Sunday, September 11, 2005

Fisking Newsweek About Katrina

The left, and the major news outlets that are part of them, continue to operate under the "big lie" philosophy--tell a lie often enough and loud enough and eventually everyone will believe it.

Everyone but Jeff Goldstein, apparently.

He has taken a Newsweek article about the federal response to Katrina and fisked it, almost paragraph by paragraph. Some of the comments are classics, too. I personally like this comment, and it's not even as good as the full post:

The quote above states that FEMA manages the “federal response and recovery efforts.” The Feds weren’t responsible for Louisiana’s National Guard. The Feds didn’t keep the Red Cross out. The Feds don’t own over 20,000 buses in Louisiana. The Feds don’t run New Orleans’ police department. The Feds didn’t close the Gretna bridge.

Did Newsweek say where the New Orleans police are vacationing this week?

The fact staring the MSM in the face is that New Orleans is the quintessential Democratic city.

And what about this comment?

Here comes the 21st century race pimp, Barack Obama:

Obama was asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether there was racism in the lack of evacuation planning for poor, black residents of New Orleans. He said he would not refer to the government response in that way, but said there was a much deeper, long-term neglect.

“Whoever was in charge of planning was so detached from the realities of inner city life in New Orleans ... that they couldn’t conceive of the notion that they couldn’t load up their SUV’s, put $100 worth of gas in there, put some sparkling water and drive off to a hotel and check in with a credit card,” Obama said.

“There seemed to be a sense that this other America was somehow not on people’s radar screen. And that, I think, does have to do with historic indifference on the part of government to the plight of those who are disproportionately African-American.” He added that “passive indifference is as bad as active malice."

Let’s see, senator. “Whoever was in charge of planning” was… a black democrat mayor and a white democrat governor.

The point of the post is that there are a lot of people screaming about how terrible the federal response was, but not all that much talk about specifically what the feds should have done better. And there's plenty of evidence that federal response times were about what they've been in other disasters, ones in which you didn't have lefties screaming (for Bush's head).

Additionally, many people want to forget that we do not have a central government, we have a federal government. The distinction is quite important. The states are not components of the central government; they're sovereign entities that form part of a federal republic. For the President to have done some of the things (primarily with the military) that lefties are now crying that he should have done, he'd have had to have broken US law. Clearly, in this case the people of New Orleans couldn't count on their local or state governments. Best politicians money can buy, as my native New Orleans friend Mike used to joke? I hardly think so. Their local and state governments did *nothing* to help them until the feds got there, leaving them to founder for days. Sad. We live in a federal republic; too many people forget that and want Uncle Sugar to be responsible for everything.

Why are we hearing so much about New Orleans, though? The hurricane skirted New Orleans, which was spared its full force. Directly in the path was Mississippi, cities like Pascagoula and Biloxi. Why are we not hearing so much about the utter devastation there? Could it be because local and state governments there did what the citizens expected them to, helped out and held on until help from the feds was on the way? Could it be because the governor of Mississippi is the former chairman of the Republican Party? Inquiring minds want to know.


Anonymous said...

I really hope, pray, and believe that the reason the media is honing in on New Orleans is for something other then partisan reasons. Furthermore, I would say that the reason the media focuses on New Orleans is that it is the most recognizable city in the impacted reason. Not everyone has heard of Biloxi, but everyone has heard of New Orleans.

Wulf said...

This is the best damned article I have seen on the federal response to the disaster. Anywhere.

Darren said...

I hope you're referring to the fisking, *not* to the Newsweek article itself!

Ronnie said...

I completely agree, there was major mismanagement on the local and state levels, but does that allow the Republicans to give up all federal responsibility for what happened? I think not. I say the Republican’s because the people I’ve heard yelling “Let’s not play the blame game” over and over seem to be adhering to that party. The fact is I don't know what could have been done, but obviously it could have been better, because if that’s as good as it gets were in deep trouble if something like this happens again. If the local and state government was being completely useless then why didn't the federal government step in? The sad part is the law probably prevents that, so maybe that's what needs the changing. Next time maybe well have changed things where the federal government at least gives direction to the state and local levels so that they do what's right. I believe that both parties are skewed on this one, one trying to stick Bush's head on a pike for something that wasn’t all directly his doing and one trying to make it look like nothing better could have been done. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, this should be what went wrong, and how do we fix it.

Anonymous said...

What about the declared states of emergency in Louisiana before Katrina hit? Doesn't that give the Federal Government the right to come into the states to help out? Seems that saying that it was illegal for the Feds to come in at that time isn't quite right.

Darren said...

