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September 01, 2005

Acts Of God

I never have much to say right after something truly awful happens. I guess that's just not my way.

It takes me a while to absorb the impact, to gauge how bad things truly are, to sift through the first reports (which are so often misleading, or even entirely wrong) and tune out all the noise. And it always seems, at least to me, that in the immediate aftermath of any disaster most of what is going on is a lot of arm-waving and shouting, followed by a steady stream of criticism from every Tom, Dick, and Harry who's not doing anything useful:

Hurricanes come in two waves. First comes the rainstorm, and then comes what the historian John Barry calls the "human storm" - the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation. Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities. When you look back over the meteorological turbulence in this nation's history, it's striking how often political turbulence followed.

What is it about acts of God that brings out the worst in us?

Watching televised coverage of the disaster relief efforts I was overcome with pity for the thousands of people who are suffering and the plight of a city I dearly love and looked forward to returning to this month. But it wasn't long before my tears were replaced with another emotion: anger. For the waters have not even begun to recede and the fighting has already started.

This is not a new thing. Open any history book and you'll see disasters chipping away at the fragile veneer of civilization that glosses over our human frailties:

In 1889 in Pennsylvania, a great flood washed away much of Johnstown. The water's crushing destruction sounded to one person like a "lot of horses grinding oats." Witnesses watched hundreds of people trapped on a burning bridge, forced to choose between burning to death or throwing themselves into the churning waters to drown.

Prejudices were let loose. Hungarians then were akin to today's illegal Mexican immigrants - hard-working people who took jobs no one else wanted. Newspapers carried accounts of gangs of Hungarian men cutting off dead women's fingers to steal their rings. "Drunken Hungarians, Dancing, Singing, Cursing and Fighting Amid the Ruins" a New York Herald headline blared.

Then, as David McCullough notes in "The Johnstown Flood," public fury turned on the Pittsburgh millionaires whose club's fishing pond had emptied on the town. The Chicago Herald depicted the millionaires as Roman aristocrats, seeking pleasure while the poor died like beasts in the Coliseum.

As early as Tuesday the accusations of racism were starting up.

They were followed immediately by accusations of fiddling while Rome burns... a charge made unintentionally funnier by complaints that it was 'inappropriate' for President to be 'on vacation' (question: how many of us travel halfway across the country to deliver speeches while we're "on vacation"?).

There must be something about the sheer majesty of acts of God that turns us into whiny, unreasonable children, shrilly demanding the unattainable. Suddenly, we balk at home truths we have known and lived with all our lives:

Certain people are poor.

Some regions of the country are not as prosperous as others.

Sometimes people die. Or get sick.

If we are forced to choose between saving a pet and saving a human being, almost all of us will save the human being. We hate it with every fiber of our being, but that is the choice most of us will make.

Some people fail to plan for the future. When disaster strikes, they suffer.

Here's another really unpleasant truth, and you won't like me one bit for saying it. But it's true nonetheless: people who live only for today aren't the only ones who suffer when disaster strikes. They cause a lot of problems for those who do plan for contingencies. Because someone else always ends up having to take care of them. And they rely on this.

I read something over at KJ's the other day and I chose not to comment because I knew that as the wife of a Marine and the mother of a police officer, I could not be dispassionate in any discussion that followed:

Below The Beltway has a good discussion on how a libertarian should view the concept of "mandatory evacuations" and other emergency power. In other words, does the state have the power to forcibly remove people from their homes for their own safety.

As I listened to the news last night, an anchor described being marooned in a hotel as the local jail opened its doors and let all the prisoners free. She seemed shocked. What did she expect: that they would be allowed to drown? Disasters force hard choices on us - choices we are unused to.

Too often, we go through life thinking only of ourselves and what will happen to us. Some of us don't even bother to think that hard. But the fact is that no decent person can turn away from a disaster of this magnitude. And anyone who chooses to place himself in danger is, perforce, relying on the magnanimity of his fellow man. Because when it comes right down to it, none of us is going to turn away from a dying neighbor.

The city of Houston has generously offered (what choice did they have, really?) to take in tens of thousands of refugees from New Orleans, yet they are already being criticized for not doing more. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a police officer on the streets of New Orleans this week. I can not imagine what it must be like to be her Governor. The city is being criticized for not getting people out, but the truth is that they were told to leave well before the storm hit, and many chose not to. Some were unable to leave because they either waited too long or have been living without transportation.

The Army Corps of Engineers is being criticized for not building 25-foot levees. But who would have paid for them, before now? That, too, was a choice.

The city of Houston is being criticized for not letting 55,000 people into their stadium, because that is the maximum capacity. Where are they all supposed to sleep? Upright in their seats? Is Houston the only place within a 1000-mile radius? What is preventing smaller cities or towns from lending a hand?

The hard truth that natural disasters remind us of is that without society, without government, without the convenient veneer of kindness and civilization we have built up to shield us from the harsh realities of the natural world, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. What you're seeing on the streets of New Orleans is not Rousseau's idealized Noble Savagery: it's William Golding's Lord of the Flies. And we don't like it one bit, so we cry out to FEMA: "Make it go away!".

But government can't cure all ills, or at not least right away.

And so we are back in a sort of an Existentialist Hell: alone, without God (we abandoned Him when MTV came along) or electricity, or even our beloved iPods. The hard truth we don't really want to face is this: without society, without government, without our neighbor, it is up to each of us to prepare for our own survival. And how many of us have done that?

