Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rebuttal to a famous whiner...

From National Review Online, we learn that Ann Rice demands her share of the welfare state, and gets a rebuttal in the process:

We Failed You? Try Again.
Anne Rice blames America, not local officials.

"To my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.” — novelist and New Orleans resident Anne Rice

Let me get this straight.

Ms. Rice, you live in (what was) a very attractive city which lies below sea level. On one side you have a giant lake; on the other side you have the Gulf of Mexico. Running through the middle is the Mississippi River. All of which are above you.

Preventing those giant bodies of water from flooding and drowning you are levees. These levees are described as “century-old.” People have been warning about the devastating effects of a direct hit from a hurricane for decades.

I’ve heard a great deal of complaint in recent days that the federal government may not have allocated enough money to speed up the upgrades to those levees. This does, however, raise the question of why city and state residents were waiting around for the federal government to send enough money to upgrade this, instead of paying for it themselves. I mean, it was only your homes, businesses, and lives at stake. Perhaps these upgrades would have been expensive. If only this city had some sort of events to attract tourists, from which to collect taxes.

Anyway, your state and local officials decided to spend your tax dollars on something else that they (and presumably you) found more important, and then they waited for the rest of the country to pay for these life-preserving necessities.

Your beloved city and region has a colorful political history, in which there is, oh, a wee bit of corruption. I’m from New Jersey, so I can’t throw stones at that glass house. But you guys have managed to pick leaders who give you the worst of both worlds — they’re scandal ridden and incompetent in a crisis. Look, Rudy Giuliani might have run around with Judith Nathan before his divorce, but he was a hell of a leader in our darkest hours. You know the National Review crowd isn’t a fan of Pataki, but the man was a rock after 9/11 compared to Governor Weepy I’ll-Evacuate-Eventually and Mayor It’s-Everybody’s-Fault-Except-Mine. Nobody’s throwing around the adjective “Churchillian” about any of your officials these days. We didn’t pick your local officials; you guys did.

Rice asks, “how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid?”

Ahem. What about those buses left unused, less than a mile from the Superdome? JunkYardBlog notes that it’s written in the Southeast Louisiana Evacuation Plan that buses are supposed to be used for evacuation of those who don’t have personal vehicles. As JYB observes, “there is something very peculiar about a city and a state that have a plan on the books for years that outlines what to do when a hurricane is about to strike, yet when a hurricane comes roaring in, the responsible officials just chuck the plan and try winging it. Delaying and then winging it in the face of a monstrous Cat 4/5 hurricane is never, ever a good idea, especially for New Orleans.” (See more here.) Ironically, Nagin told CNN, “I need buses, man,” when he had plenty sitting around unused before the storm hit. Now they’re flooded and useless.

But it’s not like state and local officials could have seen this coming. They have never had a hurricane bearing down on them before and… oh, wait, there was Hurricane Ivan just last year. And after that dodged bullet, Blanco and Nagin both acknowledged they needed a better evacuation plan.

I would note that we’ve seen some pretty intense disasters in other parts of the country, like planes crashing into skyscrapers and subsequently collapsing, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and yet somehow, none of these disasters had the total breakdown of law and order, civil society, etc. Jonah Goldberg’s early joke about a Mad-Max style post-apocalyptic tribal anarchy may have been in poor taste, but it has turned out to be nightmarishly prescient.

We failed you? No, oh brilliant creator of Exit to Eden, you failed. You might not think of it this way, but: Your leaders failed to upgrade the levees. You elected a bunch of weepers and blame-shifters who lost their head in a crisis.

Over the past decades, your elected officials have let a criminal element incubate and grow until they ruled the streets, instead of the forces of law and order. In pop culture, a New Orleans thief is always a charming rogue with a devilish smile. In reality, they’re a bunch of thugs.

If the number of residents who are looting thugs were such a “tiny minority,” we wouldn’t have seen this widespread, relentless anarchy. Madam, a noticeable number of your neighbors saw this disaster as an opportunity to smash a window and run away with a television, an act that reveals much about the inadequacies of the local school system, since that thief won’t be enjoying that television with any electricity anytime soon.

I would also note that this is one hell of a police force your local officials hired and that you and your neighbors tolerated. 50 percent turned in their badges during the crisis and quit. Your police superintendent is conceding that some cops were looting. Just want to refresh your memory — four years ago, New York and Washington, planes falling out of the sky, thousands dead, no idea what the hell is coming next… and the cops, among others, showed up to work.

To save you guys now, I — and a lot of other Americans — will pitch in. We are witnessing the biggest mobilization of civilian and military rescue and relief crews in history. But I have a sneaking suspicion you’re going to want the rest of us to pay for the rebuilding of your city. (In the near future, we’re going to have to have a little chat about the wisdom of building below sea level, directly next to large bodies of water.) And if you’re going to come to the rest of us hat in hand, demanding the rest of us clean up after your poor judgment, I’d appreciate a little less “you failed us” and a little more “we’ve learned our lesson.”

Jim Geraghty is reporting from Ankara, Turkey, where the locals keep asking him how something like this could happen in America.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Classic Leading Man Test

I like Acidman. I've been ghost-reading his blog for sometime now. He's a crotchety old fart, prone to hissy fits every now and then, but if I had to ascribe a persona to somebody from the Old South, it would be his. An old friend once told me that he wouldn't piss on a certain individual's teeth if his gums were on fire. I could hear Acidman saying those exact words.

