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September 08, 2005

Fisking Hobospider

My dear friend and colleague Hobospider has engaged me in debate in the comments to my thread exposing the crimes of Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin. I felt the quality of the debate was high enough to elevate it to a new thread, so here it is. Hobospider's comments are in indented italics, and have been left unchanged, spelling errors and all.

VoR, Your own Senate Leader Bill Frist (and don't pretend you are anything but a partisan Republican at this point)

No, don't you pretend that I am a partisan Republican. Bill Frist does not speak for me. He is not my spokesman. I freely reserve the right to disagree with him. I even freely reserve the right to think that he's an idiot... which as a matter of fact I do.

said "The initial response to Hurricane Katrina was unacceptable at the local, state and federal levels."

So, proving once again that Bill Frist is an idiot. Actually, no, that's unfair to idiots. Bill Frist is not an idiot, he's a politician, which is worse. Bill Frist is not a man of principle. Bill Frist, like Hillary Clinton, Pat Leahy, and Michael Moore, gambled that the FEMA response would prove woefully inadequate and chose to join the dogpile early. My guess is that Frist thinks he has to distance himself from Bush if he wants a chance in 2008. I suspect that he will find this strategy to be a fatal blunder.

I'm going to take your postscript and place it here, because this goes right with your schtick about Bill-Effing-Frist:

One more thing- even Robert Novak, the Bush Administration's talking points parrot, is blah blah blah blah who cares yadda yadda blah Brown and Chertoff are bad.

You know, I don't remember ordering an argumentum ad verecundiam, but thanks anyway.

Now, moving on:

At this point there is no denying that the FEMA response has been inadequate.

I deny it. Or, at the very least, you certainly haven't proved it.

Only the degree of incompetance is debatable.

If one could win a debate by declaring an issue undebatable, you'd be entitled to a prize. Unfortunately, one can't.

OK, so the Feds screwed up.

In the Pink world (read Tribes right now... well, after you're done reading this) where begging the question is legal, this is correct. But I'm afraid that doesn't work for those of us in the reality-based community. Let's try an argument next time, shall we?

But who was in charge of the Federal response?

Michael D. Brown, the Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response. He's held the position since 2003, but he's been with FEMA for almost five years, including two as deputy director of FEMA. (The director of FEMA, formerly a cabinet-level appointee, is now the Under Secretary of EP&R since the government reorganization, but he's still usually referred to by the media and the public as the "head of FEMA".)

And how did he get his job?

Well, he was the deputy director of FEMA for two years before ascending to the top spot. He succeeded to the position when his boss, Joe Allbaugh, resigned. During the two years when Allbaugh was director and he was deputy director, the two of them saw FEMA through several dozen disasters. As Under Secretary, Brown was head of FEMA when four hurricanes struck Florida in a single season. Did you have any complaints back then?

Allbaugh, by the way, was confirmed by the Senate 91-0.

These are important questions because lives were at stake.

Well, then, if they were important questions, all you had to do was ask. The answers are very factual and apolitical. Why didn't you look them up, instead of treating them rhetorically?

I don't control who is in charge at a state level down there since I don't live in the area but as the Fed in charge 'Brownie' represents me and my tax dollars.

What an unbelievably lame argument. So consider this hypothetical situation: Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin are deliberately torturing the inhabitants of New Orleans. The federal government is sending aid and relief, but Kathleen Blanco is preventing it from reaching its intended recipients, because she wants them to suffer. Would you assign responsibility for that nasty situation to President Bush, because he represents you, while Blanco and Nagin do not?

You know, I described that as a hypothetical, but really, the scenario I described isn't too far from the truth. Instead of torturing the inhabitants, Blanco and Nagin merely put them in torturous conditions, in some cases luring them there with lies (walk across the bridge, there are buses waiting!), refused to let them leave, refused to let the Red Cross deliver them food, denied them water, stood by while many were assaulted or raped, and all but encouraged looters to take their property. I guess there might be a distinction between that and torture, but I don't think the Geneva Convention would say so. Let me put it this way: would you rather have been a New Orleanean called by your government to the Superdome, or be posed for pictures with panties on your head?

Hey, Abu Ghraib fetishists! This is worse treatment of civilians by a government, do you hear me? And they weren't even suspected of plotting to blow up anything! Where are you?

