September 08, 2005

Katrina, Yet Again

Hey, all you blamers out there who think you know what really happened...

Why don't you just blame me? I'll be the goat, and we can all get back to what really needs to be done: helping people.

(No lawsuits, please. I'm not really to blame, as you might have suspected. Carry on.)

I might be to blame for the hole in Sean Penn's boat, though.


Posted by hln at September 8, 2005 09:28 PM | General News | TrackBack

The "no time for the blame game" mantra is not helping anyone, and is, in fact, part of the game. Particularly when chanted in the same breath as buck-passing to local authorities.

Step one is to help people. This is finally happening, as more survivors make it into Red Cross jurisdiction and the smaller charities get operations established.

Step two is to find out what lessons can be learned from the entire ordeal.

The current mantra does nothing to support either step. At least, no one has explained to me why that second step has to wait for step one to be finished, nor convinced me that step one will ever be complete.

Or is all this "blame" talk just a public warning to Pat Robertson to keep quiet?

Posted by: hans at September 9, 2005 10:33 AM

Yes, step two is to find out what we can learn. But except for logistics problems caused by the the conditions currently making issue, we're not ready for step 2. It's MONTHS away.

For the poke at Sean Penn, at least I can say he was trying to do something, regardless of the motivation. It's more than what I've done - send money and stress.


Posted by: hln at September 9, 2005 12:08 PM

What are the prerequisites for step 2? How do we know it's time to start discussing preparations for the next emergency?

Posted by: hans at September 9, 2005 01:28 PM

When people are safe. When the waters subside. When the bodies are counted, and when people know the state of their relatives.

Then we take stock.

I'm not knocking constructive criticism. I'm just thinking the politics of this - both sides - are absurd (and upsetting).


Posted by: hln at September 9, 2005 05:09 PM

Fair enough, I think public officials would be right to put "lessons learned" discussions off until they are done with their jobs. (Waving fingers at each other about the blame game is hardly the moral high ground, a simple "I don't have time to talk about that right now, I'm trying to save lives" would suffice.)

The rest of us, including the media, not busily employed with the relief effort have no cause to wait. The apologists for those presently in power seem to want to just put it off until we've all forgotten (and can go back to focusing on 9/11) and the far left seems to want everyone to stop what they're doing and talk about what went wrong immediately, while it's still fresh in our memory. The reasonable path lies somewhere between; I believe it sensible for those in public service to simply ignore the politics until at least relief efforts are in cruise, and the rest of us should already be doing our duty as citizens in a democracy and evaluating their performance.

Posted by: hans at September 12, 2005 09:47 AM

But what's to be gained? Even if you point a finger at a single person/institution, what's to be gained?

I've seen the following blamed:
1) President Bush
2) The federal government
3) FEMA specifically
4) Mayor Nagin
5) Governor I forget her name
6) The Sierra Club
7) People who live in New Orleans
8) Global warming

I could add chinchillas, but then it gets even more absurd.

Brian put it well. If you blame the federal goverment/Bush administration, then it has an excuse to get more and more authoritian in control (a big ewwww at that, no). And what are we blaming - the response? What specifically about the response? The hurricane? There's just this big general assignation of "blame." (See the 7 silly things above) It's obnoxious. Not so much that the blame's being assigned, but the media humping the leg of reporting blame.

I stand by the original - no matter what was done, it would never be good enough. Nothing short of holding up a hand and saying "stop" to the hurricane (and achieving the desired result). Even then you'd have pundits who'd state that wasn't done quickly or decisively enough.

But it's so convenient to blame the Bush administration. Perhaps that should be put in with "the dog ate my homework."


Posted by: hln at September 12, 2005 02:12 PM

Let me pose a question. Is there a middle ground to who/what is to blame for the current situation? If so, does that middle ground extend to when the "blame game" can begin?

Personally, I don't believe in assessing/assigning blame right now, not enough relief has been given to the victims. However, it's impossible to expect the court of public opinion to remain silent (I mean come on people were blaming things before the hurricane even hit). I think people need to remember (or learn from this) that nature is a pretty friggin powerful thing and for all of man's "vaunted" accomplishments, mother earth can wipe us out pretty easily. For reference, review late 90's movies when natural disaster movies were all the rage.

Posted by: scott at September 12, 2005 02:40 PM

"What could have been done better in responding to ensure citizen safety?" is a question that should be thoroughly and publicly answered after every crisis, regardless of public perception about whether the response was "good" or "bad."

Of course the media is going to react to a public perception of "bad" with a lot of "who's fault?" hand waving, but this absurdity does not diminish our responsibility to study and critique our government's performance.

Posted by: hans at September 13, 2005 10:34 AM

An aside: how did we come to this? You "conservatives" are supposed to be on my side on this as advocates of smaller government. When our huge, politically-motivated bureaucracy appears to fall short on one of the few things we're happy to pay taxes for, it should be seen as an opportunity to engage in public discussion about reducing its scope.

