Friday, February 23, 2007

A hard left from a right blog

I don't know why I bother. I guess I'm just hard-headed.

I stumbled upon a blog that had some fairly callous things to say about Louisiana and our slow recovery from the injuries of Hurricane Katrina. The blog advertised itself as a "right wing" blog, so I should have surfed away.

But I didn't.

The blog and its commenters put 100% of the blame for the before, during and after Katrina problems completely on Louisiana and New Orleans. Their view was that President Bush and the federal government had done everything they could and should, and that nothing more remained but for the locals to finish the job. In their view, people here are stupid, lazy and corrupt, and all our elected officials are eligible for a cameo on The Sopranos.

I thought if they heard more of the facts, they'd understand. I thought if they heard our side of the story, they'd empathize. I thought if they actually interacted with a living human being, they could drop their cruel stereotypes and grasp what their fellow Americans are going through.

You probably see where this is headed. When I went on that right-wing blog to criticize the federal response to Katrina, they jumped all over me. Here is part of what they wrote:

"George Bush promised help and he came isn’t the responsibility of the feds to come in an do the states job..if that’s what it will take, I’m sure the federal government can seize control of your that what needs to happen?"

"It isn’t the Federal governments responsibility to rebuild your is the job of the State. The Feds have sent the money yet it sits…what good will it do to send more if they haven’t even utilized the funds they have received?"

"If New Orleanians are so stupid as to re-elect an incompetent fool like Nagin, why the hell should anyone else care about them?"

"Tim it isn’t just that you elected poor leaders (we do that here too) but you reelected the incompetent Nagin, with the very recent public display of his gross incompetence still in the recent memory."

"As an outsider looking in, it’s time for you, the residents, to say enough with the waste and fraud that your government has garnered a reputation for…You, the people, are the ones "serving time" for the sins(corruption) of your politicians(many long gone), that you all seem accept as the status quo."

"It isn’t your fault that the storm hit, but you run a risk when living in cities like that."

"Tim, those of us that don’t live there see things a bit differently. NOLA has been sinking yearly and prior to Katrina, it was well below sea-level…there is a risk that the individual takes in choosing to live in that particular region…that may sound cold, but it is true."

Although I was critical of the president and congress, I agreed with much of their criticism of our local politicians. I take the position that in this case, there's room for everyone at the table of blame.

But these folks would have none of it. I was repeatedly told that it was completely a local problem.

And to throw salt on the wound, they even accused me of exaggerating the scale of disaster. When I pointed out that this was a catastrophe without equal, they scoffed. Can I coin a new term here? They're "Katrina Deniers."

"The largest was Camille in 69." one poster noted with a link to a web page that ranks the most powerful hurricanes by wind speed at landfall.

I have a joke for that guy: Knock, Knock. Who's there? Storm surge. Storm surge who? DOUCHE!

Except the joke is not all that funny.

To me, the problems we are dealing with in the aftermath of Katrina were neither made by nor can they be resolved by one political persuasion or another. We have problems and we need to get things fixed. I honestly would not care if the president was a Christian Socialist and the governor was a Whig--all I care is that they do their jobs.

This catastrophe was the result of neither the scheming nor the negligence of any political party. We got whacked with the biggest hurricane we've ever witnessed and the hurricane protection system did not do the job it was supposed to. Period. Now let's get out of this mire and fix it so it never happens again.

But you know, for those who consider politics a game, Katrina is just good sport. Naturally, the president gets most of the blame, with generous heaps of culpability to spare for the Governor and Mayor. And now that the president's loyal opposition runs Congress, the legislative branch is jumping on the issue to rub the president's nose in it.

But the blame game doesn't help. It doesn't rebuild houses, it doesn't fix the streets, and it doesn't promote confidence that anybody "in charge" knows what needs to be done or will do it.

Again, I don't care about the politics. I'm registered neither Republican nor Democrat, so quit playing that loser's game.

My analysis of the situation is that there were failures in every corner: Failure of engineering, failure of community planning, failure of state building codes, failure of local emergency preparation, failure of state levee boards, failure of federal response, failure of the president to fulfill his promises to help us rebuild, failure of the governor to draft a sensible plan, failure of the mayor to articulate a vision, failure of the voters to entrust leadership at all levels to reputable and effective people--the list goes on and on.

