New Orleans Outrage

I’ve made it a practice to avoid political commentary in this blog, but this goes beyond politics, and I can’t hold my voice.

Regardless of where you reside in the political spectrum, I have to believe you’re as angered as I am with the way our government – both local and federal – handled the foreseeable disaster that hit New Orleans. The disconnect between what took place and what our officials said took place is infuriating, and it demands a response not just from the citizens of New Orleans, but from every last one of us as well.

At a time when we’re warned that terrorist attacks are a certainty, how can we be so ill-prepared to help those affected by this disaster? How can any of us believe our own local governments are capable of providing protection?

I’m disgusted with those we’ve elected to run our government, and with those who apologize for them. I’m disgusted with the photo ops and needless delays while our fellow citizens are living in third-world conditions.

For now, most of us are focusing on what we can do to help. I imagine many Americans have had discussions like the one my wife and I had this morning, where we tried to figure out not only how much we can afford to give, but also where and when to give. But down the road, after we’ve all opened our hearts and wallets wider than we believed possible, outrage will take over.

Our country will be rocked by this tragedy for years to come. And it should be.

26 thoughts on “New Orleans Outrage

  1. I agree with what you have said as well as the anger you express.
    However, when we compare the situation to that of a third world nation, we also need to remember that the people in those nations have lived that way for years and years without any respite. And we continue to ignore their plight.
    The only redeeming feature about the current situation is that eventually people will be fed, hydrated, cleaned, and settled someplace; but it won’t happen before many more of them die. But at least they know that some time down the line, there will be relief, but they will have lost homes, treasured belongings, pets, and family–and possibly faith in the future. They will certainly feel betrayed by those who knew that New Orleans’ demise was “just one hurricane away.”
    The people in third world countries have no such hope or expectation of any kind of relief. They just trudge on.

  2. Beware linguistic dangers here… the label “government” covers multiple levels of operations, and there would be greater outcry if the largest, most centralized units under that label had prematurely taken control from local labelees….

  3. Outcry from who, John? Not from those actually affected by this disaster. And should it have taken so long for our federal government to realize that the local government wasn’t up to the task?

  4. what goes around comes around.
    You people voted the baffoon dubbya in for a second term. Perhaps you’ve finaly realised what the entire rest of the world knew 5 years ago.

  5. Pete, I’m no fan of GW, but I really don’t want this to devolve into yet another “it’s Bush’s fault” tirade. This was a non-partisan failure of our government at all levels. When I’m ready to really lay blame, I imagine I’ll lay a big chunk of it at the feet of our federal government. But I’m not willing to let the local governments off the hook for failing to adequately prepare for and respond to this disaster.

  6. No one is happy about the situation, but I think all governments even the Feds were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event.
    Also with the media’s irresponsible focus on the looting and lawlessness, I think some people, myself included, initially lost some sympathy/empathy for the residents of NOLA. I can understand taking food and water to survive, but not Xboxes and color TV’s.
    I think the lesson to be learned in this mess is that next time someone says get the hell out, you leave. If you’re going to lay the blame for the aftermath on the Government, then you’ve got to allow the Government to force people from their homes. You can’t have voluntary evacuations and then hold the Government responsible for getting back in to those who, for whatever reason, stayed behind.

  7. Scott, I do agree that the focus on looting was irresponsible, but so is your response. How exactly do the poorest among us “get the hell out” when many of them have to worry whether their car is reliable enough to get them to work on a daily basis? Where would you go if you couldn’t afford the gas to drive even 100 miles? And what would you do if you were elderly and too frail to drive, but there was no one to help you get away from the coming storm?
    Our government failed us – tragically – in this situation, and we need to deal with that instead of pretending that the victims are to blame for their misfortune.

  8. Indeed an outrage and yet I still find it hard to condone looting. As Scott mention, food and water – yes – Xboxes and TV’s – that is just theft!

