Katrina Recap

Now that the initial sound and fury connected to Katrina have subsided at least a bit, it might be well to take a look at how things worked out, after all. Locally – Lexington, Ky. – the word is that 38 evacuees have already found jobs here and received drivers licenses. They are being housed due to the work mostly of churches here and elsewhere in the state. According to news reports, the evacuees and their families are being similarly situated throughout the country, mostly in areas closest to the “Katrina Area,” principally New Orleans, and the government is moving to make money available to them so they can make their own decisions with respect to their needs.

The disaster area, roughly twice the size of the state of Kentucky or Great Britain, about 90,000 square miles, represents losses of both life and property so humongous as to boggle the mind. Various officials and media folks toss around figures as if they have a handle on the numbers, but the truth is that no one has even a slight clue as to the cost of Katrina, which, in any case, has been so thoroughly politicized by so many individuals and interest groups that the victims have sort of been left in the dust. This was the case practically within hours of 9/11, and it certainly is the case now, the most rabid of the Bush-haters in both Congress and the media actually equating it with a terrorist attack, understandable since they have had to admit that there have been no further terrorist attacks in the nation since 9/11, the clear inference being that the administration has done a good job thwarting further trouble. To these whiners, Katrina came as a huge blessing, but the vast unwashed public knows the difference between a terrorist attack and a natural disaster, notwithstanding that the elitists are unable to comprehend this.

A good example of idiocy gone amok has been House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who seems always to be on the verge of hysteria, no matter the subject at hand. She has been vehement in calling for the firing of FEMA Director Brown, regarding whose actions the jury is out and will be for some time. He may deserve to be replaced, but the time to start screaming was not in the midst of perhaps the worst disaster in the nation’s history, at least in terms of property damage. Pelosi came off looking like a shrill shrew when she should have been encouraging people, not lambasting any and all the good people who were trying to get a job done. It’s no wonder her party is a laughing stock.

Aiding and abetting her in this mindless craziness is Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard “The SCREAM” Dean, who in a meeting of African-American preachers in Florida on Sept. 7 said that race played a significant role in the storm’s death toll, the obvious conclusion being that Katrina was a racist hurricane bent upon destroying blacks. He further said: “…the ugly truth that skin color, age, and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not. How could this still be happening in America?” He came to this conclusion by viewing the TV images of primarily blacks at the Superdome and on rooftops, but apparently he didn’t mention that 68% of all residents of New Orleans happen to be African Americans and logically would thus form the vast majority of evacuees. Dean knows better, but part of his lunacy is that he was trying to keep a lock on the black vote when the lock is already in place, as the preachers and everybody else knows. He might have mentioned that the vast majority of the rescuers risking their lives were white but his mouth works so much faster than his brain that there was no energy left for thinking. Dean is pathetic.

Even the media people admit that competition drives their profession and that a scoop is what paves the “yellow-brick road” to news-stardom, at least in the era of TV, in which even the News is entertainment. As usual in the early stages of a news “event,” the media folks were trying so hard to outdo each other that they didn’t bother to collect the facts before engaging the all-important scoop, which, in the case of Katrina they thought was totally the failure of FEMA. Inveighing – actually in near hysteria at times – against the federal government in general and the president in particular in shrill denunciations, they were later proven to be so far off the actual facts of the matter that they were made to look foolish. Supposed reporters did so much on-scene editorializing that they turned their efforts into screeds of silliness. Even now, they make sure to stand (though not too deeply) in the rancid waters of New Orleans in their blue-jeans and polo shirts when they do their “reporting/editorializing” gig. This is high drama and enhances the anti-administration agenda.

The biggest problem the reporters of the “now” generation have is that they believe that everything imaginable in any situation imaginable at any time imaginable at any place imaginable should always be done by yesterday. It apparently has never occurred to them that it actually DOES take time to move personnel and resources to an area ravaged by a natural disaster to the extent that practically all roads, bridges, and communications have been destroyed or otherwise made unusable. For instance, they castigated FEMA because buses did not magically appear soon after the storm to evacuate people from New Orleans, never mentioning that hundreds of buses had been readily available in the city, and that until the flooding was noticed on Tuesday morning there actually was no need for buses to be requested. It was almost a miracle that they showed up as fast as they did. The media mavens continually harped on the fact that the people, because of poverty, didn’t have cars; however, according to figures of the U.S. Census Bureau for 2004, only 8.6% of housing units in New Orleans were not represented by an available vehicle. The national average was 8.7%. The numbers for Mississippi and Alabama were 7.7% and 6.4%, respectively. So much for that lie!

It should be remembered that, notwithstanding possible shortcomings in handling Katrina, FEMA is always castigated in the wake of every natural disaster, no matter which party is in power. This is because the citizens look to the federal government for the “big” things, and because they do not understand the federal role, which is that of the third responder. The New Orleans mayor and the Louisiana governor both were unbelievably derelict as the first and second responders, respectively. The president stated that he was not satisfied with the handling of Katrina, but seemed to have no fear of any investigation into the matter. In the first place, reasonable people understand that nothing like Katrina could have been imagined, as was the case with 9/11, and, secondly, FEMA, as third responder, had its hands tied until the governor, especially, signed the right papers. The mayor was simply incompetent, as was the New Orleans police force, and no one could have imagined the profound presence of thuggery and hooliganism by a sizeable number of New Orleans residents. The horror stories connected to the Convention Center are instructive.

Actually, Katrina posed a problem that was too big for even a hint of perfection in its solution. The problem now has to do with what to do about New Orleans. Except for the downtown buildings or other sturdy edifices, the place will have to be virtually bull-dozed, and the people who have evacuated might as well consider establishing themselves in the many “new” places where they’re located. This may not be all bad for them, at least in the sense that they might escape the grinding poverty in which they’ve lived. Those who lost homes and businesses in Mississippi and Alabama can rebuild, but building homes for some 150,000 households in New Orleans is not a realistic undertaking, especially in light of the fact that it would be absurd to build anything until the levees are rebuilt to handle a category-6 hurricane, if there is such a thing, also taking into consideration the fact that the city itself is slowly sinking. This will take manifold billions of dollars and no telling how much time. The U.S. taxpayers will have to foot the bill, and the Treasury is severely strapped already.