Look, let's say I were willing to stipulate that FEMA "screwed up", as you so very specifically put it. How much did they screw up? How much could they possibly have done? On this very site you've seen military personnel under federal command rescuing people hours after the storm's passing. You've seen a mini-aircraft carrier stationed in the middle of the Gulf during the hurricane so that it could rapidly deploy after the storm passed. I bet that wasn't too comfortable for the crew. And I bet running constant flight operations, getting search-and-rescue helicopters to New Orleans, getting exhausted citizens out, is a pretty tiresome operation. I bet a whole lot of the helicopter pilots, emergency medical technicians, evacuation specialists, aircraft mechanics, and sailors of the Bataan have been working pretty hard, and have been away from their families for awhile, and have even been risking their lives. So tell me, and tell the kids serving aboard the Bataan... what exactly is your beef with their performance? Should they have gotten there quicker? Should the flight crews be flying more shifts than they are? Is a fleet of military helicopters not enough? Well, the Feds also brought along the (federal!) Coast Guard and their experienced search-and-rescue crews and their choppers. Is that still not enough federal aid? Okay, we'll send along $50,000,000,000, approved in breakneck time. Do you still think the federal performance was inadequate? Well... the feds tried to send the Red Cross and the Salvation Army (which are coordinated by FEMA), but the governor wouldn't let them.

No matter how bad FEMA "screwed up", could it even remotely compare to what Blanco and Nagin inflicted on New Orleans?

I am disgusted that FEMA was treated as a reward program for Bush Campaign staffers and cronies rather than an organization with the awesome responsibility to respond to American crises.

Yeah, we have NO idea how competently Brown can handle a crisis, especially not a crisis like a major hurricane. Why, he's only been tested by the 2004 hurricane season. In case you don't remember it, there were four, count 'em, four hurricanes that struck Florida in 43 days. First came Charley on Friday the 13th of August, and he was a big one. Category 4, the strongest to hit Florida since Andrew 12 years earlier, and the strongest to hit the area in 44 years. Floridians (and FEMA) had three weeks to catch their breath before Frances came along. A former Category 4, she hit the coast with less powerful winds but moving verrrry sloooowly, dropping buckets of rain and spawning tornadoes as she went, making her the sixth-costliest hurricane in American history. It was but 11 days later when Ivan crashed ashore as a category 3. While we were still picking up the pieces from him, and Frances, and Charley, along came Jeanne and made landfall as a Category 3 in almost exactly the same place as Frances. Here, take a look. Can you imagine the people living there, having to dig out from under a hurricane, then do it all over again in 20 days?

Now I ask you:

Were there riotous crowds?

Were the Red Cross and the Salvation Army physically prevented from rushing aid to the victims?

Were there massive desertions of the police force?

Were there stadia filled with stinking feces?

I'll grant that Katrina was worse than any of these four hurricanes. But I think dealing with all four simultaneously proves that Michael D. Brown is a pretty capable administrator. I can't imagine FEMA being able to handle Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne with an incompetent boob at the helm. No, when incompetent boobs are in command, I expect to see something a lot more like Katrina.

Oh, and here's another thing. Take a look:


That's the McDonald's in Biloxi, Mississippi. Looks like a normal shot at first, until you realize that the entire frickin' building's been blown out.


That's Gulfport, Mississippi.


This used to be an apartment and condominium complex in Biloxi.



One of these pictures is New Orleans, one is Biloxi. If not for the tall buildings in the background, could you tell which is which?


This also used to be Biloxi.

The Gulf Coast got hit hard, harder than New Orleans. Granted that the Biloxians didn't have any levees to fail (as levees tend to do in Category 4 winds, no matter how much we might wish it were otherwise), but then again the Biloxians didn't choose to live ten to twenty feet below sea level. As a percentage of total value, it's a sure bet that Biloxi sustained more damage than New Orleans, but... did the mayor of Biloxi force his citizens into cramped, unsafe "shelters"? Did he forbid them to leave and deny them food and water? Did his police force take up looting? Did he send his police to Las Vegas shortly after Katrina struck? Did the governor of Mississippi thwart the good will of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army? Do you want to bet that New Orleans is getting way, way more federal aid per capita than Biloxi?

Katrina was both a natural disaster and a man-and-woman-made disaster. The natural part is under God's control or nobody's. But the man and the woman who are responsible for the other part don't work for FEMA.

Bush's whole platform was making America more secure by rolling everything important under the umbrella of DHS.

Actually, I'm pretty sure Bush's "whole platform" included planks on taxes, the War on Terrorism, Social Security, and possibly one or two other issues.

