September 14, 2005

Durbinizing the Superdome

Does this scene sound vaguely familiar?

"When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a evacuee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The evacuee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the evacuee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Louisianans had done to evacuees in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Louisiana politicians in the treatment of their citizens."

When these words were uttered by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in June, he was speaking of Guantanamo Bay, and the alleged treatment of al Qaeda terrorists in the care of the American military. It is sad that by substituting a few words we could so easily capture the desperate conditions Americans forced upon Americans just last week in the Louisiana Superdome.

The allegations of torture at Guantanamo Bay turned out to be false. The desperate situation in the Superdome turned out to be all too real.

I wonder if Dick Durbin and his fellow Democrats will be able to summon the same vigor to prosecute the authorities responsible for the torturous conditions of Louisiana Superdome, as they did for those they felt were responsible for Guantanamo Bay.

Sadly, I don't see that their character will be up to the task.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 14, 2005 06:34 AM | TrackBack

Don't be absurd. To do so means they'd have to shine a light on the local governments, and as we all know, everything they did was RIGHT.

Posted by: the anchoress at September 14, 2005 10:18 AM

So quick to bash Durbin and the Democrats with a lame comparison to Guantanamo, but I fail to find any mention on your web site of Bush taking responsibility for the Federal gov's lack of response, at least as a headline, which it should be, to at the very least, pretend, to have a balanced discussion of Katrina's aftermath.

Anyways, as to Durbinizing the Superdome; to compare a "controlled" environment like the penitentiary that is Guantanamo to the "uncontrolled" environment that was the Superdome is silly. No public official at any level could have possibly allowed or prevented what happened there.

I would love it if people on the left and right would actually talk about what can be done to prevent a disaster (not the hurricane, but the response disaster) so that a disaster like this can be prevented in the future.

Yankee, where is the headline of the environmentalist's law suit that prevented the construction of a flood wall ordered by FDR and how that would have prevented the N.O. flood. Let's speculate about that and continue to ignore how our government (ALL levels not just the local ones your patrons want arrested) should have acted to save lives.

Posted by: John at September 14, 2005 11:41 AM

John, as the media has been quick to jump on (and in many cases blatantly mischaracterize) President Bush’s comments, I felt no need to restate Bush’s apology. He stood up, and accepted a responsibility that wasn’t his cross to bear because he exerted leadership.

It is quite another thing, however, to ask Democrats to own up their own far greater mistakes in this tragedy. Not one Democrat, on any level, has accepted the least bit of blame in the mismanagement of the evacuation, rescue, or recovery efforts resulting from Hurricane Katrina.

Certainly not the Mayor, who can’t find hundreds of buses under his control, much less the written disaster plan in his office that explained how to use them.

Certainly not the Governor, who threw up her hands in despair and declared the situation “untenable” before she fell apart, but not before she ordered the Red Cross and Salvation Army to be barred from getting near those citizens who needed them teh most, just miles away.

Certainly not Congressman William Jefferson, who pulled National Guard air and ground units away from rescue operations so that he could gather personal effects—“a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator”—from his Marengo Street mansion, while his constituents were trapped and dying in flooded attics and on rooftops around the city.

Democrats, each and every one.

You make the outrageous claim, “No public official at any level could have possibly allowed or prevented what happened there.” Utter horsecrap. If that is the case, then why did you just blame Bush?

Spin, spin, spin, little liberal.

Say what you wanted to say, and what you really believe:

“No Democrat at any level could have possibly allowed or prevented what happened there.”

That, too, is utter horsecrap.

Ray Nagin failed to follow the written and agreed upon New Orleans Hurricane evacuation plan to use hundreds of municipal and school buses to evacuate the poorest of New Orleans out of the city before the storm made landfall. He completely failed to do so.

As a result, far more people were trapped in New Orleans than there should have been. Using just the public transportation assets at his disposal, he could have evacuated a minimum of 20,000-25,000 people if those buses made just one trip. In four trips, Nagin could have emptied the city of everyone who wanted to leave (some fools would choose not to leave under any circumstances).

