September 01, 2005

My Own Hurricane Essay

As you can surely tell from what has appeared on this blog all week, I’ve been overdosing on disaster coverage and I can’t quite seem to stop. I gathered my own thoughts and put them into an essay over at Donklephant. In hindsight it may seem excessively morbid, but it’s how I feel right now so…this is what I have.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 1, 2005 10:46 AM

Good essay. I especially liked the reflection on survivor's guilt.

Next year in New Orleans.

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 1, 2005 11:12 AM

We mourn the loss of life, certainly, but we mourn with the survivors for the loss of their way of life. Their jobs, their schools, their parks, their music, their zoos, their baseball games.

It's up to us all to help each and every one of the survivors, but feeling guilt for not having lost is foolish - it means that life is valuable to us. The fellowship in which we partake, the games we play and the culture we enjoy is to be enjoyed and learned from. If we devalue it, then we devalue what they've lost.

Open up hearts, homes, schools, wallets to help them get back what they lost. And keep playing, because if don't remember what's important...what's the point of rebuilding?

Posted by: Barry at September 1, 2005 11:13 AM

It's good to be reflective now, Michael. And to hope or pray that those responsible for saving lives and restoring order respond effectively, and also decently.

At some point, though, and perhaps very soon, political questions will be raised, as they should be. Was the richest nation on earth adequately prepared for such a calamity? Or was more similar to the usual disaster responses in an impoverished third world country? Did public officials -- led by President Bush and the men he chose to lead DHS and FEMA -- make the right decisions? And the aftermath -- will the economic costs or the environmental damage occuring as a result of the hurricane be shown to have been exacerbated by foolish policies, energy and environmental waste regulation policies, for instance?

To me, New Orleans is one more illustration of the need even under the most advanced capitalist economy, for strong, adequately funded, effective and accountable government. Unfortunately, this perspective is denied by too many Republicans, members of whose party are now IN CHARGE of that government. I wonder if there is some connection between their mistrust and disparagment of government, and the apparent difficulties these same people have in competently running vital project public sector projects, if not certainly in New Orleans, then most definately over the past two and a half years in Iraq.

At some point, the only message Democrats will need is "Look, Republicans might talk a good game, but they just can't govern. Give us a chance."

Posted by: markus at September 1, 2005 12:40 PM


Bush got stuck with two big calamities on his watch, none of them his fault. Had a Democrat been president for Katrina, the hurricane wouldn't have been any smaller, the levies wouldn't have been any higher (they've had decades to reinforce them), and flood waters wouldn't be receding any faster. New Orleans and FEMA have been planning for this a long time, and who happens to be president doesn't make an iota of difference. Bush's role right now is primarily symbolic, and you can fault him for being a poor communicator, but not much more at this point. You can't evacuate a city overnight, especially when it's flooded.

Posted by: Carlos at September 1, 2005 01:35 PM

Carlos -- I don't have enough information to accuse anybody of anything right now. Just raising some initial suspicions that came to mind. After writing what I did above, I checked out Marc Cooper, Talkingpointsmemo, and Washington Monthly, and found they're deep into looking at the same questions, discussing details about earlier federal funding requests, Joe Albaugh's tenure at FEMA, so on and so forth. Check it out if you're interested.

You can't say though that Bush's role is primarily symbolic -- he and his appointees have important decisions to make in the coming days and weeks about the scope of the federal response.

Posted by: Markus at September 1, 2005 02:04 PM

This is way too early to start pointing fingers, although that is usually the only response that ever really occurs. So why not join in?

Why is the problem not almost exclusively laid at the door of the city authorities in New Orleans who clearly have simply performed absmally? And when they have absorbed as much of the blame as justified, we can move to the next level,the Louisiana State authorities who have also proven themselves to be semi-competent at best. After that Bush can take a hit as well, but he should wait his turn instead of jumping to the head of the queue.

Markus predictably says --'At some point, the only message Democrats will need is "Look, Republicans might talk a good game, but they just can't govern. Give us a chance."'

Are not both the Municipal and State regimes Democratic? They could have just as easily been Republican as could the National Government been Democratic. It still would have been a DISASTER.

What would really have made a monumental difference is if someone had spoken the nasty truth BEFORE disaster struck, and informed everyone that NO had a CRIME PROBLEM. The truth is that martial law should have been declared from day 1 and that a 'shoot-to-kill' order should have been in effect. It is NOT the difficulty of dealing with a major WATER related catastrophe which is shameful. It is the failure to control the criminal underclass which is blameworthy.

