In recent days I've been getting an awful lot of instant commentary coming over the transom, concerning who is to blame for the deadly calamity that used to be "The Big Easy." Most of it comes from sources with obvious ideological axes to grind, much of it lays out "facts" that contradict other "facts" reported by members of opposing ideological tribes.
Democrat and "left" sources focus blame on the Bush administration for a woefully inadequate disaster response, and for diverting funding away from Army Corps of Engineers projects that purportedly would have strengthened the levees enough to prevent the breaks which flooded the city.
Republicans blame the Democrat Mayor of New Orleans and Democrat Governor of Louisiana for not ordering evacuations or following pre-prepared emergency plans, such as can be found here
. Those plans included mobilizing the city's and school districts' bus fleets to evacuate people without cars.
Libertarians as well as some Democrats focus on the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was brought under control of the Heimatsicherheits Amt in 2003. Apparently it was FEMA that decided to use the Super Dome as a refugee shelter, and then failed to adequately provide for food and sanitation for the people crammed in there.
(Libertarians also noted that when people were being moved in, they were searched for "guns, dugs and alcohol" -- that is, treated like either prisoners or commercial airline passengers -- which force people to wait in line for several hours in the sweltering heat which became a horrendous storm as Katrina approached.)
Details of what FEMA has been doing
have been coming in at an accelerating pace. FEMA allegedly cut the local sheriff's communication lines; FEMA has refused access to the afllicted area by the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other volunteers (although Sean Penn got in somehow). Libertarian sources have said that New Orleans is "one of six 'Federalized' cities that fall under direct U.S.Gov. control during emergencies. This might explain why we saw all those buses nearly submerged under the floodwaters when they should have been ferrying people out of town, but why hasn't the Mayor pointed that out?
We've had reports of widespread looting, and other reports that say the looting has been isolated and most of it is people foraging for necessities. We've had reports of "thugs" roaming the French Quarter armed with iron pipes and knives; and other reports talking about how people holed up in the FQ have armed themselves for self-defense -- so which are the thugs and which are the self-defenders? We've had reports of rape of a child in the Super Dome and other reports claiming that was an untrue rumor.
We've heard denunciations of "listless welfare parasites" waiting around for the government to help them; we've heard reports of homeowners bravely (or stubbornly) refusing to abandon their homes and neighborhoods. Most recent word is the Mayor has announced a "mandatory" evacuation of the city -- this should get interesting.
Some libertarians have talked about government-subsidized levee-building, and government-subsidized flood insurance, and how this encourages reckless building in flood-prone areas. But another libertarian source points out the economic necessity of having a major city at that spot, because of the importance of the Mississippi River to American commerce, both outbound and inbound.
Frankly, I've been feeling rather whip-sawed by this deluge. There have been a few more measured observations such as this one
from Jesse Walker at Reason Magazine. And there have been others that generally make sense, but somehow smell vaguely racist, such as this one
from Robert Tracinski at The Intellectual Activist (an Objectivist site).
And then, there is this overtly racist screed
from ex-cop Fred Reed, who is popular among many conservative-leaning libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives.
It's going to take a while to sort this stuff out. Frankly I don't have time to research every claim, and it's all giving me a headache anyway. I'm just going to have to wait for generally trusted sources who get paid for this sort of thing to wade through this deluge of reportage, sort out the truth from the sewage, and assemble it into a coherent report.