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The Net Takeaway: Hope glistens...


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Hope glistens... · 09/06/2005 10:20 AM,

I’ve spent the past few days working the phones and wires to track down relatives and be a center-point for information for my family, now spread across the South from Texas to Florida. Most of the news is good, some not so good. But in general, my relatives are very lucky. They are in ok health (when they can get medicine)... and they have nothing more than what they are wearing and whatever was in the car at the time. Everything else is either flooded, or not working, or just not there.

What to do in the next 6-9 months while the city dries out? What to do in the next 6-9 days while waiting for a chance to see just how bad the damage is? Try to imagine yourself unsure of what your plans are tommorrow, because when you try to think about your plans next month, there is just a grey spot in your mind. Try to imagine that while you are at work, someone comes to your desk and says “None of you can go home. Your family will try to meet you at the local sports arena”. Watch the traffic appear from nowhere as everyone rushes to their cars to jam pack the one way out… and suddenly your cell phone no longer works. Scary, isn’t it…

My family has tried to help me understand what they are going through, but its something beyond my ken, and truly beyond anyone who hasn’t lived through a disaster. I just try to sympathize and help however I can.

I try not to be political here. But George Bush has again demonstrated that he was the wrong man for the job from day one. People may applaud him for 9/11 handling… but that was really the state and local officials; he just took credit for their work (a very, very consistent pattern in his life). People may applaud him for getting us into a war that we shouldn’t be in, though I’m not sure why that gets any clapping; it didn’t when it was called Vietnam. People may applaud him for turning our country into our own version of a theocracy which rivals Islamic fundamentalist nations in its short-sighted foolish dependence on selected aspects of religion… but I don’t think anyone can really cheer for the simplest of decisions which escaped him.

When he had the chance to provide air support to facilitate resource dispersal, he sat on his hands. Why? Well, that would mean using military resources which might, just might, be needed for Iraq. So, he let more US citizens die here so he could let more US citizens also die there. Efficient, if nothing more.

Sure, I am not in the government. Sure, I don’t know the full story. But if everyone from the BBC to CNN could get people in and distributed, and if the number one complaint was that ground transport of already present supplies was not possible due to flooding, then it seems a simple decision to release some Chinooks and Blackhawks.

And, when we look back, it was a really simple decision. Well, for everyone except President Bush. When it was made, that was the turning point. Air-drops of supplies, air-rescue of trapped citizens, and air-drops of sandbags all started to pull people back from the brink… at least, the ones who weren’t already dead, or who didn’t commit suicide, or join bands of looters.

Yes, I know New Orleans was a bit different from the rest of the union. Sure, La. has parishes instead of counties, a legal system derived from the Napoleonic code, and a constant refrain of “well, that’s not haw we do iht heah in N’Awlins” drowining out external critics. Admittedly, even some of New Orleans’ most famous (or infamous) native sons have called the state a banana republic. But none of that excuses the insane ignorance of what needed to be done to save lives which didn’t need to be lost.

You may not know that an old motto of the city of New Orleans is “the city that Care forgot”. Its refers to the Mardi Gras (or, later on, every day), when people sort of stop caring for a while and just let themselves be free and laissez le bon temp roule (let the good times roll).

But I don’t think it will never have that happy meaning for me, or anyone in New Orleans, ever again.

The old joke was that Texas was going to secede from the Union b/c it was big and independent and liked to do things its own way. Well, thanks, Mr. President. You made that decision for all of us: clearly, La. was the place you thought wasn’t really part of the Union after all.

Ok, enough diatribe. Please remember to give anything, $5, any amount at all to the American Red Cross. Thank you all for your kind emails and thoughts in support of my family and friends.

* * *


  1. Hey, Bush needs to take his licks, but failing to usurp the governor’s authority and dictatorially sending federal troops to the area without being asked ain’t one of them. The lion’s share of the problem was from Mayor “where da buses” Nagin and Kathleen “I guess I should ask for the military now” Blanco.

    Also, as much as I like NOLA, it seems really stupid to have a city on the coast physically under sea level and then complain when it floods.
    andrew    Oct 11, 12:22 PM    #

  2. Andrew is sort of correct. The troops were not asked for, they were begged for, over and over again. From the New York Times to Fox News, clear calls and requests for federal aid were stated from the moment the levees broke.

    Yes, there are laws dating back from the Civil War regarding federal troops and their restricted ability to enforce local laws… but they are widely held by most legal experts to be out of date in today’s world and easy to work around when necessary. While Blanco and Nagin certainly made mistakes, the error of commission certainly seems better than Bush’s error of omission.

    As for your second point, well, let’s see. Did they complain when it flooded? Nah, its flooded hundreds of times, just a foot or two. But when federally funded action to prevent a large flood is consistently denied, wellp, then a big flood is more likely. Just like we can’t expect San Fran or LA to just pick up and move b/c they are on a fault line, we have to do the right thing to protect the people living in a city founded before practically anyone living there (or their great grandparents) was born.

    Again, we can rely on states to do some great things. But there is a reason we united to form a republic. The combined strenght and power of the union is able to topple governments and rescue entire ethnic groups. In this case, it was clear that the Bush govt. decided that the republic was just fine without the South, as long as Texas was OK.

    Again, the sin of omission, to me, is the clear disaster. Witholding help is far worse than trying to help and failing at it. Nagin and Blanco are certainly guilty of the latter, but Bush has yet to take responsibility for his inaction. Not that this is new for him, but I hoped it would be different this time.
    Michael Wexler    Oct 11, 04:41 PM    #

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