September 07, 2005

More Thoughts On Katrina

These are emotional times, and John Cole is right that we all need to calm down and take a deep breath, but people who are trying to mostly pin the Katrina disaster on the local and state authorities just don't get it. Let's posit a few things right out of the gates. Mayor Nagin was the very picture of an under-qualified local mayor totally overwhelmed by a developing catastrophe (Nagin: "Get people to higher ground and have the feds and the state airlift supplies to them--that was the plan, man"). It was 'man' this; 'man' that--this was a man, pun intended, unhinged. We weren't going to get a Rudy-esque performance out of him, unfortunately, and so John Tierney's "magic marker strategy" musings, while interesting, are not really all that apropos finally. Ditto Governor Kathleen Blanco--who was simply too slow to declare a national emergency and dithered underwhelmingly in terms of attempting to secure more help for her state. Yes, she too, was in way over her head given the scale of this calamity. So uber-partisans like Grover Norquist are indeed right, a Democrat Mayor and Governor performed in a piss-poor manner, like incompetents really, and it's a bloody shame. Happy now, Grover? Rah-rah! Let's have Ken Mehlman get an E-mail out on it, shall we?

Again, most assuredly yes, the local authorities should have done more preemptively on things like attempting to secure the integrity of the telecommunications infrastructure of the city, or at least stockpiling a minimum of food and hygiene supplies and basic medicines at the Superdome or Convention Center (though Nagin did warn residents to bring food to the Superdome, and it is true that many of those who fled to this so-called refuge of last resort, despite the gross deprivations, the unsanitary conditions, the mayhem--might have instead died if they had remained in poor largely minority neighborhoods like the ninth ward instead). And, again, Tierney's 'magic market' quasi-forced evacuation would have saved perhaps thousands of lives--but Nagin was simply not up to this task.

Given this background of so predictable local and state incompetence (this is Louisiana, people!), and given further that everyone knew that New Orlean's precarious position beneath sea level could invite massive disaster in the event of a Category 3, 4 or 5 Hurricane (don't you dare tell me no one thought the levees might be breached)--it was incumbent on the federal government, with its huge resources and reach and authority, to better position itself to respond to the horrific calamity we just witnessed over the past days. We conservatives are supposed to believe that a government's most basic and solemn duty is to safeguard the security of its citizenry, to act as bulwark against anarchy and effective steward of public order and safety. And this solemn compact was most assuredly torn asunder by the government, at least during the first week of this horrific disaster.

Indeed the federal reaction was dismal. Before we dig into that, however, let's posit a few little things up front. Let's all be sure to recall that this was one helluva storm, and that Bush was unlucky in the extreme that it hit on his watch, and that Democrat Underground musings that his energy policies or global warming or such had something to do with it are pure bunk. It was a horrific act of God. Period. Let's also put aside the argument about the budget cuts of levee support & refurb issue. Even if the budget hadn't been cut, the levees might still have broken in the face of this mighty storm (and we'd have to dig back into the 90's too on prior funding decisions to get a full picture on various degrees of culpability on this score). And let's also put aside, for now at least, the whole Iraq meme, that our deployment there meant there were fewer men available to patrol the streets of New Orleans. There were, all told, likely enough national guard available to ensure public safety in the streets of New Orleans--even with our troop/reserve/guard deployments in Iraq--and even with the disaster hitting neighboring states too so that Alabama or Mississippi units weren't available in as large number as if the storm had just hit Louisiana.

So what went wrong? Many things. The President and Homeland Security Secretary (incredibly) claimed that it took people by surprise that the levees were breached (remember, the night before the hurricane hit, we all went to bed thinking a Category 5 was going to slame directly into the city--the type of perfect storm one might fairly fear and anticipate would pierce the levees). And a smart man like Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff appears not to have been seized by the likely gross incapacity of the local authorities to have effectuated a serious evacuation plan or, if the town were gutted or flooded, the need to ensure basic security. Again, contingency planning and pre-positioning of resources appears to have been, alternately, overly sanguine and de mimimis. Meantime, the buffoonish head of FEMA displayed an appalling lack of situational awareness (go read Michelle Malkin who has a succinct round-up of why 'heck of a job Brownie' must go). In a fast-moving crisis situation, speed of response is key. To be effective, one must be apprised, awake, on point, in command. Brown wasn't. His performance was dismal. If the President doesn't fire him, the President disgraces himself by his bovine display of loyalty to a profound mediocrity. It's just that simple. Brownie must go, 'heck of a job' or not!

Meantime, and interestingly given how quickly DoD lawyers were given short shrift on reservations about junking the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to enemy combatants, there were reportedly, according to Newsweek, quite time consuming debates in Washington about legal issues surrounding federalizing the Guard. It appears there was concern that kids might not know how to enforce local laws (as compared to, say, the New Orleans police force!). So inertia and time was wasted on such legal debates--as the most damaging hurricane in the history of the nation led to conditions of anarchy in an important American city.

But there's more. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, there were crossed-signals, bureaucratic confusion galore, and Keystone Kops style ineptitude aplenty. And not only by hapless Mayor Nagin, but also quite often by the Feds. FEMA, particularly. No "firm procedures for directing people and materials," so that trucking companies that were under contract with FEMA to move supplies got orders to move cargo with substantial delays. And when the trucks arrived, as the WSJ reports, no FEMA, or National Guard, or any other personnel there to unload the supplies (Says the owner of the transportation company: "I almost told they guys to leave, but people are wanting the water. The drivers distributed it"). Meantime, a head of a New Orleans hospital relayed to the WSJ that for a "couple of days" he was told to direct patients to "what he understood was a FEMA mass casualty tent at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Causeway Boulevard." But, alas, "A number of them came back and said, 'there's no on there'. No one there. Put differently, the government, at all levels, abandoned its citizens in their moment of most dire need. And when shit hits the fan, even allowing for the intuitive fact that typically first responders at the local level must come to people's aid first, no one serious can say that the response orchestrated by FEMA and Homeland Security was not underwhelming in the extreme (And I am leaving aside, for now, questions about whether it might have been possible to get more helicopters to assist displaced persons so that they could be evacuated, or why problems with radio systems were not better foreseen, or whether all military forces in the area, especially soldiers based at Fort Polk, might not have been more speedily, and in greater number, deployed).

Look, I've already said Brown must go. Homeland Security chief Chertoff, well, he's very bright, I'm sure, but as Glenn has quipped: "lawyers have many virtues, but management skills aren't high on the list". We sure saw that last week. Yes, of course, this was an unprecedented calamity and there is inevitably chaos and disorganization in such situations that result. But the crossed signals, the abject lack of coordination among the local, state and federal authorities--or even just at the federal level itself--they were simply too numberous and worrisome to discount. Remember, we are all living in a brave post 9/11 world. The goverment is supposed to have prepped for such disasters (albeit more terrorist inflicted than by the force of God), for four long years. So, for example, they're surprised that the New Orleans police force simply largely disintegrated? Well, from an administration that didn't even game-plan the prospects of an Iraqi insurgency, I guess that's not surprising. But when a perfect Category 5 (remember, meteorologists though a 5 was going to score a direct hit, the situation might have been even worse!) storm is heading like a bulls-eye to the chronically corrupt and poorly governed Big Easy, is it too much to ask from our supposed best and brightest that they ask: what if the levees break? what if floodwaters render streets uninhabitable? what if looting breaks out? what if mayhem results? disease spreads? cops abandon their beats? I don't feel these questions were seriously analyzed, not by a long shot, by men of Chertoff's caliber who should have.

There are other issues too, of course. The Homeland Security office is clearly not ready for prime time, and subsuming FEMA and myriad other governmental agencies under it may have created a monstrous bureaucracy--monstrous perhaps foremost in that it has proven inefficacious in its first big test. These are very complex issues, and investigations will have to bore into the detail, but Homeland Security and its structure must be high on the list of matters needing follow up post-Katrina. As for FEMA, its response too often evoked disarray. 'Heck of a job' my ass. And so the President seemed removed, especially during the first days, from the reality of the full scale of the disaster (put down that guitar POTUS, and show some dignity in the face of such abject human tragedy!). Tone deaf, and it will take much Roveian and Bartlettian boulot indeed to get back ahead of message on this one (this problem of tone was compounded with his cheap frat-like jocularisms about Trent Lott's porch as well as Barb's Marie Antionette moment, as Sully put it well). As David Brooks has said, people are mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore. They want professionalism and rigor. They want accountability and seriousness. Above all else, they want competence, especially in ensuring basic security in their very own nation (or Iraq, for that matter). It doesn't get more basic than that, folks.

I don't know what this moment heralds. Whether people realize that government matters, mightily sometimes, so that some neo-liberalism a la FDR might be in the offing. I doubt it, as the Democrat party is hobbled by mediocrities up and down its sad ranks too. More likely, if I had to guess, I believe we will see a yearning for professional law and order a la Guiliani, as David Brooks also recently suggested--perhaps married to real national greatness Teddy Roosevelt style independent politics. People that walk the walk, rather than, say, just piffle along with just enough troops to lose in Iraq a la Don Rumsfeld (what I wouldn't do for a McCain-Guiliani ticket!).

Regardless, and returning squarely to Katrina, I really believe Bush must do the following, and quickly:

1) Fire Michael Brown (like, yesterday!);

2) Have an independent blue ribbon commission (no, you don't investigate yourself a la Rummy under such circumstances, at least not if you want to be taken seriously) to analyze what went wrong at each of the local, state and federal level (with particular attention to the role of the Department of Homeland Security as, you know, they are supposed to ensure we don't get hit by some 9/11 on steroids any day now, and confidence is waning big time that they will prove an effective presence at the helm should such an attack occur); and

3) ask Rudy Guiliani to leave the private sector and take up a "Gulf Coast Recovery Tsar" post to spearhead the reconstruction of this region to a new vibrancy, with tens of billions made available (employing as many of the displaced persons as possible in the reconstruction effort, where they can live near their original communities in conditions of dignity and comfort), in a massively ambitious revitilization project that takes place in an expedited time frame over the next 24-36 months.

For starters. Oh, and don't use Katrina as an excuse to pull out of Iraq, or ignore other foreign policy briefs like North Korea or Iran. Yep, it's a big job, and you might even have to work after 9 PM here and there to stay on top of it all. It's a big, messy world out there Mr. President. It's really show time now, and the time for empty talk is long since past. Real accountability. An independent investigation. No more empty bromides. We're fed up.

Posted by Gregory at September 7, 2005 01:53 AM | TrackBack (12)
Comments

Greg;

The govenor on the26th, before the storm hit, sent a letter to Bush requesting assistance and declaring an emergency. The administration floated the lie that she waitedtill days after and the Wash Post and Newsweek took the bait. The Post printed a retraction I'm not sure whether Newsweek has or not, but the damage is done and people like you are taken in by the lie. See Talkingpointsmemo.com of 9/4. The letter in on the state web site also.

I agree that Nagin could have done more perhaps, but has anyone talked about their ability to do more? When in history has a mayor declared an evacuation of a city?

Posted by: Thom H. at September 7, 2005 05:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Absolutely pathetic, Gregory.

I come here for sheer sadism nowadays.

Heads roll, we need new heads! Oh, oh, and we need more commissions!

Let me clue you into the majesty of bureaucracies...they manufacture mediocrity and they make mistakes. You're asking (demanding?!) the inesteemable comfort of a dictatorship held by a strong Leader (Gulliani!). The first responders F-A-I-L-E-D and then wouldn't step aside. That's what happened.

Unless we Americans want the Federal government to take over the function of the states, unless we want to abolish the Federal system, unless we want the Federal government to be first responders, you're points are not serious. Its not FEMA that secures law and order, its not FEMA that sends in rescue choppers, its not FEMA that evacuates cities, those are other agencies. FEMA, 'heck of a job' Bush, and Brown are scape-goats.

Follow your suggestions and we will be no safer in the future. Period.

Posted by: Brad at September 7, 2005 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In a word, Brad, that is bunk. FEMA can and has done a much better job in the past of responding to disasters. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, where FEMA did an abysmal job responding, Clinton appointed James Lee Witt, a professional emergency manager, to lead FEMA. Under Witt's direction the agency was restructured, FEMA became a Cabinet-level agency, and its effectiveness at disaster mitigation and relief skyrocketed. In 1993 the Mississippi River flooded and the FEMA response was widely praised all around. They got in quickly, they handled the situation without bureaucratic red tape and, as Norman Mineta said at the time, "FEMA has delivered finally on its promise to stand with the American people when floods or hurricanes or earthquakes devastate their communities."

But after Bush was elected, he replaced Witt with Joe Allbaugh, someone with no emergency management experience, who called many of FEMA's disaster mitigation programs "an oversized entitlement program." After Allbaugh's departure, Michael Brown succeeds him, a man known previously for having been fired from his previous job direction some horse association. FEMA's decline accelerated after it was subsumed under the DHS, with many high-ranking managers with decades of experience leaving.

Of course, any disaster of this magnitude would have had horrific consequences. But there is no doubt whatsoever that the federal response was pathetic, and this was something that was foreseen by many people who have been watching the deterioration of FEMA in recent years.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 06:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad, that is not rational. FEMA can and has done a much better job in the past of responding to disasters. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, where FEMA did an abysmal job responding, Clinton appointed James Lee Witt, a professional emergency manager, to lead FEMA. Under Witt's direction the agency was restructured, FEMA became a Cabinet-level agency, and its effectiveness at disaster mitigation and relief skyrocketed. In 1993 the Mississippi River flooded and the FEMA response was widely praised all around. They got in quickly, they handled the situation without bureaucratic red tape and, as Norman Mineta said at the time, "FEMA has delivered finally on its promise to stand with the American people when floods or hurricanes or earthquakes devastate their communities."

But after Bush was elected, he replaced Witt with Joe Allbaugh, someone with no emergency management experience, who called many of FEMA's disaster mitigation programs "an oversized entitlement program." After Allbaugh's departure, Michael Brown succeeds him, a man known previously for having been fired from his previous job direction some horse association. FEMA's decline accelerated after it was subsumed under the DHS, with many high-ranking managers with decades of experience leaving.

Of course, any disaster of this magnitude would have had horrific consequences. But there is no doubt whatsoever that the federal response was pathetic, and this was something that was foreseen by many people who have been watching the deterioration of FEMA in recent years.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 06:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For starters, get a grip!

If you set aside huge, highly relevant, chunks of this story, ignore massive failures at the state & local levels to fulfill the command and control functions required of them (& denied the feds) by law, and insist that federal agencies should have been prepared, in advance, not only to usurp the legal authority of state governments by immediately declaring martial law, but also to virtually halve the max speed of its deployment -- by fiat, apparently -- I suppose you have a point.

Any time so many suffer so cruelly, the fact that the response was too slow is painfully clear. Your analysis, however, like so many others currently in circulation at the moment, only really manages to address the political calculus here and falls woefully short where real world logistics are concerned. Indeed, I believe that this may, in fact, have been one of the all time fastest of such deployments to date.

Posted by: JM Hanes at September 7, 2005 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Really, one of the all time fastest of such deployments to date? In India they were dropping food and water to survivors of the tsunami on the second day after the disaster. I read a letter to the editor from someone who lives in Africa who said that the government there, however inept in many other ways, handles flood far better than what they saw of our response to Katrina.

Furthermore, FEMA did far better under Clinton (as I noted above) and James Lee Witt.

You've got to really dig deep in denial to watch what happened in New Orleans and come away with an assessment like that. In the face of such evidence, it is quite clear that no rational argument can suffice, no amount of evidence can't be rationalized away. If this is the state of the American conservative movement today, I think it's in pretty sad shape.

I'm grateful there are still a few clear thinking voices on the right, like Greg, who have the capacity to see what is plainly clear right in front of their faces. At least when it is written in letters ten stories tall, as it finally is in this case.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 06:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lots of people made mistakes. On the leeves, there is a big difference in "breach" and broken/destroyed. No one expected the leeve to break but they did expect to have water breach the top and spill over in above cat. 3 storms. Big difference in the amount of water that would flood NO. The part that broke was a recently repaired/upgraded section.

Posted by: LYNN at September 7, 2005 07:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If it's not FEMA and HS and the feds that are responsible for handling disasters, and it's all in the lap of the local and state authorities, then can we please cut our federal taxes by three-quarters and move our payments over to our states instead? I want to pay the bulk of my taxes to any authority that is a competent first responder, not a handful of hand-wringing, finger-pointing, buck-passing screw-ups.

Posted by: tzs at September 7, 2005 08:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's really show time now, and the time for empty talk is long since past. Real accountability. An independent investigation. No more empty bromides.

Sorry, but the accountability moment has come and gone. We all knew exactly what we were going to get, and the people who wanted that will soon enough be satisfied by some bromides, photo ops, and token changes. We'll be 'turning the corner' on each bit of this business soon enough.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at September 7, 2005 12:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Disclaimer: A lot of my understanding here is from working in a Local Emergency Operations Center with our County Emergency manager doing direct liaison contact with FEMA and the State of Florida Emergency Response Team last year, so I may be absolutely wrong in respect to how things work in LA but:

I think people are operating under a total misunderstanding of what FEMA actually does. We are under the impression that FEMA will provide every aspect of disaster recovery in a situation like this, but this, as far as my understanding, does not turn out to be factual, nor practical. FEMA depends HEAVILY on the local gov to do a lot of the on-the-ground work of setting up distribution centers, and providing a central communications channel. In FL, the 'boots on the ground' that we got from FEMA last year were basically field officials who setup centers to help people fill out paperwork and the like. Think of the average FEMA field worker as a mobile H&R block person for FEMA assistance. They are there to distribute fliers, phone numbers and help people fill out the paperwork, and answer questions about what qualifies for FEMA assistance.

They also have liaisons in your state emergency response center (this is where most of the real FEMA work is done), because that is the logical point of contact, as all of the counties in the state of FL (and I’d presume LA) have emergency warning points, redundant communications channels, and contact people to help direct the flow of information. They work HEAVILY with the state emergency response teams (which it seems were either non-existent, or just completely off-line) to find out where need is and where to send it. Maybe this is different from state to state, but I doubt it.

The States typically have the emergency communications infrastructure in place to assist FEMA to do this job, and it is just TOTALLY impractical to have to setup an entire command and control infrastructure in 2 days. If they don't have this communications channel in place, they just can't do their job until it IS setup. It is incumbent on, and in the best interest of, the state to have said infrastructure in place for the best response to a disaster situation, otherwise I'd guess there WILL be a delay in response.

The initial 'boots on the ground' that do most of the real work are your State guardsmen and local EOC/County Gov/Law Enforcement. Now those guardsmen which were under the purview of the Governor of LA, and who refused to release control to the feds, are your primary ‘first responders’, along side of your local Emergency response teams and Police Departments/Sheriff's offices. The guard didn’t get moved quick enough, and this is TOTALLY on the hands of the Governor, initially. The Feds just don’t step in and commandeer your state guardsmen, they ask you for it and if you don’t release control, well then the ball is in the state GOV/EOC’s court to make things happen. I don't have a clue where the state LEO were in this, but they seemed non-existent, and we know what happened to the Local LEO, they were just overwhelmed because state LEO and Guard didn't show on time to help support.