About the only people who have no blame here is the National Weather Service.

They were, unfortunately, deadly accurate in their warnings and forecasts.

To those who harbor such animosity toward the people of Louisiana and New Orleans, I have nothing more to say. Their callous contempt for their struggling fellow Americans reveals the content of their character.

Given the choice, I'd rather be here in my city and my state with all its flaws than with people like them any day of the week.


TravelingMermaid said...

I know how you feel, Tim. I spent a bit of time here

running my mouth.

Many times I feel like I'm screaming into a huge void...even here in Nola.

Great post.

ashley said...

"Given the choice, I'd rather be here in my city and my state with all its flaws than with people like them any day of the week."


You just nailed exactly how I feel. I don't care if a pol is a Democrat or a Republican; I just care if they're for us or against us. At this point, both W's GOPers and Pelosi's Dems seem to be in the same corner regarding us.

In retrospect, it's truly amazing to see: not only are the pol's abandoning us, but a lot of the populace is all for it. "We don't deserve to be rebuilt"? Where did that come from?

I used to think that facts could help turn them around. No. They're entrenched, and it is a war.

Sad, really. But hey, Sinn Fein.

Ray said...

The Coast Guard did a damn fine job too!

(I like your blog. This is an excuse to say so.)

Karoli said...

Tim, this is typical of the hard-core conservative groups -- they live in a constant state of denial, expecting that if they simply stonewall, they'll eventually win out over reality, fact, and the human condition.

They have a terrific example to follow in George Bush, not to mention his little dog Cheney. There is no reasoning with them -- they believe they have found the supreme truth and anyone who disagrees is nothing more than scum under their feet.

Don't waste your time -- they are the small and stupid minority who live in fantasyland while the rest of us try to pick up and deal with reality.

I'm sorry you tangled with them -- there's the old saying about pigs that applies here...

Never try and teach a pig to dance -- it wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

doctorj2u said...

This attitude has been around from the beginning. They don't want to hear about the facts; they don't need facts. It is all about politics, not about an American city that has suffered. To the right, we deserved it and to the left, we are doomed by global warming. I have been fighting these people from the time I got electricity back after the storm and the only thing I have accomplished is that I have become a cynical, bitter person that hates what I thought was my own country. I have to let it go and look to New Orleans, my true country, for inspiration. People like you and the thousands of others like you that fight the fight to make a new New Orleans. Thank you for being my heroes.

MAD said...

Those idiots are incorrigible. It is probably best to ignore them altogether. They are no doubt used to people ignoring them-that is why they have developed such hard and cruel hearts.

Sophmom said...

Mad is right. They're idiots, and everyone, no matter where they live should be very afraid if this is the way our nation repsonds to disaster. A major American city was manditorily evacuated. How can anyone deny that this was the worst disaster in our history? When has another major American city been manditorily evacuated? Never. Americans were left sitting on their rooftops and dying in attics for four and five days. Good grief. No one can tell me that relief couldn't have gotten there. As ray noted, the Coast Guard showed up (although they had to throw the rule book out to do it). It's all BS. The calvary didn't come because they chose not to, they didn't want to, because they were afraid of all those thirsty, hungry, scared, poor black people (and they had no idea where to take them). Period. It should be our national shame and it continues to this moment. It's time for the President to lift the Stafford Act so that the federal funds that have been appropriated can be accessed without putting any more stress on already spent local governments. Sheeesshhh. This is so simple. I have lost all patience with the idiots who don't get it.

Great post, Tim. No surprise there. Hope you and yours are well and happy. I'm going to spend Saturday night at my friend's farm in the mountains. I need it. Peace, darlin'.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. I disagree with you about the NHC. I think they knew (actually, I am certain of it) on Friday morning where Katrina was going. When everyone got off work on Friday, that cone was pointing at the FL panhandle. If they'd moved the cone and started hollering Louisiana when the data changed suddenly Friday morning (because the storm's direction took an unexpected turn as she exited FL into the Gulf) instead of Saturday morning, NOLA would have gotten 72 hours to evacuate instead of 36. JMHO. Mo' peace. I'm outta here. :D

mominem said...