As has been pointed out in several other places, the federal government is not a "first responder". The feds weren't the first on the scene on 9/11--that was NYPD and FDNY. The feds are like a big juggernaut; it takes a couple days to get rolling, but when it does, things start moving with a quickness.

I'll make a deal with the lefties. You stop trying to pin this fiasco on President Bush, and I'll stop pointing out the governor's and mayor's culpable shortcomings. Then we can do what Ronnie suggested--improve our disaster preparedness so that it's even better next time.

I'm still waiting to hear specifics about what the feds did wrong....

Steve O' said...

What the hell is a race pimp? That doesn't even make sense. If it was supposed to paint some sort of mental picture of Obama, it failed miserably, and instead only gave me a clear picture of the author's personal biases.

Obama is 100% spot on... right up to the point where he offers a solution... which he doesn't. But he does make a valid observation.

But there is no solution because the problem is tied in to our success as a free market society. The market rewards risk takers, and in most cases there is very little risk in underpreparing for a rainy day. The dollar you don't spend on readiness is one more dollar to give to your uncle the contractor to build some project that never seems to get off the ground.

On the other side, nearly every case of crying wolf has burned the wolf-crier. I saw it first hand in Hawai'i, watching the fall-out from a tsunami warning that preceeded a whopping 2 inch tidal wave. Everyone laughed, folks were fired, and thank goodness we didn't have a real warning in the next couple of years because no one would have believed it.

So it's easy to say that the city didn't get it's hands on buses, didn't preposition food, blah blah blah. But take whatever city you live it, think of the worst case scenario for a natural disaster, and ask yourself if you're willing to divert tax dollars from schools and roads today to prepare for the 200 year storm.

(Californians and earthquakes don't count, as that's the exception that proves the rule. Insurance companies and general contractors have ganged up on the politicians over the last century to mandate bomb-proofing buildings and roads, not because they care about safety, but because it meant jobs and $$. )

So, yes, the local government didn't step up to the plate. And it's not an excuse, but I can't think of a city that would have done much better, given NOLA's budget woes and local government history. (FYI, there's a reason why political corruption doesn't make the news in N.O., and that's because it ain't news to anyone who lives there.)

But Darren, I'm not following the logic that if A is wrong, then B must be right. The feds still have a lot of 'splaining to do, starting with putting an incompetent into a key position. You want to take care of a buddy, you make him the ambassador to Ireland or the Sec of Education or Agriculture, and let him drink a Guiness or read a book to kids or go watch the show cows. You don't make him the head of FEMA. That's his last straw in my book. And when the media gets tired of showing folks swimming around the roof tops and starts getting into the the 2002-2005 budgets, and they find out how much FEMA has lost over the last few years, then will folks still stand by the "not my job" excuse?

Steve O' said...

Data points:
March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.

2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.

Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."

June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."

June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

Steve O' said...

Dang, can't control myself...

You said: I'll make a deal with the lefties. You stop trying to pin this fiasco on President Bush, and I'll stop pointing out the governor's and mayor's culpable shortcomings. Then we can do what Ronnie suggested--improve our disaster preparedness so that it's even better next time.

--> Again, we have some broken logic here. There's a difference between pointing out problems on all sides and blaming one guy for the entirety of this callamity. For the sake of argument, I'll give you that the mayor was in over his head, that the governor didn't do enough, and that everyone else with a three series zip code was asleep at the wheel.

But given all that, are you saying that the feds did a bang up job? When the FEMA director doesn't know that the Superdome hadn't been supplied, let alone resupplied, at D+3? When the FEMA director never should have been placed into that job in the first place? When the Pres and VP are both still on vacation at D+2?

The feds are not first responders, yet it was pretty obvious that the first responders were overwhelmed, and the FRP does provide for the feds taking over at that point, without waiting for the call from those on the ground. Lots of you are missing that subtle little nuance, but heck, maybe nuance ain't your style.

Oh by the way, I've served as an Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer, Deputy Defense Coordinating Officer, and instructor/training developer on Military Support to Civil Authorities (the overarching title for DoD support for disaster preparedness and response), so when I say that the Goldstein article was poorly researched and poorly written, I hope you don't take that as just another leftie chiming in, but as the thoughts of someone who has done his time and would like to stop repeating mistakes.

steve O' said...

I'm trying so hard to quit... so hard... but you're making it impossible.

Last paragraph: Why are we hearing so much about NOLA and so little about Biloxi and Slidell?

Huh???? What freaking news are you watching?

The media covers the story (1) as they are able to reach it, (2) as they are able to exploit it, and (3) as long as they have the attention of the audience.