I know this will make the Freeper troglodytes who are your target audience spit take from their Michael Savage sippy cups

Aw, now you're just being nasty.

but I have seen no evidence this past week that the federal government is any more capable of handling an catastrophe than it was under under Clinton

Nor have you seen any evidence that the federal government is any less capable of handling an [sic] catastrophe. You've seen plenty of evidence that the current administration can adequately handle an emergency. I'm pretty sure that Florida in 2004 didn't resort to rumored cannibalism.

(Whose FEMA head actually was qualified for the job)

Ah yes, James Lee Witt, currently employed by Kathleen Blanco to oversee the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Doing a bang-up job, isn't he?

September 8, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina | Permalink


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I'm honored that you felt my comments were 'Fiskworthy.' I even looked the word up so I could be hip to all of your blogger lingo. And you certainly did respond with a lot of words!

Once again you prove that nobody is as dedicated to deconstructing arguments as you, VoR. I'm not going to address all of your points in the comments section of a blog, and your other favorite forum would ban me instantly for not agreeing with them. So we will have to agree to disagree on most of your arguments.

Let me ask you one question- If Governor Blanco is 'guilty of war crimes' and 'deliberately making things worse' (and you accused /me/ of libel) why is the Red Cross not crying out for justice? You'd think they would be the first ones shouting out from the rooftops that the evil local government is intentionally killing their own citizens to make the FEMA director look bad. A FAQ on their web site (that has been there for a week BTW) is not enough to justify HANGING a governor like you suggest in your Free Republic article, is it?


Oh, if you really want to be the Voice of Reason rather than the Voice of Tinfoil Hattery and Conclusion Jumping you should post the less alarming but just as relevent portions of the Red Cross's FAQ explaining why they are not physically inside New Orleans:

*The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.

*The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.

*The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.

*As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.'

Posted by: Hobospider | Sep 8, 2005 11:31:10 PM

Damn are you missed, VoR. But it's beautiful to watch them without the protection of the blatant mod bias and the screaming of the mob mind.

Good to see you posting again.

Posted by: D&DRefugee | Sep 13, 2005 5:57:02 AM

I haven't seen any updates here since Brownie resigned in disgrace and Bush publicly admitted failures at the federal level. Is this acceptable evidence that FEMA screwed the pooch or citing Bush's admission still an argumentum ad verecundiam?

Posted by: Hobospider | Sep 17, 2005 9:59:45 AM

Nope, it's still argumentum ad verecundiam to cite Bush, with a touch of argumentum ad populum to cite Michael Brown's media lynching. I still haven't heard you (or Bush, for that matter) explain exactly what the federal government did wrong, or for that matter why any failures of the federal government come even remotely close to physically preventing relief from reaching the suffering in New Orleans.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | Sep 19, 2005 11:20:36 AM

Accepting partial responsibility doesn't make one completely responsible, obviously.

"There's only on Mayor of New Orleans and I'm it."
Mayor Nagin just returned from settling his family in Dallas, then had to be pressured by Bush to quit telling people to come back to New Orleans, as another hurricane is coming. Does his obvious hypocrisy, lack of interest in his citizen's welfare and continued incompetence prove you're in error? Or is Nagin innocent just so long as he refuses to admit any wrongdoing?

Posted by: odietamo | Sep 19, 2005 4:20:14 PM

Appeal to authority is only a fallacy if the individual cited is not an authority on the topic at hand. When it comes to culpability in federal failings, what greater authority is there than the POTUS?

Another thing- referring to Brown's shameful flight from the post he was tragically ill-suited for as a 'media lynching' is quite a roofle coming from someone who suggested literally hanging the governor of Louisiana.

Posted by: Hobospider | Sep 19, 2005 6:53:30 PM

Odie, repeating Rush Limbaugh's claim that Nagin has abandoned his city only makes you look more like an ignorant shill. From the NOLA Times-Picayune:

In a stark reminder of how drastically Hurricane Katrina has impacted the lives of New Orleanians, Mayor Ray Nagin has purchased a home for his family in Dallas and enrolled his young daughter in school there.
Nagin, who spoke with The Times-Picayune by telephone from Dallas, where he has been since Wednesday, said he planned to return to New Orleans on Saturday. He said he will remain in the Crescent City while his family lives for the next six months in Dallas, making occasional visits to his family when possible.
It’s not clear where Nagin will be living: His home along Bayou St. John suffered massive flooding, the mayor said, although he has not inspected it.