If Nagin had been marginally competent in following the disaster plan set forth before him, the number of people needing rescue would have been far less, making all rescue, recovery, law enforcement and humanitarian efforts less difficult by an order of magnitude. But Nagin failed in his responsibilities, and he failed almost completely.

Kathleen Blanco failed to know the very responsibilities and duties of her position, and misused that position to impede relief efforts on the state, federal and private levels.

Only Governor Blanco could have moved elements of the Louisiana National Guard into New Orleans to maintain order. Only Governor Blanco controlled the Louisiana Dept. of Homeland Security, which at her order, stopped the Red Cross and Salvation army from supplying food, water, and medical care to evacuees trapped at the Superdome. Blanco failed in her responsibilities, and she failed almost completely.

Your idea of a balanced discussion to is blame the federal government because it is Republican, while absolving the far more culpable Democratic local and state governments of all blame.

You want to know how to prevent the next response disaster, John?

Start with yourself. While Democrats cringe at the words “personal responsibility,” you and only you are ultimately responsible for your own survival.

During a large-scale disaster, you and your immediate neighbors are going to be your only resources in the first minutes, hours, or even days.

In the first 72 hours, your front-line defenders in any disaster are your local community, municipal, and county emergency responders. No one should every expect help from anyone other than these people and yourselves in a major disaster. No one else can get there in time, and no one else knows the area well.

State assets, often in the form of the National Guard, come rolling in from the 2-3 day point onward with basic supplies.

The federal government will help with the long-term recovery, but never, ever plan on a federal response to save you. If you wait for a federal agency you are a fool.

If you plan on relying on the federal government to save you instead of yourself and your local emergency responders, you are a dead fool.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at September 14, 2005 02:00 PM

Can anyone stop talking about those schoolbuses? I didn't know who the mayor of NO was before Katrina, and I am certainly no apologist for Nagin. But his response to Tim Russert when asked why the school buses weren't utilized sounded, at least to me, somewhat plausible, which was that no drivers were available.
Human nature being what it is I can easily imagine that, as danger bears down on people, a natural response is to run like hell away from it, a desire that often trumps all others -- even the desire to be a hero.
Sure Nagin screwed up. Big time. He may be from the bayouland, but he is not stupid: if you gathered all the leaders who made life-endagering mistakes in this tragedy and let them form a circle, they'd all wait for that one schmuck to step into the middle and declare he/she might've done things differently; after all, you can not only pin all your problems to that single, hapless soul, but your own failures are much easier to deflect if other people are owning up.
As for Bush's admirable efforts to shoulder the blame I am impressed. As for his mother's tone-deaf comments about the people in the Astrodome, I can only ask: has she been vacationing with the royal Brits? She sure sounds a lot like them.

Posted by: coffee is for closers at September 14, 2005 05:49 PM


You really by the "no drivers were available"

If I even go on trial, I want you on my jury.

First, Nagin had access to all the bus drivers in New Orleans. Municipal bus drivers report to the city, and therefore, he is their boss. He also has contacts with the school district, who has control of the drivers. Ever if he did not have professional drivers, he had no excuse.

Anyonewho has experience driving a car can drive a schoolbus well enough to take it from the Superdome to an on-ramp and down the interstate.

Nagin's excuse, no matter how you cut it, is a poor one.

As far as major blame goes, I think you will find it really boiled down to 2-4 individuals being the most foul. Nagin and Blanco both should lose their jobs over this, and may be culpable for criminal charges. I'm still researching that. Others should lose their jobs, but may not have done anything illegal, just immoral (Gretna's police Chief Lawson), or incompetent (N.O. police chief Eddie Compass).

Barbara Bush's comment was:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this — this is working very well for them."

After having spent time with evacuees this weekend and hearing their life stories, I'd have to say that for at least some of them, Mrs. Bush's comments were accurate, whether they sounded like Marie Antoinette, or not.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at September 14, 2005 06:23 PM

Excellent contrast. But as everyone knows, the whole thing was Bush's fault.

