify that position: How does "assume primary responsibility" fit into that scenario?"

Yes, this is why I thought it merited a post. There's a lot of spinning going on that, hey, this really wasn't the Fed's responsibility. But what the people in New Orleans expected and what most of America expected--that the Fed response would be very quick to back them up--is what was promised. Right there on the government's website.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:18 PM on September 3, 2005


"If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican. [source]
posted by ericb at 6:23 PM on September 3, 2005


Welcome to the third world.
posted by Max Power at 6:26 PM on September 3, 2005


"Hurricane Katrina has gone from being a natural disaster to a national disaster. Everyone must agree that the situation in New Orleans represents a failure of the federal government to meet its most basic function of effectively and promptly providing safety and security for the American people. The federal government failed to plan for and immediately respond to this crisis.

The failure stems from a chronic and intentional diversion of resources for which the Bush Administration must accept responsibility." - Rep. Jan Schakowsky
posted by ericb at 6:27 PM on September 3, 2005


The Dept of Homeland Security assume primary responsibility for getting funding and publicity, storing specialist equipment in locked warehouses, and requiring paperwork before allowing people to help each other out.

Tertiary responsibility for everything else.

Apparently.
posted by cleardawn at 6:27 PM on September 3, 2005


There were a bunch of MeFi folks who insisted in other threads that the Federal response in disasters like Katrina was set up to be a "tertiary role"

No, no, they insisted that the feds would take on a "terciary" role. That's a different thing entirely, you opportunistic jackals!

say, this "spin" thing is kind of fun!
posted by scody at 6:27 PM on September 3, 2005


paleocon: all these posts by the liberal illuminati whinging about Bush when he was constrained by deference to local corruption.

Bush was constrained in his response because of the peculiarities of New Orleans politics?! Oh yeah, that's right -- when the governor of NM offered his Nat'l Guard troops for service on Sunday, Bush said, "I'd take you up on it if I could, but the arcane bylaws of New Orleans City Council won't let me." By the way paleocon, I've always wondered: what color's the sky in Bizarro World?
posted by scody at 6:31 PM on September 3, 2005


triple-posting for the sarcasm-impaired and willfully obtuse: Bush did not actually say that. Bush in fact ignored the offer until Wednesday.
posted by scody at 6:33 PM on September 3, 2005


Speaking of Bizarro World: good god, Newt Gingrich is making sense.

And they said it was 9/11 that "changed everything"...
posted by BoringPostcards at 6:34 PM on September 3, 2005


From the site:
Response & Recovery
There is currently no top story for this theme
Clearly.
posted by boaz at 6:36 PM on September 3, 2005


Regardless of Homeland Security's role or lack thereof, Chertoff still insists the feds did not envision such a scenario despite other federal officials and the Army Corps of Engineers stating just the opposite.

For that alone, Chertoff should be fired.
posted by mischief at 6:37 PM on September 3, 2005


Has anyone else considered that the disaster down "in that part of the world" and the complete and utterly embarassing "ball dropping" might be providing an opportune time for Terrorists to attack, what with Sept 11 about a week away?
posted by shoepal at 6:47 PM on September 3, 2005


It's the people's responsibility to support the government, not the government's responsibilty to support the people.
posted by cpchester at 6:49 PM on September 3, 2005


yup, shoepal. i shiver as i think about it.
posted by amberglow at 6:49 PM on September 3, 2005


It's the people's responsibility to support the government, not the government's responsibilty to support the people.

Ignore the dump in the thread!
posted by ericb at 6:50 PM on September 3, 2005


embarassing "ball dropping" might be providing an opportune time for Terrorists to attack

Oh, but shoepal, we're prepared!
posted by ericb at 6:51 PM on September 3, 2005


It's the people's responsibility to support the government, not the government's responsibilty to support the people.

