Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina and New Orleans: who's fault is it?

Someone forwarded me an article from the Wall Street Journal by Bob Williams entitled 'Blame Amid the Tragedy', which basically says that the local and state officials were primarily responsible for responding to the emergency situation in New Orleans and thus the burden of blame should fall most squarely on Governmor Blanco and Mayor Nagin.

I am not going to pretend to be fully knowledgeable about the situation and say that there were not failures at the city and state level. And to be honest, I do expect that a full investigation will find that state and local officials did not perform adequately and must share the burden of responsibility for Katrina; my initial impression thus far is that the state and local officials did not do enough to evacuate the city before the hurricane struck while the federal officials were to slow to respond after Katrina hit. Fair criticism should be applied to all who deserve it.

But it is difficult, for me at least, to tell what is true and what is false, who's to blame and who's not, because a media misinformation campaign to shift blame away from the federal government has begun (in addition to the rumor mill and allegations of press censorship.) And as usual, it appears to be the work of Karl Rove.
In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.
Take for instance, the assertion that Governor Blanco did not request federal help. That's a falsehood yet its already taken off in the media circuits.

And here's another one: its the primary responsibility of state and local officials to respond. Again, not exactly true.
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS
Or, see here.
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. A catastrophic event could result in sustained national impacts over a prolonged period of time; almost immediately exceeds resources normally available to State, local, tribal, and private-sector authorities in the impacted area; and significantly interrupts governmental operations and emergency services to such an extent that national security could be threatened. All catastrophic events are Incidents of National Significance.
But nevermind that for a moment. One aspect of the debate, which I find to be ridiculous to the nth degree, is the "state's rights" argument - the assertion that the federal government could not respond in time because the proper channels were not followed. Are we to take this seriously? The federal government couldn't step in to save lives during one of, if not the, worst disasters in American history because t's weren't crossed and i's weren't dotted?

Secondly, this administration has in the past demonstrated a willingness to overstep state's rights, with two specific instances being medical marijuana in California and Oregon's assisted suicide law. This would indicate that the administration feels that preventing sick people from smoking marijuana and preventing terminally ill people from choosing the time of their own death and dying peacefully and painlessly neccesitates federal intervention but offering food, shelter, medicine and relief from a catastrophic hurricane does not. This, to me, is absurd.

Update - I didn't want to make anything of it, since an argument is true or false regardless of its source (genetic fallacy and what not,) but I couldn't help noticing at the end of the WSJ article I was sent it stating that Bob Williams is "president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free market public policy research organization in Olympia, Wash." This roused my suspicion so I looked a little and found this which is terribly frustrating since it highlights the problem I got at earlier - media misinformation; in this case propagated by a false expert funded by a think-tank. An all too often occurrence.

1 comment:

gawker said...

not to mention the Terri Schiavo case