Not really of course, but if you expect ANY accountability for local/state inaction after the C.Y.A. snowjob of the last two weeks, you must be smoking something illegal.

Posted by: Mike's America at September 16, 2005 01:57 AM

C. Yankee,

You claimed that finding facts was your actual job on another blog, so I am stunned by your response to my statement above (not that much really).

I never blamed Bush, I merely stated a fact; Bush took responsibility for the Federal government’s involvement in the response to Katrina. I just found it interesting that you neglected to mention his statements as they pertain to the larger discussion at hand.

Then you label me a liberal (which, by the way, that statement alone labels you a conservative) and claim that I am therefore defending Democrats. I wrote "public official" and meant just that. Are most of the public official’s in LA and N.O. Democrats? It appears to be the case, so what? I stand by my statement; no public official could have prevented what happened at the Superdome, and certainly no one would have allowed it to happen.

It appears you want to make the case that it could have been prevented because you are hung up on the past and the actions of those in charge before Katrina made landfall. I believe that mentality will just maintain the status-quo and nothing will be fixed.

That’s where my broader point of looking into the failures of all levels of government to respond to this disaster is more important now that Katrina did hit, N.O. did flood, etc. etc.

Will and should public officials at all levels be investigated and ultimately held responsible for their actions, or inactions, with out a doubt. I would not arrest them as your patrons suggest (which I realize I am becoming one of them by continuing to check out your web site). I personally believe Blanco was way in over her head and ultimately made some horrible and costly decisions, but wait I am a "Democrat," so I believe she is a saint and is flawless.

I do believe that the Federal government is ULTIMATELY the ones responsible for the well being of all of this nation’s people. Therefore, I believe that they are responsible for a quick and prepared response to disaster, i.e. have a plan of action. What has the Department of Homeland Security been doing if not this very thing? This is where I personally believe the federal government failed us all(does this make me a liberal, not really). FOUR years after 9-11 I was convinced we would have been more prepared.

NO ONE had a plan of action in response to this disaster and that is wrong. The fact that individuals did not follow a plan of action (Nagin not using the buses he is supposed to use according to the city's plan) before the storm is, unfortunately, in light of the over all failure to respond, a mute point. It is important to investigate that as part of a broad investigation to the whole disaster, but it won’t save any house or person affected by Katrina now will it?

Posted by: john at September 16, 2005 11:59 AM

John you leap at logic, but you rarely get there.

Your comment that by calling you a liberal I make myself a conservative is a logical fallacy. Does that mean that if I said you were male, then I would automatically be female, or vice versa? Of course not. You arrive at the correct conclusion through no fault of your own. Alas, it is one of the few statements get you get right even getting there by mistake.

Prevention was the first key to the Superdome disaster. If Mayor Nagin had followed the city’s written evacuation plans, the crowd at the Superdome would have much smaller, and authorities there would have had enough supplies, room, and manpower.

An adequate humanitarian response was the second major component. Govrnor Blanco refused to let food, water, and medical supplies be brought into the Superdome by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. She bottlenecked the relief effort. In addition, she was non-responsive to demands to evacuate the area. Citizens who wanted to self-evacuate were not allowed to leave via the nearest bridge out because local police blocked the exit point, and even resorted to shooting warning shots over the heads of those who would escape.

Democratic officials directy caused the situation at the Superdome, and after the caused it, they made it more intense and longer in duration by their actions and inactions. While Nagin caused the initial situation by failing to use the evacuation before the storm made landfall, he almost immediately began calling for support. Blanco reacted with a combination of inaction (not taking steps to effect an evacuation) and detrimental action (purposefully withholding water, food, and medical supplies). Police Chief Lawson made it worse by not letting people escape the situation.

That you would have the audacity to say that Nagin, Blanco and Lawson weren’t responsible for command decisions they made marks you as incredibly partisan, or incredibly stupid, John.

The rest of your remarks aren’t even worth addressing. You don’t understand responsibility, and revel in nanny-state socialism. This is obviously not the country for you.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at September 16, 2005 01:09 PM