The government is the people. It's how the people support themselves in a way that they can't as individuals. The federal government's complete incompetence this week is an absolute failure of its responsibility.
posted by stopgap at 6:58 PM on September 3, 2005


What a terrible front page post. All of these issues are being discussed at length in the various other Katrina threads. Amidst that, posting a front-page link to an official government site is the equivalent to shitting on the MeFi community. I hope this gets deleted quickly.
posted by mediareport at 7:00 PM on September 3, 2005


Feel free to flag.
posted by zoogleplex at 7:02 PM on September 3, 2005


I don't know. We have not one, but many Katrina posts, so one more which adds an interesting twist, which this does, is not so awful. Hopefully, the rescue effort will become effective enough soon that we can get back to our regular method of trying to shoehorn new stuff into a days old post. We aren't there yet.
posted by caddis at 7:09 PM on September 3, 2005


I just read this from the Mayor of NO. I'm sure it's old news to mefites, but it really makes me feel like those folks down there have really been left out in the cold. If I was the POTUS I would already be in the implementation phase of a major operation. This is stupid, and I am pissed.

Where are all of the many hundreds of H-60 helos we have? They should be down there plucking people out and hauling them to safety.
posted by snsranch at 7:10 PM on September 3, 2005


Ethereal Bligh should know better. This is a crap post.
posted by mediareport at 7:10 PM on September 3, 2005


It's the people's responsibility to support the government, not the government's responsibilty to support the people.

No, see, we abandoned the monarchy awhile ago.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:18 PM on September 3, 2005


Opinion noted, mediareport. As before, feel free to flag.
posted by zoogleplex at 7:23 PM on September 3, 2005


DHS pretty much ran out of ideas for emergency responses after that whole duct tape thing. It's clearly only capable of creating the illusion of security. Considering Katrina was tracked from its beginnings in the Atlantic, landfall in Florida and then into the Gulf, one can probably guess how effective DHS might be in the case of an unexpected terrorist attack.
posted by tommasz at 7:26 PM on September 3, 2005


why does CNN Int'l say Thousands of people faced the prospect of spending another night outside of a New Orleans convention center, as a stream of buses worked to move out the 30,000 evacuees who have been stranded there for days amid mounds of trash and human waste.

Every tv channel i've seen (incl. CNN) says they evacuated everyone from the convention center. Which is true?
posted by amberglow at 7:28 PM on September 3, 2005


As before, feel free to flag.

Done.

To be clear: Only a fool would object to important posts that stretch the rules. But this post isn't even close, and there's a certain level of respect for the site that should be maintained even in situations as dire as this one. If this absurdly shallow link had come from an excited newbie, I promise you I'd have left it alone. But coming from someone who often takes it upon himself to police behavior at the site, it's a ridiculously lame abuse of the front page.
posted by mediareport at 7:33 PM on September 3, 2005


Can someone/anybody please call or email MSNBC and tell them to get poor Rita Cosby a throat lozenge?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2005


I think this is a good post. More technical and focussed than our other Katrina threads.

Perhaps one key to the organizational problem DHS is having can be seen in this pdf, the modestly titled "National Response Plan".

Page 28 and 29 are (from a cursory examination) the relevant parts that appear to have gone utterly wrong.

This "plan" looks to me like the result of a classic corporate reorg, as arranged by an incompetent manager with little experience of organizational complexity.

Matrices of responsibility (rather than trees), with unclear lines of responsibility, and long text descriptions of how each post is related to the others in some imaginary ideal world, are all classic signs of an organization that won't work quickly or easily in practice.

Yet the expectation seems to be that this structure will be assembled AFTER the disaster has occurred. (see the flowchart on p47).

Imagine trying to read the table on page 29 of this document while people are dying around you, and wondering "Who should I phone to get approval for an airlift of water supplies?"

I really, really hope they had/have better organization than this document suggests. But all the evidence so far seems to suggest that they do not.
posted by cleardawn at 7:41 PM on September 3, 2005


Mediareport, I see where you (and Matteo) are coming from, but I think discussing DHS and their "role" in non-terrorist matters is worthy of a FPP. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, EB brings some baggage to this post which probably doesn't help his case. It is also a rather poorly framed post, but I think if someone else had made a similar post it wouldn't have caught as much flak given the current situation. So, let's consider EB scolded/shamed/reprimanded, sufficiently called out and immediately sent to bed without supper and move on to discussing the topic at hand. Thanks.
posted by shoepal at 7:45 PM on September 3, 2005


Every tv channel i've seen (incl. CNN) says they evacuated everyone from the convention center. Which is true? - amberglow

