The incompetence was more learned behavior than criminal. Katrina exposed in New Orleans the effects of the evolution of the American mindset from rugged independence by local communities to a sense of dependency entitlement on others. Contrast that to our early history when everyone knew they were on their own to survive the calamities of nature and man with no hope of a FEMA to do their job for them. They just organized locally and survived.
It’s really astounding that a city the size of New Orleans did so little to mitigate the losses before Katrina arrived. With tens of thousands of heavy trucks and buses at their disposal, where were the local drivers to take those vehicles door to door on the streets they knew well to offer the helpless the same opportunity as the able-bodied to evacuate? And where were the local sand bag work gangs standing guard on the levees to plug the breaches?
Well, they were all there but for the want of leaders to organize and direct them. Apparently the leaders of New Orleans fully expected other citizens from other communities far away (hired by FEMA) to risk their lives to do these pre-storm local responder jobs for them while they rode out the storm elsewhere. And so goes the perils of a dependency mentality in the face of imminent danger.
Let’s hope that from the kernel of those contrarians who still refuse to abandon their city to Katrina, a new leadership in New Orleans and Louisiana will arise absent the learned federal dependency behavior patterns of their worthless predecessors.
Alan Bock replies:
You certainly make a good point about the dependency mentality, although I might add a history of fairly corrupt local government in New Orleans as a contributing factor. And while there is certainly a great deal to criticize in the actions (or inaction) of people at the local level, it is also becoming more evident that response at the federal level was late and inadequate as well, as this article “Top FEMA Jobs: No Experience Required” suggests. The top officials at FEMA were almost all political appointees with no disaster-response background, and the administration habit of using FEMA as a dumping-ground for political operatives who needed a paycheck between campaigns seems to have had something to do with an exodus of experienced professionals from FEMA.
What to do next? One may hope your idea of local leaders with a renewed sense of independence will come to pass, but I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, here’s an arresting perspective: Don’t “invest” any federal tax dollars in the region but make it a tax-free and regulation-free zone for 10 years or forever? and see to what extent that spurs recovery.
Message from Jon Basil Utley:
There are too many letters to answer individually and several have the same themes. Several are also very profound. A common theme is that the American lifestyle needs changing and ANWR is a key symbol issue of this battle. Others accuse me of being a flack for oil companies, that pristine wilderness would be damaged (answered in article), etc.
So a few general answers
Washington is controlled by a bipartisan War Party major economic interests abutted by neoconservative intellectuals and religious fundamentalists who think that war in the Middle East will send them to heaven, yes, tens of millions of them. Any ideas that focus Americans’ attention on the idea that we need not be desperate for Middle East oil will help to weaken the War Party. The purpose of the article is also to get Americans to focus on what we can do without making ourselves hated all over the world (Mr. Hitchcock).
New Orleans was a meeting of big government with Caribbean corruption and incompetence. See today’s Washington Post (“Money Flowed to Questionable Projects“) that billions were spent by Louisiana on unnecessary or corrupt projects (like Alaska getting millions for a bridge to nowhere in this year’s highway bill). Louisiana has long been known as having one of the most corrupt governments in America (Mr. Landry).
There are many possible energy sources, in particular nuclear. But it was driven out by panic and lies, e.g., at Three Mile Island residents got more radiation from the granite stones when they testified in Congress than from the accident; Chernobyl is now being discovered to have done far less damage to individuals: most survived, the environment recovered, indeed is teeming with wildlife, and so on.
One thing that is proven is that only the market works, that is, higher prices bring other sources. “Planning” by government is usually corrupted and counterproductive. But realistic environmental laws benefit us all. And always there are tradeoffs; yes, I want to drive at 70 mph, not 55 (Mr. Glover). Yes, I want a solution for 20 years and will worry about other solutions later (Mr. Sewall). Yes, I want cheaper home heating oil and will trade a few desolate acres for it! I’ve been to the same Arctic latitude and seen the kind of land it is, have any of the letter writers (Mr. Glover)? Yes, the tradeoff is severe economic hardships here or developing our own resources, which include gas which will become widely available with new technology (see “Energy on Ice“) and nuclear. But we need something. Many enviros just want to punish us for our “wasteful” way of life. I live in an apartment in a big city, but I can understand young couples wanting space outside the cities.
Yes, our government has become quite corrupt (from too many laws and gerrymandering). I dont think it capable of drawing up a realistic reform to trade off more sensible development (Mr. Sabin).
The world does not run out of oil (or other minerals). Remember the famous bet by Julian Simon with Paul Ehrlich that over 10 years any mineral he could name would become more plentiful and cheaper (Mr. Hungerford, Mr. Matsuyama). Iraq today would be producing millions and millions of barrels if we had not bombed it back to the stone age in the first Iraq war. Science and engineering can solve most manmade problems if they are allowed to work, from clean energy to saving sea otters. Yes, even to supplying energy for China and India (Mr. Kelly).
During the 1973 oil embargo by certain Arab states against the U.S., the U.S. threatened the Middle East with a program of invasions and occupations across the region. The plan was revealed only in January 2001 in the release of secret British Cabinet papers from that time.
In the words of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, the plan was to invade several oil supplying Arab nations, secure the oil fields, and replace the governments with “amenable men.” Military bases would then be set up “to protect against attacks by surrounding extreme Arab nations.”
Whatever Antiwar.com may feel about Iraq, the Pentagon’s breathtakingly simple plan has succeeded, and American representatives can from now on coo like gentle doves at the UN. The amenable men are in a puppet government, Iraqi oil contracts and future supplies are secured, and American bases are being constructed to ensure a permanent presence of around 40,000 troops.
President Jalal Talabani asked newsmen on Monday, Sept. 12, 2005, “Who can guarantee that countries like Iran and Syria will not occupy Iraq? Henceforth, the U.S. troops are in Iraq for our benefit.” Simple, breathtaking, and very, very dangerous.
~ Peter Biddulph