My guess is, not many. Complacency, affluence and the comforting presence of government lull us into a false sense of security. We have no contingency plan. And so, if the same thing happened to us tomorrow, we should find ourselves in the same boat (or worse, without a boat) as those poor lost souls in the Gulf. No better prepared, and equally at the mercy of the elements and our neighbors.

And no doubt, equally crying out to the Government and George Bush to make it all go away. But George Bush did not send this hurricane, Robert Kennedy's fulminations on Kyoto aside. George Bush did not personally allocate our tax dollars over the past 20, 15, or 5 years to disaster relief. We did, through our public servants, who are in the end accountable only to us unless we choose to abdicate that responsibility. They spend our tax dollars as we direct, and the truth is that none of us wants huge surpluses kept in Washington against any and all contingencies.

So what is the appropriate response? Of course we want to help, and we should. We should dig as deep as we can, for tomorrow it may be one of us who is in need. We should keep in mind that some insurance companies may not pay off, and so many people will suffer losses even though they planned ahead for such a contingency. And many decent, hard-working folks cannot afford to be fully insured. For the first years of our marriage, my husband and I were in that category. Although we were below the poverty line for a family of three the first few years we were married, we always had a healthy savings account. But insurance (medical or other) was out of the question. If we'd had a fire or flood, we'd have lost everything - that was a risk we had to take to get on our feet. And the bottom line at this point is that no one wants to see another human being suffer.

But the carping and criticizing and the attempts to make political capital from this disaster, in my opinion, whether they are directed at the city, state, or national level, are just unhelpful. No one who is not directly involved in this kind of effort has any idea what these people are dealing with. The problems are just staggering. And there are some problems that government just cannot completely solve. People are going to have to roll their sleeves up and rebuild: and they will. Americans have always done that. Divisiveness and attempts to race-bait and exacerbate class tensions only hamper that effort.

And so we're back, in the end, to personal accountability. Affluence and the welfare society have smoothed over the inequities that life and the consequences of people's poor decisions inflict on them. Disasters cast those inequities into sharp relief in all their hideous squalor, and we cringe at the sight of them. Brooks comments:

Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.

I have news for Mr. Brooks. Even before the hurricane, most of the people wandering around New Orleans were predominantly black and poor. The hurricane did not cause the problem, and it has not changed it. It has only cast a pre-existing situation into sharp relief and made it harder to ignore. The question is, who will we blame?

I'm afraid I already know the answer to that question. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Cassandra at September 1, 2005 09:01 AM

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So did you have an issue with my post or not? I actually thought I sounded quite Cassandra like with my three factors that come into play, which were:

(1) The first problem with the let them stay if they want to at their own risk approach is that we live in a western, Judeo-christian culture. We don't let people die who might be saved, even at some risk, and even if they deserve it (as in knowingly took the risk they now face). It seems unlikely that rescues won't be attempted to help people who knowingly stayed behind. As soon as possible, rescues will be attempted. This factor would tend to favor giving the government more power to require evacuation.

(2) Another problem, however, arises. If a significant number of people stay behind, and the police and other rescue personnel flee, looting could become a problem. In fact, there were reports on Monday of looting in New Orleans. If looting were to be seen as a real concern for those who left their homes and businesses behind, the likelihood of their refusing to leave increases. Thus, the government would need to do as much as possible to ensure some police and rescue personnel would be around to ensure that looting is not a big enough concern to increase the number of non-evacuees.

(3) Finally, on a related note, is the problem with getting back to your home. Florida has had several incidents in recent years where police became violent with homeowners who wanted to return to their homes, in some cases several days after the hurricane had come and gone. If the public perception is that people will be prevented from returning to their homes in a timely as prompt manner, many are again more likely to refuse to leave.

Keep in mind I wrote these 3 factors first as a comment at another blog that asked the question. It was lost during posting, but at that time, the looting had not started (or not been reported).

It actually looks like all three of these problems may arise in the case of N.O. People had to be saved. Looters were allowed to run free for a few days to dismay of many. And it remains to be seen how long the city is shut off to its residents.

I'm not an anarchist. I want rule of law and sound public policy remedies that work. I recognize that we don't let people die even of their own stupidity, and they therefore often take advantage of our better nature.

And when my enemy slaps the right cheek, turn and offer him the left one.
Another comment on this quote:

But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.

He's right. You know what else most of them are? Fat. What a cruel country we have, creating fat, obese welfare addicts.

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 11:52 AM

I think this looting is a big problem. The next hurricane could be worse b/c people will not leave so they can protect their stuff -- house, business, etc. We must stop looting to save lives in the future.

Shoot the first two people that come out of a store with something other than food or water. The rest will drop their bounty. As word gets out, order will be restored. I hope.

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 11:55 AM

Well, helk Cass, yon liberals will expect Pres. Bush to get in the choppers and personally rescue the victims.

As to the racsim: Theft by any other name is still stealing, and it matters not the color of the skin.

While I personally would love to shoot looters on sight because it isn't their property, I don't think that will happen.

After we had our accident, we had some good friends who went to the wrecking yard to clean out the pockets behind the seats. There were some very valuable items still in the van and recovered from the scene. There was at least an hour to go
before the yard closed and our friends (who had been working for at least two hours to salvage what they could) were shooed out of the yard.

When they went back to reclaim those items, they had disappeared. Our van was crushed about a year ago, and I have no way of knowing if the disposable cameras that had the last pics we took of Jonathan were on it.

I have since gotten over my anger at it, but not the feelings and sense of loss. I didn't care about the other stuff, but those were the last pictures we ever took of him and that cuts as deep as losing him.