Both - the people are spending the night *outside* of the convention centre, so surely the convention centre itself has been evacuated...
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:48 PM on September 3, 2005


August 5, 2005
After the Storm, by Michael D. Brown - FEMA/DHS
--...There is no other nation in the world that could come close to the disciplined disaster management evidenced as storm after storm came crashing into the homes of so many. ...
posted by amberglow at 7:52 PM on September 3, 2005


I thought it was the dome that had been evacuated - Brown only found out about the convention centre a couple of days ago after all. Takes time. Mmm.
posted by Mossy at 7:54 PM on September 3, 2005


FEMA Memo, 8/28: Homeland Security Prepping For Dangerous Hurricane Katrina--“FEMA has pre-positioned many assets including ice, water, food and rescue teams to move into the stricken areas as soon as it is safe to do so.” ...On Saturday, President Bush has declared an emergency for the states of Louisiana and Mississippi opening up FEMA’s ability to move into the state and assist the state and local governments with mobilizing resources and preparations to save lives and property from the impact of Hurricane Katrina. FEMA is moving supplies of generators, water, ice and food into the region for immediate deployment once the storm passes. FEMA’s Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) are also staged for immediate response anywhere in the region. The funding and direct federal assistance will assist law enforcement with evacuations, establishing shelters and other emergency protective measures....

Was any of this true at all?
posted by amberglow at 7:59 PM on September 3, 2005


Life Safety Tops FEMA Priorities, Supplies Pour In (8/31)
posted by amberglow at 8:01 PM on September 3, 2005


Amberglow, after reading that, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling about FEMA. I'm certain that the fact that he was talking about response to a hurricane in Jeb Bush's state should not be considered in any comparison to the recent debacle in New Orleans.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:02 PM on September 3, 2005


But all the evidence so far seems to suggest that they do not.

I agree, cleardawn, but it's also worth noting that some of the problems, like lack of compatibility between local, state and national radio systems, are also the fault of poor planning at the New Orleans/Louisiana level. I'm completely appalled and furious at the idiocy of FEMA, but also believe partisan politics is clearly playing a role in some folks' minds as they join the rush to (justifiably) villify the Bush/Cheney led federal responders.
posted by mediareport at 8:02 PM on September 3, 2005


amberglow: what I've gleaned is that they expected, as is standard operating procedure these days, to do the entire operation on the cheap. Not enough people, not enough supplies, and a wild underestimate of the problems involved. Instead of coming at it with overwhelming force, they came at it with inappropriate and underwhelming force. Nobody's willing to say it, but the surprise at the level of violence and looting pretty much gives it away--nobody even thought of security and now they're too busy covering their own asses to do their jobs.

Unfortunately, leadership and competency are often measured by the ability to adapt to the unforseen and not plan for every possible eventuality. Timidity, temerity, thoughtlessness, and a total lack of courage have combined to create tragedy on all levels.
posted by trigonometry at 8:07 PM on September 3, 2005


correction: "... adapt to the unforseen and plan for every ..." wooo.
posted by trigonometry at 8:07 PM on September 3, 2005


tragedy is an understatement maybe.
posted by amberglow at 8:08 PM on September 3, 2005


Rehnquist just died.
posted by amberglow at 8:13 PM on September 3, 2005


Better post it to the front page right away.
posted by mediareport at 8:18 PM on September 3, 2005


If a thread really bothers you, post a metatalk thread. Otherwise flag and forget. Half the comments are about how crappy the post is, and that's just lame.
posted by delmoi at 8:20 PM on September 3, 2005


Better post it to the front page right away.
posted by mediareport at 11:18 PM EST on September 3


You are officially being a jerk.

(yes, I'm an expert)
posted by qwip at 8:22 PM on September 3, 2005


You are officially being a jerk.

Hey, I added something to the damn thread. Then someone posted completely unrelated breaking news, and I went, "huh?" Sue me.
posted by mediareport at 8:24 PM on September 3, 2005


"partisan politics is clearly playing a role in some folks' minds"

Yes, I'm sure it is, as always. Why should it not?

Politics should NOT stop when there's a disaster.

In fact it's exactly when the shit hits the fan that our right to criticize our leaders is most crucial to our survival, both individually and as a species.