The local governments are typically working HEAVILY on prepping for FEMA to send in supplies, etc., and telling FEMA where those supplies need to be. It seems like this just didn’t happen, and FEMA had to come into the situation cold and find out for themselves, which took time. The local governments also setup and maintain/run the distribution centers, typically, although the guard can do this too. We ran them in our county, just because it was something we could easily do ourselves, although we had guardsmen there to help.

In short, it seems people think FEMA is this all encompassing army of people who swoop in and magically setup a massive, redundant communications infrastructure in 3 hours, and then who are expected to do everything from command and control, to mortuary services. That, in my experience, just isn’t the case. They are the MANAGEMENT agency through which a lot of this stuff happens, but they rely on the state and local governments to work with them to do the job. If that doesn’t happen, you end up with what you got in LA, a massive breakdown in operations.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 01:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You blame everyone but the people who should be blamed the most. Perhaps I have a different view because I live in the hurricane zone. They come every year, at least once or twice we are "in the cone".

Everyone here knows the score in advance. You have two choices - leave or accept the risk. After a hurricane there is no power, there is no communications, and transportation is by foot or helicopter. The raods will be washed out, flooded, or blocked by trees. Until the roads are cleared there will be no significant help from anyone other than your neighbors. Food and water will be scarce and you will be forced to live off of the supplies you prepared in advance. If you are lucky, there will be water pressure and your toilets will flush. If not, then hopefully you had the foresight to collect rain (or flood) water. You will live out of a cooler, cook with propane, and boil your drinking water for at least a week - if you're lucky. If not, you will cobble together scraps of plywood to keep off the sun and rain. Such is life after a hurricane.

If you choose to hunker down then you accept your fate. There will be no help for one or two weeks. You will not be able to leave and others will not be able to arrive. To make the wrong decision and then blame others is the trademark of people who do not accept the challenges of life. It is predominantly the reason they are poor in the first place. And it is no surprise that they are almost always the ones least prepared when hurricanes come to visit.

So you want blame? The Lee county director of disaster planning put it best. Blame the people who were warned - who were ordered to leave the city - who chose to stay without preparing for the worst.

Posted by: moron99 at September 7, 2005 02:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Chose to stay" again, a week later? Moron99, your moniker is earned.

Posted by: Anderson at September 7, 2005 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great article here, putting some things straight and adding perspective. I just want to add some corrections. Firstly, yes, Blanco did declare national emergency on friday before the storm. She did act very fast, since the warnings of Katrina heading to NO were fresh in the media:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WEATHER/08/26/tropical.weather/

Secondly, I believe Nagin made some mistakes, the most dire one that he believed that the cavalry would arrive in time. But contrary to a popular rumor, he did use the cities busses, if only to transport his citizens to the shelters - 'Nagin said the Superdome might be used as a shelter of last resort for people who have no cars, with city bus pickup points around New Orleans.'
http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050828/NEWS01/508280312/1002/NEWS

Imho, and it seems I'm not alone on this, the responsible thing would have been to evacuate the people away from the city or at least to keep all available busses and the drivers in a place safe from drowning. On the other hand, I don't really see how you can blame Nagin for his lack of foresight, since Bush, Brown and Chertoff said that noone had anticipated the breach of the levees. Is the mayor of NO supposed to be smarter than the POTUS and the heads of FEMA and DHS?

Thirdly, I think it's quite unfair to blame Nagin and Blanco on the violence that did hamper the rescue efforts. He had 1500 officers at the start, several of which went awol because they had to care for their families. Working in shifts, not more than maybe 500 could have been present on the streets at any time. Blanco managed to raise more than half of La's National Guard in short time. Those 3800 troops had to maintain law and order in a state half as big as Britain. It's obvious that this couldn't result in a strong presence everywhere. Blanco did recognize this and successfully contacted NewMexs Richardson on Sunday for reinforcements. Sadly, those troops were not allocated until tuesday (some sources say thursday), because Washington did fumble the paperwork. And as we know now, it took more than 40000 troops to provide security for the NO area.

The question for responsibility will have to be answered, and I guess the answer will be the same that Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard gave in an impressive interview:
" Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."
http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=107923

Posted by: Gray at September 7, 2005 03:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We need to recognize that Katrina is TWO separate and distinct disasters, and that questions of blame and responsibility must be viewed within that context.....

The first disaster was Hurricane Katrina itself, and what occurred up until the time Katrina passed New Orleans. On the whole, the response of state and local officials was adequate, under the circumstances---an evacuation was ordered, and those who had the means to get out of New Orleans did so, leaving well over 100,000 people stuck in the city. (A few thousand more could probably have been evacuated using school buses, etc.... but that's about it. And the question of where these people ---- the ones without the means to get out of N.O. by themselves ----would have been taken remains unanswered. ) The city also had adequate planning for those who could not get out----shelters were established throughout the city, with the Superdome and Convention Center designated not as "shelters" per se, but places where people who were stuck in the city could safely ride out the storm until it was safe to return to their homes.

Certainly, people died in the "first disaster"....one level was breached/overtopped during the storm, and about 20% of the city was "underwater" by the time the hurricane had passed.

That was a tragedy, but it was a tragedy created by mother nature.

The second disaster began unfolding after Katrina had left N.O., and additional levees were breached, making it impossible the tens of thousands of people who had taken emergency shelter in the Superdome and Convention Center to return to their homes. This disaster --- and the failure to respond to it competently, is wholly and completely a failure of Bush administration officials. Over one hundred thousand people were trapped in New Orleans with no way out, tens of thousands of them in homes that were being rapidly flooded by the waters of Lake Ponchatrain --- and the Federal Government did not immediately dispatch the necessary personnel to avert the disaster that was happening before our eyes as the city filled with water. The federal government made almost no effort to provide food, potable water, and evacuation services to the tens of thousands stranded in the Convention Center and Superdome----instead, the federal government REFUSED TO LET THESE DESPERATE, STARVING, DEHYDRATING PEOPLE WALK OUT OF THE CITY ITSELF.

There would not be this demand for accountability going on right now if New Orleans had only experienced the "first" disaster----indeed, given the devastation of areas east of the city like Gulfport, the death and destruction in New Orleans would not have been the focus of the news coverage.

The questions being raised now are related to the SECOND disaster ---- what happened AFTER Katrina was long gone, local government was in disarray and the Louisiana state government was overwhelmed-----and the FEDERAL government was needed to save these people. The SECOND disaster was an emergency that demanded an immediate response----air lift of food and water and immediate federal evacuation of the remaining residents of the city----and that did not happen.

As a result, it appears that thousands upon thousands of additional american citizens have died. And the blame for these deaths lies squarely in the hands of George W. Bush and the political hacks he appointed to deal with precisely this kind of emergency situation.


Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 7, 2005 03:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The day the storm hit I commented on these pages that it was a test of how well we have advanced in Emergency Preparedness (something we have put lots of funding toward since 9/11). I don't think anyone can say we have done well.

Given that we had some degree of advance warning about the power and course of the storm and the basic well understood topography of New Orleans and the vulnerabilities of the Gulf Coast, it was obvious that there was the potential for an extraordinary disaster. Extraordinary precautionary measures were needed and clearly not taken.

The city followed its preexisting disaster plans of ordering a mandatory evacuation and establishing the Superdome as a shelter. From my reading, most experts correctly predicted that some 20% of the city would remain after evacuation for a variety of reasons. In addition, any city wide evacuation in a disaster setting is ripe for a looting crisis so the need for military involvement for security should have been obvious. Again, fault local officials for not screaming for military help more loudly and Federal officials for demonstrating zero sense of anticipation.

It is clear that the precautionary government performance at all levels was poor. New Orleans authorities should have been screaming for Federal help as the storm was bearing down on them, not after. But having a poor performing state and local government is hardly an excuse for the failure of DHS and FEMA who bears primary responsibility for a disaster of this magnatude. (people think of Guiliani's leadership on 9/11... but they forget how poorly his city police and fire departments did in coordinating their responses... his city was not prepared for disaster either). The reason we spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars every year on Federal emergency preparedness is because local authorities lack the ability or the authority to cope with disasters of this scale.

The Brown memo (and observed response) demonstrate that FEMA and DHS leadership (nor the White House) had no sense of the potential disaster in play and took no extraordinary precautions. That is a huge failure of natural disaster planning in and of itself. Ironically, it also put in plain view the bigger failure here -- the ability to respond to a massive disaster with no warning (like a terror attack).

The primary failure of New Orleans, IMO, was in the response after the levees broke in the wee hours late Monday night (or very early Tues am). As soon as the Federal government found out the levees broke, it was then obvious to all that New Orleans would fill up like a soup bowl trapping around 80K Americans. At that moment, it was the equivilent of four World Trade Centers being on the verge of collapse or a WMD event.

So by Tuesday mid day we should have seen the President in full command mode, with major mobilizations of US military and Federal assets racing to New Orleans and full evacuation efforts underway by mid-day. Just as on 9/12/2001 we in Washington and New York saw Humvees on every street corner and massive rescue operations underway ground zero and at the Pentagon, so should we have seen in New Orleans last Tuesday. We did not see the Bush Administration get mobilized to that degree until Thursday or Friday and that delay of 48-72 hours is the problem. In a WMD disaster, reaction in the first 48-72 hours can be the difference between 100 deaths and 100 thousand deaths. Not to mention the possible economic impacts.

So we have some work to do. My guess is that Brown is "fired" and Chertoff takes consequences management a lot more seriously than he did before. This is, by the way, one of the reasons why some folks were unsure about Chertoff's background to be DHS chief. As a lawyer, he lacked the perspective of a Mayor, Governor, or even senior DoD official who all well understand the management challenges of coordinating government response in a crisis. Even on TV this week, he has sounded like a lawyer arguing the Administration's case rather than LEADING the recovery effort. But my guess is he now gets the message.

The harder question to answer is whether the very different politics of New Orleans and the Bush Administration contributed to the slow response. My instinct is that it did -- which is a shame. But that aspect of the blame game is more easily denied so I'll let others make that case.

To Bush administration apologists: your attempts to lay this national disaster at the feet of one mediocre Mayor is pathetic and laughable. Similarly, your ability to differentiate between what happened in Mississippi and New Orleans is pathetic. Its times like these when conservatives that are responsible and serious stand out from those who are blind loyalists (or just idiots). Stand up and take responsibility.

Posted by: POTUS B at September 7, 2005 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'If you choose to hunker down then you accept your fate.'
Oh, yes, the republicans always spread the word that it's your own choice to be poor. Sure, some extraordinary guys were able to raise themselves out of property, but for the average person, it's a futile fight when the chances are staked against them. Hoping that maybe there's some intelligence left with you: 20% of NO citizen don't own a car. The greyhound bus line didn't operate on sunday. It was the 28th, 3 days to go til the paycheck. And leaving the city is the eassier part, you got to have some place to go where you are able to shelter and feed your family. I can perfectly understand that the poor did hesistate to leave their few belongings, their low paying jobs and their simple houses for an adventure into the unknown, when there was a chance that they wouldn't be hurt by Katrina. Under similar circumstances, Bush, Brown and Chertoff wouldn't have left, too: 'Noone anticipated the breach oif the levees'

'There will be no help for one or two weeks. You will not be able to leave and others will not be able to arrive.' Saying this, you show that you have been infected by the soft bigotry of low expectations. But the majority of people had confidence in their nation's ability to support them and to supply food, water and transport, if it was needed. That's why they were horrified after they learned that they were completely on their own.

'To make the wrong decision and then blame others is the trademark of people who do not accept the challenges of life.'
Well, sounds like a description of the average republican to me.

Posted by: Gray at September 7, 2005 03:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Ditto Governor Kathleen Blanco--who was simply too slow to declare a national emergency and dithered underwhelmingly in terms of attempting to secure more help for her state."

She declared the emergency well before it hit, early enough to notify Bush and have him declare an emergency.

(Also, declaring a 'national emergency' is not part of Blanco's portfolio, seeing as how she's just a governor.)

Posted by: Jon H at September 7, 2005 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Taking a step back, a lot of what we are talking about here applies not to disasters in general, but to this one disaster in particular. A storm as strong as Katrina would have done great damage had it struck land anywhere, but could not have done nearly as much damage anywhere as it did in this particular area of the Gulf Coast.

There are a couple of implications flowing from this. One is that FEMA is probably not due for a thorough restructuring, or a transfer out of DHS, or a wholesale personnel purge -- except at the very top of the agency. This agency, working with competent state and local authorities, is capable of responding adequately to most emergencies.

It did not respond adequately to this emergency, however, and the implication of this is very clear. A Cat 4+ hurricane striking New Orleans was a statistical improbability in this or any one year. But it was likely to happen at some point, and the consequences had been predicted in some detail. It was the worst case, and it is for the worst case that relevant government agencies most need to prepare. FEMA did not; it acted throughout the period between the time Katrina turned north toward the Gulf Coast and the day after New orleans' levees breached as if this were another hurricane striking the Florida Coast. The undoubted failings of local Louisiana authorities do not excuse the federal agency's performance. There are other potential worst cases, after all -- a massive earthquake in California or Alaska, a terrorist attack on a major city -- and FEMA's record here leaves much room for doubt that it could respond adequately to a worst case disaster in the future.

Katrina and its aftermath could change some things about American politics and government at the federal and other levels; it has implications for policy in other areas -- one of these, certainly, being Iraq -- as well. I wanted to focus here on the performance of one government agency only: the one charged with planning for the unexpected, for being the force within the federal government that treats potential emergencies as real ones even before they happen, and for being ready for the worst case. FEMA's failings this past week haven't been failings of the federal government's organization chart, but rather of policy and personnel.

Posted by: JEB at September 7, 2005 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy - you obviously have far more first hand knowledge of this than I do, but isn't one of FEMA's main functions coordination? And doesn't the National Response Plan developed last year specifically state that the federal government has the authority to take control when it deems a situation to be a National Emergency (I don't remember the exact term)? It seems to me that's where they dropped the ball on this. Look, your points (and Greg's) about the mayor's and governor's failures are absolutely taken to heart. But blame in this situation is not zero-sum. There is plenty enough to go around, but some of it does land squarely in the lap of the federal government, and FEMA in particular.

I can't stomach the idea that Michael Brown, like George "slam dunk" Tenet and Paul "disband the Army" Bremer might be our next Medal of Freedom awardee. I want some accountability of this administration and its executive agencies, in addition to accountability for local and state officials, military planners and Congress and whoever else was responsible for being slower in delivering aid to citizens of this country than we were in delivering aid to the other side of the world after the tsunami.

The other issue for me is one that Greg and others around the blogosphere have highlighted. For four years, we've been told that DHS would protect us, that their function was to be ready for any kind of major attack or disaster. Bush won an election by proclaiming that he could protect us when no one else could.

Yet here we have the first real test of DHS and Bush's promises, and I'm sorry, but I don't feel protected. Living now in the DC area and having just moved from NYC, I'm scared to death frankly of what will happen if a sudden disaster were to happen, given that DHS could not seem to get its collective act together for something that they had several days warning for.

If the purpose of DHS is not to protect us both before and after a major disaster (whether man-made or not), then what is its function?

Posted by: NYCmoderate at September 7, 2005 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gray, there is no soft bigotry in a hurricane. It does not care if you are rich or poor, if you have a car or relatives. If there is any soft bigotry it is that of the media. That which does little to save the living before the hurricane arrives but does everything to broadcast the sufferring after it has left. It is the bigotry that leads people to believe that government should be omniscent and omnipotent. The government is neither and should not ever become so. A hurricane is beyond the scope of government. When a hurricane strikes, the government will be overwhelmed. To form a government with the capability and control required to direct its citizens on such a massive scale would be a higher price to pay than NOLA.

Please spare me your BS about poor downtrodden people with no choices. The Superdome was almost empty when Katrina hit. Anyone who had not left the city or had not relocated to a designated shelter made a bad decision. The cummulative effect of their bad decisions far outweighs any mistakes of the government. Get a grip. The people of a America have more control over their own lives than the government of America. If they didn't then I am sure you would be amoung the first to criticise and labe them as a fascist big-brother.

Posted by: moron99 at September 7, 2005 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moron99, it seems our different analysis derives from the fact that you seem to embrace libertarian ideals while I demand a more caring government. But if, in consequence, everybody in todays America is on their own, how do you explain the huge sums spend on DHS (the superior of FEMA)? What was accomplished by this money? And didn't Bush promise the people that he would safeguard the US? Has this been a huge misunderstanding?

"FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of "A Nation Prepared." "

My opinion remains, too: It is absolutely improper to blame the NO people for believing the promises from Washington and for having no better assessment of the dangers than Bush, Brown, and Chertoff.

Posted by: Gray at September 7, 2005 04:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

moron99 - I have a question asked in all seriousness. What if they had either no means to leave and/or nowhere to go?

Posted by: NYCmoderate at September 7, 2005 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"but isn't one of FEMA's main functions coordination? And doesn't the National Response Plan developed last year specifically state that the federal government has the authority to take control when it deems a situation to be a National Emergency"

It is, or rather can be, but if the State refuses to let go of the reigns, without an act of congress FEMA can't just barrel in roughshod over the Governor with Federal Troops. They are there to provide SUPPORT and ASSISTANCE, but rely on the locals (and by this I mainly been the State EM agencies, etc) to do SOMETHING too. If the locals aren't doing their job, then you will have delays, and as such seems to have been what happened, we had delays. FEMA performed fairly well, on the upside, but the localgov interface in this case was a catastrophy. Lesson learned, but the total inability of StateGov to do ANYTHING right is pretty much an unprecidented thing to happen in US Emergency Management.

This is not to say that Brown was perfect; I think he's been a PR nightmare, in general but he tends to know his stuff, time will tell. But most of the 'freaking out' about his statements are because they don't understand the NATURE of what he was talking about. The workers he was talking about deploying were not the first responder types, but rather the paper pushers in RV's who go out there to pass out fliers with 1-800-621-FEMA on it, and qualification rules. They also help people fill out the paper, and as such, the fact that they were 'delayed' 24-28 hours is meaningless, as there was no way to get them 'in' to setup their centers.

