Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lileks On Katrina

Good stuff.


It turns out that the state officials turned away the Red Cross from using pre-positioned supplies to alleviate the conditions in NO and the Superdome, “right after the storm passed.” Anyone have any Righteous Anger to spare for them? Or is that blaming the victim? It’s come to this: suggesting that the local officials might be more responsible for, you know, local conditions is now a partisan position. Apparently if you put more responsibility for those actually entrusted with the welfare of a city, you’re one of those “big government is the problem” Reaganite nutcases who wants to devolve everything down to the block level. Which, in retrospect, might actually have served NO residents better. But that would be bad; if the feds requested that people form block organizations for disaster survival it would be either derided as hysteria – oh, and I suppose we’re supposed to bring duct tape – or an attempt to extend the Patriot Act to cover rolling-paper purchases at the corner store. (Note: Cuban and Nicaraguan Party-ordered block clubs were a natural reaction to Yanqui imperialism, nothing more. Granted, when you get the order requesting your presence at the police HQ to explain what someone heard you say at the bar last night, that’s unfortunate. On the other hand, literacy rates in Cuba are great, so you can read the summons for your semi-annual tooth-loosening without having to ask your neighbor what this word means. Win-win, really, in the long run.)

I never have understood why some people sprong a Louisville Slugger when the subject of Activist Government comes up. In another age and place, I would have agreed. Hoover Dam, the Interstate Highway System, enforcing Civil Rights, the Moon Shot - these are big-ticket items, and big guv paid the freight. But they are limited ideas with limited, defined goals. If the federal government had decided to make New Orleans safe from floods, and had unlimited funds, it could have done so – either by building 67-foot walls or moving the entire city or enclosing it in a dome and blasting it into space. Give them a blank check and 27 years, and they’ll probably get it done, and done well. But Big Government is not good at dealing with things that happen at 3:57 PM Eastern Standard Time tomorrow.


Oh, the lessons we learned from Katrina. Bush’s refusal to invade New Orleans tells everything you need to know about Republican racist perfidy. The local government’s incompetence tells you nothing whatsoever about Democrats ability to govern at the micro level. Lethal storms can be turned aside months in advance by signing the right treaties. Or so they’re saying in the reality-based community.

Check the blogs: they’re calling President Bush’s response to Katrina “My Pet Goat pt. 2.” It’s a reference to the idea, so beloved of the Michael Moore enthusiasts and Osama Bin Laden, that President Bush’s initial reaction to the 9/11 was to give a what-me-worry grin and keep reading a kid’s story, because he wanted to know how it ended. These people seem to believe that a complete set of evacuation plans – including the removal of the entire city, buildings included, to Manitoba – were slapped down on the President’s desk the moment Katrina was just a stiff breeze, and Bush said nope. Call me when gas hits nine bucks a gallon, and besides, the town’s just full of Democrats; let ‘em float out in those Cadillacs they bought with welfare checks.


This level of incandescent lunacy isn’t new. In the 90s there were people who believed that President Clinton would use Y2K to herd us into FEAM-run gulags to have barcodes tattooed on our necks, but these people confined themselves to rants at 3 AM on Art Bell’s radio show. By 2006 their ideological heirs on the left will be the evening line-up of MSNBC guests.

If we learned anything we can take away, it’s this: you’re on your own. At least keep an emergency kit on hand, the sort of thing Tom Ridge proposed, and which made the smart set hardy har har because it contained duct tape. Don’t rely on the government. Four years after 9/11, it’s apparent that some local governments are not well-oiled machines when it comes to disasters – more like a box of sand and busted gears. Blame for that can be promiscuously distributed.

Lesson two: the next terrorist attack will not unite us for a warm hug-filled fortnight. The hard left won’t wait 24 hours before blaming President Bush, and the country will enjoy the sight of prominent pundits angrier at the President than [at] the men who nuked Des Moines.

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