Remember how Bush played 9/11 for personal popularity, for example? Every day for the last 4 years?

How come "politics" was OK then, but now, suddenly, it isn't?

Should we rally round and support the imbecile who cut the funding that was needed to repair the levees, then stated that "nobody anticipated the levees being breached"?

I think not.
posted by cleardawn at 8:28 PM on September 3, 2005


seconded.
posted by zoogleplex at 8:29 PM on September 3, 2005


thirded.
posted by amberglow at 8:29 PM on September 3, 2005


In Matteo's MeTa thread questioning the numerous katrina FPPs, I respond to the criticism of this post. For those unwilling to soil themselves in MeTa, the short version is that I agree this is NewsPoliFilter and that I've frequently argued against this, but in Matteo's thread Matt says that this is one of those exceptional times and I have no argued against the "major event" exception.

With regard to the relevancy and importance of the subject of the post, I wrote:
It is a link to a somewhat obscure government webpage that unambiguously refutes the lie of anyone that claims that it is wrong to have expected massive Federal help in New Orleans far, far sooner than it actually appeared. It refutes anyone's claims that in any sense this wasn't the Fed's responsibility because, clearly, this disaster both mimics and is within the mandate of the types of services that this government has promised us since that it would competently provide since 9/11.
I don't begrudge mediareport or others having a different view and I don't begrudge them stating it loudly here. When I believe that a post has been very bad for MeFi, I have complained in the thread, too.

But I respectfully disagree that under these circumstances, this is a bad post.

I believe that both the hypocrisy of this administration and its failures are clearly represented in that quote from that webpage, and I believe it's important that it gets as much light of day as possible before, perhaps, it vanishes.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:31 PM on September 3, 2005


Make that "annoying jerk". And you are not adding, you are detracting from those of us who are reading the thread. Your point was made the first time, move on. I will do the same, as I feel slightly less clean having to chastise you.

(not that I "had" to, but I really want you to stop)
posted by qwip at 8:32 PM on September 3, 2005


How come "politics" was OK then, but now, suddenly, it isn't?

It wasn't ok then, either. Duh. Anyway, you're avoiding the point, which is that local and state officials also bear some of the blame. Hey, my heart broke at Mayor Nagin's radio plea, too, but the idea that the only failures here are federal ones is absurd.
posted by mediareport at 8:35 PM on September 3, 2005


mediareport: You may have missed this detail, but local and state officials have just had their homes destroyed.

Their families killed or evacuated or injured.

Their support staff, resources, cars, offices, fuel dumps, are flooded and looted and burned and generally not available right now.

Earlier, I saw reports of police looting, and thought about corrupt cops and so on... and then I started to put myself in their shoes.

Some of them don't have enough to eat, and are looting food and water FOR THEIR OWN USE - let alone providing for people they're rescuing.

This is exactly the situation where federal help is required immediately. It did not arrive for five days. Whose fault is that?

I don't think blaming the locals is really a productive defense for Bush or the Dept of Homeland Security to take.
posted by cleardawn at 8:52 PM on September 3, 2005


I don't think blaming the locals is really a productive defense for Bush or the Dept of Homeland Security

Telling comment. It's not about "defense" for Bush & co., cleardawn. It's about clearly looking at what went wrong. And part of what went wrong was a distinct lack of planning at the local level. Did you miss the part where local and state officials' radios weren't able to work together in the first, crucial, days after the hurricane?

Again, my heart goes out to the folks whose lives have been so horribly disrupted. But a sole focus on FEMA's failures won't help make sure this kind of tragically slow response doesn't happen again, and smart lefties should stay alert to that fact.
posted by mediareport at 8:57 PM on September 3, 2005


I'm curious then mediareport, how much do you blame NYC itself for 9/11? Obviously it's their responsibility, since it happened in their district, so the Feds didn't need to show up at all, right?
posted by Talanvor at 9:03 PM on September 3, 2005


It's not about "defense" for Bush & co.

