Who's in charge?

The blame game is now delayed - rathar than pointing fingers, everyone is taking responsibility for the failures. To be more specific, everyone is taking charge of "fixing the problems." Today on CNN Chertoff refused to take responsibility for personal mistakes.

A former professor had an interesting comment related to my federalism comments from a few weeks ago. R Payne points out that the people who left New Orleans are not refugees, but internally displaced people. Moreover, responsibility lies then with the federal government (especially since these people were not displaced within Louisiana, but went to more than 23 other states).

Now, let's see where Rita ends up and what happens...

Getting better in the Big Easy

Things are getting better in New Orleans. Finally, the city is dewatering, and people can think of returning soon. However, now it is time for the fingers to REALLY start pointing in all directions.

One of the primary arguments that are sure to arise are the very issues that took the United States to war in 1861. Not slavery, but the very nature of federalism are at the heart of the response to Katrina. The Republican Party has sought to defer responsibilities to the states and the private sector. Appartently, they didn't get the message in New Orleans.

However, the reality is that no city or state could ever be prepared for such an immense disaster without being accused of greed. The costs to rebuild New Orleans, even without the loss to income they will face, far outstrip their financial abilities to pay. THe costs to the nation, however, are much greater. New Orleans is among the largest ports in the US and even the world, moving billions of dollars worth of goods throughout the middle part of America.

This loss is to the nation, and as such the nation bears a responsibility to help rebuild New Orleans. The City of New Orleans mustn't be rebuilt so that America has a place to party come February; the city must rebuild for the health of the national economy.


NOLA.com reports today that the National Forest Service offered use of firefighting planes to extenguish several fires raging in teh city. The local fire department is not able to respond - I am sure it is a mix of not being able to get equipment to the fire, not having firefighters on site, and lacking water pressure.

However, the Department of Homeland Security has not approved their use. Yes, they are waiting on approval. This is unacceptable. Mayor Nagin is correct - there are too many chefs in the kitchen. The disaster area is spread across at least three states, but the majority of this problem is within one state. The governor can't seem to handle this; General Honore is quite in charge, but only the military side; FEMA is supposed to be in charge, but is in abstentia and relies upon other leaders. Mayor Nagin has been stellar - the captain at the helm - but is cut off and can't rally his resources. They are dispersed and now tired- some police officers have resigned.

WWL Radio just noted that we didn't just have two days to know this storm was coming; we had 35 years. I am not even from New Orleans, and I knew that this could happen. Having been to the city, it is obvious that there is water everywhere. Why wasn't the state and federal government ready? Why are they waiting for approval?

The current government is woefully unprepared - they're distracted. While the DHS sits on the front porch with a shotgun waiting for a terrorist to come walking up the sidewalk, this hurricane has slipped in the back door and wrecked the house. We can only suspect another terrorist attack - we've known this hurricane is coming for years. We know another earthquake can hit LA or San Francisco at any time. The New Madrid Fault, straddling Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky is another earthquake risk zone.

Why is it we must wait on official requests when their is a problem? Why isn't there one agency or individual who can call these shots and send the appropriate resources to the appropriate place? Why aren't the structures already in place to allow resources to surge to one place? Why was it that Sheriffs from Loudon County Virginia were turned away?

This bureaucratic crap is just that. I certainly hope that when the Big One hits Tokyo, the officials here are much more prepared. I have my map ready to find my way home when I walk home from downtown. 100's of thousands practiced this on September 1, the anniversary of the last major earthquake here in Tokyo.

"This is not Iraq!"

After September 11, 2001 Rudolph Giuliani was the hero of the day. He served as the primary leader and motivating force.

Today, that man is Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore, native of Lakeland, Louisiana. As the Mayor of New Orleans said, " he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done". He is the leader shining in this sea of desparation.

As I write, according to CNN, the General is standing on a street corner directing traffic himself. He is directing several dozen military vehicles all filled with MPs. They are going to the convention center to create a beachhead, if you will, of order before they deliver food to the starving peole holed up there.

What an amazing moment... things are going to change on the American landscape.

Bad times are rolling...

Chaos... Anarchy... Urban Warfare...

Are these the words we must use to describe one of my most beloved cities? Is it possible? As I sit here in Tokyo, I am shocked, enraged, and most of all embarassed. Is this my country?

The Washington Post reports today that this is the largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War 140 years ago. Tens of thousands of people are abandoning the New Orleans area. They are spreading out across the South, and into other regions of the United States. The impact will be huge.

First, many tens and thousands of these people will start to reconstruct their lives wherever they have landed. If you live from paycheck to paycheck, you will simply stay where you are once you get a job. The population will turn to a small town over the next week, but over the next six months I do not suspect the population will return to what it was a few days ago. This will have huge raminfacations for the tax base and planning of N.O.

In the communities where these people are going, life will not be the same. A sudden growth of 10,000, 20,000 or more people to Houston, San Antonio, Little Rock, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Birmingham, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and other cities throughout the region will rock local economies. Where will these people live? Where will they work?

Even in other cities where the population growth will not be as large (a few hundred or a few thousand) the sheer poverty will be a strain. Shelters in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky are braced to accept stragglers who make the 1000 mile journey there. This will be a short term burden, but certainly can be overcome.

For the city of New Orleans though, this loss will be irreparable. The people who live in N.O. do so because they love the city. However, many people (a large percentage of the city was below the poverty line, and now below the water line too) will leave and never come back. Will cities attempt to relocate what will become unwanted refugees?

Another issue that is fuming under the surface is racism. The people who didn't or couldn't get out or wouldn't get out are the poorest members of the community. 2/3 of N.O. was African American. Many of them were poor, and most of the lowest lying neighborhoods were mostly (90% or more) African American. These are the people suffering the most.

For racists across the country, the images seen on TV will confirm their negative stereotypes. I know that not all the looting is committed by African Americans, but when the poorest and the blackest are who remain to loot, that is the image that will be captured.

As for the nation as a whole, the gas prices are real crisis. Prices have doubled in just a few months, and will not retreat to their former prices. Those gas guzzling Ford Expiditions and Explorers will become hugely unpopular. A trend of moving from these monsters to fuel efficient cars like the Toyota Prius will continue, and speed up. Most likely, Ford will close its two factories in my hometown, two of the largest employers in the city.

Both my father and my brother rely heavily on their vehicles for work - my brother is a police officer and as such works out of his car and my father works throughout central Kentucky, often driving a few hundred miles a day from worksite to worksite. These costs will be passed onto the taxpayers of my hometown and those who use the phones. Once winter sets in, heating oil and natural gas too will spike.

This is a doomsday situation for the Republican Party. Why is it we can send the U.S. military (and more importantly the health and welfare support they have with them) anywhere in the world, but we can't get food and water into N.O.? Why is it U.S. soldiers in Iraq have access to Subway, Sony Playstations, large screen TVs, not to mention a nightly buffet, but we can't get drinking water to N.O.? The response has been large and relatively quick, but the suffering has been worse. Something must be done, and must be done soon to help the people of New Orleans.

I am glued to the TV. N.O. isn't my hometown, but I proposed to my wife there. Just next to the Convention center there is balcony that overlooks the Mississippi River. That is where I did it - today the stores adjacent to that balcony are surely looted, the street is covered in feces, and people are living worse than animals. That is about as close to hitting to home I can imagine...

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