  9. 10.5 (earthquake) was recently shown on Australian television – funny how the response on a TV show was considerably better (talking 50+ million evacuees) than real life NO!

  10. Nick:
    I think you need to take a step back, turn the TV off for the weekend. You’re seeing things that I didn’t write.
    First, I didn’t blame anyone. The residents of NOLA had 4 days to get out. I’m sure there were places they could have gone. Not all those at the Superdome/Convention center are “elderly and too frail to drive.”
    Second, the government didn’t “fail us,” we’re not there, you or I.

  11. How can you turn this into a political debate when there are people still dying? There will be a time for looking back and seeing what we did wrong. Why did you not complain about this before the hurricane? There are areas we can improve for the disaster sure. Bet everyone is trying their best to help.

  12. Hurricane Katrina Madness

    Although this sentence is the first I will write in the post, I know already it’s gonna be far from the last. I have tried for a week to stay away from doing what I’m about to do, but now…

  13. And you Americans have to have your guns don’t you? It is pretty hard to shoot someone if you haven’t got a firearm. You would be surprised what an “offensive weapon” in Australia could be – and if found with one arrested (scissors for example).
    One very scary time I was handcuffed at gunpoint and left to lay on the roadside in -4 celcius (by the ACT/NSW police) because the dickhead driver I was with supposedly pulled a knife on someone earlier. They proceeded to pull my car apart looking for it (never found it). I guess I was lucky – in the US I would probably be shot first – asked later about a knife. They never found the weapon if it even existed – car was still wrecked however.

  14. I have to wonder as well: Was there an offer to house those who can´t afford a hotel & have no other place to go? It´s certainly not presented that way in the media. I´m shocked that almost all the people you see on those NOLA pictures are colored people. There is a truth to the fact that this probably wouldn´t have happened to this extent if it weren´t that way.
    On the other hand I´m as much shocked about looters, policemen quiting their jobs (that´s a good attitude, boys), people being murdered… But that doesn´t justify that what I guess is the suffering majority were left to rot. You can´t claim that “they choose ot that way” – that´s just a poor excuse to this foreseeable disaster. Their is something like “human dignity”!

  15. It took me quite a while to make up my mind weather to comment or not. But I decided to do so because also I’m several thousand miles away (Europe, Germany) I’m deeply moved with what’s happening in New Orleans and around.
    First I would like to express my deepest sympathy for all those suffering – we
    pray for you.
    Concerning the desaster in the aftermath of the hurricane I’d like to offer some thougths from the outside:
    Here it seems that sometime it’s more newsworthy (and strange) that the all powerfull and rich US aren’t capable of cleaning up the ‘mess’ just within the hours.
    But there are desaster relive experts that clain, that because of the sheer magnitude of what happend, it is no wonder that even very well trained and (even if) well organized helpers can’t just do much more. (But poor infrastructure in many places is’n helping)
    An other thing I find odd (or maybe not) is: within a day after the tsunami a multidute of posibilities were offered to donate for those victims, but even a week later there is hardly any chance to do something to hetp the Katarina victims from Europe. It is even reported, that the US-governement refused to accept international help. I’m not sure if it’s just to much pride or if they really don’t need more resources because the only problem they have is spreading them.
    There are a lot off issues that are (or can be) brought up by this catastrophe and some of them evern serve the common (european) resentiment agains the USA well – like weapons, poor housing for the poor and even the whole climate thing – but for now the one priority should really be to care for those who need help – but from far away it’s just natural to ask one self questions…

  16. I don’t think any of us are capable of saying what is a reasonable response time for a disaster of this magnitude. Once the levees broke, the situation became far worse than anyone first thought and it created a logistical nightmare. When you have to use helicopters to rescue people 1 or 2 at a time, that takes quite a while.
    If you want to place blame, there is plenty to go around including all levels of government, people who ignored the warnings for years that the levees would break, people who stayed and were unprepared to be self-sufficient for a few days and a small percentage of people who became lawless and violent and made things harder on everyone.
    A faster response would have required placing people and resources “at the ready” close to the city. When have you known any government agency to “be prepared”? Everyone in this country at every level is only reactive, we ignore warnings and “hope for the best”. If everyone had been proactive, including the residents who stayed, things wouldn’t have deteriorated as quickly as they did.