I know how you feel. I tried to explain the situation, mostly people are sympathetic, occasionally you run into moron who know the facts better they you do. Seems like you ran into a whole heard of them.

All you can do is keep trying.

Adrastos said...

My experience is similar to Mominem's. Most people in the rest of the country are sympathetic. The people who read hard right blogs are idiots who think W is the cat's ass when in fact he's a horse's ass.

Marco said...

Tim, staying with your people anyday is the way to go.
Adrastos, that's an insult to the noble horse!

Lisa said...

I would rather be in NOLA....instead I live in a city full of those assholes like the ones you described. Including my own mother whom I am barely on speaking terms with at this point due to her blind loyalty to Bush and her intense hatred of NOLA...and I cant understand why, she's never even visited.
Great post.

BrianinOR said...

Tim- I've been very interested in the Gulf Coast since Katrina and I recently spent a month in the area as a volunteer for my church. I am from Oregon. As an outsider who has seen the devastation first-hand, let me give you my perspective.

It all comes down to perception. Those of you NOLA natives seem to be utterly baffled by the rest of the country's seeming apathy toward you. This is largely due to the perception we have of you. Thanks to movies, media, and national Katrina coverage, here's what the average outsider "knows" about the Gulf Coast/NOLA area:

1. New Orleans consists only of the French Quarter and a few "bad" neighborhoods. Slidell, Bay St. Louis, Waveland- never heard of them.

2. New Orleans is populated by a combination of freaks, drunks, druggies, whores, and disturbed individuals. Walk anywhere outside the French Quarter and you're likely to get shot, stabbed, robbed, or all of the above.

3. This below sea-level, flood-prone swamp was willingly populated by its citizens, who have had almost 300 years to think of a solution to this problem. Yet everybody is blaming George Bush.

4. You freaking re-eleced Ray Nagin! If you can't wake up and acknowledge his failures in Katrina's aftermath, how do you expect the rest of the country to help you?

5. Why donate? According to news reports, the money isn't accounted for, and the dollars that went to evacuees were spent on booze and strip clubs.

Mind you, these are the perceptions of the average American who hasn't spent time in the NOLA area. Given these perceptions, it's not surprising that you detect some apathy.

Personally, I love NOLA and the greater gulf coast region. I can't wait to go back. But I still sorting out my feelings relative to this apathy from outsiders and the anger of those of you who live there.

Here are some questions I would like answered to refine my opinion:

1. What exactly do you expect from the Federal government?

2. In your opinion, who is more to blame for your current state- George Bush? Washington in general? Local authorities?

3. What type of help are you expecting?

4. Why the HELL did you re-elect Ray Nagin?

5. Who should rebuild New Orleans?

6. How/Why rebuild places like Lower Ninth Ward, given the possibilities of future flooding?

Look, I don't mean to sound insensitive with these questions. I walked through every last neighborhood in that city serving meals, cleaning up, building. I truly love the people of NOLA.

But I'm not sure I disagree completely with some of the points made by these right-wing blogs. Please help outsiders like me understand why they are wrong.

Tim said...

Here are my short answers:

1. What exactly do you expect from the Federal government?

Resolve. So far, the federal response has been to provide trailers and to patch the levees. Should the federal government be fixing the streets, rebuilding schools and planting trees? No. What the federal government should be doing is fixing the levees so that this NEVER happens again.

2. In your opinion, who is more to blame for your current state- George Bush? Washington in general? Local authorities?

I think I stated in the post that there is plenty of blame to go around. There were failures at all levels--local, state and federal.

3. What type of help are you expecting?

I expect nothing more than what is promised. What I posted on that message board that seemed to most incense the folks there was President Bush making a speech full of optimism and promises on September 15, 2005 from right here and on national television--and then doing little to follow through. If we are to get nothing, then okay, tell us that up front and quit toying with us. Say what you really mean and let the chips fall where they will. Democrats don't really give a damn about us either--they're just playing the Katrina card just to win points on Bush.

