Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Clueless in Biloxi .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Friday, September 02, 2005

Clueless in Biloxi

I think it's becoming obvious that you can't count on the federal government to help in times of crisis. This would seem to play into the hands of the Republican mantra of "the less federal government involvement, the better off you are". Unfortunately, the federal government is in the firm control of Republicans, so this turns the entire argument on it's head.

It also leads to dual speculation: 1) are the ideologies shifting, to where the Democrats are more into states helping themselves rather than relying on the federal government? and 2) is the federal involvement in our daily lives, in the form of anti-gay and anti-choice regulation, and the Homeland Security absorbtion of FEMA, signaling a Republican embrace of federal oversight into the lives of individual citizens.

The uproar from citizens across the battered regions devastated by Hurricane Kristina and it's aftermath lends us to believe that the delayed response by the federal government has soured millions of voters in predominately Republican territory. Yeah, the poor of New Orleans were not Bush supporters, but plenty of other Bible Belt strongholds were the victims of his inaction as well, and their frustration may turn Missisippi and Alabama into swing states.

A good example of Bush's cluelessness is exemplified in a Daily Kos post detailing his conversation with the devastated sisters he encountered in Mississippi. You know, the photo op where he looked and acted like a sexual predator?


Bush to women: "There's a Salvation Army center that I want to, that I'll tell you where it is, and they'll get you some help. I'm sorry.... They'll help you.....
Woman 1: "I came here looking for clothes..."
Bush: "They'll get you some clothes, at the Salvation Army center..."
Woman 1: "We don't have anything..."
Bush: "I understand.... Do you know where the center is, that I'm talking to you about?"
Guy with shades: "There's no center there, sir, it's a truck."
Bush: "There's trucks?"
Guy: "There's a school, a school about two miles away....."
Bush: "But isn't there a Salvation center down there?"
Guy: "No that's wiped out...."
Bush: "A temporary center? "
Guy: "No sir they've got a truck there, for food."
Bush: "That's what I'm saying, for food and water."
Bush turns to the sister who's been saying how she needs clothes.
Bush to sister: "You need food and water."

Bush to storm trooper: "these are not the droids you're looking for".

Of course, there are still plenty of those who blame the devastation on the victims. I still see lots of comment that the people who stayed behind did so out of a refusal to conform to the call of the city to evacuate. This is bunk! Most of the people left behind wanted to get out of harm's way, as evidenced by the multitude of people who attempted to walk out when they realized no aid was coming their way. The people of New Orleans know that that a hurricane would flood the city. But most of these people had no way of leaving when the evacuation was announced. And anyone who would even think about walking out in the midst of the hurricane would have to be insane anyway.

Of course, after this fiasco, I would think about taking my chances and walking out of Houston during a hurricane if I could expect the same response that New Orleans got.

The evacuation plan in New Orleans was the same as it is in every coastal city. An announcement to get out of town, and that's it. No buses, and no plans for where, if there were buses, they would go. (If you think the Astrodome was ready to receive evacuees before yesterday, you're delusional). This crisis has shown us that we haven't a clue how to handle the full evacuation of a major U.S. city. In effect, the evacuation plan counted on everyone to provide their own transportation out of the city and their own plan for lodging once they left. This plan is not only unrealistic, it's unreal.

And as for the civil unrest among those remaining, I think Rick Casey says it best:

But fears that the refugees will become an uncivil mob at the Astrodome are overblown. The concerns were, inevitably, tinged with race and class perceptions. The pictures we see from the Superdome are of people who are mostly poor and black.

Yet imagine that the entire population of The Woodlands, mostly white and prosperous, were confined for five days to an Astrodome that had no air conditioning, few working toilets, no showers, dwindling supplies of food and water, inadequate medical assistance and a likelihood that things would only get worse.

Anyone who thinks they would politely, without anger, queue up for an inadequate number of delayed buses has never driven I-45 during rush hour.

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