As we were talking about on the other thread, you can't always choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond to it. I would like to see looters shot.

The only way to get around that is to impose martial law and a curfew, but with the prison that was destroyed (and that family that was held hostage as a result)the police had their hands full. Deputizing the arms carrying citizens would have helped law enforcement deal with some of it.

That was what happened in our town after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Citizens were deputized and the town was put under martial law for three days.
Signs went up and it was on the airwaves that looters would be shot. Nothing was taken and
curfew was strictly enforced.

Of course, without power or water for nearly a week, things could have gotten ugly. But where we were versus San Francisco and other areas harder hit, we were lucky. And we learned about being prepared with a 72 hour kit.

I keep a case of bottled water, wipes, and a three day supply of food in my car, along with flares, a blanket and a first aid kit just in case. I have had to use it a couple of times, but was prepared and didn't worry. The children were fed, cleaned and sheltered.

The hurricane reduced the rest of the population of New Orleans to being poor. What it will teach them is beyond price.

Sometimes we have to have the lesson repeated. No, Acts of God are aptly named if they help us to remember to love and help one another, and to live it and teach it.

PS. We had insurance, but we didn't lose anything except power and water. I barbecued for three days.

Posted by: Cricket at September 1, 2005 12:00 PM

Not so much with your post KJ, as with the fact that people even stop to ask that question at all in an emergency. It's always "me first". The thing is, I get aggravated because it's never as simple as 'just let people die'.

When they die, the inconsiderate bastards leave their carcasses behind to rot and they stink up the place and breed disease in the water supply.

And then someone (like my son or my husband) has to go in and clean up the mess. You can't leave human cadavers around to decompose indefinitely. And it traumatizes the hell out of the people who have to do that job - haul a water-bloated, week-old body out of a tree-limb or a cellar. But that's not something these asshats stop and think of, do they??? They're worried about that new VCR.

Or, alternatively, these nitwits want to stay behind to "protect" their property from the looters, and the looters also stay. So some poor schmuck like my son is on patrol and can't shoot on sight because he doesn't know if it's a landowner or a looter. So the looter shoots him in the face as he hesitates. Nice...

The thing is, I'm married to a careful, meticulous, absolutely brilliant guy - the kind who ends up making plans for this kind of situation and tries to think of all the crappy things that can go wrong. And people like that are always having to pick up after people who DON"T think, and it drives me nuts.

It's a cliche, but it's the old story about the ant and the grasshopper.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 12:20 PM

Louisiana, 1927

by Randy Newman

What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The president say, little fat man isn't it a shame
What the river has done
To this poor crackers land.


The more things change, the more they remain the same. Substitute Bush for Coolidge, and you have the jounalist meme for the next two weeks, even though it really appears that the Mayor of New Orleans is a schmuck and the Governor of Louisiana is having a nervous breakdown.
Send in Giuliani as an excutive trouble -shooter for the Federal Gov.
Give money to the Red Cross, Salvation Army or the Catholic Charities to help these poor Americans.
That's all.

Posted by: David at September 1, 2005 12:29 PM

To be fair, although Guiliani had a lot of dead, he didn't have nearly as much to contend with as the mayor of New Orleans.

The physical devastation that has been visited on that city is just incalculable, and even the parts where you can't see anything, there will be damage that is still coming out for months.

My brother and sister in law went through Andrew down in Florida. Their condo was fine (to all appearances) after the storm. But the wind had driven water deep into the building. It was still seeping into the walls and into cracks for WEEKS afterward. And then it starts to mold. One of their cars was (again) fine to all appearances, but never really worked right after that. Water damage again.

And you know what New Orleans is like. They had no electricity and had to bathe in a local pond, and got skin infections from that - you can't imagine the nasty stuff that breeds in a tropical climate. It's not like up here. I think that was the final straw that made them leave Florida and come up here.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 12:58 PM


The problem with your rant is that the nature of the "emergency" is seldom known ex ante. Complain all you want about people who stayed behind "thinking only of themselves" if you want (and don't get me wrong, I would have left N.O., though I might not have left, say, if I were more inland), but these people are not always irrational.

Our govt. cries wolf more times than not about these disasters, then after the threat has passed they often keep people from their homes longer than many people believe is necessary. Yeah, I know all about the Catch-22, but I have yet to see a case where the police let someone go home and die and be found liable.

Most of these "big" hurricanes hit land and cause property damage, and at the end of the day the only people who die are an old man who ran out of medicine, some idiot in a trailer on the beach, and some dumb@ss trying to move a live electric wire.

In a free society, the question of whether the govt. has the right to "force" you to leave your home is not a selfish question. I can't even believe you would suggest that.

The issue is the nature of the emergency, and the track record of govt. in dealing with the aftermath is a very important part of the equation.

"it's never as simple as 'just let people die'." Yeah, I know. That was exactly what I said, and pointed out the factors that come into the indivdual's decision making process.

Call it a Catch-22 if you will, and maybe, in this case, the looting is made worse b/c of the rescue focus, but most of the time that is not the case. A govt. that can't come in and control after a disaster has little moral authority to tell people they can't protect what's theirs.

Not all emergencies, not even all hurricane emergencies are the same.

I'm not suggesting the govt never has the power to evacuate. In some cases it clearly should. It depends on the nature of the risk, and to whom.