For the first week, coverage was more focused on the outskirts of NOLA because they couldn't get inside. Then as they penetrated the flooded area, the percentage shifted.

But after a week, all you have in Biloxi are people sitting on their porches scratching their heads, while in NOLA you still have folks on their rooftops.

I just don't get your point. So little from the other towns and so much from NOLA? And that NOLA was pretty much spared while Mississippi took the brunt of the hurricane? Your comments don't reflect reality. Inquiring minds are wondering about a totally made up observation.

Dude, you've got to change the channel from Fox every now and then and get some real news.

Darren said...

I love the assumptions you lefties make. Let me make this clear:

I DO NOT WATCH FOX NEWS. I don't have cable. For TV news I watch ABC's World News Tonight, hardly a bastion of conservative media. The three news sites I have bookmarked on my internet browser are the Sacramento Bee (see ABC WNT above), Fox News (aha! got me!), and CNN (back at'cha!). In other words, my news sources run along the political spectrum.

Now, New Orleans was spared the brunt. I'm reading web sites that discuss entire towns in Mississippi essentially being wiped clean. I haven't seen those on the news, I see New Orleans. Oh, and I never mentioned Slidell, wherever that is--I mentioned Pascagoula :-)

As for the FEMA director being unqualified, perhaps. Seems so from what I've heard about him. And I'll agree with your comment about where in government you put your buddies. Happy?

But his not knowing about the Superdome? I know for sure he didn't know about the Convention Center, but honestly, who did? I haven't heard about a lack of knowledge of the Superdome. Even so, I don't expect a top government official to be on top of every specific. But since we all knew about the Superdome pretty early on, if he didn't know that, I'd grant that that's pretty egregious.

I've heard several points about money and budget cuts. One thing I've read said that the levee that broke had been most recently upgraded. I've heard that any money allocated in the last few years wouldn't have prevented New Orleans' flooding anyway. I've read that there was plenty of flood protection money that was siphoned off by local politicians for their pet projects that had nothing to do with flooding.

Let's face it. That city was a mess. That state was a mess. I don't think anyone reasonable can argue those two points, especially when New Orleans didn't even follow its own disaster plans. The question is whether the federal response was appropriate, and I still don't have facts and figures. I'm curious--what was FEMA's reaction time during Hurricanes Andrew and Hugo and Ivan, versus Katrina? How much worse are things now?

As for the "vacation" comment, I doubt that the President and VP are ever truly on vacation. That's just a cheap shot.

Darren said...


On ABC News' "This Week" last Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked one of those compound questions that can be only refuted only by Jesuitical parsing: "Did government neglect turn a natural disaster into a human catastrophe and was it rooted in racism?" In the course of "interviewing" Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Stephanopoulos sometimes dispensed with questions altogether, preferring to make statements, such as this: "So many people in this country have looked at so many of the victims being African-American, the sluggish federal response and said racism has to be at play." To which Obama, a cautious enough fellow, answered that the "incompetence" he espied in the Bush administration was "color-blind." Of course, such a tepid response wasn't good enough for the ex-Clinton White House spinmeister, who came back at Obama with, "But it was racism, I guess is the question." These weren't questions at all, of course, but rather witness-leading rhetoric: "How do you explain why President Bush didn't seem to get this early on?"

BTW, the "race pimp" remark was in a *comment* on the particular posting, not written by the author of the Newsweek fisking.

Steve O' said...

Darren said...
I love the assumptions you lefties make. Let me make this clear:

--> Who's making assumptions now? Based on one position, I'm a leftie?

You can't just declare yourself a conservative or a liberal... you have to walk the walk. Conservatism and liberalism are processes, not blood types. And I don't see conservative thought processes in most of the actions taken by self-proclaimed conservatives.

But that's a topic for later...

For now, I'll stick with my assessment that you're getting your news from somewhere other than qualified sources. How in the hell does 18 feet of standing water count as "spared the full brunt"? I don't think the Coast Guard responds based on CNN reports, they respond based on reports from the field. And I didn't see the Coast Guard plucking people off of the rooftops in Biloxi.

As of today, the death toll for the city of New Orleans equalled that of the rest of Louisiana and Mississippi combined. Those aren't final numbers, but geez, how do you get "spared the full brunt" out of that?

I'll buy your school lunch for a week if the rebuilding costs for New Orleans alone don't exceed that of all of Mississippi.