We are talking about a totally seperate group of people here, the guard and whatnot were already mobilized, but GOVLA has to either hand the reigns to FED or listen to what FEMA is telling her to do with them. It's her indecisiveness that caused much of these issues because she did neither, she decided to whine and moan instead of acting. I blame this more on her and her EM than I do NOLA mayor, because he was absolutely overwhelmed by the lack of initial State (Gov Office) response. There appears to have been none, no Guard, no State Police, no pre-provisioning of supplies, no nothing, and he left in the cold because the Gov wouldn't provide, but also wouldn't turn over control to someone who would provide. Maybe we need a provision that allows FEMA to usurp that, but I don't know. Protocol right now defers to the Govorner. Thats just how it is.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"but isn't one of FEMA's main functions coordination? And doesn't the National Response Plan developed last year specifically state that the federal government has the authority to take control when it deems a situation to be a National Emergency"

It is, or rather can be, but if the State refuses to let go of the reigns, without an act of congress FEMA can't just barrel in roughshod over the Governor with Federal Troops. They are there to provide SUPPORT and ASSISTANCE, but rely on the locals (and by this I mainly been the State EM agencies, etc) to do SOMETHING too. If the locals aren't doing their job, then you will have delays, and as such seems to have been what happened, we had delays. FEMA performed fairly well, on the upside, but the localgov interface in this case was a catastrophy. Lesson learned, but the total inability of StateGov to do ANYTHING right is pretty much an unprecidented thing to happen in US Emergency Management.

This is not to say that Brown was perfect; I think he's been a PR nightmare, in general but he tends to know his stuff, time will tell. But most of the 'freaking out' about his statements are because they don't understand the NATURE of what he was talking about. The workers he was talking about deploying were not the first responder types, but rather the paper pushers in RV's who go out there to pass out fliers with 1-800-621-FEMA on it, and qualification rules. They also help people fill out the paper, and as such, the fact that they were 'delayed' 24-28 hours is meaningless, as there was no way to get them 'in' to setup their centers.

We are talking about a totally seperate group of people here, the guard and whatnot were already mobilized, but GOVLA has to either hand the reigns to FED or listen to what FEMA is telling her to do with them. It's her indecisiveness that caused much of these issues because she did neither, she decided to whine and moan instead of acting. I blame this more on her and her EM than I do NOLA mayor, because he was absolutely overwhelmed by the lack of initial State (Gov Office) response. There appears to have been none, no Guard, no State Police, no pre-provisioning of supplies, no nothing, and he left in the cold because the Gov wouldn't provide, but also wouldn't turn over control to someone who would provide. Maybe we need a provision that allows FEMA to usurp that, but I don't know. Protocol right now defers to the Govorner. Thats just how it is.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

whoops sorry for repost, but I got a 500 error the first time.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'It is, or rather can be, but if the State refuses to let go of the reigns, without an act of congress FEMA can't just barrel in roughshod over the Governor with Federal Troops. They are there to provide SUPPORT and ASSISTANCE, but rely on the locals (and by this I mainly been the State EM agencies, etc) to do SOMETHING too.'

Buddy, really, what kind of a fantasy story do you want to tell us? Yes, the governments are in charge and FEMA has to suport them. So, if a government demands certain action, FEMA is supposed to deliver to its best abilities. And we saw Blanco, Nagin and the locals on TV begging for food, water, and evacuation efforts. We saw them several days. What we didn't see then was FEMA actually fulfilling its duty.

Posted by: Gray at September 7, 2005 04:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, another point:
We have seem some evidence emerge that put FEMA in a bad light (delayed documents, firemen idling in Atlanta, private initiatives interdicted, promised helis not showing up, hero military pilots disciplined, buraucreatic mess (Galveston), A director totally uninformed in TV etc etc).
So far, no hard evidence was presented that supports your analysis about Blanco.
Maybe I've missed it, pls post the links.

Posted by: Gray at September 7, 2005 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NYCmoderate,

The superdome was virtually empty when katrina hit. Municipal buses were available to carry people to various destinations and I think fares may have even been waived. When it was too late and the lake had already overflowed then people found ways to the superdome and the civic center. The same people that had no means before the storm later found ways under even more adverse conditions.
I have been through hurricanes both in the carribean and in Florida ranging from cat1 to cat4. The Bahamas were hit harder last year than NOLA was this year with far less government assistance before or after the storm. The hurricane was moving so slowly that it lasted for three days. The biggest difference is that the people of the Bahamas take hurricanes seriously and prepared in advance.

Posted by: moron99 at September 7, 2005 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy - As I said, I agree that this was not a shining moment for Gov Blanco. However, on the 26th, she declared a state of emergency and notified the President, who issued a letter on the 27th which said in part:

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe ...

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. [emphasis added]

I know you're going to point to the section that says they're to coordinate, but the section I highlighted seems to me to be saying it was also their job to provide assistance. In addition, there is this, from the NRP I mentioned before:

The NRP bases the definition of Incidents of National Significance on situations related to the following four criteria set forth in HSPD-5:

2. The resources of State and local authorities are overwhelmed and Federal assistance has been requested by the appropriate State and local authorities. Examples include:
-Major disasters or emergencies as defined under the Stafford Act; and
-Catastrophic incidents (see definition on page 43)

4. The Secretary of Homeland Security has been directed to assume responsibility for managing a domestic incident by the President.

Now look, I haven't read the whole NRP, but those definitions seem to fit pretty squarely with what happened. Gov Blanco did declare a state of emergency and did request federal assistance. And as far as I can tell, his letter seems to be directing the DHS Sec to assume responsibility.

As for Brown knowing his stuff. I don't really know what to say to that. All 3 cable networks had been reporting on the masses of people at the Convention Center for 24 hours (approx) when Brown went on TV and said the federal government had just learned of that. I'm not sure where the proof is that he knows much of anything. (Yeah, that's probably out of line, but so be it.)

Posted by: NYCmoderate at September 7, 2005 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

moron99 - you said, The same people that had no means before the storm later found ways under even more adverse conditions.

They walked there as far as I understand, many through flood waters up to waist or neck. There's a difference between that and getting completely out of the path of the hurricane, which would have required going a significantly further distance. I'm not entirely sure we're talking about the same thing.

I thought you originally said that if they choose to stay, they're stuck with the consequences. I assumed you meant stay in the city as opposed to just staying in their homes. Did you actually mean something different?

Could you point me to the reports that the Superdome was empty when the storm hit? I hadn't seen that, tho I admit to being somewhat buried under homework the first few days of all this.

Posted by: NYCmoderate at September 7, 2005 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Stunning post. There is so much to comment on, and a simple blurb will not do. Some quick hits.

Rudy needs to be put in the game, but, my gut tells me Bush won't allow it because Dubya is basically an insecure child. It's interesting that Dick Cheney is supposedly the man to plow through the delays, and he may very well do it. But, this will remain in-house. The notion of Powell even remotely getting involved is a joke. Bush would never yield the floor... Though, he did show up with Clinton when the noise was rising. Huh.

Powell should volunteer his services, as should Rudy.

I don't think you can blame Mayor Nagin for much. He got the word out and activated the standard procedures for refuge from the storm. There was not enough time to evacuate the 70 percent that they estimated could get out in 72 hours -- they had half that at best.

Further, this storm did more than decimate Nagin's infrastructure. Someone should have cried out for better communications, etc. etc. but getting that level of support would have required, well, the United States Army and Marines. Can a Bradley on high ground withstand a Cat 5? Could a number of them then serve as a communications hub, with sorties into affected areas? Just thinking off the top of my head here...

Nagin's tirades may have actually accelerated the federal response -- which is a chilling/depressing thought.

Ultimately, Bush is unlucky but this is his storm and this is his show. Why he was so callous in the first 72 hours is a matter for biographers to gleam from extant material. Why Mike Brown was so stupifying on CNN throughout Thursday is, well, beyond belief. Why he and Chertoff want to generate excuses is, well, clear: they are hacks who want to keep their jobs. There is one person that can immediately remove that issue and move the ball forward.

After all, isn't that the spin. Sure, there were Fed. mistakes, but we can only look into that later. I guess you keep the same ineffective starters in the game after they foul up, because they are starters after all.

Posted by: Chris at September 7, 2005 05:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NYCmoderate,

According to the BBC around 9000 people were in the Superdome before Katrina hit.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4195172.stm

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, nice try, none are so blind as those who will not see.

NYC Moderate;
The key phrase is "provide assistance" to the state. FEMA helps coordinate outside assistance, but the state maintains control until positively releived.
There are some lessons to be learned here, and FEMA does need to change some procedures. With any storm this big, (I don't think we have had a CAT-5 in a while) there are some things you won't know until it happens, and the damage is going to much greater than anything FEMA handled in the past decade.

I live near Norfolk, when Irene came through last year we left town when it was a CAT 2 and it hit as a CAT 1. The fire department responded to an emergency in our neighboorhood right after the storm passed, they needed a boat, a personal vehicle and five chainsaws to get a mile into the community and get the guy out, and we live miles from the ocean. Power was out for about a week. That was a CAT 1, a CAT 5 devastated a large area of the gulf coast, to expect large amounts of aid to move 110s of miles through worse terrain than I have ever seen is fanciful to say the least.

Posted by: monkeyboy at September 7, 2005 05:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NYCmoderate:

"Now look, I haven't read the whole NRP, but those definitions seem to fit pretty squarely with what happened. Gov Blanco did declare a state of emergency and did request federal assistance."

She did request federal assistance. The "Federal Assistance" she was requesting was monitary assistance to cover StateOp Expenses, go read the attachment to that request, it specifies exactly. She did not mobilize the guard nor authorize federal troops, and indeed resisted doing so (Federal troops anyway) until I believe around wednesday the 31st.

You can mobilize all the equipment in the world, but if you do not have NatGuard or Local LEO on site to accept the aid, you havn't done a thing but move a bunch of trucks around. I think thats exactly what you saw, equipment and resources getting backed up until the means to transport and recieve in NO was available, that is until the Guard was in place, or until GovLA authorized Federal troops. Some of this was surely caused by transportation issues, too. I'm sure the ability of the Guard to get in was hampered by these issues also. Point is, theres much more than meets the eye in these sorts of things. Second point is, FEMA is not some magic wand that can have 10,000 people in place with millions upon millions of tons of gear and supplies in 24 hours.

Gary:
"Buddy, really, what kind of a fantasy story do you want to tell us?"

I live in the 'fantasy world' of the US constitution and Code where the Federal Government cannot just snatch control of state entities willy nilly without VERY extreme circumstances (Read: insurrection or war) or authorization. You want to change that? I think thats generally a 'good thing' myself. Just because somethings didn't go perfect doesn't mean the operation as a whole was an absolute failure as many seem to want to invect. There are lessons to learn, surely, and one of those is that the interface between FEMA and LocalGov needs to be clarified and streamlined.

Was FEMA perfect? Heck no, but then neither is any government agency. Thats just a fact.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 05:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, despite all of your ramblings and excuses, the only thing that I know of that GOVLA didn't do when requested was declare martial law----and that's because its illegal for her to do so under LA state law---and has been for quite some time.

Yet, the lack of a declaration of martial law by the governor has never stopped FEMA from helping in disasters in Louisiana in the past.

In other words, please stop pulling crap out of your butt....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 7, 2005 05:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

monkeyboy,

NRP baseplan:
(Warning: large pdf)
http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRPbaseplan.pdf

Proactive Federal Response (page 43):
"The NRP establishes policies, procedures, and mechanisms for proactive Federal response to catastrophic events. A catastrophic event is any natural or manmade incident, including terrorism, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, and/or government functions."
...
"Notification and full coordination with States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources. States are urged to notify and coordinate with local governments regarding a proactive Federal response."

If a warning of a cat 5 hurricane potentially hitting New Orleans directly doesn´t qualify as a "catastrophic event" and thus "allowing" a proactive federal response, what event would qualify?

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Baddy, the name is 'Gray'.
And imho you're distorting the way FEMA is supposed to work. Other commenters did show evidence here that you haven't contered yet. And I'm still waiting that you show some valid information that Blanco really s***ed up. Monotonously reiterating your opinion isn't enough.

Posted by: Gray at September 7, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy,

I´m puzzled about the National Guard comment.

http://www.ngb.army.mil/news/story.asp?id=1735

"The Louisiana National Guard had called almost 3,500 of its members to state active duty as of 7 a.m. today [Aug. 29] to assist in missions ranging from assisting law enforcement agencies with traffic control and security; transporting and distributing food, water and ice, conducting searches and rescues; providing generator support; and carrying out other missions to protect life and property."

"On Aug. 28, Louisiana Guardsmen conducted security and screening at the emergency shelter set-up at the New Orleans Superdome, where a reported 9,000 to 10,000 local residents reported after heeding the city's mandatory evacuation order issued earlier in the day."

Seems that at least some must have been on duty on August 28?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050903/ap_on_re_us/katrina_national_guard

"New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday."

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 06:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lots of people made mistakes. On the leeves, there is a big difference in "breach" and broken/destroyed. No one expected the leeve to break but they did expect to have water breach the top and spill over in above cat. 3 storms. Big difference in the amount of water that would flood NO. The part that broke was a recently repaired/upgraded section.


LYNN, "breached levee" and "broken levee" are synonymous; to breach something is to break through that thing. You're confusing a "breached levee" with an "overtopped levee". It was indeed feared and predicted by many knowledgeable individuals that a direct hit from a Cat 3 hurricane or stronger would breach -- break -- one or more of the levees protecting NO.

Posted by: Tom at September 7, 2005 06:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DeLef:

Ok so 'NO Guard' was an overstatement, sorry. 'Limited Guard' in Search and Rescue, and 'NO guard' in security missions is perhaps a better discription.

From the same article, however:
---
'Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, who leads the Michigan National Guard, said he anticipated a call for police units and started preparing them, but couldn't go until states in the hurricane zone asked them to come.

"We could have had people on the road Tuesday," Cutler said. "We have to wait and respond to their need."'

"One factor that may have further complicated post-Katrina deployment arose when Louisiana discovered it needed Guardsmen to do more law enforcement duty because a large portion of the New Orleans police force was not functioning, according to Lt. Gen. Steven H. Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon Because the agreement that was already in existence for states to contribute Guard troops to Louisiana did not include a provision on their use in law enforcement, Blum said, Gov. Blanco had to get separate written agreements authorizing Guardsmen to do police-type duty."
---


Troops have to be authed for certain duties, not just come in and do whatever. Certain troops can be used for LEO activities, and others can only be used for S&R activities, depending on their authorizations. Thats just the 'law.'

And more precisely, exactly what I've been saying about Deferment Protocol:

---
"Bush had the legal authority to order the National Guard to the disaster area himself, as he did after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But the troops four years ago were deployed for national security protection, and presidents of both parties traditionally defer to governors to deploy their own National Guardsmen and request help from other states when it comes to natural disasters"

Presidents don't typically evoke the same response for a natural disaster as for an attack. It may be arguable in this case that it should have happened, but frankly I can see both sides here. You want to defer to states rights in these issues, but at some point when the state drops the ball as badly as this happened, Bush should have told her to go take a hike and had FEMA take over. Oh lord I can hear the screaming now, if that would have happened.

Somebody call the ACLU. :-P

p.lukasiak: shall I pull more crap out of my butt, or is this satisfactory 'crap' from AP good enough to make my point??

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DeLef:

Ok so 'NO Guard' was an overstatement, sorry. 'Limited Guard' in Search and Rescue, and 'NO guard' in security missions is perhaps a better discription.

From the same article, however:
---
'Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, who leads the Michigan National Guard, said he anticipated a call for police units and started preparing them, but couldn't go until states in the hurricane zone asked them to come.

"We could have had people on the road Tuesday," Cutler said. "We have to wait and respond to their need."'

"One factor that may have further complicated post-Katrina deployment arose when Louisiana discovered it needed Guardsmen to do more law enforcement duty because a large portion of the New Orleans police force was not functioning, according to Lt. Gen. Steven H. Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon Because the agreement that was already in existence for states to contribute Guard troops to Louisiana did not include a provision on their use in law enforcement, Blum said, Gov. Blanco had to get separate written agreements authorizing Guardsmen to do police-type duty."
---


Troops have to be authed for certain duties, not just come in and do whatever. Certain troops can be used for LEO activities, and others can only be used for S&R activities, depending on their authorizations. Thats just the 'law.'

And more precisely, exactly what I've been saying about Deferment Protocol:

---
"Bush had the legal authority to order the National Guard to the disaster area himself, as he did after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But the troops four years ago were deployed for national security protection, and presidents of both parties traditionally defer to governors to deploy their own National Guardsmen and request help from other states when it comes to natural disasters"

Presidents don't typically evoke the same response for a natural disaster as for an attack. It may be arguable in this case that it should have happened, but frankly I can see both sides here. You want to defer to states rights in these issues, but at some point when the state drops the ball as badly as this happened, Bush should have told her to go take a hike and had FEMA take over. Oh lord I can hear the screaming now, if that would have happened.

Somebody call the ACLU. :-P

p.lukasiak: shall I pull more crap out of my butt, or is this satisfactory 'crap' from AP good enough to make my point??

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gray--
Perhaps I'm wrong around the gist of moron99's post, but the scenario he's describing is simply what happens when a strong hurricane hits. Its not because people don't care, its because such storms basically destroy the infrastructure and tend to make the common routes of transportation impassable. And a lot of the problem doesn't even come from the direct action of the hurricane. A lot of the flooding which results is due to massive rains that are dumped further inland from the coastal regions, which then flows back to the sea with ugly results. Running water that is six inches deep is sufficient to sweep most vehicles away.
It doesn't mater how much aid is mobilized in such a situation. Its getting it in there that is the problem. Even after the main brunt of the storm has passed, torrential rains can continue for days, rendering the roads useless.

Posted by: tcobb at September 7, 2005 06:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blah. Is anyone else getting Internal Server Errors and then double posts?

-b

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh and p.lukasiak, this should shine a bit more light on the subject too:

http://epaper.ardemgaz.com/Repository/getFiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=ArDemocrat/2005/09/07&ID=Ar00101

"The military presence in the New Orleans region swelled Monday with the arrival of the 82 nd Airborne Division and a fleet of Navy ships, including the USS Iwo Jima — the aircraft carrier on which President Bush met with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Monday night. The president suggested federalizing all military units, which would place the National Guard units on federal orders instead of the state orders they currently work under.

The problem with that change, however, is that National Guardsmen would have to report directly to active Army units working in the city and would be unable to directly answer calls for help from local agencies, including helping city and county law enforcement agencies. Under state orders, guardsmen can serve a law enforcement role and carry out any mission needed by the state.

Unless martial law is declared, active military cannot perform domestic law enforcement functions. So National Guard units — about 40 of which are helping with disaster relief — report to the state of Louisiana, as do all state police officers sent from other states. City police and parish sheriff agencies remain under the control of their respective cities and parishes.

And federal agencies operate on their own."


--

In other words, the primary reason Presidents are reluctant to send in active duty mil along side guard troops without a Martial Law declaration is that you end up with two command and control structures that end up being chaos.

And then you have jewels like this:

"Until Sunday, everyone traveling into Plaquemines Parish south of the city was searched — even military convoys.

"You’ve got to get a load of this guy," said Col. Richard Swan, commander of joint operations for Task Force Arkansas in New Orleans. "I let him search my convoy because I had nothing to hide, but then I started getting mad that he’d do that."

