Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NOLA Disaster - Observations - 1

1. A reporter on the news today said something astonishing: Today (Saturday!) is the first time he's seen any Red Cross! Or any Salvation Army!

I assume I know why the state and federal relief efforts took so long to marshall -- I assume they are all idiots, and it;s when the s--t really hits the fan that they are completely useless. But the Red Cross? The S.A.? Now I'm *really* curious -- what was going on that kept *them* from responding more quickly! I think the answer to that will be far more interesting--and more useful for future action--than the high-noise/low-info political cross-bashing that has already started.

2. There was warning; the vast majority left; remaining were a small number of idiot stubborn folk; and poor people with nowhere to go and no money to go there. That we weren't able to help them afterwards faster is embarrassing in the extreme. I wonder, too, how those who left are fairing--you leave with a day's notice, take what you can, lose everything else, live with relatives or friends or in a hotel for -- what? months? -- your job is probably gone for a long time or for good -- there's more misery still to come out of this.

3. The one big pol who actually asked the entirely sensible question, "Should we in fact be rebuilding NOLA--or rebuilding it just the way it was? It's going to happen again! Does this make sense?", was cruicified and of course is backing down as fast as he can. But the rest of us shouldn't let them off the hook: The answer is NOT obviously "yes." It's a serious issue. If nothing else, consider the morality of paying to rebuild so that, at some future point, another few hundred people will die--and refusing to seriously question what you're doing.

The governor of La. of course said they will certainly rebuild, and it's "worth every nickle." Of *my* money, she means. Always easy to make demands of other people's hard-earned treasure. I think in *this* debate, while we can certainly understand why the people there would really like the rest of us to pay to rebuild the town, they really don't have a say in the matter -- we who will pay (this time and past times and all the next times) should do some serious thinking. And if we decide to go a different path than usual in these matters, we should think about what that means for rebuilding in other threatened areas like Florida.

We may decide to rebuild anyway; maybe it's worth it to those who pay. But at least let's think about it, instead of simply letting every politician who benefits drive debate into the ground.

4. The lesson we learn from this, especially those of us on the West Coast, is: When *our* time comes--when The Big One hits -- the same thing will happen--we can expect no help for a week or more. So we'd better be ready to camp in our back yards, put out our own fires, defend our own property, and maybe walk a hundred miles with our paltry treasures on our backs, and not know where we'll end up or what will happen to us. I spent this afternoon going through my emergency supplies and updating them (I've got canned goods there from 1995 -- time to replace!)

5. I am fed up with the instant political partisanship that showed up before the troops did: Bush declared an emergency on Sunday, before the storm even hit, which should have been all he really needed to do as President, because it activates all the emergency services at every level. If nothing happened, what do you expect? That he'd get on the phone and call each department and direct their action in detail? If he was a fool, it was for assuming FEMA and the national guard and the governors and mayors had a plan in place, knew what to do, and were likely to act. Exactly what the President of the US should have done further--other than firing every person below him (not a bad idea), is a mystery. But partisan politics is about symbolism--and effective action is a nonissue: He should have cut his vacation short, for example. He should have showed up in New Orleans earlier and disrupted things even more, so he could be accused of grandstanding and photo-opping. Pah! There is some serious failure here, and I'm sure Bush has plenty to answer for -- but half the government is Democrat, and the states affected are mostly Democrat-majority, and the government organizations aren't supposed to be partisan at all. But I forget, we're talking about politicians--what do they care? This is about partisan advantage, grandstanding, and getting headlines.

A pox on all of them, in both parties.

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