As others have said, the 'dark' side of NO is no secret. Everyone knows. It's just not PC to say anything. Those poor souls suffering in that hell-hole today are overwhelmingly black. Their suffering has been vastly exacerberated by the failure to deal with the predators running amok in the city. Because the system is deathly afraid to take action against the criminals, all the decent people are forced to pay the price. What kind of system is that?

Posted by: dougf at September 1, 2005 02:43 PM


doug said it better than I could. And I might add that it's only two days since N.O. woke up to the destruction of Katrina-- the bodies haven't even been recovered yet-- and you folks are already dancing on their corpses in order to score some points for the 2008 election. It's ghoulish. I do expect that from most Bushitler haters, but coming from you, frankly I'm dissapointed. Wasn't it you who said that Bush was a "devisive" president? I can't think of anything more devisive than using natural disasters to attack your political opponents. Some Libs are even saying no donations to Red states. It's going to backfire on you if you're not real careful.

Posted by: Carlos at September 1, 2005 03:06 PM

Yes this is horrifying, but we've got an even worse storm coming.

Katrina is not the worst disaster in our history, the 1918 Spanish Flu was. And Avian Flu may be worse, far worse. It is also something very predictable and likely to emerge in the next few months to a year.

We're witnessing in Katrina the break down of civil society, public heath, and authority. We're shocked and surpised things can fall so low so quickly. Please let this be a warning shot about the flu, it IS coming and we had better prepare our hospitals, essential services, and public for a severe test.

An essential link that documents this building threat:

Posted by: Narmer at September 1, 2005 03:10 PM

Marcus: At some point, though, and perhaps very soon, political questions will be raised, as they should be.

Your first thought is how to claim political advantage. Crawl back to the pathetic little hole you live in and stay out of the way, we got work to do.

self centered


Posted by: Craig at September 1, 2005 03:23 PM

From NRO online...


Mr. Lowry
I teach history at a small liberal arts denominational college in central Louisiana, and spend too much time on NRO every day. Among the classes I teach is one on Louisiana Politics and Government, and thought you mind the following interesting and useful.

Regarding the levee system in New Orleans, one cannot truly understand how lucky the city was just have the system that was in place without understanding the truly Byzantine structure of New Orleans politics, which requires separate governing boards for each levee that is built.

Rather one agency that is in charge of flood prevention, there are scores. Building in redundancies would have required more boards, which would have lessened the political power of those on the existing boards. I seriously doubt that even now, after this catastrophe, that we in Louisiana will see this system change because the structure is mandated by the Louisiana Constitution. Any change requires not just statewide approval, but must also be approved by a majority of voter in Orleans Parish. Given how many local politicians whose fiefdoms would disappear, that will not happen, and so we will see this disaster occur again.

Posted by: odrady at September 1, 2005 03:36 PM

The state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans are responsible for their own emergency response. They certainly were aware of what the federal government had available, and obviously were complacent with that. This was bound to happen to New Orleans at some point, their leadership knew that, and you cannot logically blame that on Pres Bush. And yes, I would have said the same thing about Pres Clinton had this happened 6 years ago.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at September 1, 2005 04:23 PM

Actually Odrady, a lot of feifdoms have just disappeared.

Marcus, the best Democrats always understood that all politics are local. So start local on this one, why don't'cha?

Did public officials -- led by President Bush and the men he chose to lead DHS and FEMA -- make the right decisions? And the aftermath -- will the economic costs or the environmental damage occuring as a result of the hurricane be shown to have been exacerbated by foolish policies, energy and environmental waste regulation policies, for instance?

Ah, because you've got an axe to grind.

Actually, I'll grant that FEMA is more-or-less an exercise in walking the pork. But what I won't give you is that as an excuse for local politicians to ignore the goddamned disasters waiting at their doorsteps.

Marcus, what pains me is that the advocates of Politics by and for the People are so goddamned willing to wash their hands of any problem simply by saying the folks at top aren't progressive enough. The folks at top are NEVER on top of the local situation. (Think using a telescope to try to examine a bacterial culture. Just. Doesn't. Work.)

Yes, I'm staining the analogy. Yes, this is a national catastrophe. Yes, EVERYONE knew this was in the cards, sometime. Yes, 10,000 concrete road barriers like the ones you see on any interstate any summer would be real handy right now, if they could be dumped in front of a broken levee.