There are some MAJOR impracticalities to tossing Active Duty Mil in along side Guard troops, which is why it's not normal protocol. What is going to end up happening is Guard will get sidelined, and I think you see some of that in the article.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 06:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, about Rudy - he had no warning about 9/11, which put him in a worse position than everybody else vs a hurricane, but:

1) The disaster was hyper-localized, directl affecting a few blocks.

2) The rest of the city remained largely functional. Traffic was snarled, the subways were turned off, which made life there horrible from a daily living perspective, but very survivable. If you were stuck someplace, the water wasn't going to come and kill you, the power and water systems were generally on, so sitting in place was a (miserable) option for the vast majority of people.

3) The police force was largely functional - many were killed, the communications systems were frequently inadequate, getting places was hard. Bad, but there was at least one description of the police officer from NO walking around with zero comm of any sort, all facilities abandoned and useless due to flooding, and no working vehicles. In the dark, of course, because the power was off.

4) The NY NG was sent in quickly to help, as was aid from neighboring cities, counties - and boroughs(!), because of the fact that the disaster was localized, most city assets were somewhat available.

5) The federal government didn't take that attitude that they did during New Orleans - Bush had had four fewer years to f*ck things up.

Posted by: Barry at September 7, 2005 06:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy,

Perhaps I should first clarify that I´m a German. :) So I don´t know the exact "command" structure. I´m watching TV, reading websites and trying to make sense of the information.
And I try to ask questions based on quotes I´ve read.

I agree with you that there were obviously not enough "Guard" for police duty. Although IIRC the real violence started on Tuesday, Wednesday?

Not sure about the "search and rescue".
Seems that they required regular armed forces assistance for that pretty soon.
At least according to this General:

http://www.dod.gov/transcripts/2005/tr20050901-3843.html

Q General, Jamie McIntyre from CNN. To what extent is this additional assistance you've outlined today a response to a request from the state governors in Louisiana, Mississippi? And if so, can you tell us when specifically you got that request?

GEN. HONORÉ: Yes, sir. The process starts, sir, in this particular event, with a request Friday of last week, as the approximate date for defense coordinating offices to be established in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Those were established in those states over Friday and Saturday.

Q Sir, I'm specifically interested in how soon after the hurricane hit and the extent of the damage became known did the governors request additional assistance above and beyond what they had requested before?

GEN. HONORÉ: Sir, that started to happen on Saturday, as the hurricane was approaching, and was executed with the movement of my headquarters on Sunday to Mississippi, where we established a joint -- JTF headquarters here in Mississippi with a forward cell of the 5th United States Army in Louisiana. And on Sunday we established JTF-Katrina, with myself as the task force commander.

And since that time, we've continued to flow naval air and Army helicopter support and other assets, as requested by the governor, through FEMA. And that is the process, and you know that works. The governor identified a requirement. It goes to FEMA. That requirement is sent to Northern Command, my boss, Admiral Keating, as parallel to General McNeill at Forces Command. And we have started to flow the forces to your region. Over.

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg: exactly. Here's a post I did for Quillnews on this - though with a bit more sass... TC

http://www.quillnews.com/main/2005/09/blame_game_blam.html

Posted by: Thomas Collins at September 7, 2005 07:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's an important issue overlooked in many of these discussions comparing local vs. FEMA response; local government deals with a vast range of, well, local issues concerning everyday living conditions, and the majority of the people involved have no special training in how to handle these sorts of disasters. The directors of FEMA direct (or should be directing) all or most of their resources and attention to figuring out how to handle crises such as this. Comparing the two levels of response to decide who to stick with the blame is comparing apples and oranges, and is not only unfair but ultimately meaningless. Although, ironically, there are a number of stories around about private citizens, with no training or special resources, jumping in and acting more effectively than either.

What are we paying FEMA and DHS for, anyway? To criticize the limitations of local government?

Posted by: Jess at September 7, 2005 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Folks, I've been going around asking this question, which seems always to lead to a quick change of subject:

What substantive thing (not poor PR, substantive thing) could FEMA have done (legally and phiscally possible) that wasn't done?

I can't find one. Find me one.

But be careful:

-- FEMA couldn't evacuate NO, it doesn't have buses

-- FEMA couldn't control looting, it doesn't have troops

-- FEMA couldn't know quickly that the Superdome ws understocked, they were being told the opposite by the NO disaster plan and by Louisiana authorities

-- FEMA couldn't deliver food anyway, because neither trucks (300+ miles without fuel and roads nearly impassible, see van Steenwyk) nor aircraft (helicopters don't have long ranges, a 600-700 mile round trip with a heavy load isn't feasible without refueling) could get in until bridges checked and roads cleared.

-- Jason van Steenwyk has gone pretty clearly through why FEMA and the military couldn't move supplies up any faster than they did

-- Bush declared a disaster before the hurricane, and FEMA had people and supplies pre-positioned outside the danger zone

-- The USS Bataan was flying missions in support as soon as the winds were below 55 knots (not, as Krugman would have it, waiting unmobilized.)

-- Blanco not only didn't allow federalization (which is a lot different than requesting FEMA resources) in her letter of the 28th (she may have declared an emergency on the 26th, but the request letter is dated the 28th), AP reported that she still hadn't as of the 5th. (Although, I'll grant, with LTG Honore on the ground, I doubt she has much change to exercise command authority, or say anythign but "yes sir".)

-- Bush couldn't federalize the National Guard legally without invoking the Insurrection Act, and couldn't impose martial law anyway. (Constitution, remember that little detail?)

-- In any case, FEMA was providing supplies and releaf in less time than previous hurricanes by a factor of three.

If, in fact, FEMA failed in its preparations or execution, someone should be able to find and document something that FEMA could both do under legal authority and that was physically possible.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at September 7, 2005 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Folks, I've been going around asking this question, which seems always to lead to a quick change of subject:

What substantive thing (not poor PR, substantive thing) could FEMA have done (legally and phiscally possible) that wasn't done?

I can't find one. Find me one.

But be careful:

-- FEMA couldn't evacuate NO, it doesn't have buses

-- FEMA couldn't control looting, it doesn't have troops

-- FEMA couldn't know quickly that the Superdome ws understocked, they were being told the opposite by the NO disaster plan and by Louisiana authorities

-- FEMA couldn't deliver food anyway, because neither trucks (300+ miles without fuel and roads nearly impassible, see van Steenwyk) nor aircraft (helicopters don't have long ranges, a 600-700 mile round trip with a heavy load isn't feasible without refueling) could get in until bridges checked and roads cleared.

-- Jason van Steenwyk has gone pretty clearly through why FEMA and the military couldn't move supplies up any faster than they did

-- Bush declared a disaster before the hurricane, and FEMA had people and supplies pre-positioned outside the danger zone

-- The USS Bataan was flying missions in support as soon as the winds were below 55 knots (not, as Krugman would have it, waiting unmobilized.)

-- Blanco not only didn't allow federalization (which is a lot different than requesting FEMA resources) in her letter of the 28th (she may have declared an emergency on the 26th, but the request letter is dated the 28th), AP reported that she still hadn't as of the 5th. (Although, I'll grant, with LTG Honore on the ground, I doubt she has much change to exercise command authority, or say anythign but "yes sir".)

-- Bush couldn't federalize the National Guard legally without invoking the Insurrection Act, and couldn't impose martial law anyway. (Constitution, remember that little detail?)

-- In any case, FEMA was providing supplies and releaf in less time than previous hurricanes by a factor of three.

If, in fact, FEMA failed in its preparations or execution, someone should be able to find and document something that FEMA could both do under legal authority and that was physically possible.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at September 7, 2005 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Detlef: no prob. Biggest thing to understand is there is a big issue with putting active duty or 'federalized' troops on duty in a State. The State is more or less sovereign in regards to its Law Enforcement issues. Sending active duty military in to do LEO work is just typically 'not done' You have to get special approval to do so, its pretty much a legal formality, but it was just another one of those proceedural issues that mucked things up. The Guard are State controlled entities, not Federally controlled, unless a state turns control over, or 'Federalizes' the troops. You typically don't want to put Guard troops who are not Federalized along side Active duty troops, because you end up with two seperate command and control structures and a big mess.

Which is why Bush kept trying to get the Gov to federalize the Guard, in order to centralize Command and Control.

Something else to keep in mind: scale.

Germany
Area: 137,826 square Miles (356 967.701 square kilometers)

Louisiana
Area: 51,843 square Miles (134 272.754 square kilometers)

It is estimated that an area of about 90,000 square miles is affected here. As you can see, thats almost 2/3 the size of Germany (not the flooding of NO, but the storm damage total). It's a HUGE undertaking, really. Orleans Parrish itself is about 350 Square Miles, and its pretty well mucked up.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 07:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"There's an important issue overlooked in many of these discussions comparing local vs. FEMA response; local government deals with a vast range of, well, local issues concerning everyday living conditions, and the majority of the people involved have no special training in how to handle these sorts of disasters."

That is incorrect. That is why states and local governments have Emergency Management offices and employees. They are the interface to the Fed/FEMA for these sorts of things. It's not apples and oranges, it's more like apple tree and apple.

Point is, they should be on the same page, but somewhere it broke down. The StateFed interface was offline, and everything went to pot and it seems, at least to me and others who are familiar with EM issues, to be focused around a Governer who refused to make proper decisions.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 07:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's pretty obvious that Blanco deserves a lot of blame for poor response. However, the fact is, in an extreme situation such as this, the federal government, according to the National Response Plan, is tasked with making a proactive effort to speed aid to a major disaster area. As Retired Admiral James Loy, who helped draft the National Response Plan, put it, noted in this article in the Baltimore Sun today:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/custom/attack/bal-te.homeland07sep07,1,7626584.story?coll=bal-attack-headlines

'The plan allowed Brown to call the shots on how state and federal resources should be used, including the Defense Department. Instead, Loy said, the federal government used a slow "bureaucratic licensing process," in which it waited until local and state governments were overwhelmed before stepping in and waited again before asking the Pentagon, "the ultimate resource provider," to help.

"For God's sake," Loy said, the Defense Department gets "$450 billion a year to do what the federal government needs to get done."'

Art Botterell, former FEMA field agent, put it this way:

'"I am having a degree of deja vu about this because we went through this with Hurricane Andrew," Botterell said. The intense criticism of crossed wires in the federal response to Andrew was among the inspirations for President Clinton's efforts to beef up FEMA and make it a Cabinet-level department.'

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Point taken, Buddy, but I haven't seen much discussion about EM issues in all of this--how did FEMA manage their relationship with EM departments in the past? What kind of resources do these departments have, especially in the poorer states? Charlie in CO offers a good list of the challenges FEMA was faced with, but like many Americans I'm puzzled as to what they've been doing these past few years to meet these challenges. It seems to me that having a more pro-active relationship with local EM depts would be a good place to start. I'm not so interested in laying blame here as I am concerned about something like this happening again. The disaster in NOLA affects America as a whole--we can't afford to count on locals to have the resources and training to handle such things on their own. This is exactly the reason why we have a federal govt in the first place. I'm not interested in paying FEMA to explain why they can't do anything to protect the American people, especially since they did seem to do a lot better when they had competent people in charge.

Posted by: Jess at September 7, 2005 07:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

tcobb pretty much summed it up. Before the hurricane things are messy but functional. After the hurricane there's no electricity or water and the only way to move is by foot or helicopter. If I was in charge I would have done the same thing. I would have focused on using my helicopters to plug the levies instead of evacuating the superdome.

The blame falls squarely at the feet of of people who watched years and years of New orleans catastrophe scenarios explained on TV. Then ignored mandatory evacuation orders while a CAT5 headed straight for them. It was the people who decided to stay in NOLA that made the worst decisions, it was the people themselves who were the least prepared, and it was the people who made disaster recorvery more difficult than it should have been.

Those amoung us who now furiously criticise the government are, in my eyes, the most narrow minded of the political spectrum. They wish to have their cake and eat it too. They wish for a government so large, so powerful, so pervasive that it can protect American citizens from their own stupidity. They push us towards an orwellian big-brother.

Posted by: moron99 at September 7, 2005 08:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jess: Well realistically I can't tell exactly where the breakdown occurred, but we didn't have anywhere near these problems in FL last year (well we had EM folk screaming on the phone, but then thats par for the course in this crap) and I don't hear these issues coming out of Mobile, or Mississippi, so I'd guess its a LA problem. EM people train for this stuff with FEMA, and spend considerable resources leading up to hurricane season getting familiar with things.

I think FEMA has had a fairly proactive approach to these issues, at least in my experience in FL. It just seems like LA missed the whole point of Emergency Management, or didn't have the people in place to realize the extent of the issue that was bearing down on them. I agree we can't count on the locals to have the resources, but you can rely on the state government itself to be somewhat ready to deal with an issue like this, especially when its been staring them down the throat for 50 years or better (and I suppose that goes for FEMA too)

I just don't think FEMA realized the level of unpreparedness that LA was under either. The resources are available, but the Local and State governments have to be serious about this stuff, or they need to just abdicate all control and give it over to Fed. You can't have it both ways.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 08:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, you must not be really paying attention to the news: the FEMA failures here far exceed anything that can be explained away by procedural state-federal considerations. FEMA and DHS not only didn't do their jobs (as required of them in the National Response Plan), they actively *prevented* aid from getting to New Orleans.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/orl-caneboats0205sep02,0,5932477.story?coll=orl-home-headlines

'As a flooded New Orleans sinks further into despair, up to 500 Florida airboat pilots have volunteered to rescue Hurricane Katrina victims, transport relief workers and ferry supplies.

But they aren't being allowed in. And they're growing frustrated.

"We cannot get deployed to save our behinds," said Robert Dummett, state coordinator of the Florida Airboat Association. He said the pilots, who range from commercial airboat operators to weekend pleasure boaters, "are physically sick, watching the New Orleans coverage and knowing that the resources to help these poor people is sitting right in our driveways."'

http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_3004197

'As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.
Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

....

"But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas."'

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/05/katrina.lott/

'Sen. Trent Lott berated both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his own state's emergency management, MEMA, for being mired in red tape at a time of urgent need given the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured.

"FEMA and MEMA need to be saying, 'Yes' to Mississippi's needs, not, 'No.," the former majority leader said in a written statement.'

http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/44721#1028725

'I walked into the local Red Cross office after noon yesterday, and found a guy on the phone trying to find boats to help people get out of N.O. I called a friend who put our request on the local TV station. We soon had more calls and boats than we could handle. I led a small group out at 3:00 p.m., and we stopped at Jimmy Swaggart Ministries in Baton Rouge to check in with the Red Cross there. They gave us papers that let us past the roadblocks. Another group left at 6:00 p.m.; we ended up bringing probably 100 boats.....

When we brought in the first set of people, a local Sheriff's Office lieutenant started telling us to leave. He said this had come from FEMA. A lot of guys got upset by this, because we had all come over here with our own boats, paying for our fuel, food and water, and were in the water and working before anyone else. FEMA, while certainly able to do more than us, didn't get in the water until around noon.

We explained to the guy how this was going to look, and he finally relented. We had to take down everybody's names, and create an official badge with duct tape and an oversized red crayon. It turned out to be a good thing we didn't leave, because pretty soon some other FEMA guys were asking us to take their teams out.'

And believe me I am only posting about 1/20th of what I have read about FEMA's response.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 08:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, I personally don't give a flying F@ck if some hoodlums are stealing nikes from New Orleans strip malls when there were TENS OF THOSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHERED IN THE SUPERDOME AND CONVENTION CENTER WHO WERE STARVING AND DEHYDRATING.

You didn't need a declaration of martial law to get these people food and water. You didn't need the National Guard to be empowered to arrest criminals to get those people out of there.

All you need was for FEMA to do its job...

You are obviously more concerned that some insurance companies might have bigger payouts than the fact that people were DYING in New Orleans because of the incompetence of Bush administration hacks. That kind of attitude is simply sick.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 7, 2005 08:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A general question concerning the evacuation or the evacuation plan for New Orleans.
(And yes, I´ve read the actual evacuation plan of the city of New Orleans too. It speaks about an evacation but falls short of the resources needed for it.)

Keep in mind that I´m in Europe and can´t have all information. Additionally I really don´t want to insult anyone.

That said, I have the distinct impression that nobody - not on the local, state or federal level - was willing to spend the time, money and resources to develop an evacuation plan for New Orleans that included all the people without transportation.
Looks like everyone was hoping that the "big disaster" wasn´t going to happen on his/her watch. And nobody was prepared to accept the blame and the expenses if such an evacuation might have been proven unnecessary in the aftermath.

I base this:
a)on the reality :(

b)http://www.sptimes.com/2005/09/03/Worldandnation/One_question_builds__.shtml
Officials have known for decades that New Orleans was vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.

Just last year, FEMA hired a private company, IEM Inc. of Baton Rouge, to help conduct an eight-day drill for a fictional Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans named Pam. It included staging a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, a prediction of 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of 1-million people.

But the second part of the company's work - to design a plan to fix unresolved problems, such as evacuating sick and injured people and housing thousands of stranded residents - never occurred because the funding was cut.

c)http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/09/new_orleanss_hu.html
(New Orleans Times-Picayne article July 24, 2005 appearantly not online.)
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

A real evacuation plan would have required
a) enough people (police, National Guard) to actually assist in and enforce a mandatory evacuation
b) enough transportation including transportation for the disabled
c) pre-planned destinations (prepared shelters outside the disaster zone)
d) Ambulances and helicopters transporting the sick and hospitals able to accept the patients
(e) Enough boots on the ground inside New Orleans to reassure evacuated people that they won´t return to a looted home.)
for approximately 100,000 to 150,000 people. Maybe more.

For that you would have needed a lot more resources I believe.
Not only the 500+ buses in New Orleans capable of carrying 40-60 people each. Lots more buses but airplanes and trains too. An airplane or train can transport a lot more people than a bus. Probably faster too. Not to mention that they won´t have to deal with roads already full with cars. (Don´t know if river boats going to Baton Rouge might have been useful too? Assuming that any might have been available?)
Given that I´m not an expert I won´t even try to speculate on the timeframe for such an evacuation. 72 hours at least?


So I blame the mayor of New Orleans a bit. He should just have used the available buses, Hoping to get at least some people out even if there was no prepared shelter and destination available. Even if it´s not a very good plan, I´m afraid.
Most of the blame should go to the state and federal authorities IMO.
The state probably could have done more concerning personnel, buses and shelters. But getting airplanes and trains involved probably needs federal authorities? And preparing shelters including food, water and medical support for 100,000+ people probably is a bit much to ask for just one state.

Is my impression totally wrong? Am I overlooking things?

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 08:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A general question concerning the evacuation or the evacuation plan for New Orleans.
(And yes, I´ve read the actual evacuation plan of the city of New Orleans too. It speaks about an evacation but falls short of the resources needed for it.)

Keep in mind that I´m in Europe and can´t have all information. Additionally I really don´t want to insult anyone.