For Bush & co. it actually is about covering their own ass and deflecting responsibility, how else do you explain how Brown's multitude of interviews have gone? The guy was sitting there, with a straight face even, saying they had no idea about people in the Superdome and the convention center. It's been on the news for days. Do they think we're really that stupid?

btw, I'm not trying to jump on you specifically mediareport, I just don't want to see FEMA, DHS and ultimately the White House's responsibility in this get ignored because they pointed fingers consistantly at NO and LA.
posted by Talanvor at 9:10 PM on September 3, 2005


I think what cleardawn was getting at is: In a situation in which you cannot rely on the local authorities (either through mismanagement or because they've been washed away) we rely on the Feds to swoop down and make things right. And they've explicitly assumed primary responsibility in their mission statement. What's so chilling with this whole situation, aside from the actual horrors that have unfolded, is that after all the talk from Bush and the DHS, when the chips were down, the Feds performed terribly. Which means the next time this happens (and as a New Yorker, I think about the next time often) things might go just as badly. I've read about some amazing work that the NYPD/NYFD are doing in terms of command and control, communications, etc. but God forbid those systems fail-- well, my image of what happens next has changed dramatically in the last week.
posted by gwint at 9:12 PM on September 3, 2005


Talanvor, are you really suggesting that there's no responsibility for the flooding or response on the part of local officials? And I reject your 9/11 analogy completely; it's not even worth dignifying with a response. How dare you suggest I'm insensitive to the plight of the victims.
posted by mediareport at 9:13 PM on September 3, 2005


A lot of people are making the point that it was up to the local officials to see to it that the people that couldn't leave would be evacuated. And that's correct. It seems like a good argument.

However, it doesn't stand to scrutiny if you really stop and think about a forced evacuation. Nagin did in fact account for those without transportation: he had a large number of shuttles available for evacuation. Also, this was the first time any mayor has even called for a mandatory evacuation.

But the reality is that people also won't evacuate because it costs them money to do so above and beyond transportation costs. And the other reality is that, before this week, you'd never be able to convince everyone to evacuate anyway. It would require a forced evacuation, and expecting any city in the US to attempt such a thing in the event of a hurricane is unrealistic. In fact, I suspect that without Federal help a forced evacuation would be an enormous mess and wouldn't work, anyway.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:14 PM on September 3, 2005


Three Babies Died in the Convention Center of Heat Exaustion
posted by cell divide at 9:15 PM on September 3, 2005


mediareport, if you're a 'smart lefty' then I'm Christopher Hitchens.

Neither of us know the exact operational details about radios and so on - no doubt there are many problems, at local, state, federal, and even international level, that will be learned from the thorough and detailed investigations that will happen later.

The local services should certainly have done more to bus the non-car-owning people out before the storm, rather than expecting them to walk.

But the overwhelming impression is of total failure of co-ordination between the different agencies, and that co-ordination is a federal responsibility.

It's not clear to me what exactly is FEMA's role and what is the Dept of HS's role, and the thing is, they don't seem to know either.

The shiny new "National Respnse Plan" didn't work, at all, and it appears that the people who wrote the plan were Republican jobs-for-the-boys appointees with no experience or skills in the area of disaster management. Arabian horse breeding just isn't the same thing.

They must of course resign or be sacked as soon as possible, so that qualified people can take over. The sooner that happens, the fewer people will die unnecessarily.

Then, the man who appointed the phoneys must be impeached, for the same reason.

Then we can look at the details.
posted by cleardawn at 9:20 PM on September 3, 2005


Tierney today had a column that, while I was prepared to be offended by it, I found it intriguing. He suggests that while fire prevention and extinguishing became more a local matter, flood prevention has always been on the national level. Which is bad, because it's hard to get the government to pay for your levees by convincing some senator from Alaska who couldn't give a shit otherwise.

So while he realizes that the feds fucked up here and should pay for the recovery, it really should be a more local matter. Interesting - too bad the people who could make such a change are complete incompetents.
posted by fungible at 9:22 PM on September 3, 2005


cleardawn: "It's not clear to me what exactly is FEMA's role and what is the Dept of HS's role, and the thing is, they don't seem to know either."

OK, let's get it straight: FEMA is now DHS. FEMA is an Undersecretary position under the Secretary of DHS. They are no longer separate entities; FEMA's functions have been subsumed under DHS authority.