  17. About our situation vs. 3rd world disasters: regardless of history, the reality of devastation is the same. Thousands and thousands of people need water, food, and information on how to get it.
    If we can airlift and drop food and information pamphlets to desert-bound, tsunami-rocked, and war-torn victims all over the planet, we can cetainly plan for that eventuality here and do the same.
    So if the relief workers aren’t safe, drop the food and water in a relatively stable place, and then drop pamphlets in the surrounding area and let folks figure out how to get there until help can arrive.
    Basic contingency planning was non-existent, the official govt response (all ALL levels) to the reality has been despicable, and there are plenty of capable folks being turned away who’d do a far better job if the bureaucrats scribbling press releases and wringing their hands.
    How difficult would it have been to foresee that a category five’s payload of rain water would be too much for the levees to bear? Probably would have required a crystal ball if it were not for the fact that officials KNEW that budgeting for levee repair and maintenance had been cut in recent years by at least 40%. So it would stand to reason that systems weakened in such a way would hardly be able to withstand the flow likely to be caused by ONE OF THE BIGGEST STORMS TO EVER HIT THE GULF COAST. Go figure. Apologies for the rant, but it seems like our “officials” have tried to master the art of spin, media relations, and personal damage control, instead of being effective leaders who govern, plan, and respond to our most fundamental needs in times of crisis.


    ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE (NOT?)… (Updates Below) Fourth day after Hurricane Katrina passed through and it’s hard not be affected by the personal stories of human suffering coming through the TV news. It got so bad yesterday, that I turned off the TV…

  19. I hear you Nick,
    Unfortunately I can’t see blaming the government. The people in New Orleans did very little to help themselves even when they knew it was coming. And then the rampant lawlessness, people shooting at rescue workers, raping, looting, and pillaging. Many of these people obviously like the dark ages better than current society.
    This country has as a syndrome of entitlement, like we’re all owed something. You didn’t see any of that in Indonesia or the other Tsunami-ravaged countries, because they live their lives every day providing for themselves, instead of being provided for, by welfare, food stamps, government programs designed to help that only create dependence.
    For the record, I didn’t vote for anyone last time around, and I am neither Republican nor Democrat

  20. @Jeff:
    > This country has as a syndrome of entitlement, like we’re all owed something.
    The US are so far from a wellfare system, that such a claim is bold at best.
    Moreover I wonder were you take your information regarding the tendence to violence of those that were trapped in the NOLA. IF those hundereds of thousands were all savages (as you imply), then they would have killed each other within days. But that´s not the case: There were looters, there were murders, but at what magnitude? I cannot find enough evidence on a general lawlessness. What we saw in the news and read in the papers were reports of suffering and stranded people – people without food and water, medicine, rotting in the streets. What moralw could justify leaving children and old and sick to die because of singular acts of violence?
    All aside, it´s amazing to see how help is gathering now – volunteers & all. That surely is a brighter side.

  21. I wonder why these things don’t happen in the Netherlands, where huge amounts of land are under sea level. Maybe it’s because they spend money fixing their levees… I wonder where the money for the US Army engineers maintaining the NO levees ended up last year… maybe in deploying those engineers, say, abroad? Say, in Iraq?
    /troll (?)

  22. It is understandable to see some expression of dismay/anger at how things have gone but I believe time will show things, at least at the Federal level, went about as quick as they could. Remember this disaster affected an area of 90,000 square miles (larger than Great Britain). My opinion is that the larger failure by far was at the local and state level. There are many lessons to be learn by all concerned.

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