I know you husband's and son's jobs can be made tougher by people who insist on protecting their own lives and property. It would be much easier to just be able to shoot on sight. Your son, though, faces that potential problem every day, not just in emergencies. That is the price of a free country I guess. Thank God for people like your men, and my brother-in-law, who does the same thing.

If you don't stop first to ask what the govt's power is and should be, then you don't have a country I want to live in.

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 01:24 PM

Opening up homes of the well-to-do to hurricane refugees is a great idea and is the best parent news MommyCool.com has heard. So many kids need a school right now.

Posted by: PapaCool at September 1, 2005 01:34 PM

I didn't say you can't ask the question KJ.

And KJ, the "government" is not "crying wolf".

They can't predict whether the hurricane is going to hit or not. They do their best. The problem, AS YOU WELL KNOW, is that when you live in these areas, the roads out are never wide enough to get everyone out fast. So if you don't start early, they clog FAST.


And I have lived in several hurricane areas - NC, SC, FL, MS (I owned a home in one for 14 years) and know that most people don't leave. But how would you like to be in Houston right now? Yeah, it's inspiring at the moment.

Try in 3 months, when everyone's damn tired of this crap and the nastier element of those refugees have started to act up (and they will -trust me). And I know it sounds ugly of me to say this and I'm sorry, but I've seen what happens in this kind of situation.

I saw what happened with the refugees from Haiti.

Everyone in the US was whining about "why don't we let them in" and "Oh you people are so cruel".

Well my neighbor was living down there when those people jumped the fences and rioted and looted on Christmas and it wasn't so pretty. And my brother in law was down there treating the ones who had AIDS and wouldn't take the free medication the US government paid for, and then they infected little children from having sex with them (yes, it's pretty unpleasant, isn't it?) because they couldn't be bothered to have sex with someone their own age, much less use protection if they were going to abuse a minor.

So I guess I'm a little jaded about some aspects of human nature. I know many, many people are good. But man, it only takes 2 or 3% to louse it up for the rest of everyone big time if you're poor and crowded and living in close quarters.

And frankly, I question the notion that government can "control" a situation like what is going on in NO right now.

If they're not rioting in the streets, the government is in fricking control. Government is not responsible for every darn thing in life. The basics, fine.

But I balk when the anchors start to suggest that because people are walking the streets looking dazed and confused (Good God, so would I be) that government is "not in control".

There is nothing to control at this point. And will be for quite some time to come.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 01:58 PM

And by the way, I wasn't implying that the refugees in Houston are going to riot, although I guess it sounded that way. Just that no matter how big-hearted the people of Houston are, it's rather like having houseguests. It starts to wear on you after a while.

You start to want your den back so you can watch football.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 02:02 PM

I think your dazed and confused right now. Your comment is all over the board, and we agree on most points.

First, you did say: "Not so much with your post KJ, as with the fact that people even stop to ask that question at all in an emergency." So when you say, "I didn't say you can't ask the question KJ." then I guess you did say I "shouldn't" ask it.

And I'm not saying the govt. should be perfect predictors, but when you constantly overstate a risk, you will be disbelieved. From my anecdotal experience, the govt. overstates the hurricane risks about 60% of the time, is dead on about 30% and is totally shocked and overwhelmed -- or recognizes the real risks a little too late -- about 10% of the time. I think the govt. got this one mostly right, though it was a little late.

Keep in mind, Katriana was a tropical storm until the day it hit Florida. No one thought of leaving Florida, which is why the death toll was a little higher than normal. Katrina was not getting its do over it killed people in Florida and crossed Florida and hit the gulf.

As for the rest of your post, I agree entirely, though I think that all means most people act reasonably with they stay at home.

You say the govt can't have control over this situation, but I have a hard time buying that. We lack the political will to shoot a few looters as I see it. Not food and water people (unless they are hijacking a relief truck, like some have tried to do). But come out of Wal-Mart with toys and electronics, and you are fair game. Only by a show of force will the looting stop, just as a vacuum of force allowed it to get started.

Houston needs to hire a bunch more cops, b/c most of the people coming from NO are not its best and brightest. In fact, each bus probably has 5 criminal elements on it (some of the jail releasees and looters are no doubt in that crowd).

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 02:16 PM

Yeah, Cass, b/c you know the people of NO are going to fight over the remote control. They have no interest in watching the Saints:-P

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 02:17 PM

I'm saying you can talk about it, but the problem is that when you live in a beach area, the time to evacuate is generally well before you have any idea whether the damn storm is going to hit or not.

We never know early enough. That's why no one ever leaves - I've lived through it often enough to know. You go and board everything up and then the darned storm blows offshore. Out of 6 hurricanes that came when we lived in NC, my husband was never home ONE TIME. I had to do all the storm prep every single time and all the post storm cleanup.

Twice my yard had downed trees and limbs everywhere. Four times I taped the windows and no storm came. Thats a LOT of work when you have two babies, but we also had tornadoes less than a mile from my house. So what are you going to do?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 02:24 PM

You have a few choices.

1. Flirt with handyman neighbor
2. Get man who stays at home
3. Buy a hardware store
4. Move
5. Put a huge indestructible bubble over your house to protect it from hurricanes and tornadoes, and protect it from looters with a moat filled with sharks that shoot lasers from their heads.

If you have the resourses, I suggest option 5.

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 02:30 PM

Jeez KJ, you've never lived in a military town, have you?

I was 23 years old and I was both the youngest wife AND the handyman neighbor. That's how I ended up with my lawn business - I used to go up and mow lawns for some of the older wives who were pregnant or just got too tired when their husbands were deployed and it got too hot outside.