My numbers didn't quite match his percentages (nor should they), but it's a fun test, regardless. And were I lucky enough to be John Wayne, I would so quickly play "Home on the Range" with Maureen O'Hara, one's head would certainly spin.

(Edited) Sumbitch! I scored a John Wayne! Woohoo! Where's that buxom redhead?

Emergency Government 101

For many years I thought it was an interesting notion that domestic turkeys would drown if allowed to stay outdoors during a rainstorm. The story goes that they stare up at the sky and inhale water, thereby drowning.

This is probably urban legend, and a quick visit to, while not the be-all, end-all of definitive sources, says it's a legend. Regardless, it would appear that certain populations of Homo Sapiens have acquired this deadly trait. Worse yet, those fortunate few individuals of that sub-population who do survive the water inhalation trick have learned an even more impressive one: Blaming the Federal Government, including the POTUS, for their woes while at the same time demanding immediate and massive relief within seconds of the deluge.

Here's an example of the skyward-gazing turkey:

Discussion thread at TFL forum, note "Eghad's" confusion

This may reflect a problem in our high schools with respect to the Goverment class, or maybe our particular gobbler just wasn't paying attention. Regardless, I propose to drown-proof that turkey, here goes:

1. Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, drafted up the Constitution. It was pretty darned good, considering all the bickering that went into getting it signed, and has survived with relatively few changes, which are called Amendments. Amendments 1-10 are called the Bill of Rights. Amendments 11-27 were added between 1794 and 1992. Some of these Amendments were real jewels, like the 2nd Amendment, while others were, well, does anybody remember Prohibition? All was good, even a benevolent entity like the Flying Spaghetti Monster would approve.

2. Fast-forward a few years. One really neat ingredient of the Constitution and it's Amendments (particularly the Tenth Amendment) is something called States' Rights. Click on the term if you want an in-depth explanation, but the Cliff Notes version says it protects the States from an overbearing and intrusive Federal Government, thereby preventing a misuse of Federal Authority.

3. How does this factor into the drowning turkey scenario? That same part of the Constitution that prevents the Federal Goverment from abusing it's authority and trampling the rights of the individual states also prevents the Federal Government from arbitrarily taking charge of matters delegated to city and state governments, without their express consent. Let's look at this scenario:

A. A hurricane, perhaps Category 5, let's call her Katrina, is heading towards a population center called New Orleans. As it approaches New Orleans, the President decides to declare Louisiana and Mississippi Federal Disaster Areas, before the storm hits the coast. Why? So that agencies like FEMA can free up assets and personnel in plenty of time for action when needed. However, and this is a big however, due to the Constitution and laws derived from it, neither the President nor FEMA can just "take charge" of the situation in New Orleans, because that's the domain of the governments of New Orleans (as figureheaded by Mayor Ray Nagin) and Louisiana (as figureheaded by Governor Blanco). By law, the city and state governments have to request the Federal Assistance before FEMA can move in. And that's where it appears a gaggle of drowning turkeys first met their demise.

B. The City of New Orleans has emergency procedures clearly spelled out, a checklist for city government officials to follow for emergencies just like Katrina. On page 13 of that checklist, instructions are given to use public transportation to evacuate city residents to safety before a hurricane hits. This was probably the first example of bad judgement in the New Orleans administration - instead of moving 30,000 people out of the low-lying areas of New Orleans and off to safety, Mayor Nagin focused on sending folks to the Superdome for shelter. Nor was there preparation inside the Superdome to convert it to a shelter, it was just an assembly point, nothing more. In the meantime, 500+ city and parish school buses sat unused in their parking lots, garnering the name, post-storm, of the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool.

C. The story of the drowning turkeys continue. It appears at least one young New Orleans resident with a self-preservation instinct commandeered one of the abandoned buses, loaded it with refugees, and headed to the Houston Astrodome, stopping only for diesel. Well done, Mr. Jabbar Gibson! Personally, I'd nominate him as the next Mayor of New Orleans, because he at least had some initiative.

D. The storm continues to approach, and finally, it thwacks New Orleans. As Mayor Nagin hunkers down at his designated shelter location, it appears New Orleans was spared the full measure of Katrina's wrath, because the levees held! Or rather, the levees held for several hours before rupturing due to the pressure exerted by Katrina's storm surge. New Orleans starts to flood. Here's where the clue bird should have struck. See Ray dial FEMA. Dial, Ray Dial! Hear Kathleen call George W. Call, Kathleeen, Call! Nope. Matter of fact, we hear later that Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco were still trying to figure out which way was "up". And that's precisely what the New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor were doing - an interview with Mayor Nagin states that while on board Air Force One with President Bush, Governor Blanco asked for an additional 24 hours to decide on whether she would request federal help.

4. And as we all learned in the school class of Emergency Government 101 (above), the Federal Government, including FEMA, cannot move in and respond unless local and state governments request assistance first. (State's Rights and all that Constitutional Stuff...)

5. There, that's the answer for those turkeys gobbling about the President and FEMA not doing enough and soon enough. Go back to your foraging, and watch out for the storms.

The light switch was just turned on.

All right, folks, this is a big empty room. Lots of room for me to deposit all those neural misfires that have been taking up space in my brainpan over the last 35+ years, you know, the space that could be better used for something constructive. Stay tuned, it could be a fun ride here. I start terminal leave from Uncle Sam's Air Force towards the end of January, 2006. It was a fun 20 years, but verbosity will ensue, I guarantee. I've had to bite my tongue for far too long.