He has temporarily relocated his family because their city has been evacuated. They are coming back.

Posted by: Hobospider | Sep 19, 2005 7:04:45 PM

Appeal to authority is only a fallacy if the individual cited is not an authority on the topic at hand. When it comes to culpability in federal failings, what greater authority is there than the POTUS?

The President is, believe it or not, a politician, and occasionally says or does things out of political expediency. Considering the public's acceptance of the media's ceaseless drumbeat about federal failures, it's not surprising that the President would find it politically wise not to buck the tide.

Another thing- referring to Brown's shameful flight from the post he was tragically ill-suited for as a 'media lynching' is quite a roofle coming from someone who suggested literally hanging the governor of Louisiana.

That's nice. Care to back up the still-unsupported assertion that Brown was incompetent? Still waiting to hear a single example of a FEMA failure. Still waiting to hear how this miserable failure somehow managed to see FEMA through the worst hurricane season on record with flying colors.

The governor of Louisiana's failures, on the other hand, are well-documented, and considering that an indictment for negligent homicide has been handed down against nursing home owners who failed to evacuate, criminal punishment for Blanco and Nagin may not be that farfetched. After all, failure to evacuate is one thing... deliberately preventing food and water from reaching suffering victims in order to increase their suffering is quite another.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | Sep 19, 2005 11:02:22 PM

repeating Rush Limbaugh's
Rather than pointing out the latin term for this I'll just stick with, you're ridiculous.

ignorant shill
While your failure to grasp the point makes you appear irrational or semi-literate. Isn't insulting fun?

He has temporarily relocated his family because their city has been evacuated. They are coming back.
I hate being forced to repeat myself because someone chooses to ignore the written word. I'll try again.

Nagin is not returning his family, even to the same state, right now.
Nagin is telling people to return to New Orleans right now.
Nagin continued to tell people to return to New Orleans right now, in defiance of the existing dangers and the possible hurricane. Bush and federal authorities had to force reason upon him.

If people had returned to New Orleans and died because Rita hit the city (while Nagin will be long out of town) this would be incompetence and negligence again.

Posted by: odietamo | Sep 20, 2005 5:10:28 AM

Odie, Nagin has a keen interest in getting the economic engine of NO started, so it is understandable that he would want to reopen the French Quarter, least damaged by the flood, ASAP. He obviously backed down from his original timetable after seeing Rita brewing and consulting with Thad Allen, but the difference will only be a couple of weeks from what I can gather.

You are welcome to disagree with Nagin's plan if you think it was too optimistic. I'd probably concur. That is not the reason I reacted so strongly to your post however. The past couple of days right wing pundits have been running with the story of Nagin 'abandoning' his constituants by relocating his family when their home was destroyed. It's a silly accusation, and I hate to see that echoed. It is clear that Nagin will remain in NO and his family will return as soon as their home can be repaired. I understand they lived in one of the worst hit areas, and not the same one that Nagin hoped the first evacuees would be returning to.

Posted by: Hobospider | Sep 20, 2005 9:43:17 AM

odi et amo. (Catullus)
(Pet peeve. Just thought I'd clear that up.)

The accusation isn't accurate or relevant. Please address the validity of the point(s). This isn't D&D.

When asked about the buses Nagin has responded with the excuses that he didn't have a place to send people and he didn't have drivers. Both fall under the category of his job. It was his responsibility to find answers or contact the Governor for help BEFORE the disaster. The answer certainly shouldn't be to ignore the problem then blame it on someone else.

When screaming about Bush and the slow response on NPR he said he'd asked for the Governor to declare martial law "three days ago." When immediately asked by the reporter if she had done so his response was a frustrated "I don't know." There is absolutely no excuse for that. Studios have phones. The man never had an idea what was going on in his own city, nor did he try to find out.

Now I've pointed out, knowing another hurricane was coming and the city is unsafe, he publicly attacked Thad Allen for telling people not to return. That was during the, "there's only one Mayor of New Orleans and I'm it," declaration. He maintained that stance until forced to publicly state people should wait. Your response is that he didn't know a hurricane was coming. Yes, yes he did.

With all due respect, you clearly have no interest in any of the evidence. I should have realized this earlier. VoR can debate rings around me and yet you dance, dodge and ignore every point he comes up with as well.

Why not recognize you may be wrong and actually address the points people make? Otherwise, why bother?

Posted by: odietamo | Sep 21, 2005 8:04:47 AM

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