That said, I have the distinct impression that nobody - not on the local, state or federal level - was willing to spend the time, money and resources to develop an evacuation plan for New Orleans that included all the people without transportation.
Looks like everyone was hoping that the "big disaster" wasn´t going to happen on his/her watch. And nobody was prepared to accept the blame and the expenses if such an evacuation might have been proven unnecessary in the aftermath.

I base this:
a)on the reality :(

b)http://www.sptimes.com/2005/09/03/Worldandnation/One_question_builds__.shtml
Officials have known for decades that New Orleans was vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.

Just last year, FEMA hired a private company, IEM Inc. of Baton Rouge, to help conduct an eight-day drill for a fictional Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans named Pam. It included staging a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, a prediction of 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of 1-million people.

But the second part of the company's work - to design a plan to fix unresolved problems, such as evacuating sick and injured people and housing thousands of stranded residents - never occurred because the funding was cut.

c)http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/09/new_orleanss_hu.html
(New Orleans Times-Picayne article July 24, 2005 appearantly not online.)
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

A real evacuation plan would have required
a) enough people (police, National Guard) to actually assist in and enforce a mandatory evacuation
b) enough transportation including transportation for the disabled
c) pre-planned destinations (prepared shelters outside the disaster zone)
d) Ambulances and helicopters transporting the sick and hospitals able to accept the patients
(e) Enough boots on the ground inside New Orleans to reassure evacuated people that they won´t return to a looted home.)
for approximately 100,000 to 150,000 people. Maybe more.

For that you would have needed a lot more resources I believe.
Not only the 500+ buses in New Orleans capable of carrying 40-60 people each. Lots more buses but airplanes and trains too. An airplane or train can transport a lot more people than a bus. Probably faster too. Not to mention that they won´t have to deal with roads already full with cars. (Don´t know if river boats going to Baton Rouge might have been useful too? Assuming that any might have been available?)
Given that I´m not an expert I won´t even try to speculate on the timeframe for such an evacuation. 72 hours at least?


So I blame the mayor of New Orleans a bit. He should just have used the available buses, Hoping to get at least some people out even if there was no prepared shelter and destination available. Even if it´s not a very good plan, I´m afraid.
Most of the blame should go to the state and federal authorities IMO.
The state probably could have done more concerning personnel, buses and shelters. But getting airplanes and trains involved probably needs federal authorities? And preparing shelters including food, water and medical support for 100,000+ people probably is a bit much to ask for just one state.

Is my impression totally wrong? Am I overlooking things?

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 08:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A general question concerning the evacuation or the evacuation plan for New Orleans.
(And yes, I´ve read the actual evacuation plan of the city of New Orleans too. It speaks about an evacation but falls short of the resources needed for it.)

Keep in mind that I´m in Europe and can´t have all information. Additionally I really don´t want to insult anyone.

That said, I have the distinct impression that nobody - not on the local, state or federal level - was willing to spend the time, money and resources to develop an evacuation plan for New Orleans that included all the people without transportation.
Looks like everyone was hoping that the "big disaster" wasn´t going to happen on his/her watch. And nobody was prepared to accept the blame and the expenses if such an evacuation might have been proven unnecessary in the aftermath.

I base this:
a)on the reality :(

b)http://www.sptimes.com/2005/09/03/Worldandnation/One_question_builds__.shtml
Officials have known for decades that New Orleans was vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.

Just last year, FEMA hired a private company, IEM Inc. of Baton Rouge, to help conduct an eight-day drill for a fictional Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans named Pam. It included staging a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, a prediction of 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of 1-million people.

But the second part of the company's work - to design a plan to fix unresolved problems, such as evacuating sick and injured people and housing thousands of stranded residents - never occurred because the funding was cut.

c)http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/09/new_orleanss_hu.html
(New Orleans Times-Picayne article July 24, 2005 appearantly not online.)
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

A real evacuation plan would have required
a) enough people (police, National Guard) to actually assist in and enforce a mandatory evacuation
b) enough transportation including transportation for the disabled
c) pre-planned destinations (prepared shelters outside the disaster zone)
d) Ambulances and helicopters transporting the sick and hospitals able to accept the patients
(e) Enough boots on the ground inside New Orleans to reassure evacuated people that they won´t return to a looted home.)
for approximately 100,000 to 150,000 people. Maybe more.

For that you would have needed a lot more resources I believe.
Not only the 500+ buses in New Orleans capable of carrying 40-60 people each. Lots more buses but airplanes and trains too. An airplane or train can transport a lot more people than a bus. Probably faster too. Not to mention that they won´t have to deal with roads already full with cars. (Don´t know if river boats going to Baton Rouge might have been useful too? Assuming that any might have been available?)
Given that I´m not an expert I won´t even try to speculate on the timeframe for such an evacuation. 72 hours at least?


So I blame the mayor of New Orleans a bit. He should just have used the available buses, Hoping to get at least some people out even if there was no prepared shelter and destination available. Even if it´s not a very good plan, I´m afraid.
Most of the blame should go to the state and federal authorities IMO.
The state probably could have done more concerning personnel, buses and shelters. But getting airplanes and trains involved probably needs federal authorities? And preparing shelters including food, water and medical support for 100,000+ people probably is a bit much to ask for just one state.

Is my impression totally wrong? Am I overlooking things?

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 08:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A general question concerning the evacuation or the evacuation plan for New Orleans.
(And yes, I´ve read the actual evacuation plan of the city of New Orleans too. It speaks about an evacation but falls short of the resources needed for it.)

Keep in mind that I´m in Europe and can´t have all information. Additionally I really don´t want to insult anyone.

That said, I have the distinct impression that nobody - not on the local, state or federal level - was willing to spend the time, money and resources to develop an evacuation plan for New Orleans that included all the people without transportation.
Looks like everyone was hoping that the "big disaster" wasn´t going to happen on his/her watch. And nobody was prepared to accept the blame and the expenses if such an evacuation might have been proven unnecessary in the aftermath.

I base this:
a)on the reality :(

b)http://www.sptimes.com/2005/09/03/Worldandnation/One_question_builds__.shtml
Officials have known for decades that New Orleans was vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.

Just last year, FEMA hired a private company, IEM Inc. of Baton Rouge, to help conduct an eight-day drill for a fictional Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans named Pam. It included staging a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, a prediction of 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of 1-million people.

But the second part of the company's work - to design a plan to fix unresolved problems, such as evacuating sick and injured people and housing thousands of stranded residents - never occurred because the funding was cut.

c)http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/09/new_orleanss_hu.html
(New Orleans Times-Picayne article July 24, 2005 appearantly not online.)
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

A real evacuation plan would have required
a) enough people (police, National Guard) to actually assist in and enforce a mandatory evacuation
b) enough transportation including transportation for the disabled
c) pre-planned destinations (prepared shelters outside the disaster zone)
d) Ambulances and helicopters transporting the sick and hospitals able to accept the patients
(e) Enough boots on the ground inside New Orleans to reassure evacuated people that they won´t return to a looted home.)
for approximately 100,000 to 150,000 people. Maybe more.

For that you would have needed a lot more resources I believe.
Not only the 500+ buses in New Orleans capable of carrying 40-60 people each. Lots more buses but airplanes and trains too. An airplane or train can transport a lot more people than a bus. Probably faster too. Not to mention that they won´t have to deal with roads already full with cars. (Don´t know if river boats going to Baton Rouge might have been useful too? Assuming that any might have been available?)
Given that I´m not an expert I won´t even try to speculate on the timeframe for such an evacuation. 72 hours at least?


So I blame the mayor of New Orleans a bit. He should just have used the available buses, Hoping to get at least some people out even if there was no prepared shelter and destination available. Even if it´s not a very good plan, I´m afraid.
Most of the blame should go to the state and federal authorities IMO.
The state probably could have done more concerning personnel, buses and shelters. But getting airplanes and trains involved probably needs federal authorities? And preparing shelters including food, water and medical support for 100,000+ people probably is a bit much to ask for just one state.

Is my impression totally wrong? Am I overlooking things?

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 08:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry for the double, but Greg, it looks like your posting software may be having the hiccups.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at September 7, 2005 08:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry about it.

I got an internal error several times while trying to post my comment. Reloaded Belgravia Dispatch and then comments several times to see if my comment was there. It wasn´t so I tried to post it again.

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 08:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak:

Ah the resort to name calling and invective. End of the line for me.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy,

You´re right.
The different law and constitutional systems in the USA and Germany were difficult to understand at first. :)

If we in Germany have a natural disaster, of course the army will get involved. Like in the (surprising) river Elbe and Danube floodings in 2002. It took me a while to understand the differences in the state-federal relationship.
Although the armed forces in Germany also aren´t "law-enforcement agencies". Forbidden by the constitution. Maybe we were just lucky that we never had to question that restriction because till now we never had to face violence during a natural disaster.

And your point about the scale of the disaster area is equally true.

One thing I´ve missed though last week.
When the floodings happened in Germany we knew within 1-2 days who was in charge. The guy/woman in charge in each involved state and the guy/woman in charge of the federal effort/assistance. And the media published these facts immediately. So that people knew that "someone" was in charge. Reassuring some people and giving volunteers/aid organisations an address to call.

I couldn´t discover a similar structure last week in the USA?
Who was the guy/woman in charge in each state and who was in charge of the federal effort?
Maybe I overlooked it. :)
I saw dozens of interviews and press conferences with nobody saying that he/she was in charge. Thankfully that has changed by now!
But viewing that confusion for days was puzzling, to say the least!

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 09:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find it interesting, Buddy, that you give up on the debate just as the evidence is turning against your argument.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Charlie et al --

You are looking for excuses in the face of one of the biggest disasters in American history. Leadership means taking charge, saving lives, and showing the American people and the world we are rising to the challenge. It doesn't mean: blame it on a mayor or the lack of proper paperwork filed from the Governor's office or that FEMA doesn't have access to vehicles or that we didn't know how to get bottled water or food or troops across a flooded street or broken bridge.

Bush, Chertoff, and Brown had access to the full range of resources of the United States government (and could contract or enlist anything they need from the private sector.) So the idea that Bush/Chertoff/Brown could not marshall vehicles, troops, planes, ANYTHING available to the United States of America is simply wrong. Boats, barges, portable bridges, air drops, prepositioning, amphibious vehicles, helicopters, air refueling, sea basing, rubber pants -- WE HAVE MORE THAN THE CAPABILITY TO DELIVER SECURITY, BASIC SUPPLIES, and EVACUATION to the flooded streets of NO.

What we lacked was PLANNING, WILL and LEADERSHIP to marshall the necessary effort and resources... at least until the disaster's impact was too obvious (and too political) to ignore.

Stop the excuses. Lets focus on the fact that we finally are solving the problem now. Then gather lessons learned and refocus efforts on the importance of emergency management AND contingency planning for critical vulnerabilities of the US -- for both natural disasters and terrorism.

Posted by: POTUS B at September 7, 2005 09:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu:

Honestly, the links you posted don't really prove anything but that possibly the assistance that is being offered isn't currently needed. You don't know the needs on the ground and neither do I.

Proof? I havn't seen any proof that everything went down the crapper with FEMA, all I see are resources being redirected as needed to where they are needed and/or some local guys who don't know what the heck is going on, as well as a bit of the normal confusion to be expected with these sort of situations.

FEMA overwealmed by 'non-standard' help methods. Heck thats something that needs to be looked at, incorporating non-federal assistance into the standard command stream, but at this point it really just looks like FEMA was overwhelmed with the response for aid.

I do however see substantial indication that there was a massive breakdown in EM operations at the state level, and massive underplanning at the local level. Time will tell exactly where and what caused this.

I don't recall 'giving up' and I don't recall anyone refuting any of my points, specifically. And I also don't recall saying FEMA was a spotless beam of imperfection.

I just get tired of typing the same things over and over and having them ignored or being called an idiot/sadist by someone who has no clue about emergency management operations.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Detlef:
"When the flooding happened in Germany we knew within 1-2 days who was in charge. "

I agree that the proper level of posture and leadership was NOT put forward, from the President on down. That Bush didn't immediately rush to DC Saturday/Sunday night before this thing hit was a PR disaster, but then Bush hasn't been known for playing the PR game anyway.

That, however, does not mean that things were not happening in the background. I think Michael Brown (Director of FEMA) is a PR idiot, to say the least, and borderline incompetent at the worst, but I really don't have enough facts on that yet. I also think that waiting on the GOVLA to make up her mind what the heck she was going to do for 24 hrs was a mistake. You just do not have the time to wait on indecisiveness in a situation like this.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 09:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, the links I've posted above include remarks by people with extensive emergency management experience; former officials at FEMA as well as a retired admiral who helped formulate the National Response Plan. They are harshly critical of the federal response in this case. Again, it's obvious the state and local officials are to blame as well, but to suggest that the federal response was anything other than atrocious simply doesn't comport with the facts. I have to say that you're simply being biased and non-objective in your review of the available evidence in what appears to be a desire to avoid blaming someone on your political "side".

For example, to characterize Brown as merely a "PR idiot" strains credulity; it is not merely PR for him to have believed that this was going to be a "normal hurricane", for him to have been unaware of the thousands of people at the Convention Center who were without food and water for at least 24 hours after the national news media had been trumpeting this fact all over the networks, for him to have failed to cut through the red tape and implemented the National Response Plan, etc.

Unaware of people at the Convention Center - talk about not knowing what the needs are on the ground!

There were and are firefighters who were requested by the local authorities who have been kept out of New Orleans by FEMA, despite their specialized training and despite the fires that were and are still raging in the city. Thousands of people were stranded in the city and FEMA turns back hundreds of boats? And you're trying to tell me their help wasn't needed?

I am not about to get involved in hurling invective at you; I think it's an unfortunate but very common human trait to ignore evidence and rationalize when faced with something that doesn't fit your preconceived idea of what should be the case. Keep in mind here that as I said the links I've posted above merely scratch the surface --- do your research. The volume of FEMA mistakes that have already been documented are massive.

We have seen this before --- back during the bad old days of FEMA before James Lee Witt. We were supposed to be getting better after 9/11, not worse. Clearly we're simply not prepared for a massive disaster as we have been promised.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 10:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu:

The problem is, for every negative report of someone not being let in, or something going wrong, or whatever, there is another one detailing rational reasons for most of the issues we faced, and the positive day to day happenings.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007219
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050906/D8CEVJAG0.html
http://epaper.ardemgaz.com/Repository/getFiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=ArDemocrat/2005/09/07&ID=Ar00101
http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/344065p-293598c.html
http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/09/07/D8CFJE1O1.html
http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/09/07/D8CFK5701.html
http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050907/480/ladm10109071324

Like you said, do your research.

Those firefighters.. I have seen on satellite the location of some of those fires... You are going to get those firetrucks to them .. exactly how? Through 10 feet of water? Again, I'm not sure about feasability of transport, and ability to get them and their gear where it needed to be. Neither do you, really. Firetrucks being so easy to move through the air and all.

Convention Center? Perhaps somebody should have alerted the Fed they were re-routing people there, as that doesn't seem to be what happened. I can bet you these guys were't watching a whole lot of CNN in the first two days. We sure as heck didn't last year. It was a mistake, I will grant you, that they didn't know. But I'm not sure whose mistake at this point.

I'm not saying FEMA was perfect. I am saying that response was near-reasonable for a situation this large. I mean this wasn't Charlie, or even Andrew. This was 90,000 square miles involving MANY MANY multiple jurisdictions.

I'm not saying Brown was perfect, but he certainly isn't an idiot with no EM experience as everyone seems to be implying. After all, we had no small issue in FL last year, and things went pretty dang well.

If you have a catastrophic break down in first responders at the local level, you are going to have massive issues. Thats what happened here, it seems, and yes, FEMA wasn't prepared to absorb that situation overnight, and frankly I think its unreasonable to expect it to be so. Again as I was pointing out to Detlef earlier, this is a situation which, to put it into perspective, involves an area most of the 2/3 the size of the WHOLE COUNTRY OF GERMANY. It's not just NO that has issues here.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu: btw thanks for the good debate. Its a refreshing change, for once, to have someone try and prove their side rather than spout bs.

This time I'm truly out, though, Gotta leave for the night.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 10:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

katrina
iraq
911
Bush can't be wrong
he's God's son
right is wrong
and
wrong is right
if you're on the right your right
and on the left
then death
don't be poor and black
hell
you can be
poor and white
if gave money
might save your life
stop
get away from that water
we will shoot you
i hate looters
stop
put down the shoes
negroes allways trying to steal
nevermind the water took their clothes
refugees
now you see why they hate white people
not all white people
just all cops who look alike
all politicians
who sound alike
all attorneys
who need money to fight
some say its the end of times
it looks like folks will be buying nines
shotguns and automatics
and its all so tragic
no not really
less black babies means
less tax money spent on those monkeys
thats how you feel
thats cool
and who's a Christian
I don't remeber Jesus thinking like that
killing ararbs for his return
oil money
I'd hate to have a hummer
when the price hits 5.50
racism
classism
your own demise
in front of your eyes
and all the other countries of the world hate you
from the inside out
we could take you
rape you
it wouldn't be hard
only would have to organize
but I don't want that to happen
everybody walked around strapped and
war zones in every county
black vs white nope
rich vs poor
all you poor ass white folks
to them yall negroes
but you want to separate by color
so go ahead
you won't get ahead
you are spiritually dead
I just got my JD
took the bar
young black male
26
I'm supposed to not be able to read
turn the other cheek
yeah ok
I'm like sadaam
kiss my boot-y
pat talking about assisnation
then wants to bless the nation?
Roberts hates roe v wade
but I'm not for abortion these days
but hey
a man can't control a woman's body
unless they the republicans probably
property has a higher value
then my kinfolk
CIA gave us dope
hope
nope
jails with soap
ooh
i call it how i see it
can't be anti zionist
cuz its anti Jewish
can't be that
especially when they own the country
took over by paper money
stealing land
your cause is not mine
you still raping Africa
yeah I'm a lawyer now
but that nigger in me wants to let bullets out
you know we're violent
that's ok
because soon you will be silent
wake up smell the coffee
aint fogers
its the national guard
with rifles intead of cots
I hope the whole administrations is killed
and rots
in watts
there would be celebration
but in the meanwhile
I'm a pray for this nation
I remember growing up thinking we were blessed by God
only to have sex with Satan

Posted by: spw at September 7, 2005 10:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excuse me, Buddy, but those links do not in any way refute or even address the points I and many others have made. The fact that lights are coming on now has nothing to do with the disastrous lack of coordination and awareness provided by FEMA earlier on. There is no explanation or excuse for turning back hundreds of rescue boats --- note that some boats managed to get in simply by going in against the explicit directives from FEMA --- and why, tell me, was there anything "reasonable" about keeping rescue boats out of New Orleans?

Did you actually read any of the links I posted? Or are you only interested in looking at evidence that supports your political proclivities?

In a disaster of this magnitude DHS and FEMA are *supposed* to establish coordination among all units operating in the area. One of your own links makes it quite clear that they did a terrible job of this.

