Friday, September 02, 2005
Government at all levels: Before the levee(s) broke, Hurricane Katrina didn't look much worse than most other Category 4 storms that have hit the U.S. in recent years. It was the failure of the levees and the subsequent flooding and rampant lawlessness that kicked this thing up to a whole new level.
I've never been in the aftermath of a hurricane. I've been in ice storms (in Washington state), I've seen flooding (also in Washington, and in Lompoc, Calif.), but the most destruction I've seen firsthand was the firestorms two years ago that ravaged large portions of San Diego County, killed more than a dozen and destroyed hundreds of homes. The destruction wreaked by those fires pales in comparison to what's happened on the Gulf Coast, but it offers an interesting lesson in the responsibility of government.
Most of the current finger-pointing is directed at the federal government in general and President Bush specifically (see Paul Krugman's predictable and unhinged "analysis"), but little is written about local or state government failures and responsibility.
In the aftermath of the firestorms here in San Diego, the majority of the public's ire was directed not at the federal government, but at the city and state. The city was blamed for consistently underfunding fire protection. The state was blamed for adhering rigidly to bureaucratic rules which led to a prohibition of Marine Corps helicopters based at Miramar assisting in fighting the fire. The federal government? I believe FEMA showed up, but the feds didn't play a big role in the aftermath.
The feds certainly have a role to play in the Gulf Coast, the sheer scale of this requires more resources than state or local governments could possibly muster. But they're not the only ones who will have to provide answers to the people affected by this tragedy -- and the American people as a whole.
*UPDATE* Great minds think alike? The New York Times' John Tierney imitates Hoystory. Read Hoystory every day and be ahead of the curve.
Regarding Comment #1. As I think about it, a dirty bomb would be so much easier to deal with than this. You're going to get some localized destruction, then a swath of fallout varying with wind conditions, but people could still walk away from it if came to that. Here people are stranded because of all of the water. Dirty bomb? I think we ought to take a serious look at securing dams.