Perhaps large-scale emergency management should be wholly federalized or wholly localized?

Why was Mike Brown given that job? Sure, it's egg on the face of a Republican administration, but does anyone whose name doesn't end in (D) believe Democrats would have been any more selective in appointing to an ancillary post?

Maybe, as the WSJ has claimed, we should just privatize FEMA? Or should emergency management be made a bullet point in the list of DoD responsibilities?

What good is the FCC if all their red tape and regulations didn't provide us a communication infrastructure able to support relief work (a former chairman has been crying for this for years)?

Bush apologists have just gotten defensive on behalf of the system [it's not time to blame yet, there's too many moving parts to assign blame, it's just an act of God, what could we mere humans have possibly done]. This is why I stopped voting Republican; unwavering faith in leadership from the very party that I grew up expecting to defend me from authoritarian rule.

Bush is a lame duck anyway, stop running his campaign and start questioning why so much of our economy is drained into a fat, bloated government that trips over itself responding to predictable crisis! Don't any of you share my indignation that so much of my work goes to pay government salaries, and now I question whether they'll even help keep me alive when the New Madrid quake hits?

Posted by: hans at September 13, 2005 11:00 AM

Privitize. I'm ok with that.

I wouldn't blame Clinton or Reagan or Carter or Nixon in the same situation - so I won't blame Bush. "Risky" states should plan for these things, no? That includes coastal states planning for hurricanes, California also planning for earthquakes, Missouri planning for earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes (lots of midwestern states planning for tornadoes, no).

This isn't about defending President Bush. It's about why are people blaming him anyway? I don't see that he is the answer to the problem or ever was really involved other than as a figurehead. If you could give a specific course of how he's to blame (other than he sits at the top of the governmental heap), please, expound. My whole argument is predicated on the fact that it makes no sense to blame the guy at the top on this one (unless you mean God, and if that's so, sure, go ahead). If we sink into "where Heather thinks the blame lies" - I'd say it's lack of foresight - basic human error. After that, it's political pressure - from both parties and local concerns - and subsequent decisions made from that. In most circumstances, these are harmless decisions (in terms of human life).

What if the emergency management section of the federal government ran itself like I approach everything - trying to cover every possible scenario? Can you imagine the cost? Can you imagine how absurd the general populace would find this approach? Somehow, the practice in place in mid August when Katrina was a gnat, represents a compromise. If we knew when each policy/decision/game plan/law was put into place, then we could decide exactly who was at blame (whether you place blame at local, state, or federal level). But, yikes, what an undertaking. And to what gain?

Whose responsibility is it to keep you alive when New Madrid makes its name again? Answer that question and then maybe that's where the blame is. Is it President x? I doubt that's your answer. As you and I have discussed before, maybe it's the Red Cross.

Or, if you're all that concerned, perhaps we should all move to Kansas.

I also don't understand how I'm running Bush's campaign (Scott, too, for that matter). It was never my aim to state anything other than that the blame game doesn't accomplish squat and our focus now should be elsewhere.

Regarding "how the government will keep you alive" - I stand by my "it'll never be good enough" assertion from my original post. Regardless of who is in charge/to blame. If all of the people who were supposed to handle these issues truly did play 6 rounds of canasta instead of dealing with the crisis - if anyone was nonconcerned/nonstressed - then I'm concerned. But if a crisis happens, then a crisis wasn't averted. So it's not good enough.

Privatize. Praxair St. Louis should definitely be considered in the bid.

(Wow, there went a large portion of my lunch hour. ;)


Posted by: hln at September 13, 2005 12:02 PM

"This isn't about defending President Bush. It's about why are people blaming him anyway?"

I'm in the wrong discussion, then. I haven't blamed Bush and I really don't care whether other people are or not.

"it'll never be good enough"

It will never be perfect, but as a taxpaying citizen, I expect a hell of a lot better than we've just witnessed.

Posted by: hans at September 13, 2005 02:41 PM

Fair enough on both accounts. Can you objectify what you expect? (I'm asking myself the same question and haven't come up with an answer yet).

It'll make for interesting discussion.


Posted by: hln at September 13, 2005 02:43 PM

What I expect and am still waiting for: frank, public discussion on:
- How various agencies collaborated (or failed to) in Katrina response
- How the segmentation necessitated by our federal system might be mitigated in emergency cases without risking the federal martial law our founding fathers so rightly feared

More specifically, I'd like to see:
- A public-facing office, akin to the LLIS, that e.g. publishes UASI ratings, holding all public agencies accountable. Perhaps this should be under the GAO (Congressional) rather than DHS (Administrative).
- Less "terrorism" politics and a more general "disaster prevention and response" orientation for DHS. (I believe that FEMA should be a member agency of DHS, just that DHS's goals need to be better aligned with FEMA's.)

Posted by: hans at September 27, 2005 10:48 AM
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