I was the only one who could fix things, or I guess I just wasn't afraid to *try* to take things apart and fix them - a lot of times I really didn't know how, but I'd go over and ask the civilian guys how to do it and they'd usually tell me, because Southern men are usually pretty polite even if they don't really think women should be doing that sort of thing :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 02:49 PM

Arrggghhh!!! My own comment got banned for objectionable content.

And I don't flirt. I may kid around on line sometimes but that is only because I will never meet any of you in real life and there is absolutely no chance of it being misinterpreted or getting out of hand.

I would never do anything like that in real life - that's why I don't IM or chat or do any of that goofy stuff. It's just asking for trouble.

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

KJ and Cass, I think you agree on some points.

What you are looking at is a core issue for all people and that is being responsible for yourself and your family. Self reliance and people who SHOULD be adult enough to be prepared but aren't.

KJ, I had the pleasure of attending a disaster preparedness seminar that was presented by a few people who were SF medics and MPs. They had been in some hot spots in Haiti and other areas, as well as fighting fires in the US and tending to flood and earthquake victims.

When the veneer of civilization was stripped away or they were moved out of their comfort zone from things they thought they were entitled to, it got ugly fast.

But it still came down to the basics: Food clothing and shelter and medical care.

Those who survived and did well in disasters were asked what they did to make it bearable.

One response was to see what was needed for a minimum of three days, because that is how long it takes personnel to restore services like power and water.

So, a source of fuel for cooking transportation.
Food that could be easily prepared. Potable water, approximately three gallons per person.

It doesn't take much, but the rub for Cass is that who is bothering to even be aware. We have early warning systems in place that can predict when a storm will hit, but not where or what the damage will be.

Posted by: Cricket at September 1, 2005 03:35 PM

You know, it's not even that people don't think. I can totally understand that.

It's *that they don't think*, and then they blame someone else because they didn't think.

I think that's what bothers me most of all. Someone else is always supposed to pick up after them, and they are always angry, or someone else is angry on their behalf instead of getting off their butt and doing something about it.

It just seems as though in these situations emotion takes over and people stop using their brains. I know I'm ranting and I need to shut up now, so I will. It's because I'm frustrated, and no matter how much money you donate it can't get there fast enough and you can't stop all the suffering, and no matter how much I talk about thinking, I guess I'm just as emotional about this as everyone else.

I just hate it, that's all. I just want it to stop.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 03:51 PM

In times like this, it's vital to remember the important things in life. That's why if there's even the slightest chance that my collection of Olivia Newton-John memorabilia might be looted, I'm staying behind. Bush can drink my blood right out my skull, but I'll be damned if Iet him have my signed copy of the Xanadu soundtrack. You rich white folks up in your hilltop mansions wouldn't understand.

Posted by: Liberal Larry at September 1, 2005 04:53 PM

Personally if I had to save just one thing, I'd have a hard time choosing between my fave Gary Wright "Dreamweaver" album from high school and that bitchin' lime greeen retro lava lamp nightlight the Unit snuck into my Christmas stocking this year: that was a real gas. Yep...

Take me away Gary:

I've just closed my eyes again
Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver, take away my worries of today
And leave tomorrow behind.

Woooooo... dream weaver
I believe you can get me through the night
Woo dream weaver
I believe we can reach the morning light.

Fly me high through the starry skies
Or maybe to an astral plane
Cross the highways of fantasy
Help me to forget today's pain.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 05:14 PM

I personally would duke it out with afe over his Slim Whitman collection, as well as his secret
collection of famous accordion solos.

Posted by: Cricket at September 1, 2005 05:18 PM

Or the pan flute... that's always a classic.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 1, 2005 05:46 PM

Zamphir I hope.

Posted by: KJ at September 1, 2005 05:52 PM

You know, since I am not there of course I can say this, all snug and secure. PUT THOSE PEOPLE TO WORK!

Clean up the d*** city and get a detail to pick up bodies. When they are exhausted and numb beyond pain over the horror of what happened, then they can complain.

Posted by: Cricket at September 1, 2005 06:12 PM

According to Webster's Dictionary a Refugge is someone who fless to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.The people of Louisiana,Im sorry to say don't fit this definition.They certainly have a chaotic mess down there,i called a good friend of mine who's family is from down their and she says they are okay.The looting they had down there was absolutely preposterous.I wish the trustfunded,guilt-laden lefists would stop making excuses for Black folks self absorbtion,and me first attitude.All , These pea brains are nothing but morally bankrupt,and then they think we are so supposed to feel sorry for them?Also why don't they stop bitching and whining about bs and actually contribute money to help these people out?If you are concerned about these people walk the walk and talk the talk!it is that simple. That mayor proves who is not a good leader and Kathleen Blanco I don't know what happened to her.But,since New Orleans is predominately black,as a black person Black folks better reevaluate the kind of people they put in office and they also need to take a long hard look at the socialism that they have wholeheartyedly embraced see what it has done to them.

Posted by: Lisa Gilliam at September 1, 2005 07:37 PM

Every moment of Katrina coverage makes it more and more impossible to remain PC over this mess.
I spent 3 incredible days partying in N.O., and working @ NAS New Orleans.BUT, I remember showering immediately upon returning to Terra Homa.N'Awlins is (was) a blight on the derrier of America...filthy,decadent, and TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL.The Democratic machine has ruled this cesspool since the Purchase.