So my point is, you see grossly distorted reporting by the MSM, and I see you grossly distorting the news. Ok, that was harsh. So let's just say that we all see the world as we are, not as it is. Yet for some reason we all then blame the messenger for our interpretations. Crazy world it is. And if we were just talking about warm and fuzzy areas, then you can't blame anyone for adding personal bias. But we're talking facts here. And I'm watching the same news you are, only with an assumed closer eye as I have a couple of dozen family members in the area and about a hundred co-workers assigned there (the 377th Theater Support Command, currently supporting 3A/ARCENT/CFLCC, is based there, so I know and work with easily a hundred of affected families), and all I can say is, your impression of the overall coverage is wrong. Not bad, not evil, just wrong.

Steve O' said...

Interesting observation... most folks would agree that a basketball coach should spend most of his time addressing his team's shortcomings and not telling the kids what the other team is doing wrong. And most would agree that a pastor is better served by telling his flock how to live and not blathering on about how what other denominations are erring in their ways. Yet if someone makes a political criticism, he's immediately labelled the enemy. Seems very knee-jerk defensive, insecure, lack of confidence in ones own position, inability to listen to constructive criticism, and general closed mindedness. 'Tis a shame.

steve o' said...

You said: I'll make a deal with the lefties. You stop trying to pin this fiasco on President Bush, and I'll stop pointing out the governor's and mayor's culpable shortcomings. Then we can do what Ronnie suggested--improve our disaster preparedness so that it's even better next time.

--> You totally made my last point with this comment. Let's all agree to turn a blind eye? And that's how we'll fix the problem?

I say, bring it all wrong. If the Prez was only 1% wrong, I still want to know it. But I guess that makes me a flaming liberal.

steve said...

woops -- obviously should have said "bring it all on."

Darren said...

I merely point out all the fingers pointed at the President, while those doing the pointing completely ignore the fact that their ca-ca stinks.

I'm pointing out the hypocrisy of the left. If you want to say that that's ignoring the criticism of the right, you are correct--there are plenty of people pointing out the faults of the right, I'm not one of those people. That job is well supplied already. I'm taking a few pot shots at the left.

Steve, we're just gonna disagree. Of course New Orleans is gonna cost a lot to clean up, and of course they got flooded. But the hurricane itself did not bear down on New Orleans. It did on Mississippi--lots of towns with only foundations left. That is not the case in New Orleans. The story is New Orleans because it's a big city--yes, it will cost more. What's your point? I want to know why the left, and its allies in the media, are not talking about Mississippi?

Here's what I do not understand. Was the evil demon Brown the head of FEMA during last year's hurricanes? Was he identified as an incompetent then? If not, what did he do differently this year than last?

And why wasn't the federal response horrible in Florida last year and in Mississippi this year, but is so bad in Louisiana? I'm forced to wonder if it's because the former two states have Republican governors and the latter has a Democrat governor--so making a federal issue (pun intended) only serves partisan goals.

As for news coverage--I go off of what I see on the news. That's not evil *or* wrong, it's what I'm seeing reported. Sorry if that offends your sensibilities.

Actually, no I'm not. It's much more fun this way. If we all agreed, this blog wouldn't be any fun, now would it?

Darren said...

Hey, Governor Blanco finally admits, sort of, that she screwed up. And she does it on CNN--again, not a bastion of conservative media.

Granted, the site itself might not be the most intellectual around, I don't know. But unless this kid has fudged the video....

steve said...

So we disagree on the definition of damage or brunt or whatever... but the bigger point is that you're dismissing the damage to NOLA like it's a media creation based on respective governor party affilitation. The hurricane hit the whole freaking coast. To try to make some claim that NOLA got off easy and we're neglecting the real damage just doesn't wash.

And you reassert that the media isn't talking about Mississippi, and I tell you that you're asleep at the TV. I see it every day. And MS was the center of the coverage through D+2. You claim you can't prove a negative, but when you say you don't see something and I tell you I do, how do you logically defend your position?

And just to be fair, I had 11 people at work read your comments, 4 of whom have MS connections and might be more sensitive to getting their fair share of coverage. And you're oh-for-11 in finding a buddy.

So my point is, the consensus says your wrong about what areas the hurricane hit the hardest, and the consensus says your wrong about the media's coverage of the storm... but go ahead and feel free to blame the liberal MSM for not covering the story the way you think it should be covered.

Oh by the way, the death toll hit 710, with about a third from New Orleans, and equal amounts from the rest of LA and MS.

steve said...

