09/04/2005: And Who Says ANYONE is OFF the HOOK...
... for this Tragedy??
How Did This Happen?:
The hurricane was the least of the surprises. Why a natural disaster became a man-made debacle—and what this catastrophe says about our rescue capabilities four years after 9/11 by Amanda Ripley (Time):
"Hindsight is 20/20. but once in a rare while, foresight is too. For years, researchers have described exactly what would happen if a megahurricane hit New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf region. They predicted that the city levees would not hold. Their elaborate computer models showed that tens of thousands would be left behind.
They described rooftop rescues, 80% of New Orleans underwater and "toxic gumbo" purling through the streets. If experts had prophesied a terrorist attack with that kind of accuracy, they would be under suspicion for treason.
How, then, did we get here? How did the richest country on earth end up watching children cry for food in putrid encampments on the evening news? How did reporters reach crowds of the desperate in places where police, troops and emergency responders had not yet been—three days after the storm?
Deconstructing Katrina will take years. But it is already clear that the blame can be well distributed, from the White House to emergency-management officials at federal, state and local levels, all the way down to the cops who abandoned their posts in New Orleans. "The system broke," says Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards Research Lab at the University of South Carolina. "A system that cannot airlift water and food to a community that's desperate for it is a system that is broken."
Close up, the reasons are infuriating. New Orleans officials were supremely unprepared; that was never a secret among people in the disaster business. Meanwhile, throughout the state and Federal governments, much money and willpower had shifted to fighting terrorism, a major risk and vital effort but much less of a sure thing than natural disasters. Because of tax cuts and budget pressures at all levels, many emergency-response capabilities—once the envy of the world—have slipped. If Hurricane Katrina turns out to be the biggest disaster in U.S. history to date, it will also be the least surprising.
The larger lesson may be more humbling: after all the post-9/11 vows, are we still not well enough armed for the next big one? Humans are not very good at understanding risk, and in this country, they perform worst when it costs a lot to prevent or prepare for a disaster—especially when the people who would otherwise suffer the most are poor.
Katrina was a big, vicious storm, it must be said. But Katrina was not the worst-case scenario. Katrina was a test. ..."
OR this from the Washington Post:
Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting
White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials:
"...Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.
Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."
Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.
Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."
In a Washington briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said one reason federal assets were not used more quickly was "because our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor."
Chertoff planned to fly overnight to the New Orleans area to take charge of deploying the expanded federal and military assets for several days, he said. He said he has "full confidence" in FEMA Director Michael D. Brown, the DHS undersecretary and federal officer in charge of the Katrina response.
Brown, a frequent target of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin's wrath, said Saturday that "the mayor can order an evacuation and try to evacuate the city, but if the mayor does not have the resources to get the poor, elderly, the disabled, those who cannot, out, or if he does not even have police capacity to enforce the mandatory evacuation, to make people leave, then you end up with the kind of situation we have right now in New Orleans."
New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas acknowledged that the city was surprised by the number of refugees left behind, but he said FEMA should have been prepared to assist.
"Everybody shares the blame here," said Thomas. "But when you talk about the mightiest government in the world, that's a ludicrous and lame excuse. You're FEMA, and you're the big dog. And you weren't prepared either."
In Baton Rouge, Blanco acknowledged Saturday: "We did not have enough resources here to do it all. . . . The magnitude is overwhelming."
State officials had planned to turn to neighboring states for help with troops, transportation and equipment in a major hurricane. But in Katrina's case, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were also overwhelmed, said Denise Bottcher, a Blanco spokesman..."
So, here it is - Blame for Everybody, Federal, State and Local.
Karen on 09.04.05 @ 08:22 AM CST