The Mayor is a cretin,a suckage unit immeasurable.The Military is expected to clean up his mess.They will.But it's not their job.A more corrupt Police Department you will not find.The proper response is to get the law-abiding folks outta there and bulldoze the rest, turning it to wetland.Not a penny more to save the money pit..


Posted by: Greg at September 1, 2005 08:38 PM

Gee, Greg, when you hold it back like that you can get ulcers.

I have never been to NO and when duty stations were being considered we sort of put Fort Polk at the bottom of the list of dream duty stations. There are some very ugly truths about that state that I would prefer to ignore.

I was going to add a snark about 'well, what can you expect from the only city in the US run by the Phrench?' but in light of the suffering, I will pray for them, and agree with you.

I used to think San Francisco was a decadent city, but people who have been to both SF and NO say that SF is decent by comparison. That is scary, considering that SF is on the liberal side of the register.

But it is gone and hopefully things will not get ugly. I am sure many of the NGs who are there who have been to Iraq are wishing they were back in Iraq!

I have no patience for people who sit down and whine about 'poor me.' So the freak what! Get up off yer butts and make it better instead of waiting for someone to do it for yeh!

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

Lisa, we have a lot in common. Over the past few months I have enjoyed your comments and insights and think you would do well with a blog.

Posted by: Cricket at September 1, 2005 09:07 PM

I saw Cherthoff and Brown, the FEMA guy, on TV tonight and I had to turn it off. It's all about making excuses. Nobody could have predicted etc. Sound familiar?

As an engineer,I will assure you that every civil engineer in the country knew this could happen. And that the Corps of Engineers has been underfunded, especially since Bush came to power and found a higher priority in the calls of the rich for tax cuts.

Even Mr. Bill knew:


Now, does any of you feel just a wee bit disappointed in the so-called leadership of our decisive Commander-in-Chief? Certainly it was important for him to have a couple of photo-ops Monday and Tuesday and to play a guitar and eat cake with John McCain, just as it was important today for Condi to buy designer shoes. But come on, he's already had more vacation this month than most of us get in two years, and he should be plenty sharp by now.

As far as all this blame-the-victim stuff, you folks all just take the cake. Why, every citizen should build his own personal levee and install his own storm pumps. And pump the water into his neighbor's yard, no doubt. Can't expect the government to do it. The people left in NO didn't even have fricken' CARS. How long has it been since you-all didn't have a car? And a 72-hour disaster kit ran out last night about midnight.

I blame the mayor too, just to be nonpartisan. And the governor. How tough would it have been to load people on City buses and drive them out? Would have saved the buses too.

If you have not been involved in actual emergency, don't make excuses for poor Dubya to me. In 1996, in the time it just took for Bush to wake up and figure out there was a disaster on, I designed and built an emergency water supply for a town of 4000. Bush has a lot more resources than I had.

Posted by: Old Testament Liberal at September 2, 2005 01:05 AM

OK Al, let's look at the logic of what you just said:

"Now, does any of you feel just a wee bit disappointed in the so-called leadership of our decisive Commander-in-Chief?"

Yes, Bush should have somehow reversed YEARS of stalling and had those 25-foot levees built - the ones that weren't built during the CLINTON, BUSH I, REAGAN, FORD, CARTER, NIXON, JOHNSON, KENNEDY administrations. You are ABSOLUTELY right - it's ALL HIS FAULT. DAMN HIM all to hell.

And heck - we all know that even though it took the Dutch 10 years to build their system, (and they only did it after they lost thousands of people in a similar disaster) the Shrub would have been able to get it done in time.

"As far as all this blame-the-victim stuff, you folks all just take the cake. The people left in NO didn't even have fricken' CARS."

As you pointed out earlier, everyone has known for years that a Cat 5 hurricane would wipe the city off the map. Yet these people have chosen to live in a city that is under sea level WITHOUT OWNING A CAR.

Now Al, I have been poor too. Really poor. And you do not have to have a Cadillac. You do not have to drive it all the time. You do not even have to own it all by yourself - you can pool with family members. You only have to maintain it enough to get out of the fricking city in an emergency, if that is your only purpose in owning a car and you are poor. Or you can take a bus. Or Amtrak. This is why, even if you are poor, you have to have something put away just in case, that you never touch, just for emergencies. It's called planning for the future. Otherwise you are doing exactly what I said in my post: depending on the government to bail you out.

"Why, every citizen should build his own personal levee and install his own storm pumps. And pump the water into his neighbor's yard, no doubt. Can't expect the government to do it."

I never said they should, and the government is doing that now. But if they'd tried to tax the people of LA. to do that earlier, they'd have screamed bloody murder and you know it.

I was hearing on the news for days that a Cat 5 hurricane was bearing straight for NO before it hit and that the city was under sea level and would flood. Yet people chose to stay, despite the governor begging them to leave. I've lived in a hurricane state and I know why they stay, but that was not a good decision, as it turned out, was it?

I am not "blaming them". What I am saying is that it is NOT THE GOVERNMENT"S FAULT they made the wrong decision either.

Get that through your head. People bear some elementary responsibility for their own welfare too. I would not choose to live in a city under sea level, myself, just like although I love California, I won't retire there because of the earthquakes - I've lived with them and it's not worth it to me. And I never bought that lovely old house on the James River in Va. with the flood marks on the walls either - it didn't take second sight to figure out that there might be a repeat of whatever caused those marks the first time around. I still dream about the house, though. But people have different risk tolerances - they just shouldn't blame government when the predictable occurs.