I have two hurricane deployments under my belt (well, one hurricane and one typhoon). I'm school-trained by FEMA and the National Inter-Agency Civil-Military Institute on disaster preparedness and response. I deployed urban search and rescue folks to NYC on Sept 11th, and then was part of the Army's doctrinal transformation efforts to address installation and homeland security. And right now I'm tracking NGB engineer units and Corps of Engineer efforts in the gulf. But go ahead, feel free to disagree when I tell you that you're dead wrong on your assessment of the hurricane's effects and the media's coverage of same. Maybe I have no freaking idea what I'm talking about. You're probably getting better news off the local broadcast feed there in California. So I'll shut up and let you continue with your rant about the liberal MSM putting lies into your head.

Agree to disagree... fat chance.

Darren said...

Steve, it amazes me that you can tell me I'm wrong about what *I* am seeing on network news.

Steve said...

I don't brag about a lot of things... the things that I consider myself an expert on, I can count on one hand. Scratch that, make it one thumb.

But I know the Federal Response Plan. School trained, instructor certified.

And right now I'm looking at FEMA and USACE reports. Not media summaries, but hard data.

And I'm telling you that you're view on what the media should be covering, what's really happening that they're missing, and specifically how there is some political motive behind neglecting Mississippi to focus on New Orleans, is just plain wrong and misinformed.

And that you can arrogantly argue otherwise amazes me.

steve said...

Final words on this: I throw out Slidell as a fishing expedition, and I got you hook, line, and sinker.

You never heard of it.

Slidell's in MS and was totally levelled. I think three of our classmates lived there.

And CNN was hunkered down there for the first four days of their coverage. Hourly reports. It's been all over the news. You'd have to be blind to miss it.

But you did.

Yet you claim to have some insight as to what the media is covering, what they're missing, and what they should be covering.

That simply amazes me.

steve said...

Darren said...
I merely point out all the fingers pointed at the President, while those doing the pointing completely ignore the fact that their ca-ca stinks.


That's not what you're saying. But then again, you're not really very consistent on this.

You previously pointed out that everyone should stop pointing the finger, as if avoidance is the best strategy. Doesn't sound like our NTC AARs, does it?

But you've also stated that the dreaded liberal media is on a crusade to stick it to the Prez, as if that's somehow any different than the last 239 years of American democracy. But I'm watching the mayor get roasted on this channel, the governor get roasted on another, and the prez get roasted on a third, so I'm just not subscribing to your paranoia. Newsweek, which ain't exactly the Prez's biggest supporter, ran an article that covered everything from how the Prez was getting his news to the NOLA's mayor's dead Iridium phone batteries, and everything in between. Now I guess you could read that and say "lay off the President," or you can read it and say "if we don't ask these questions, we'll never get any better." I'd prefer the latter.

Anonymous said...

Good summary of the military response on Global Security.

Lots of finger pointing going on right now, but the military is showing that they're up for the task. I've always considered the Coast Guard to be part of the military, even if Rummy doesn't agree, and they're doing their normal Herculean work. LTG Honore might run for President after this, or at least will be offered movie and commercial roles a la the drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket." We have fresh-out-of-Baghdad paratroopers running around NOLA with loaded weapons yet we haven't had one incident -- a significant improvement over the Rodney King riots (what's the real name for that incident?) where the Marines shot up everything that moved.

But the best part, now talking as a tax payer and not as a soldier, is that NORTHCOM stood up to full alert without a single call from DoD, FEMA, or the states of MS or LA. They saw it coming and geared up.

That, of course, is the biggest breakdown in the federal response plan. We count on the victims to request help, and the local responders to get their first. But disasters are evaluated on a threshold basis, not a continuum, and at a certain breaking point, the local governments and first responders have to take care of themselves. So there's a trigger point or decision point that the headquarters / command and control element can't get eyes-on. That's where the flow of info and taskings has to automatically switch from a pull system to a push system. Like we proven with Katrina, when there's no one on the ground to send up the email request for assistance, the folks out in the safety zone have to take the initiative. And the military, if few others, will get high marks from this one.

Darren said...

CNN=Cable News. How many times must I say this, Steve: I watch network news.

I'm starting to hear radio--yes, talk radio--folks ask why they're not hearing anything about what's going on outside of New Orleans and the Astrodome. Maybe I was a little early with this one.

Steve, I'm not questioning your knowledge of the subject of disaster preparedness. I'm questioning the bias of the reporting that *I* am seeing on network news. We went from maybe 10,000 dead to less than a thousand, New Orleans entirely uninhabitable for months or years to bars and strip clubs already open and 180,000 people asked or expected to return by the end of this month. I'm questioning the sensationalism and the focus on one city--and suggesting a political motivation.

Now, some might argue that you shouldn't explain with malice what can be explained by laziness or incompetence. There's validity to that, absent other evidence. The press hasn't shown itself to be a fair arbiter of "truth" lately, so I'm forced to wonder.

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