There is no distinction between their roles, because they are the same organization. It's DHS's role.
posted by zoogleplex at 9:30 PM on September 3, 2005


even after the complaints and the blame, they still haven't figured it out. Imagine what would be the case it people weren't up in arms complaining to the Feds to get moving.

A friend of mine thinks that it was the foreign press (Deutch Welle mainly) that was the first to actually criticize the response, and that the american press became critical after them.
posted by destro at 9:34 PM on September 3, 2005


Brown's background explains things a lot. He was fired from the Colorado based International Arabian Horse Association for being an "unmitigated, total...disaster" back in 2001.
posted by augustweed at 11:27 PM on September 3, 2005


He was fired from the Colorado based International Arabian Horse Association for being an "unmitigated, total...disaster" back in 2001.

Actually he was an "Unmitigated, total, fucking disaster" - just in the interests of accuracy...

It really is a complete mystery to those outside the US (oh, and i'm sure within as well) as to how it took 5 days to get these people help.

Living in the UK, if London had suddenly disappeared under 10ft of water and tens of thousands had been left homeless you just know there would be help within a day. FGS, if the whole of the UK had suffered a similar disaster, you just know the guys over in Europe would have been in within a day with all the help they could. The same goes with any European country. Maybe it's the joint memory of two world wars that has bound us together, who knows.

It is sad to see such a culture of greed and apathy played out so tragically.
posted by Meccabilly at 12:08 AM on September 4, 2005


Ethereal Bligh: No, even if transportation had been provided, some people would not have left - they would fear the shelters, they didn't believe it would that bad, they wanted to be in their homes.

But thousands more would have - they stood in line for hours, until 10:30 at night, even as the rains started coming down, just to get into the protection of the SuperDome. (I don't actually know when people started going to the convention centre).

And even if the 250+ school buses had gone out of the city half empty, they would have at least been dry enough to be used to come back into the city within 24-48 hours to get people out, BEFORE they were so starving and dehydrated that the authorities didn't dare send a bus without food or water.

I think there were a lot of mistakes all over. And people died for it.

The Dutch actually evacuated 250,000 people in 1995 from disaterous river flooding - and there were no fatalities.
posted by jb at 12:22 AM on September 4, 2005


That was a forced evacuation. I think that before this week, there wasn't nerve enough (understandably) for anyone to attempt a forced evacuation of a major city in the US.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:40 AM on September 4, 2005


I know they wouldn't have done a forced evacuation - but even getting several thousand people out of the city before the hurricane would have made the evacuation after the storm that much easier.

They did run scenarios on this - I saw a segment on NBC or CNN. It was a researcher at University of New Orleans, I think - he predicted the 80% flooding. He told them they needed tent cities - they said "Americans don't live in tent cities".

Apparently, they do live in worse conditions.
posted by jb at 1:37 AM on September 4, 2005


Wash Post, page 1 today: Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top--The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.

Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts. ...

posted by amberglow at 5:40 AM on September 4, 2005


Talanvor, are you really suggesting that there's no responsibility for the flooding or response on the part of local officials? And I reject your 9/11 analogy completely; it's not even worth dignifying with a response. How dare you suggest I'm insensitive to the plight of the victims.
posted by mediareport at 9:13 PM PST on September 3


Actually I didn't suggest anywhere that you were insensitive to the victims, you mentally inserted that somewhere in my response.

The point I was trying to make was that on a tragedy of this scale, the only comparable one we have to work with that the Bush administration has dealt with was 9/11. You can't play favorites and say one tragedy was more special than the other, was more worthy of attention and help. Unless, of course, the real reason for the irresponsibly delayed response was in fact that the majority of the victims were either poor, black or both, and that the administration really doesn't give a damn about them.

And FEMA has it's taking head trying to lay entire blame for this on the local authorities, which just is not going to wash. Or does the Department of Homeland Security only get involved if there's a "terror" on the byline somewhere?
posted by Talanvor at 6:23 AM on September 4, 2005


We say "hope for the best, prepare for the worst." We rarely face up to how awful the worst can be.