You appear to simply be attempting to find reasons to be cheerful about the Federal response, rather than actually looking at the realities of what has happened and what is continuing to occur. "Near-reasonable"? That's utterly ridiculous.

Looking at FEMA responses to hurricanes in Florida really misses the point: those disasters required a response but were not comparable to what happened in New Orleans. New Orleans was a much more grave situation that required quick thinking and action, something that we were supposed to have been preparing for ever since 9/11.

What has happened here was chaos, lack of coordination, bureaucratic red tape preventing much needed aid from getting in, complacency and massive confusion at every level of government, from Federal on down. I think the email that Andrew Sullivan posted from a local first responder who lives in Las Vegas was really to the point:

http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2005_08_28_dish_archive.html#112569138469257629

"Some people say that you can't hold the President responsible for this. Oh, yes you can. Because when he looked over at John Ashcroft after the jets hit the towers and said, "I want you to make sure this never happens again," it was not meant to be specific to "no more planes hitting large buildings on the East Coast, right, boss." It was meant that no American should have to run for his life through an American city. While Americans may perish in a senseless, unforeseen disaster, we'd save the ones we could."

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, Buddy. And I realize that you're posting in good faith here --- however I really think you're looking at this from a biased perspective. I am more than willing to concede the local and state government failed here --- but I cannot see how one can look at the evidence and conclude that the Federal response was anything close to reasonable.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 10:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The more I review the round robin of finger pointing and point scoring, the more I'm reminded of our immigration debate. There is more than enough blame for every level, but the primary blame has to be put on the national govt and society that was willing to play Russian Roulette with a hundred thousand lives. Why were the levees built to a Cat 3 standard? I hope investigators focus on that issue -- I speculate that it wasn't totally financial, I thinkaesthetic reasons may have been involved. A city that exists on tourism did not want all the river views blighted.
I'd also like to reference something Greg said in his first post- he was ashamed we were made to look like Haiti or Liberia. I think that is a tragic analogy and cuts close to the most taboo PC issues in this country. The people we are discussing here lived at 25% of the poverty level, there is no way they would evacuate because (a) they would know that their homes would be looted by those that remained, (b) the fatalism and passivity that has been marinated into their DNA by eight generations of welfare policy would conflict with the warnings, (c) they are scared of the outside world.
Before anyone tries to beat me up about this, let me say my birthplace has almost the same pathologies, only the majority population is PuetoRican or Italian-- Atlantic City, NJ. Let me say the same cultural limitations exist in many many trailer parks full of WASP's accross this country.

Posted by: wayne at September 7, 2005 10:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You guys are pathetic - and, yes - that means you mitsu.

Bush is a bad president but unrealistic criticism coming from the democrats only make him look like the best of two bad choices. To have accomplished the things that you think should have been done in NOLA would require a totalitarian government. Which is one of the things you so vehemently accuse Bush of. First you say he is a nazi. Then when he doesn't act like one you criticise him for that. I swear, if we can't find a way to muzzle moonbats like you then I am leaving the democratic party forever. We make a pitiful minority in government. In our current state, we whine and complain about everything and offer nothing but destructive criticism. No matter how bad the republicans are, all I can say is thank God the current group of democrats isn't in charge. I'll give them one more round of elections to get their act together and quit pandering to people like you. They need to pander to pragamatic progressives instead of whining wankers. If not, then I'm turning in my membership badge.

Posted by: moron99 at September 7, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For those who are blaming FEMA in re to "post-9/11 this wasn't supposed to happen". Post-9/11 preparations involve the locals more than the federals. Post-9/11 New Orleans/LA government officials should have been looking at the potential spots for terrorist attacks, how to prevent those, and how to respond if it does happen. And, as a lot of you in the above-category noted, the flooding could have been caused by a small amount of explosives on the levees. Yes, that is blindingly obvious. So, in the "post-9/11" world, why weren't the locals ready for that? AGAIN, THE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR RESPONSE TO A DISASTER, WHETHER MAN-MADE OR NATURAL, IS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL!!!!

Posted by: exhelodrvr at September 7, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Moron99", your remarks are simply irrational and accompanied by no argument whatsoever. Do you actually have a substantive point to make? Have you addressed any of the criticisms I and others have made? Is Retired Admiral James Loy also a "moonbat"?

To have accomplished not turning back hundreds of rescue boats, not turning back firefighters, not turning back food and water from Walmart, not preventing diesel fuel from being delivered to Jefferson Parish, not cutting emergency communications lines at the sheriff's office, not turning away doctors, airboaters, water tanker aircraft, generators, buses for transportation, aid from Chicago, Canadian aid, etc., etc.? This would have required a "totalitarian government"?

Posted by: Mitsu at September 7, 2005 11:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not a native of New Orleans, so Mayor Nagin doesn't work for me. The people of New Orleans will have to deal with him.

I'm not a native of Louisiana, so Governor Blanco doesn't work for me. The people of New Orleans will have to deal with her.

I am an American citizen, and a taxpayer, so everyone in the President's administration does work for me. I am thoroughly unimpressed with their performance, and I will hold them accountable for it.

Posted by: T-Bone at September 7, 2005 11:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy,

Maybe I´m just viewing different media reports. Not impossible given the fact that I´m viewing them from "Old Europe".

I agree that the proper level of posture and leadership was NOT put forward, from the President on down. That Bush didn't immediately rush to DC Saturday/Sunday night before this thing hit was a PR disaster, but then Bush hasn't been known for playing the PR game anyway.

That statement however seems slightly implausible!
Remember Bush around the rubble of the World Trade Center shortly after 9/11?
Or saying we want Osama Bin Laden dead or alive? "Some" years ago?
Or onboard that aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" banner?
Or how many times President Bush delivered a speech surrounded by army personnel greeting him as the CIC?

Are you telling me that the administration at large, including Rove, don´t play the PR game?
That is very hard to believe, you know!
I won´t even add some comments by the foreign press concerning some of the recent visits of American government officials to the disaster areas.

Each of this actions happened, you know.
And it was reported in Europe.

And not rushing back to DC Saturday/Sunday night before this thing hit was not only a PR disaster in European eyes, it was a signal that your President wasn´t to be bothered by a potential huge disaster in his own country. And if he wasn´t to be bothered with a disaster in his own country, why should he be bothered by a disaster in Europe?

That hurricane was there for days. And the warnings of a potential huge disaster were there for days. Not to mention that the US gulf region is a huge supplier of crude oil and natural gas for the USA.
Not to mention refineries.

It wasn´t only a PR disaster, it showed that your President seems to have NO idea of what is important!!!

----

I´m still waiting - and hoping - that someone proves that my opinion about the" evacuation plan for New Orleans that included all the people without transportation" is totally wrong.

Posted by: Detlef at September 7, 2005 11:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu:

Again, I'm not saying there weren't issues with FEMA, im just saying that they mostly lie with a misunderstanding of how FEMA normally operates, and a false expectation of what people consider 'normal' response to a Natural Disaster.

FEMA is not, in the EM world, expected to be a first responder. No amount of wishing it is that way from the public is going to make it that way this time around. If people want to change that, then that is a valid debate. The facts are, no matter how much people believe FEMA has the means to do the kinds of things that were expected, i.e. having 10000 troops on the ground and 1000 semis full of supplies on the ground the next day, that just wasn't the expected scope of their operations.

The expected scope is to ramp up after determination where exactly the problem areas are going to be, and within 72 hours, nominally, have a decent show of inflowing supplies for the LocGov, who is expected to have nominally setup some kind of preprovisioning and supply centers with the help of their natguard troops and others they request from other states. I FEMA they mostly did this, with a few kinks, but the State Gov didn't get their end of the job done completely (at all?). When I refer to a 'normal' response, this is what I mean, and this is pretty much what Emergency Managers are taught to expect. This, however, does not seem to be the public expectation or understanding of what FEMA does.

As it stands, outside NatGuard units were on standby, but were never directly requested until days later.

Quoting the WSJ (yes, I know its a freeper rag, right)

"I am not attempting to excuse some of the delays in FEMA's response. Congress and the president need to take corrective action there, also. However, if citizens expect FEMA to be a first responder to terrorist attacks or other local emergencies (earthquakes, forest fires, volcanoes), they will be disappointed. The federal government's role is to offer aid upon request."

I am not attempting to excuse all of the delays either, I am just saying they are to be somewhat expected in a disaster of this magnatude. You just cannot prepare for them 100%.

Again:

"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."

FEMA are not, as it stands, a first responder, nor have they ever been. That is just the fact of the matter. Whether they should be is a good debate, though. I think in situations like this, maybe they should be prepared to kick an indecisive governor out of the way and just fix the situation. But right now, that is not in their current perview, nor authority, nor is there a precident, for a natural disaster, for having done so.

As for jumping to conclusions about supplies when you don't know the complete situation, let me give an example.

Last year, after frances, we had supply centers setup and had recieved a truck of ice (and other supplies but for this instance the ice is the only real importance) about 0800, and then another truck sometime in the middle of the afternoon. The first truck at this particular distribution center was going to be out by 2000 hours, and it was mid afternoon, and the driver gets out of the truck and says 'I've gotta go, I've been redispatched elsewhere'

Now we were pretty frantic, we had about 3 hours of ice left, and the SO almost comandeered this dudes vehicle and arrested him (Really, I'm not joking) but we decided that probably wouldn't be a good way to endear ourselves to the State Emergency Response Center, so we just let him go. Fact was, Port Charlotte, or somewhere else south, which had bigger issues, had opened up a new distribution center, and needed supplies ASAP, and they reconfigured alot of trucks who were in the right areas and shipped them on down there.

We had no clue what was going on till we called the field office to ream someone a new one, and found out that another truck 3-4 hours out we had another truck inbound, and learned of the situation of why the trucks were reconfigured. It was, in this case, just quicker to relocate that truck from our lot to help people further south, and it caused us no real issues, in the long run.

FEMA has a bad time communicating real time info about what they are doing, that is a fact. However, most of the time they are getting stuff done, to the best of their ability, on the ground.

Frankly, I have to give FEMA the benifit of the doubt, so yes, maybe my experience does bias me, but I think I have good reason to be biased.

Now I REALLY have to go :-P I might be back later tonight.

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 11:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whoops I forgot the link for above, too. This pretty much sums up my experience and understanding of what the facts on the ground tend to imply for me:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007219

Posted by: Buddy at September 7, 2005 11:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

mitsu, I've lived through hurricanes. Believe it or not, there is rhyme and reason to the process. The first thing is to secure the perimeter and assess damages. People prematurely entering the area often become victims themselves. The second thing is to get rid of live electrical wires and structures that are teetering on the edge of collapse. In the case of NOLA, this also included stopping the flow of water from the lake into the city. The third thing is to allocate emergency resources to those whose lives remain in peril. The fourth thing is to find access routes by land and begin to coordinate large scale relief. The fifth thing is to clear the roads as the scale of relief gains momentum.

You are a pin-head who is complaining that people who chose not to leave sufferred because the government did not re-invent the wheel while in the middle of a crisis - a crisis for which the original wheel was designed. If you ever find yourself in a city six feet below sea-level with a CAT5 hurricane approaching I would offer you the following advice. Get the hell out. If you're too dumb to listen, then don't be surprised when disaster relief efforts follow the steps they always have before.

Posted by: moron99 at September 7, 2005 11:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Detlef:

I dont think you are wrong about the evac situation at all, the mayor of NO and the Gov of LA evidently never planned to do that, even though they acknowledged last year after Ivan that it was a problem. This, however, was not FEMA's responsibility, necessarily. It was directly NOLA's responsibility to ask for help if they couldnt get it done, not just ignore the issue alltogether. It would have been FEMA's responsibility (at least partially) if they asked for busses and drivers on the day of the evac order (which to my knowledge they didnt) and FEMA never acknowledged it

RE: PR disaster, my point was, just because bush didnt rush back to DC didnt mean he wasnt working; it just, on face, looked like it -- hence 'PR disaster'. Bush only plays PR games when his handlers force him to. Thats my view on it, anyway. Rushing back to DC is not a real, necessary response to a situation like this, but it is probably the expected one, I'll agree. Rushing to DC doesn't make the work get done any better, really.

Posted by: buddy at September 8, 2005 12:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The example you cite, Buddy, makes perfect sense: the truck you are talking about was merely redeployed elsewhere. The boats, supplies, food, water, fuel, firefighters, doctors, boats, etc., etc. that were turned back were mostly turned back not to be redeployed to a different area --- they simply were turned back, period, not to be redeployed anywhere. If you actually read the links (and many others can be found out there), most of these supplies and volunteers simply gave up and went home. Not to another disaster-struck area, not to redeploy for any rational reason, but simply kept away completely --- primarily, it appears, because FEMA bureaucrats couldn't cut the red tape. I.e., there was some sort of internal bureaucratic reason why they felt they ought to turn these offers of help back.

Turning away hundreds of boats for bureaucratic reasons when there are people dying is an act of criminal incompetence, in my view.

I fully understand and accept your point that FEMA is not in a position to be a first responder to any disaster. However, *once the local authorities have been overwhelmed* --- the National Response Plan specifically states that it is a Federal responsibility to proactively render aid and assistance. It is manifestly the case that they delayed by precious days, dithered over lines of authority, wasted time over red tape --- in many cases wasting days signing over needed approvals and paperwork to allow help from outside of the stricken region to arrive (for example, one Western governor offered help and Blanco accepted, but the DHS failed to issue the paperwork needed to approve the help for many days). When people's lives are at stake, dithering over red tape is not the kind of performance we should expect from the Federal government.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 12:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moron99, I am basing my remarks on a very careful review of the available evidence as well thorough research into the opinions and analysis of many current and former emergency management professionals. Morrie Goodman, former FEMA spokesman, said this: "They've taken emergency management away from the emergency managers. These operations are being run by people who are amateurs at what they are doing." Former FEMA chief of staff Jane Bullock said, "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…. The federal government took ownership over the response." The lack of coordination that FEMA displayed was criticzed by former California Office of Emergency Management official Mark Ghilarducci: "We are historically back to where we were before."

These are not the ravings of "pinheads" or "moonbats" --- rather, they're professionals who know far better than you what FEMA is capable of, as well as its limitations.

Now, if it were the case that FEMA was on top of things, they were doing everything they could, etc., and they were merely being thwarted by state and local incompetence, that would be one thing. But we have enormous evidence of at least three major failures at the Federal level.

1) They didn't take Hurricane Katrina seriously as a threat before it hit.

2) Even after it hit, they took days to recognize the disaster was a major event, far more serious than previous hurricanes that have struck the US in recent years.

3) Even after they mobilized, there was chaos, confusion, lack of coordination, and excessive red tape.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Re your dream ticket of McCain/Rudy --

I think a much more likely "perfect storm" could be

Clinton/Richardson for the Dems

Allen/Rice for the Repubs

and charging up the middle as the MSM darlings McCain/Lieberman

this could be Perot without the Cuban hit teams.

Posted by: wayne at September 8, 2005 12:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu,
then you should limit your criticisms and examples to ones that are valid. A bunch of guys showing up with boats asking to go into a disaster area is not a valid example. They have as much chance of becoming victims as helpers. Turning them away until the authorities knew their identities and had the logistical support to direct them and know their whereabouts was the proper response. Do not cite the words of someone else on unrelated matters as justification for your irrational conclusions and arguments. I did not call them moonbats. I called you a moonbat. Not because you criticizsed FEMA. Because of the irrationality of your criticisms.

Posted by: moron99 at September 8, 2005 12:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu:

The whole point of my story was, those doctors, boat drivers, etc, have NO idea why they weren't allowed in, and neither do I, although I suspect it was one of a few things. Uninformed persons on the outside lines, or no way to get those people in to where they needed to be at that particular time, not being prepared for the huge influx of volunteer support that came, or a myriad of other things, including, yes, red tape. To attribute it all to red tape is irresponsible, really, however. Fact is, we just do not know.

You have an example of Bill Richardson, and I have an example of a commander in Michigan who claims he was waiting on StateLA to tell him what to do and where to go. Fact is, they were processing EMAC requests from closer proximity states by priority, and NM/MI were further out than the guard units that were brought on line. That’s just how it works, and these guys know this.

First priority was also given to S&R, not security, which IMO is understandable, but I wonder if there might not have been more security brought online quicker too. There were around 8000 troops in LA/MS on the 31st, 13000 (7400 in LA and 6000 in MS) troops by the end of day Sept 1st (actually much more than I suspected, earlier) and nearly 10000 the next day. That’s pretty good ramp up, actually, the more I've looked at it, considering the impediments to travel.

Point is, dithering and delays were caused on both sides of the table likely; I am just more likely, from experience, to have placed the blame on the LocGov who obviously didn’t have people there telling her what she needed to know, before the storm. Is this FEMA's fault, too? Well maybe, but I honestly dont think FEMA expected that to happen. A governor is supposed to know these sorts of things, and protocols; after all, they've been going over this stuff, if they are like StateFL yearly in prep for hurricane season for years.

When it all falls out, I suspect there will be plenty of blame to go around, but assigning 'Criminal Negligence' to probable 'honest mistakes' (in the case of FEMA) or 'ignorance/being completely overwhelmed' (in the case of StateLA) is not reasonable. Personally I wouldn’t even go so far as to say the GovLA is 'criminally negligent' and I feel her indecisiveness was one of the chief reasons for a lot of the delays and lack of pre-staging supplies in Superdome, et al. Frankly, I'd have had trucks coming inbound on the 26th ASAP after the declaration. This stuff is covered under the declaration, and FEMA would have payed for it, you just have to get it done. State and Local gov seemed worried about budgetary issues, telling PD officers to go home on Sunday night so they wouldnt have to pay OT and stuff. It honestly sounds like they didn't have any clue what a disaster declaration accomplishes, really.

Add to that the fact that there was an evac plan that nobody seemed to have any intention to carry out, even after it was pointed out as a severe weak spot last year during Ivan, and a laissez-faire attention to the evac in general, probably also accentuated by the media hype on Hurricanes that weren’t that dangerous for the past few years and the near misses of those that were dangerous that have occurred (Tampa could have been NO to some extent last year, really). It just strikes me as a total melt down at the local level precipitated by lack of knowledge of issues, which FEMA (reasonably) expected the state to know, and accentuated by the scope of the disaster.

Bottom line is, people need to learn: you have a cat 5 storm coming down your pipe, you FIND a way to evac. I don’t care what you have to do, honestly, and localgovs have to be REALLY willing to help those that need help evacing. There’s just no other way, reasonably, to get it done, that I can see. Those that don’t want to leave have to accept personal responsibility for their actions, and frankly most of them that didn’t want to leave have (and still don’t typically want to leave, really) and I admire that, really. I don’t begrudge someone not wanting to leave, it is their home after all, and most of them would rather die there than move. I have a grandmother like that, so its pretty understandable.

Anyway enough of the books, I need to get my own blog i think before I get booted off this one for clogging up his comments.