Think NOLA could have afforded to buy and store those barriers within Chinook range? You bet. Think they might have gamed this out, and seen that having those handy might be good right after the Big One? You bet.

Here's a suggestion: Wherever you live, think about the easily foreseeable catastrophes unique to your locale, think about practical remedies to those catastrophes, and start agitating, locally, to do something proactive for a change.

You will never, ever, ever have a better chance to get your point across.

Unless the only thing you can focus on is the great sport of Republican versus Democrat. In which case, if you find yourself ass-deep in aligators, I really hope you remember this comment.

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 1, 2005 07:01 PM

Want a real national catastrophe that should be addressed now? Read this and digest:


As far as I know, this is way back-burner for both the parties. Bummer.

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 1, 2005 07:13 PM

Well, Markus,

Are you adequately prepared? Do you have food and water stashed away? Do you have firearms to keep off the looters? Have you met with your neighbors to decide how to deal with disaster? If not, you have been criminally complacent.

As to Bush, did he not conference with the governers of LA,MS,AL, and FL on Saturday? Who initiated that, the governers? Why was the mayor of NO out eating dinner Saturday night when the governer called and convinced him to evacuate the city? Didn't Bush take the unprecedented step of declaring the affected states disaster areas before the hurricane? Who is in charge of the LA National Guard? How long would it take you to pack up a week's supply of food and water for yourself and go to NO and do nothing much useful? How much longer if you had to gather folks, pack up a convoy with enough supplies so that you could be self sufficient for a month or more and then arrange for resupply?

What the H*ll is wrong with you, anyway? Does being left mean all talk, all bitch, all hot air, all the time, but by G*d never do anything? I think it does.

Posted by: chuck at September 1, 2005 09:05 PM

In the spirit that taking power back is the best response to despair, I'll point at my blog:

I admit that my entries are longer than customary for blogs and the ideas I'm developing are still crude but, there ya go.


Posted by: Tom Lord at September 1, 2005 10:37 PM

This was unfortunately the result of complacency. I can recall wrangling in 1995 about Clinton cutting funding to Levee maintenance projects.

NO missed many times being hit spot on, Georges and other hurricanes took a last minute detour and NO just assumed it would be the same again.

Even as it happened, Blanco and Nagin did not understand the seriousness and did not take measures to stop criminal violence from spiraling out of control. Stores should have been forced open by Emergency Order to give people food, water, and clothing. By police handout rather than just looting that encourages lawlessness.

Criminals should have been shot, publicly when they tried to hijack ambulances or storm hospitals for drugs. The hammer needed to come down quick and hard to prevent the total Mad Max Thunderdome stuff that's happening now. Anyone who knew the Projects knew that the thugs would take over if not knocked down repeatedly which is what they are doing. Women are being raped at gunpoint at the Superdome and Convention Center and the police won't respond because they are now outgunned and afraid.

The decent poor working class get it in the neck. From the criminals who prey on them and the weepy liberals who make excuses for the criminals.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at September 2, 2005 02:35 AM

It does not matter what Bush does or does not do, they can always find SOMETHING to foam at the mouth about specially if they ignore their own past actions.

Bobby Kennedy Jr wrote a little tome on Huffington all but blaming Bush for global warming and Katrina
as did some German Environmental Minister.

Course neither of them had a word to say about the Vote in the US Sentate before Al Gore went to Tokyo.

Nothing about the fact that the Clinton Administrarion never bothered to send the Treaty to the Seante for ratification because they had ALREADY voted 95 to 0 NOT to.

Some familiar names voted to reject that Treaty.
Names like

Kennedy, Kerry, Durbin, Boxer. Carol Mosley=Brown. Daschle. YOU get the picture.

Wonder if Bobby Boy had a talk with his Uncle Teddy after he wrote that article?

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at September 2, 2005 04:19 AM

Unable to declare a "war on hurricanes" and suck the tax-payer dry with plump anti-terror type contracts for his friends, the boy emperor decides to do the next best thing.
Declare war on the poor, disposessed and desparate.

Its not like we had to move 150,000 troops and god knows how many tanks and humvees across a hostile foreign country half way around the world in 48 hours.
Oh yeah and deliver a little shock and awe on the side.
Amazing what can be achieved when theres an oportunity to gouge public funds.

Posted by: kevser at September 2, 2005 05:35 AM

Declare war on the poor, disposessed and desparate.