One example:
"Brian Wolshon, an engineering professor at Louisiana State University who served as a consultant on the state's evacuation plan, said little attention was paid to moving out New Orleans's 'low-mobility' population - the elderly, the infirm and the poor without cars or other means of fleeing the city, about 100,000 people. At disaster planning meetings, he said, 'the answer was often silence.'"
posted by Carol Anne at 8:10 AM on September 4, 2005


The point I was trying to make was that on a tragedy of this scale, the only comparable one we have to work with that the Bush administration has dealt with was 9/11. You can't play favorites and say one tragedy was more special than the other, was more worthy of attention and help.

Oh, good. At first it seemed like you were using 9/11 as a kind of emotional bludgeon, like Bush does. Glad I misread you. But you still don't have much of an argument, Talanvor; there's been *plenty* of sharp discussion of the many ways in which local authorities screwed up during and after 9/11, some of which started very soon after the event. Again, I think FEMA's response was disastrous, but as Carol Anne's comment just above makes clear, the local officials have plenty to answer for themselves. Only the most simplistic kind of partisan hack would deny that.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 AM on September 4, 2005


And when citizens do prepare? Maddening story about how FEMA turned away 500 experienced boaters from Lafayette:

On Wednesday morning a group of approximately 1,000 citizens pulling 500 boats left the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette in the early morning and headed to New Orleans with a police escort from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department. The flotillia of trucks pulling boats stretched over FIVE miles. This citizen rescue group was organized by La. State Senator, Nick Gautreaux from Vermilion Parish. The group was comprised of experienced boaters, licensed fishermen and hunters, people who have spent their entire adult life and teenage years on the waterways of Louisiana.

The State Police waved the flotillia of trucks/boats through the barricades in LaPlace and we sped into New Orleans via I-10 until past the airport and near the Clearview exit. At that time we were stopped by agents of the FEMA controlled La. Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries. A young DWF agent strolled through the boats and told approximately half of the citizens that their boats were too large because the water had dropped during the night and that they should turn around and go home.

posted by madamjujujive at 9:28 AM on September 4, 2005


Americablog.com:
Uh oh, Chertoff just said he's getting his news on the disaster from the newspapers. That he opened his newspaper Tuesday morning and learned that the levee collapsed. I'm sorry, but the levee collapsed Monday morning and was hot on the wires at that time - so the head of the entire Department of Homeland Security didn't know the levees broke until 24 hours later? Jesus Christ!

And I quote from the Times-Picayune:

A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new "hurricane proof" Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north. The breach sent a churning sea of water from Lake Pontchartrain coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east.

So, either Chertoff is again a bald-faced liar, or he's an out of touch imbecile.

OOOOOOH, Russert just held up the page of the Dept of Homeland Security Web site that says they assume primary responsibility - you may have remembered seeing that page here and on other blogs. Yes!


These bastards should just go, and salvage the scrap of honour that that will give them.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:15 AM on September 4, 2005


"Chertoff just said he's getting his news on the disaster from the newspapers."

I guess they don't have them newfangled Marconi sets over there at DHS, huh?

Seriously, WTF. This is an effete, disconnected aristocrat who can't be bothered to even use modern means of communication, nor have subordinates who do so and keep him informed.

How repugnant, alien and inhuman.

REMOVE THESE ASSHOLES FROM POWER. NOW!!!

What does this say about what the government thinks is the REAL chance of terrorists mounting a major attack on the US?

It says they believe the chance is ZERO! And therefore they don't NEED to put capable people in charge of dealing with it, they just need to put on a good PR show.

I'll say that again: having a man like Chertoff in charge of the agency responsible for preventing and/or handling massive terrorist attacks on the United States means this government believes the chances of an actual attack are ZERO.

Run that through your heads a while, please?
posted by zoogleplex at 11:56 AM on September 4, 2005


Actually, I think that might deserve its own FPP... tho I'm sort of junior here, I wouldn't presume.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:00 PM on September 4, 2005


Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.



....so where'd that money go?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:47 AM on September 5, 2005


zoogleplex, your conclusion isn't the only one possible. Another is that those who are appointing people to these positions are unable to assess competency.
posted by catachresoid at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2005


Yeah, you're right. Which is also cause for removal, of the appointers. Certainly we can now assess competency with actual performance to review, huh?

Failing grade, and not like a 65 either. More like a 15. We're not putting a curve on this test, nope.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:22 AM on September 5, 2005


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