Posted by: Buddy at September 8, 2005 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The post and comments are quite emotional and inflamatory.

The failure of communications may have been the most important factor in this disaster, but the full effect of the communication breakdown cannot be ascertained with certainty at this time.

New Orleans radio system flooded
By Bob Brewin
http://www.fcw.com/article90541-08-31-05-Web

Federal Computer Week
August 31, 2005

Add in reports of snipers, requiring that security be provided to rescue personnel, and unverified reports that state authorities asked for 24 hours to review options, and it is even harder to evaluate this very difficult situation.

There are also unverified reports that New Orleans lost 2/3 of the police for at least some period of time (they may have been out of communication.)

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2005/tr20050903-3850.html

DOD Transcript 9/3/2005 Lt. General Stephen Blum, Chief, National Guard Bureau
See last seven lines of transcript.

Further, the Red Cross web site has a message that it was not allowed by state authorities to provide relief to the Superdome/Convention Center.

http://www.redcross.org/faq/0,1096,0_682_4524,00.html#4524

Finally there are reports that State and Local first responders should not expect FEMA response for 72 to 96 hours. This would be from Tuesday, August 30, when the flooding started. It was the levee breeches and flooding on Tuesday, not the passage of Katrina on Monday, that caused disaster and the need to evacuate New Orleans.

I think there is no responsible way to make any informed judgment about disaster response at this time, but such a time will come. What we do know is that there are very heroic people doing very heroic deeds in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The most important thing for our nation to do at this time is to ensure that current relief activities continue to improve. Does getting hysterical now help that effort?

Posted by: rich at September 8, 2005 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's hardly an invalid example. FEMA stated the reason for turning back the boats on Wednesday was the water level was dropping --- but at the time the water level was rising and had been rising all night. The previous day the Jefferson Parish sherriff had called for private boat help, but according to reports, FEMA tried to block this, but the sherriff did not agree --- so he sent a deputy to provide the private boats with an armed escort. The private boats came into Jefferson Parish and nothing bad happened.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 01:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy, your examples of failures on the state and local level are perfectly consistent with what I have been saying, which is not that the locals didn't fail. Clearly they did. I am saying the Federal authorities ALSO failed, big time.

It appears the majority of the failure on the part of the local authorities occurred prior to landfall; the problems at the federal level occurred mostly in the aftermath. But it is also the case that the director of FEMA simply wasn't taking seriously the possibility of a mass-scale disaster until far later than he should have, and he wasn't preparing for this. This has been well established. He was, essentially, asleep at the wheel until screams from the city woke him up.

This isn't a situation of one "side" versus the other. I am saying that FEMA has deteriorated for years, it was a well-known problem before Katrina hit, and the deterioration has only become painfully clear in this strict test. Furthermore, if, after four years of preparation, this is the best we can do at the Federal level, I'm saying we're in pretty sorry shape.

We can only do so much about poor local emergency preparedness, but we can certainly ask for better performance from our national authorities, particularly in times like these.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 01:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy,

I would agree with a part of your comment.

I dont think you are wrong about the evac situation at all, the mayor of NO and the Gov of LA evidently never planned to do that, even though they acknowledged last year after Ivan that it was a problem. This, however, was not FEMA's responsibility, necessarily. It was directly NOLA's responsibility to ask for help if they couldnt get it done, not just ignore the issue alltogether. It would have been FEMA's responsibility (at least partially) if they asked for busses and drivers on the day of the evac order (which to my knowledge they didnt) and FEMA never acknowledged it.

Unfortunately the source I mentioned above mentioned FEMA too. :)
And don´t let me cite FEMA and the "National Response Plan".
Not to mention the fact that a federal plan to care for the disabled and people without a home couldn´t get funding in 2004. Also mentioned above.

Once again, I repeat from my curiously ignored post.
NOBODY, including local, state and federal authorities was interested in a plan to evacuate the poor from from New Orleans.

It is simply a fact that if you want to evacuate 100,000 to 150,000 people inside 72 hours, you do need federal help.
You can´t do that with municipal and state buses alone!
You need additional transport like airplanes and trains. Which according to my understanding, aren´t available to local or state authorities?
Why does everyone ignore that point?
I´d love to be proven wrong!

It would have been FEMA's responsibility (at least partially) if they asked for busses and drivers on the day of the evac order...

That is puzzling!
Look, I´m asking for information and I´m trying to be polite.
But if FEMA or any other federal agency could only start to become active "on the day of the evac order", you do have problems. I mean you told me about the size of the disaster area.

As I commented earlier the DHS/FEMA can proactively act in the case of a severe disaster. Surely the possible loss of the port of New Orleans - not to mention the loss of life - defines a severe disaster.
Even the army and navy deployed before Katrina struck!

Posted by: Detlef at September 8, 2005 01:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Detlef:

The trigger for FEMA assistance is the request of the state of Louisiana. They have to request specific support and action, otherwise the federal government will somewhat assume they are following their disaster plan on their own. As the governor only requested monitary assistance after the Disaster Declaration, no additional 'boots on the ground' assistance was triggered. Thats just how it works in the US. You have local regional governments that are essentially soverign entities unto themselves to some extent. I think you are not understanding how the interaction between state and federal government works, which is understandable.

Busses and transportation from the federal government would have only gotten triggered if the Local Gov had requested that. We have individual states who are responsible for their own territories, and can request for specific aid from FEMA. A Disaster Declaration typically triggers the guarantee of monitary coverage for State/Local governments, as well as private citizens in those areas covered by the declaration. It can also trigger physical 'boots' if requested, and it would have been interesting, really, to see how the evac was handled if StateLA had requested that. My guess it would have been a boondoggle, anyway, but who knows.

I would guess our state arrangement is more similar to the EU, with individual Countries being the individual states, although not exactly.

Posted by: Buddy at September 8, 2005 02:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In reply to Mitsu above:

Superficial analogies are more dangerous than helpful. Your comparison of tsunami & Katrina relief efforts leaves out two essential differences, both of which dramatically affect delivery speeds -- and the accuracy of your assessment.

First, tsunami flood waters receded as quickly as they crested. Not so in New Orleans! Helicopters are not the most efficient means for delivering food, water and medical assistance on any but the most modest scale, in the best of circumstances. Needless to say, it makes a considerable difference if you can actually land the chopper. Not so in New Orleans.

Second, as has been emphasized elsewhere here, it doesn't matter how fast you deploy your resources if you are not accorded the necessary legal authorization to act -- which, domestically, can only issue from the Governor's office. Tsunami assistance was a military operation from the get go. Not so in New Orleans!

I would suggest that the comparison you should be drawing here is between events on the ground in Louisiana versus Alabama/Mississippi. Keeping in mind that the states next door shouldered the actual brunt of the storm, it quickly becomes almost indisputably clear just what a difference the nature of the flooding and the quality of local/state leadership make.

Posted by: JM Hanes at September 8, 2005 03:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Red Cross has the following message on their web site,

"Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders. "

"The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city. "


here.


I assume all the idiots calling for Chertoff and Brown to be fired will now shut up. Right?

Posted by: flenser at September 8, 2005 03:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu?

Seem's you owe Mr Brown an apology, don't you?

BTW, how did that election thing turn out for you?

Posted by: flenser at September 8, 2005 04:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nevermind, flenser.

Hey, in a nuclear terrorist event, we all want a rush of Red Cross to immediately enter into the event center...where they can become casualties too. Right? Guys? Hello? Just like a hostage crisis, right? Just like, say, a flood in a disease zone with, um, looting and gang violence? Is this thing on?

What's the first thing you do in an emergency? Cordon off the area.

Not send Girl Scout Troop 8 to deliver cookies.

Then you evacuate. That aid is just as handy in outside assembly areas where the relief workers won't get sick, spread sickness, or be murdered.

If they would have evacuated before, in, say, a mandatory evacuation, there would be no need to administer aid in a disaster zone.

Posted by: Brad at September 8, 2005 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I really think it is sad when people use their minds only to look at facts and arguments that support a preconceived idea of a "side", rather than look at the totality of the evidence on either "side".

Case in point: JM Hanes, first you point out that the tsunami and New Orleans were different, then you compare New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as though they were the same. It simply makes no sense whatsoever. The disaster in Alabama and Mississippi was far less severe than New Orleans because of the lack of flooding.

It was not merely in the case of the tsunami that aid arrived far more rapidly; it has also been the case with floods in Africa, as I noted earlier.

Regarding keeping out the Red Cross, I already knew and have noted that was something the state did. I don't see what bearing that has on the voluminous evidence of federal failure.

Let's get real. Brown didn't even realize there were people at the Convention Center, despite the reports on TV and radio. Under Witt's FEMA, local and federal disaster efforts were closely coordinated. As George Haddow, former deputy chief of FEMA put it, back then FEMA was in close contact with local officials from the outset: "You were all working together to anticipate needs. You're all sitting in the same room when the things happened -- the Midwest flood, the Northridge quake, the Oklahoma City bombing and all the disasters we responded to. We were in the same room together and nobody had to point fingers."

The evidence is overwhelming that there has been a terrible failure at the federal level. It's amazing to me that rational people can sit there and try to paper over what just happened, despite everything that has happened.

>election

Yeah, really, flenser, how did that Iraqi election go? I see everything's all hunky dory in Iraq now.

I should point out that in Ohio as of the beginning of August, Bush enjoyed a 60% disapproval to 37% approval rating, a 23 percent gap. Too bad they woke up a year too late.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 04:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu

You Canadians sure take a keen interest in American politics.

The first Iraqi elections went well, as I recall. I expect the next ones to go equally well.

And I expect the GOP to win easily in 2008. I seem to do better than you in calling these things, don't I?

"Let's get real. Brown didn't even realize there were people at the Convention Center, despite the reports on TV and radio. "

How clueless is this? FEMA does not and should not respond to TV reports, but to the information and requests which they receive from the state officials. In this case, it turned out the state officials were serial liars. How that id the fault of FEMA is something that you will need to explain. Perhaps they should gibe lie detectors to governors from now on.

Posted by: flenser at September 8, 2005 05:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure where your "Canadian" thing comes from, unless you're trying to claim that only Bush supporters are true Americans, and everybody else might as well be Canadian.

As of right now, somewhere between 55%-60% of the American public disapproves of the way Bush is doing his job, so I guess the majority of Americans might as well move to Canada.

Not that it pertains to my arguments, but I was born right here in the U.S.A.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And again, you administer aid after the disaster is over, as in getting the people to safety and not putting the casualty list on compound interest.

I would assume Mitsu's detailed research and impeccable sources had the benefit of common sense.

Posted by: Brad at September 8, 2005 05:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>you administer aid after the disaster is over

"We'll get that water to you after the disaster is over. Just have to wait a week or so. No biggie. We have bigger fish to fry first. Be patient. Sheesh, always people with the sense of entitlement."

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 05:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay...we're trucking supplies in to folks so they can stay neck deep in contaminated water. There's other killers out there besides starvation and dehydration and there's not enough folks to look after the caregivers.

Those assembly areas (Superdome) should be evacuated or should we give the "all clear."

"Come on home, New Orleans, just grab a day pack. Abso-Posi-Lutely, no danger here but starving to death."

Posted by: Brad at September 8, 2005 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure who you're arguing with. I haven't been citing the Red Cross exlcusion as an example of a FEMA failure.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 06:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad, I'm not sure whom you're arguing with. I haven't been talking about the Red Cross issue --- though there may have been a problem there, that wasn't something I've been citing.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 06:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Flenser, are you some sort of bot? Obviously you don't even bother to read before you post.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 08:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Who is this "Canadian"?

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 08:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"As the governor only requested monitary assistance after the Disaster Declaration".

This is not true. The Louisiana Governor followed a very clear and precise formula when she asked for assistance, and she asked for much more than simply monetary assistance! http://gov.louisiana.gov/Disaster%20Relief%20Request.pdf

Posted by: Sue at September 8, 2005 08:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i don't have Buddy's experience with actual disasters (I've just weathered a couple of Hurricanes) but from my experience in planning military ops I can come with several reasons why volunteers would be sent back, besides the obvious red tape and crossed wires.
1. You have to be able to control the space, which means knowing who is in the disaster area and where they are. You cannot respond to calls to service if you don't know who is closest and you contact them. Also, you may task an asset for a rescue only to get there and find the victims missing. Were they rescued by a volunteer you didn't know about? Did they move? Did they die? No one knows. How do you contact a volunteer to pull him out of a dangerous area?
2. Trained is better than untrained, you have downed powe lines, gas leaks and dangerous flotsam. Are they trained and equipped to handle that? Do they have the right equipment to get at people trapped in attics? What about initial first aid? Can they do that and do they know where the medical facilities are? Hell, would they even know where they are?

Most of that is not insurmountable, but requires planning and coordination.

Posted by: monkeyboy at September 8, 2005 01:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

I used to enjoy visiting your site because I appreciated reading your perspective regarding a number of issues of interest to me.

As of late, however, your posts have been increasingly hysterical and (I think unjustifyably) critical of the Bush administration.

If I want this I can go visit Andrew Sullivan (whom I removed from my "Favorites" list a year ago).

Please calm down a bit. I know that "people have died", but too much emotionalism clouds your judgment and lends support to the crowd who are convinced that "Bush lied".

I'm not a Bush supporter across the board, but I believe the President is way ahead of the Left and most Democrats on the most important issue of our generation - he believes that Islamic facisim poses an existential threat to the West. Your constant carping on the handling of the war in Iraq and now New Orleans is undermining our self-confidence. Of course I believe in legitimate critcism - but please remember we are at WAR and a large (minority) segment of our population wants us to retreat or actually to lose.

Posted by: R. Simpson at September 8, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

can we have a little reality here.....

its all well and good to talking about the failure to do a full evacuation of New Orleans the minute there is a storm somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Realistically, that would never happen, and there are lots of good reasons why.

The basic plan set up by Nagin was sound....in the event of a POSSIBLE catastrophe, evacuate the city as much as possible, and provide temporary shelter for those who could not get out of the city. If the POSSIBLE catastrophe was realized, the plan was to rely on the federal and state governments to evacuate the over 100,000 citizens of New Orleans that were left in the city.

The reality is that, had Katrina passed a couple of dozen miles to the east of New Orleans, the levees would not have failed, and the death toll would have only been in the hundreds, or even dozens. And if it had passed a dozen miles to the west of where it made landfall, the levees would likely have sustained a catastrophic failure during the hurricane itself---and thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people would have died during the hurricane itself.

The reality is that the need to fully evacuate New Orleans did not occur until AFTER Katrina had passed, and key sections of the levees were breached. Mayor Nagins plan was working....until FEMA, which at that point was the ONLY government agency with access to the resources to effect a large scale evacuation, literally sat on its hands for a few days.

No intellectualy honest person would say that if they were the head of FEMA, and they were told that it looked like 80% of New Orleans was about to wind up under water, that they would not immediately start taking the necessary steps to get the people remaining in that city OUT. That person would be demanding answers to three questions---and getting answers and making those answers a reality....

1) How can we get these people out of there?

2) Where can we put them?

3) How do we provide for those people once they are where we will put them?

.....and if any bureaucrat tried to interfere, that person in charge of FEMA would be on the phone to the President, or Governor, or WHOEVER was the top person in that bureaucracy, and broken through the red tape IMMEDIATELY.

This is what any REASONABLE person in charge of the situation would have done.....and this did not happen.

The first priority for FEMA in this situation had to be saving lives....and it wasn't. That is all one needs to know about the aftermath of Katrina---and where the blame needs to be placed for it.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 8, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"R. Simpson: Your constant carping on the handling of the war in Iraq and now New Orleans is undermining our self-confidence."

Awww... perhaps FEMA also needs a mass therapy program to help people like you deal with the horrible tidal wave of sensible people on both the right and left demanding better from their government.

But, to be frank for just a minute. People like you represent the most lame type of citizen that America has to offer. And I'm not referring to right vs left here because the best people I know all over the political spectrum share certain qualities. But you share none: you are complacent, dogmatic, and lack any sense of perspective ("thousands of people may have died, but please, let's not get emotional"). Fortunately, history has trampled over people like you, and the United States is better for it.

Posted by: Keev at September 8, 2005 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To p.lukasiak:

It's not a question cutting through red tape, it's a question of conflicting sovereignty and of cutting through the laws which define the relationship and divvy up power between state and federal governments.

Posted by: JM Hanes at September 8, 2005 07:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Mitsu, in re: "JM Hanes, first you point out that the tsunami and New Orleans were different, then you compare New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as though they were the same."

Once again, you oversimplify, and thereby miss the point. I responded to your complaint about the speed of deployment which was, in reality, well within established, known, parameters. Actual delivery of that assistance, however, was impeded in New Orleans where problems due to the unprecedented nature of the flooding (and ongoing damage to key infrastructure) were compounded by incredibly bad management at the critical state/local level before, during and after the immediate crisis.

Where there was no prolonged flooding, as in Miss/Ala, assistance compares well enough with what we've become accustomed to expecting (and with what we delievered via a federal/military operation in the aftermath of the tsumami). In Louisiana, where flood waters rose rather than receeding, the complex matrix of legal protocols governing state/federal/civilian/military operations -- and the necessary preparedness required at multiple levels under our current system -- proved insufficiently flexible to handle a disaster of this magnitude.

Fema has never been equipped, trained, or expected to replace local governmental functions (& expertise) wholesale. Indeed, current planning relies on it, and in addition, I beleive a good chunk of Fema's own "personnel" consists of volunteers. It is entirely possible that absent a litany of failures at the state/local level, the New Orleans disaster would never have risen to such epic proportions. Ditto that, had martial law been declared simultaneously with evacuation orders and the entire operation turned over to the military. If we intend to give the locals a pass here or anywhere else, then Congress needs to grant the Feds the authority to supercede state government immediately upon the declaration of an emergency, and they must provide the resources to enroll and train the personnel required to do so. Until now, such duplication has been considered both unwise and unnecessary, and it represents a serious departure -- in principle as well as practice -- from the system now in place. The idea that improved performance at FEMA -- or just a new improved Director -- alone could do, or could have done, the trick, seems fatuous to me.

I'm not sure what "side" you apparently assume I represent, but for the record, I don't happen to be a conservative at all, nor am I intent on giving the Feds themselves a total pass. When it comes to what they should have and/or didn't anticipate, however, I have to wonder why so many folks seem to cite the U.S. government for, among other things, failing to finance levee reconstruction, when Louisiana itself didn't even bother to include it in the state's $2 billion construction budget. What precisely are a state's sovereign responsibilities supposed to include then?

Posted by: JM Hanes at September 8, 2005 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sue:
If you will read the document to which you linked, you will see that it is indeed a request for $130,000,000. All of the specific items to which Gov. Blanco refers are the supporting details which make up that amount.

p. lukasiak:
I think that your point "The reality is that the need to fully evacuate New Orleans did not occur until AFTER Katrina had passed, and key sections of the levees were breached." is very important. MS and AL were directly and disastrously hit by a class 4 hurricane. FEMA's resources were directed at what everyone believed was the major diaster area. The breaching of the levees in NO (at the time it occurred) was completely unanticipated, and FEMA had to shift on the fly from being fully engaged in providing assistance to the area directly hit by the hurricane to a different area.

