Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Thankfully, four days after the event, our federal government is finally getting troops and supplies into New Orleans and evacuating survivors.
Almost no one believes any level of government handled this well. Katrina has provided a clear demonstration that can't be ignored, of the failure of our federal administration to handle domestic emergencies, and of the fact that our administration's priorities are seriously out of whack.
It is true that the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation. However, many poor families, mostly minorities and the elderly, had nowhere to go and no way to get anywhere.
It is true that the immediate responsibility fell on state and local authorities. However, within the first 24 hours it was clear they were failing, and they were asking the federal government for help. While our national government took its time, crime increased and people died.
It is true that the much of the destruction was caused by a break in the levee and not the hurricane directly. However, all sides _knew_ the levees around NO couldn't handle a hurricane greater than category 3. Despite this, the federal government slashed funding in recent years for reinforcing these levees to handle a category 5 hurricane. Before 9/11 FEMA listed a hurricane of Katrina's strength hitting New Orleans has one of the top three dangers to the US. Yet our federal government not only did not prepare beforehand, but after seeing the breakdown of local government in LA after the hurricane sat on its hands for days.
What is not true is that nobody really knew what would happen. The path of the hurricane was originally charted direct for NO. The hurricane that was expected to hit NO was of a strength known to damage the levees. None of the destruction that has happened in the last week should have taken anyone by suprise.
I brought up the topic at a fellowship at church tonight. Apologies for the Bush administration ensued. First out of the chute was that federal government intervention should be a last resort. I addressed this by saying, that early on, within the first day or so, it was evident the local and state governments had failed. Next up was the brazen reply that, well, these people chose to live in a city under sea level so they have to deal with the danger. If you can't see the problem with this statement, especially coming from a Christian, then you are in a hopeless condition.
From another table I heard complaints about the way someone brought up the racial issue in all of this, on a national fundraiser. Well, yeah, there is a racial component to this.
Finally, I pointed out how this shows our government couldn't properly respond to a WMD attack- which comment was passed by.
Not even the likes of a right-wing personage such as Bill O'Reilly went to the level my fellow church members went to in defense of the undefensible. I am sure not everybody there feels that way, but what I heard angered me. It was an uninformed, callous, and futile defense of a truly pathetic response by our federal government. I guess they think Bush can be excused for letting the people of NO decline into destitution, death, and pure misery so long as he comes out against the "perverts" and the "baby killers."

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