The government is stepping in to help. Everyone is stepping in to help. I have cleaned out my fricking savings account to help. Are you satisfied, Al?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 2, 2005 05:09 AM

You mentioned in 1996 that you hade something in the works that would provide water for a city of 4,000.

NO is a city roughly 30 times that size. And Bush wasn't president in 1996, Clinton was.

As to the funding: You use it or lose it. All gov't agencies know that, and if projects are scheduled for 8-10 years out after a four year research study on each and every one, we are talking about possible getting started on ONE
right about this time frame, a project that would have been funded, researched, bid on, awarded and begun right about NOW from the Clinton administration.

I am curious: Would the funds from the Corps of Engineers been protected in spite of the war?
The cost to repair and build, etc. would have been nearly a billion dollars.

The city of NO would have either paid it in taxes, or the US in higher taxes and prices all across the board because of NO's location as a port.

So realistically, one or two projects might have been completed or started, but it would not have been enough.

Yes, let's blame all the previous admins as well.

Posted by: Cricket at September 2, 2005 01:51 PM

I will admit that I am disappointed with the speed of the assistance and the reaction to let the looters go largely unchallenged for days.

There, I said it.

What I won't do is be a dumb@$$ and claim that a levy project funded in 2003 or 2004 would have made an @$$hairs difference this week, or that Kyoto would have either.

Posted by: KJ at September 2, 2005 02:46 PM

KJ, I am wounded. You know in your heart of hearts that had Bush signed Kyoto his son would not be facing the wrath of Katrina now. After all, we know the 9-11 commission found Bush II guilty of not reading minds and failing professor Trelawney's Divination class.

He should have known that Gaia was out to get him.

Posted by: Cricket at September 2, 2005 03:16 PM

I don't really know how much 'challenging' of looters is practical, KJ.

The National Guard is really not trained to do that kind of thing. The only thing they could realistically do at this point is use force and/or tear gas, and if they were to do that, it would be a PR nightmare. Can you imagine?

That stuff is toast anyway. Why not let it go? It's unsalvageable. The God's honest truth is that the American public would never stand for any kind of force to be used on those people, and only force would stop them. All it would have taken was for one child or one old person to have been hurt or killed and there would have been mayhem.

And a levy project would have taken longer than Bush would have been in office, even a two-term Presidency. So that is a ridiculous charge. And if Kyoto is the problem, what explains Galveston?

People are so dumb.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 2, 2005 03:31 PM

There was a time when even the Mayor of San Francisco was man enough to deal with looters. Here is a proclomation following the 1906 earthquake:

Posted by: KJ at September 2, 2005 03:48 PM

Oops. Here is the link:


Posted by: KJ at September 2, 2005 03:48 PM

Excellent post. I got here via a link on my husband's blog. Everything you said is exactly what I've been feeling, as I've watched the pundits start twisting everything into a huge PC mess. It frustrates me how nobody's talking about why a large portion of those people are/were still there, despite the warnings they were given. And personal responsibility. If people decide they want to stay with their stuff, if their stuff is that important to them, then don't bellyache a few days later when you've decided your stuff isn't as important, as say, your life. Especially when the choices were clear and laid out before you made your decision. And then to have the expectation that others will come rescue you, risking their life, because you changed your mind, and made a poor choice to begin with.

And granted, I understand some people physically were unable to leave, etc., I'm not talking about that - I'm talking about people who chose to stay and now expect others to save and take care of them.

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of compassion for these people. I can't imagine the heartache and devastation this has brought to so many, I think it's awful and tragic. I just get disgusted by it becoming all political and whatnot, and people pushing their agendas in the face of tragedy, instead of just figuring out how to get things done.

And I'm glad Gail said something about the use of the word 'refugee' that's been driving me nuts.

Posted by: Kelly at September 2, 2005 04:52 PM

Cassandra. You have been poor but you haven't been black. You had two parents. You had a good education. You were (with the exception of turning out Republican) taught the right values.

You all are on the wrong side of history with this one. Of course it isn't all Bush's fault, just as 9-11 wasn't. And I blame fully the Democratic Mayor and Governor for shoddy planning and performance.

Not specifically Bush; it is more the general philosophy that Republicans have toward government. Ideologically, they think government is the problem; that it can't do anything right. And then to make a self-fulfilling prophecy, they privatize government functions like airport security, staff government agencies with cronies and syncophants, and defund necessary programs. Of course it doesn't work!

A billion dollars investment to save 100 billion now would have seemed pretty cheap. Don't think the taxpayers won't foot the bill for this.

I blame Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Dubya, Grover Norquist, Trent Lott, and every hack who ever said we can have a government without paying for it.

The "smart" well-prepared people who fled are also going to be homeless and jobless for months or years. We're talking a million people. If the society that we have, we the people, our government, our businesses, and our charities, do not do right by them, our institutions have no legitimacy. And private charity will not do it alone.

Republicans are calling for total repeal of the estate tax next week. What timing! The lesson is not yet learned.

There will be a cleansing of the leadership ranks. Dem, Rep, Green, Red, Blue, Purple. Grover Norquist, who wants to drown government in a bathtub, has drowned a city instead. Joe Biden wanted to reform bankruptcy law, ends up shackling these disaster victims into indentured servitude to MBNA. George Bush wanted to be the War President, and now he's the Disaster President. If Katrina is the greatest natural disaster visited on us, and 9-11 the greatest man-made disaster, then George W. Bush is the greatest political disaster.

Posted by: Old Testament Liberal at September 3, 2005 12:30 AM

It's always more taxes for you "liberals." How about better spending without more taxes? Would you suggest a program to cut and instead use that money for bigger flood walls and building up NO to a hurricane proof city?

