Thursday, September 01, 2005

But Wait, not so fast!

No doubt, some on the left are pissed at the aftermath to hurricane Katrina, to the lack of preparedness, lack of transportation, lack of response, people dying in the streets, and the president nowhere to be found. Pent up frustration on the left after having been ignored, demeaned and run out of any meaningful government roles in the past five years are, shall we say, breaking the levee. The shock of the pictures of a city in chaos has worn off though, and has been replaced by anger. The liberal blogosphere is showing a wide range of emotions on the country's response to this disaster, from cautious sympathy to outright boil-over rage. However, such things are often much more complex than a simple case of finger-pointing will highlight, though not always.

John Cole points us to Ezra Klein, who takes a more cautious route:

Matt's got a post on What Went Wrong in New Orleans that's very much worth reading. In short, it wasn't that the levees and procedures didn't work as they were supposed to, it's that they weren't supposed to work in these sorts of conditions. Judged that way, they functioned exactly as we expected they would. That New Orleans was left unprepared for a Category 4/5 hurricane is criminal, not least because everyone from local papers to FEMA experts had been sounding that alarm for awhile. But on that, there's much blame to go around, and it lands just as heavily on Louisiana's Democratic state government as Bush's FEMA cuts. Maybe heavier.

This is not something to politicize. It's really not. As the days drag by, we'll uncover a slew of administrative and economic failures, some negligent, some short-sighted, some idiotic, some accidental. The blame, I promise, will spread wide. Short-sighted prioritization will likely assume a starring role as a heavily-muscled hurricane seemed less immediate than wars, deficit reduction, and social programs -- and that goes for both the federal government and the state/loclaadministrations. The blame will arc wide, from Blanco to Bush to Breaux, and trying to zero it in on the President will be neither good politics nor honest. His great failure in all this was in abdicating leadership when it happened, in being weak and unfocused, in responding as if it America needed a laundry list rather than leadership. Bush was a poor president this week and for that, he deserves what he gets. But the blame game? Let's wait till the waters stop, and let's not make it a partisan football: when we do that, nothing gets solved. And for Louisiana's sake, we need to look for solutions.

But before solutions, we need stopgap measures. We need money for the displaced. The liberal blogs are running a fundraising drive. All donations go to the Red Cross. We're trying to get a million dollars together. Sound high? Well, I have about 3,000 daily readers: if you all donated $50 bucks, it'd be $150,000. Now, that won't happen, but insofar as you can, you really should try and give something. Last week I mentioned that I don't have a tip jar on the site because I don't think myself a particularly worthy cause. This is. Last night, I started us off with a $100 donation. I know you guys can outdo a college student. Please be generous. Please go donate.

I urge you to read it, including the comments, as they continue the debate (and it's trip around the blogosphere) much farther.

Arthur, on the other hand, examines the Bush Administration's response to this disaster and puts the blame squarely on the White House. He also wonders if this is the response the American people should expect should there be another attack on our soil:

Via Atrios, a reader sends the following question about Katrina’s aftermath to Josh Marshall:

I have a question that no one has raised so far. Wouldn’t part of any homeland security preparation be the handling of refugees? Virtually any serious terrorist attack (explosion, nuclear, biological) would entail a large number of displaced persons. Wasn’t anything done along these lines? I would have thought we would have pre-positioned refugee resources (tents, MRE’s, water purification, generators, emergency medical care) near major population centers in the event of mass exodus. Am I crazy?

We see now that the Bush administration was and is completely unprepared for a disaster of this kind, and on this scale. And as Marshall’s questioner points out and Atrios expands upon, this disaster is identical in many (and perhaps most) significant ways to the kind that we are constantly told we can expect from a terrorist attack. In fact, the administration goes further than simply saying we can expect it: they tell us that we can count on it as an absolute certainty.
Ever since 9/11, the administration has used fear as its primary weapon: fear as the means to reelection (Cheney’s infamous remark that the election of John Kerry would represent “the wrong choice,” and the result would be “the danger … that we’ll get hit again”), fear as the means for endlessly expanding their own power—supposedly so that they could better protect us, fear as the primary distraction from their own wrongdoing—in short, fear as the ultimate justification for all their actions, and fear as the ultimate excuse by means of which they seek our forgiveness for their incompetence and malfeasance.

But now, the Bush administration’s use of fear is revealed as a lie from beginning to end—as a political strategy, with no further meaning. They never took any of their own endlessly repeated warnings of calamity seriously at all. They never meant any of it.

Atrios asks: “Haven’t they done fucking anything in 4 years?”

The answer must be in two parts. Yes, they’ve done a great deal: they’ve consolidated their own power, they’ve demonized all their opponents and smeared them as “unpatriotic” and “anti-American,” and they’ve almost completely neutered the media so that the administration is never seriously questioned by anyone, even by those whose job it is to question them.

But in terms of protecting Americans from a terrorist attack or the aftermath of a natural disaster: no, they haven’t done a fucking thing. They never intended to. It was all a means to power—power as an end in itself, with no further justification sought or asked for. It’s all a game to them—and the object of the game is to acquire all the power for themselves, and to take it away from everyone else.

That’s all it was, and that’s all it is. For anyone who gives a damn, that is the point that should be emphasized and repeated all the time, every hour of every day from now on, until these bastards no longer have the kind of power they do today.

If they’re not driven from power, they’ll kill a lot more of us before they’re done. As history has demonstrated over and over, the greatest threat and the worst enemy is not “over there”—it’s right here at home. And we have never faced a more dangerous enemy than the one that threatens us today.

And his name is George W. Bush.

I will try to post more differing opinions floating around the blogosphere as time permits.


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