WaPo, Tues, Aug 30 "NEW ORLEANS -- Announcing itself with shrieking, 145-mph winds, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday, submerging entire neighborhoods up to their roofs, swamping Mississippi's beachfront casinos and blowing out windows in hospitals and high-rises. At least 55 people were killed, authorities said.

For New Orleans _ a dangerously vulnerable city because it sits mostly below sea level in a bowl-shaped depression _ it was not the apocalyptic storm forecasters had feared."


In effect, FEMA was faced with two seperate disasters 2 days apart. Under the circumstances, the situation in LA becomes even more understandable.

Regards,
Neil

Posted by: Neil S at September 8, 2005 08:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Louisiana itself

The responsibility for levee repair was a Federal one; it was and has always been an Army Corps of Engineers responsibility.

>you miss the point

I'm not sure in what way your elaboration addresses my point. My point is that in Third World countries, aid to catastrophically affected areas has come a lot faster than it has in New Orleans. You reasonably point out that it was easier to reach tsunami-affected areas than it was to reach New Orleans. However, it is not only in the case of the tsunami that Third World governments did better --- it is also in the case of massive floods in Africa, for example, at least according to one account I have read.

Of course I myself cannot judge for certain whether or not it is actually possible to mobilize food, water, and troops to get into New Orleans faster than four or five days after the tsunami hit --- however it does seem quite hard to believe that this isn't actually possible. The city was still accessible by road, and how many truckloads of food and water would it have taken to at least minimally sustain people at the Superdome and the Convention Center? However, while I myself can only speculate, as I noted above I have read many disaster management officials with many years of experience who have been very critical of the Federal response, and in fact who have been worried about FEMA deterioration ever since Bush came to office and let James Lee Witt go.

Furthermore, we have all seen the idiotic comments by Brown regarding the unfolding disaster on television --- his cluelessness was and is truly astounding. It's one thing to say, well, it just takes days and days to get aid in, and it's another not to even know you need to get aid in. Not to even realize this could be one of the biggest disasters in our nation's history. That failure alone is really nearly beyond belief.

It seems to me that the evidence here is so overwhelming it truly amazes me that you guys can possibly convince yourselves that FEMA did a perfectly fine job.

And R.Simpson: you're living in a dreamworld if you think that Democrats do not take the terrorism threat extremely seriously. The leftists might not take it seriously, but the average Democrat not only takes it seriously, they think that the problem is that BUSH doesn't really take it seriously, and has been doing a terrible job keeping us safe. This New Orleans fiasco is just another bit of evidence that this is the case.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu -- I specifically noted that I do not give the feds a pass. Now, if you can point to a major African city, flooded to the roof tops for a matter of weeks, I'd be happy to contemplate a comparison of relief efforts. Your case for 3rd World efficiencies is noticably devoid of specifics. Your politics are clear enough, but your case in toto is weak on the details. The Army Corps of Engineers, for instance, does the work, but it's the State government which sets the priorities, and clearly, levee repair wasn't one of 'em. I recommend more reading and less 2nd guessing for the time being.

Posted by: JM Hanes at September 8, 2005 11:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not making an extensive case on 3rd world relief efforts; that was merely one of many points I've made (i.e., I read a letter to the editor from someone who lives in Africa who was saying how shocked they were that American aid efforts trailed even what they saw in Africa). It was merely an anecdotal report; I am certainly not basing my entire argument on that one data point. The massive evidence of FEMA incompetence hardly requires that.

The state sets some priorities, but the majority of the funding comes from the Federal government, and levee repair, upgrading, and maintenance was simply massively underfunded in recent years. Local funding amounted to only about 10 percent of the total amount spend on flood control projects in the New Orleans area in the last ten years. Since Bush recommended cutting Federal funding for flood control every year he's been in office, priorities or no, the money wasn't there to complete levee projects on time.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 8, 2005 11:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Buddy,

Thanks for participating in the discussion. I appreciate your insight, knowledge and willingness to share.

Posted by: jls at September 9, 2005 12:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu et al,
Where on earth does Buddy ever claim that FEMA did, in your words "a perfectly fine job"?
To my mind, Buddy has tried to offer a careful, and thankless, explanation of the discrete, though sometimes overlapping, areas of responsibility.
And one part in particular makes horrible sense.
Buddy wrote of Blanco: "She did request federal assistance. The "Federal Assistance" she was requesting was monitary [sic] assistance to cover StateOp Expenses, go read the attachment to that request, it specifies exactly."
If that is accurate, surely it begins to illuminate the mindset of the local authorities that underpins this whole tragic mess?
That is, a local priority was to first figure out who was going to pick up a substantial part of the bill?
If true, it also starts to unravel the "Red Cross blocked" mystery. How else to explain WHY they were prevented from entering NO, unless it was to prevent "expensive" refugee sites developing?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at September 9, 2005 12:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Apparently there are even fewer risk management and disaster recovery experts among Bush's supporters than there are in Bush's Administration.

To say that Katrina presented two separate disasters is risible, both generally and specifically.

Generally: Flooding is inevitable in hurricanes. A disaster preparedness and response plan that allows for one and not the other is like preparing for an earthquake but not for structural collapses. It begs the question "What did they think was going to happen?"

Specifically: That a major hurricane hitting New Orleans would cause catastrophic flooding was well-known and predicted in every single scenario of every single study ever done on the subject. It begs the question of what DSH and FEMA planners have been doing for the past four years, if they were all so profoundly ignorant of what everyone else in the field knew.

So, to say that Katrina was actually two disasters, with the implication that the flooding was a surprise no one could have expected, ignores elementary-level hurricane meteorology as well as decades of information about New Orleans. What kind of disaster preparedness and response professional wouldn't know that? The ones employed by the Bush Administration, apparently.

Which brings up my second point. People are trying to excuse the Bush Administration for not knowing what would happen in New Orelans, not realizing what had happened in New Orleans, and not being able to respond quickly and appropriately. That's a crock. The people running HSD and FEMA are supposed to be able to do all that, because it's their job. Bush picked people to run HSD and FEMA based on political favors. Period. Actual expertise in the actual job they'd be doing never entered into the equation at all. That's malfeasance; in this case, criminal malfeasance.

I don't expect any random person to know how to run a disaster agency, any more than I expect any random person to know how to run a National Security Agency. But I damned well expect the people hiring disaster agency managers and National Security managers to pick people who do know how to do their jobs. I damned well don't accept excuses for failure based on hiring hacks and flacks and bureaucratic players who know little and care less about the actual substance of their responsibilities.

The Bush Administration consistently picks people to lead vital government operations who are either not qualified on the face of it, or opposed to the mission of the governmental agency they're managing, or more interested in currying favor with one or another WH faction, than they are in doing the job they were hired to do. And incompetence is never, ever punished in the Bush Administration. Only disloyalty to the Administration is punished. That's no way to run a company; it's certainly no way to run a country.

This is not an example of how "the government can't do anything right; let's get rid of it."

It's an example of how people with a profound contempt for the institutions they were chosen to lead load the dice to "not do anything right."

Posted by: CaseyL at September 9, 2005 02:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I, too, have first hand experience at the County EMA level (through several events since 1996), although in a different state than Florida. Buddy's 9/7/05 1:58 p.m. post is exactly correct w/r/t the relationship between local, state and federal emergency response. At this point, we simply do not have enough information to determine whether FEMA's response was good, bad or indifferent as compared to its mission. There will be plenty of time later to look at what was done and learn lessons for the future. It is both premature and unwise, IMHO, to talk about heads rolling until we have more information. Right now, we should be focused on dealing with the problems that confront us, rather than on whether FEMA could have responded faster; it is unclear to me how replacing Brown or anyone else now will materially alter the situation in the short-term.

That said, I offer a few observations for what they are worth:

1. Responsibility for evacuation of NO was entirely within the function and responsibility of state, and especially local, officials. FEMA is not responsible for any of the issues related to evacuation - it's response time is typically in the 72 hour range, and by that point it is usually too late. That's why this is a local/state function - because state and local government can deploy resources quickly enough to make a difference, whereas FEMA cannot. That's just reality.

2. I don't place too much blame on Nagin for his response after the flooding occurred. I suspect that he really wasn't in a position to do much of anything even had he wanted to do so. He was operating in a chaotic environment and was probably unable to mobilize whatever resources he had left, given the almost total immersion of NO. That a significant portion of his first responders appear to have left town and/or participated in the lawlessness is ultimately his administration's responsibility, however. Also, he did not act appropriately during the crisis. Hysterical press conferences are NOT helpful in emergency situations. What is needed is a showing of calm and strong leadership.

3. FEMA only has about 2500 employees, scattered across all 50 states, most of whom are not first responders. FEMA simply does not have the resources or the proximity to be a first responder. It is a coordinating agency that relies on mobilizing other resources, primarily military at the federal level.

4. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to pre-position resources for a disaster. For example, with a hurricane, you don't know exactly where it will hit, how large an area will be affected, the location of safe zones, etc. If you pre-position resources in the wrong place, which is more likely than not, you could very easily end up with an even bigger problem on your hands. For example, if you stage responders in a place that ends up being in the path of the storm, they may be unavailable to you because of their own inability to move.

5. There is a military dictum that is apt here: "amateurs study tactics, but professionals study logistics." You can be as expert as they come in maintaining order, putting out fires, etc., but if you cannot get there, you play no role at all. One of the major problems faced in responding to natural disasters is the scale of infrastructure damage that often occurs. That happened here. Without knowing the problems that had to be overcome, it is impossible to state with any degree of accuracy whether the response was good or bad.

6. Given the unprecedented scale of this disaster, it is to be expected that not everything would go perfectly. My County EMA always has one or more sessions after an event to study what happened, what went well, what went poorly, and how we can do better next time. That is the time, after the bulk of the recovery work is done, to look at what happened and assign blame for what went wrong. We aren't anywhere near there yet.

7. From what I have seen so far, there appears to be plenty of blame to go around at all levels of government. I suspect at the end of the day, however, that the most serious criticism will fall on Gov. Blanco. In particular, she seemed to have no idea what to do, and she spent far too much time thinking about what to do and not nearly enough time acting.

Posted by: Ben at September 9, 2005 03:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Having read all of the posts and being a bit reticent about entering the fray, I would like to make a few points.

1. It is too early to affix blame for a response that appears inadequate from several perspectives. This was a cataclysmic event of unprecedented magnitude in modern times. There is certainly a liklihood that it was beyond the planning capabilities of any of the agencies involved, whether state, local or Federal.

2. Of critical importance was the complete breakdown in communications and communication facilities. For days after the flooding it was apparently impossible for those responding to communicate with each other or with any central communication facility. I think this will turn out to be the most significant failure in the entire picture.

3. Governmental perfection at any level is an impossible dream. Those on the left seem to believe that all answers lie with the government. Those on the right believe that what government attempts usually leads to a mediocre result. I tend to the latter and always cite the DMV as a prime example. That having been said, law enforcement in NO and in LA has always been somewhat of a joke and the resulting mindset of the NO populace contributed mightily to the scope of the disaster in human terms.

4. The governmental hierarchy intended to address disasters begins at the local level, extends to the state, and ultimately reaches the Federal level. We have deeply established traditions and laws which prevent the Feds from pushing the local authorities aside whenever some bureaucrat decides that the locals are over their heads. Assessment of the extent of the damage to NO and realization that the locals had failed completely took some time. Remember that the Mayor delayed 17 hours in issuing the evacuation order from the time he was asked to do so by Bush.

5. Some have pointed out that the willy-nilly involvement of volunteers in what was clearly a dangerous and uncertain situation would have added to the chaos. It is basic disaster response doctrine to have an organized response and not to simply let everyone and anyone freelance. With the communication deficiencies and the absence of an effective command and control capability, how would it have been possible to manage the response of volunteers. As a simple example, if the air boat folks had found injured people, where were they supposed to take them?

6. The Superdome fiasco is almost inexplicable. This facility was to serve as a shelter apparently as part of the NO disaster plan. Didn't this plan anticipate that some of the people sheltering there would have to relieve themselves, or eat, or need water, or was the plan to cut of the inputs in hopes of controlling the outputs?

7. Those who have been saying that the highways into NO were intact after the flooding are factually incorrect. It is my understanding that all of the major arteries into the City were rendered useless and hence bringing in truckloads of anything was an impossibility. You can only do so much with helos especially when they cannot land. Boats can work if there are clear channels for movement and a facility where they can be unloaded. None were apparent for some time.

8. Unfortunately, and I mean unfortunately, this disaster has become just another whipping boy for the extreme political contentiousness that has prevailed for the past several years. The Bush haters have some red meat to chew on and the far right doesn't want to address the now apparent necessity for far more detailed and effective planning for disasters of this kind, or perish the thought, from a terrorist attack. We have certainly become complacent, but in the end, the incredible magnitude of this disaster, the huge geographic area that was affected, and the possibly obsolete structure of Federal-state-local relations all contributed to a task that just might have been beyond the capabilities of even the best planned response.

I appreciate the commentary very much. I have read many of the citations. However, I have a tendency not to put much stock in the instant commentators and the so-called experts. So much that has been cited above is second hand, is hearsay, or is conjecture. I also appreciate the interest of our German friend and his genuine efforts to understand our federal system. It is complex and it is very, very different from federal systems in Europe where the central governments ultimately can exert control over everything. I would also note that we have a very diverse and heterogeneous population, unlike most of the European countries.

Anyway, that is my two cents.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at September 9, 2005 03:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Having read all of the posts and being a bit reticent about entering the fray, I would like to make a few points.

1. It is too early to affix blame for a response that appears inadequate from several perspectives. This was a cataclysmic event of unprecedented magnitude in modern times. There is certainly a liklihood that it was beyond the planning capabilities of any of the agencies involved, whether state, local or Federal.

2. Of critical importance was the complete breakdown in communications and communication facilities. For days after the flooding it was apparently impossible for those responding to communicate with each other or with any central communication facility. I think this will turn out to be the most significant failure in the entire picture.

3. Governmental perfection at any level is an impossible dream. Those on the left seem to believe that all answers lie with the government. Those on the right believe that what government attempts usually leads to a mediocre result. I tend to the latter and always cite the DMV as a prime example. That having been said, law enforcement in NO and in LA has always been somewhat of a joke and the resulting mindset of the NO populace contributed mightily to the scope of the disaster in human terms.

4. The governmental hierarchy intended to address disasters begins at the local level, extends to the state, and ultimately reaches the Federal level. We have deeply established traditions and laws which prevent the Feds from pushing the local authorities aside whenever some bureaucrat decides that the locals are over their heads. Assessment of the extent of the damage to NO and realization that the locals had failed completely took some time. Remember that the Mayor delayed 17 hours in issuing the evacuation order from the time he was asked to do so by Bush.

5. Some have pointed out that the willy-nilly involvement of volunteers in what was clearly a dangerous and uncertain situation would have added to the chaos. It is basic disaster response doctrine to have an organized response and not to simply let everyone and anyone freelance. With the communication deficiencies and the absence of an effective command and control capability, how would it have been possible to manage the response of volunteers. As a simple example, if the air boat folks had found injured people, where were they supposed to take them?

6. The Superdome fiasco is almost inexplicable. This facility was to serve as a shelter apparently as part of the NO disaster plan. Didn't this plan anticipate that some of the people sheltering there would have to relieve themselves, or eat, or need water, or was the plan to cut of the inputs in hopes of controlling the outputs?

7. Those who have been saying that the highways into NO were intact after the flooding are factually incorrect. It is my understanding that all of the major arteries into the City were rendered useless and hence bringing in truckloads of anything was an impossibility. You can only do so much with helos especially when they cannot land. Boats can work if there are clear channels for movement and a facility where they can be unloaded. None were apparent for some time.

8. Unfortunately, and I mean unfortunately, this disaster has become just another whipping boy for the extreme political contentiousness that has prevailed for the past several years. The Bush haters have some red meat to chew on and the far right doesn't want to address the now apparent necessity for far more detailed and effective planning for disasters of this kind, or perish the thought, from a terrorist attack. We have certainly become complacent, but in the end, the incredible magnitude of this disaster, the huge geographic area that was affected, and the possibly obsolete structure of Federal-state-local relations all contributed to a task that just might have been beyond the capabilities of even the best planned response.

I appreciate the commentary very much. I have read many of the citations. However, I have a tendency not to put much stock in the instant commentators and the so-called experts. So much that has been cited above is second hand, is hearsay, or is conjecture. I also appreciate the interest of our German friend and his genuine efforts to understand our federal system. It is complex and it is very, very different from federal systems in Europe where the central governments ultimately can exert control over everything. I would also note that we have a very diverse and heterogeneous population, unlike most of the European countries.

Anyway, that is my two cents.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at September 9, 2005 03:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry for the repetition. I got a server error message and then reposted.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at September 9, 2005 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, to say that Katrina was actually two disasters, with the implication that the flooding was a surprise no one could have expected, ignores elementary-level hurricane meteorology as well as decades of information about New Orleans. What kind of disaster preparedness and response professional wouldn't know that? The ones employed by the Bush Administration, apparently.

first off, I'm the last person to accuse of being a Bush defender.

That being said, I still hold that we need to regard this as 'two disasters' in terms of the post-Katrina response to these disasters---and it is the response that is at the heart of the controversy. One need only look at the difference between Gulfport and New Orleans to understand the difference---- in Gulfport, a disaster occurred, lives were lost and property was damanaged and there was a response to it. In New Orleans, a disaster occurred, lives were lost and there was property damage, and there was a response to it-----and meanwhile, another disaster (the flooding of 80% of the city was occuring with virtually no response.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 9, 2005 01:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've modified my stance slightly since 9/7, but I still don't place most of the blame on FEMA itself. It seems like to me Chertoff/Congress/DHS re-allocated FEMA's disaster prepardness grants, and as such, might have contributed to some of the issues.

I still place much of the blame on Blanco, also. She simply did not respond in a manner that reflected anyone around here had a single clue about dealing with emergency management.

However, I don't weigh as much on the Mayor, as he seems like he was abandoned somewhat to fend for himself (and by consequence, his town was too)

More here so I don't slog another 2000 words in BD's comments:
http://buddyellis.com/?p=10

-b

Posted by: Buddy at September 9, 2005 09:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka wrote

"As a result, it appears that thousands upon thousands of additional american citizens have died. And the blame for these deaths lies squarely in the hands of George W. Bush and the political hacks he appointed to deal with precisely this kind of emergency situation. "


Do you ever understand that you are just a parody of real discussion at all?

Its always "Blame Bush" in your world isn't it

Must be a simple life to have a single bogeyman to lay all of lifes calamities upon

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at September 9, 2005 09:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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