I blame Republicans for this too. It it isn't a philosphy that the govt. can't do anything right. The private sector isn't screwing up this process. What it does well should stay in the private sector.

Rescues of this magnitute require govt. assistance. The military, a uniquely govt function, is well equiped to do this. I don't blame the lack of funding on it. It was purely an execution problem.

"A billion dollars investment to save 100 billion now would have seemed pretty cheap. Don't think the taxpayers won't foot the bill for this."

Every investment of a "contingency" seems cheap after the fact. Yet, we have Soc. Sec. b/c people don't invest in their retirement and people trapped in N. O. b/c they didn't invest in an escape plan.

Are we prepared for the next big meteor to hit the earth, like the one that probably killed the dinosaurs? Probably not, but what's a 10Billion dollar investment. It will be cheap when it happens.

I'm rambling. Back to work.

Posted by: KJ at September 3, 2005 11:58 AM

I felt a disturbance in the Force. It was as if millions of bloggers cried out in agony at the thought of their beloved SLIM WHITMAN records being looted. I shudder at thinking up such a horrific scenario!

As to all the whiners worried about New Orleans, I agree that what happened is a tragedy. OTOH, I can't help but think what a bunch of drama queens americans can be.

Perhaps it is just the extreme fatalism inherent in my Slavic nature, but the rest of the world suffers far worse than this without going into the overblown hysterics the reporters were displaying on TV. Its almost as if there is an expectation that bad things can never happen to americans. Get real!

I know that, given the liberal addiction to an all-powerful "nanny state", the idea that the Feds can protect the citizenry from any harm is a logical extension of this ideology. It is a childish notion, however, which one might expect from a toddler who, in his immaturity, believes mommy can make everything better. In the real world, though, bad things happen.

My family had to make it past an Iron Curtain to escape a brutal totalitarian state that could shoot you, torture you, or make anyone "disappear" into Gulag concentration camps at the State's whim.

My father's generation of eastern europeans experienced the horrors of WWII; first under the TLC of the Nazis, and then the Red Army. Rape, looting, civilian massacres, starvation and famine, and the broad spectrum of man's inhumanity to man were well known to them.

My grandparents' generation experienced similar horrors during WWI, but they included plagues and epidemics as well. They wouldn't speak about the terrible things they experienced, but I remember my grandfather once talking about seeing dead bodies carpetting the ground in their thousands -- something which haunted him the rest of his life.

More recent natural and man-made disasters around the world have caused the deaths of tens of thousands.

America is such a blessed and idyllic nation, that its citizens seem to believe that nothing bad is ever supposed to happen to them. They are shocked and dumbfounded when a natural disaster like Katrina hits. We are not supposed to ever suffer! This must have only happened because Bush and the all-powerful "nanny-state" LET it happen. What a stupid attitude! Grow up, people.

As to the looters/thugs, they should be shot for the animals they are. In times of crisis, people's true natures come out, for better or worse.

The race-baiters are even worse than the looters! What kind of jackass uses a tragedy like this to try and score points for their political agenda? I remember previous instances of blacks rising up in righteous anger to protest racial injustice in Watts, Harlem, in support of Rodney King, etc.

The preferred method of fighting racial oppression seems to be stealing TVs, boomboxes, and other electronics, fashionable shoes, liquor, and drugs. Other methods include random killings and maimings of primarily non-black races, although black-on-black violence also occurs. Right on, fight the Power!

Until the black community stops making excuses for black thugs and criminals, or blames "whitey" instead of accepting responsibility for those criminals' actions, then we will continue to see such lawless and predatory behavior.

Posted by: a former european at September 4, 2005 07:54 AM

OTL, there are at least three black families in my neighborhood, two parent nuclear family types who are homeowners and whose kids are not doing drugs.

Your comment smacks of a certain smugness; ie that if one is black, then he/she automatically comes from a broken home or has issues with poverty.

There are two single parents who own their homes, both white females; one a divorcee and one a widow. The divorcee is working her way through school and will be certified at the end of this calendar year as a special ed teacher, the widow is struggling to make both ends meet and the state hasn't stepped up to the plate to help either one of them.

Posted by: Cricket at September 4, 2005 08:02 PM

Please consider adding a link to a song about Katrina survivors on your site by Dixie Lizard.
You should really take the time to listen to the song that I wrote in honor of all of those affected on the Gulf coast. I have friends, family, and loved ones who have lost everything as a result. Being a singer songwriter I took it upon myself to sing my prayer to the survivors. The song is called "Gulf Coast Lullaby", I play the Bass Guitar, The keyboard, and sing on this very simple but hard hitting song. It's of no cost to anyone and I just want to share my prayer of hope with all concerned. I would appreciate you possibly linking to the song for all of your readers to hear. Gulf Coast Lullaby by Dixie Lizard

(Just right click the file above and use "save target option" to download to where you wan it on your computer. the song is sampled at 224kps which is a very good quality.)

You will find it on this page with a story and you may want to just link to this page:
Preying Lizard's Red Cross donation page

I also have a direct link to the Red Cross on that page so that listeners can donate to them if they feel the urge to do so. I make no money from this and it is from my heart.
Please give it a listen and if you have comments please write me back so I can add them to my website. that's all I ask.
With love and God bless,
Les Lewellyn

Preying Lizard Music Ezine

Posted by: Les Lewellyn at September 27, 2005 04:06 PM

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