There's nothing factual in your post to address, but let me just say that five years of that kind of bushitler hatred has done zip for you guys. Worse than zip, it's turned moderates, and even many of your own constituents against you. This tragedy may actually boost Bush's numbers with your help. Keep it up!

Posted by: Carlos at September 2, 2005 06:48 AM

Unable to declare a "war on hurricanes" and suck the tax-payer dry with plump anti-terror type contracts for his friends, the boy emperor decides to do the next best thing.
Declare war on the poor, disposessed and desparate.

Once more with feeling---- FOAD you revolting toad . You are a prime example of true moral decay and intellectual vacuousness. Let me ask for my own private amusement. You don't need to answer.

What level of education do you possess? Is it like a certificate from ding-dong school, or is is more like a PHD ? Inquiring minds really do want to know.

ps--- To Carlos--- Sorry for politicising the thread. This guy really annoys me at some fundamental level. At this desperate time this drivel is all he can generate. It is disgusting.

Posted by: dougf at September 2, 2005 07:34 AM


dude, don't apologize to me. It was very tongue in cheek.

Posted by: Carlos at September 2, 2005 07:39 AM

"Dude, don't apologize to me. It was very tongue in cheek."--Carlos

Yeah I know. But I dislike it when I get drawn into this morass. I somehow start to feel 'unclean'. Between you and me I just don't see how social insanity such as this can have a good ending. Something has to give sooner or later. When a segment of the population can only look at a natural disaster as a reason to a abuse the sitting President, and views death and destruction thru a purely partisan lens, what good thing can result?

This is ridiculous.

Posted by: dougf at September 2, 2005 08:27 AM

It's not about divisivness, it's about accountability, for the President, and for the party that RUNS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Others, too: the mayor, the families that had a car and but still chose not to leave the city, down to the rapists, looters, snipers and other human vermin running around the city. (Not the third of the Louisiana National Guard in Iraq, though)

People need to be more self-reliant. At the same time, life in a metropolis is interdependent, and dependent on public goods being in working order: food, water, sewage, transportation, energy, communications, protection from human predators. Some of these essential public services are provided by private enterprise, others by governments. In either case, they need to public regulation and oversight, and public investment (taxes) in their construction and maintanence -- needs that Republicans, to be charitable, tend not to pay attention to.

Anyway, here's Newt Gingrich: "I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

Finally, you're damn right I want to use this tragedy for political gain. Hopefully starting next week, during the vote to permanently repeal the estate tax for billionaires. May it be just as influenced by the events of the past few days as the September 14, 2001 vote authorizing Bush to take out the Taliban was influenced by the events of three days earlier.

Posted by: Carlos at September 2, 2005 11:11 AM

ohmigod, I APOLOGIZE. Markus, not Carlos, wrote the above. I meant to address it to him (and others) not falsely claim HE WROTE IT!

Sorry for the carelessness.

Posted by: Markus at September 2, 2005 11:13 AM

Finally, you're damn right I want to use this tragedy for political gain.--Carlos

Good lord man. Whatever has happened to you? You sound exactly like that Markus guy who has never met an opportunistic, inappropriate, biased cheap-shot he would find beneath him. Wow.

Posted by: dougf at September 2, 2005 11:40 AM

Markus - instead of putting all your energy into finding people to blame, why don't you do something constructive and helpful? Right now I'm going through my house collecting things to donate to the refugees here in Houston. Same for the rest of you who are more interested in the politics of the situation instead of the situation itself - there will be time for blame and incriminations later, (if you must), now is the time to help the refugees.

Posted by: markytom at September 2, 2005 12:58 PM

LMAO!!! Markus had Carlos on the brain!

dude, you and your lefty buddies should show some common decency. The corpses are still warm and you're drooling all over them for chrissake. It's disgusting.

Posted by: Carlos at September 2, 2005 02:09 PM

markytom -- What you're doing is good, and if I lived in Houston I'd be trying to do some volunteer stuff. Instead, I'll check to see what relief agencies are saying next week about their needs. Typically they get as much or more than they need in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophe. Seemed to me it might be better to give a few months from now, when interest and amounts will doubtlessly have dropped.

dougf -- the responsible officials, led by their boss the Commander-in-Chief, seem to be getting their act together a bit today. Lives are being saved. Could this focus in any way relate to those "opportunistic, inappropriate, biased cheap-shot[s]" we started hearing yesterday, and the political fear that they instill, particularly when journalists and bloggers in some cases start to corroborate their veracity?

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partisan sniping saves lives people. can the good people of NO ever repay?

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