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Our American Public

A damning timeline. (Thanks to Sully)

It appears the counter-effort is working. By “counter-effort,” I mean the campaign to deflect as much responsibility as possible from the federals, and specifically the president. I do not mean to reference an effort to counter the destruction.

In conservative southern Minnesota I have witnessed two large group discussions on Katrina. Each lasted about five minutes. The first conversation focused on the “stupid” people who lived there. Also, the people who didn’t evacuate were “stupid.” The conversation was harsh. The base for those statements isn’t far from the truth, but the spirit of the statements were painted with a harsh, hateful brush. Yes, city planners should not have allowed the city to expand to the low-lying areas. Of course, if a city wants to fill the poverty-level jobs one choice had to be rather enticing. Put them in the bottom of the bowl. No one in their right mind would live there. By necessity those in poverty are often not allowed to be in their right minds. I somehow doubt it was a difficult moral choice for the bureaucracy.

The second statement is based on directing all blame toward the local authorities. There was not a workable plan to evacuate all of the people in the city. Certainly a lot of the blame falls to the city officials. A lot of the blame also goes to this homeland security department that has spent billions of dollars on I don’t know what. If homeland security hasn’t worked as a catalyst for emergency management in all of the major cities in our country, I simply cannot understand what they have been doing. Mostly, though, the crude statement blamed the individuals for not getting out (heretofore known as the “Rick Santorum argument”), and that is easily the worst thing that could be said.

(I also find it interesting how some seemingly true conservatives are blaming liberals for creating such a huge government that the government can’t properly do its most important duties, like overseeing disaster recovery and generally protecting the citizens. Republicans have controlled congress for many years and they’ve led the executive for 17 of the last 25 years. These statements are more of a strike against conservatives for allowing their party to be hijacked. It’d be easy to say the hijackers are abortion and gay-marriage focused, but it seems to me they aren’t focused on anything. We have spineless Democrats, yes, but where’s the talk of the spineless true conservatives?)

This group also made mention of the improved living conditions evacuees were facing in the Astrodome and other such places. They were obviously paraphrasing Barbara Bush. The people in the group discussed how they’d love to help, but there’d be no way they would allow any of those thieves, rapists and murderers to move into their homes. “Oh, I know not everyone down there was like that. I’m sure it’s just some of them.” Yeah, maybe 50/50.

The second group (mostly one person) was actually speaking word-for-word from talking points, which somehow are allowed to exist in the wake of Katrina. The statements were of this nature: “What more could the federal government do? They sent thousands of troops down there.” “I don’t blame the federal government. The local and state governments were completely unprepared for a disaster.” “From what I’ve seen, FEMA has done everything they could to help.”

It’s funny because some of those statements are true yet completely fallacious and people still eat them up as proof. The local and state governments did mess up, but how does that fact get the federal authorities off the hook? Saying the local and state governments suck is a vapid argument for the lack of organization in the federal response.

To say you believe FEMA has done everything they could to help is clearly a statement made out of ignorance. It doesn’t take much reading to find information about the resource mismanagement and gross negligence on the part of federal agencies during this disaster. But when a chunk of society believes that basically all print media is biased, it is a bit difficult to get the facts to them.

What questions can be asked to get everyone on the same page? Perhaps a line that takes homeland security and FEMA to task on what they would have done differently if the levees broke due to a terrorist attack. In that scenario advanced evacuation could not be expected of local and state authorities. The only way local leaders would be prepared for something of this nature is at the behest of the federal organization derived for terrorist scenarios. Judging by the local reaction to the hurricane, it is clear next to no plans had been outlined for a hyper-emergency like a terrorist attack. The only excuse the Feds would have in this situation would be that they would respond much more quickly and efficiently to a terrorist attack since the roles and responsibilities would be more clear. That answer should not be palatable to anyone.