4. Why the HELL did you re-elect Ray Nagin?

I voted for Mitch Landrieu in the primary and in the runoff. Ask my neighbors why the hell we reelected Nagin, Jefferson, Edwards, and on and on. Probably the same reason we elected Bush. (Louisiana is a red state, you know!)

5. Who should rebuild New Orleans?

People who live here or who want to live here should rebuild. But how can we rebuild if we still don't know if the levees will protect us? How can we rebuild if the local building code is not properly enforced? How can we rebuild if the Road Home money is tied up in paperwork that assumes everyone here is a criminal?

6. How/Why rebuild places like Lower Ninth Ward, given the possibilities of future flooding?

Why go on at all since we're all going to die anyway? This is the worst question of all! Why is not the question--only how. How can we build to be as safe as possible? For some people, that will mean moving away. Real estate here is limited so that some people will live in the low-lying areas. For them (and for most of the area) we need to build smart. Raised houses should be the order of the day. Homeowner Elevation + Federal Protection = A successful city!

brianinor said...

Tim- Thank you for your response. I follow your blog because I find your positions very reasonable. You seem like the very type of person I came to know and love during my stay there. People like you are why I took a month off work and payed my own way down to NOLA to volunteer.

I guess what frustrates me the most in this debate is that, at least in my experience, most NOLA-area residents I've talked to (and in a month I talked to a lot)- blame Bush. Hate Bush. Wonder when Bush will come rebuild their home. Their expectations are ridiculous. "The flood was the government's fault, now the government better come take care of me." More than a few times people asked me when Bush is going to come rebuild their home.

Honestly, that was the prevailing attitude I got. And while I love those people very much I cannot agree with that attitude.

The other thing that bugs me are a lot of the NOLA related blogs that do nothing but complain, complain, complain about how America doesn't care about New Orleans. Oh yeah? What about those of us who volunteered or donated or took in evacuees? I'm sorry us outsiders didn't rise to your expectations. Again, Tim, I'm not criticizing you at all because you make very good points.

Now about my question about Ninth Ward, why exactly is that a dumb question? Do you really think the government is capable of building a levee that will absolutely ensure no major floods ever happen? Come on, man. Despite all the sentimentality for Ninth Ward, at some point you have to do a cost-benefit analysis. How much do you invest on a bet that mother nature won't throw you another curve ball like the post-Katrina floods?

In my opinion, having spent a fair amount of time in what was once the lower ninth ward, rebuilding that area is impractical- even irresponsible (probably irresponsible to settle there in the first place).

Look, I don't care how well Hoover Dam was built- there's a reason there aren't housing developments at the bottom of it!

Puddinhead said...

Brianinor, this is not meant to be offered as a complaint or any comment on the validity or lack thereof of anything in your posts--only as a point of information that generally is lost on those not "from here" (and even misconstrued by some of the locals)...the Lower Ninth Ward is so named, of course, not because it is particularly "lower" in elevation than anywhere else in the area, but because it is the part of Orleans Parish that is "lowest" (closest to the mouth) on the River. While sections of the Lower Ninth Ward north of Claiborne Avenue are indeed lower in elevation (although not as low as some other areas such as Lakeview), much of the Lower Ninth Ward south of Claiborne is in fact similar in elevation to the French Quarter, and for much the same reason--proximity to the River. It's often struck me since Katrina that even though the flood danger for the Lower Ninth Ward comes from shipping channels that across the nation the name LOWER Ninth Ward would be taken to mean that the neighborhood was LOWER in elevation than everywhere else in the city.

pirx said...

I enjoy this thread. My two cents worth...

I used to live in northern Wisconsin, but since September 2005, I spend most of my time working in the 5 parish area. The northern plains are a terrifying and deadly place when the Artic clippers roar in and tempereratures drop below zero for weeks at a time. When the area was first settled, there was forest cover that provided enough wood for fuel and shelter. The trees are mostly gone, and there is no chance that the local population could survive even a mild winter without importing food and energy, and some of it comes all the way from Gulf.

When a blizzard or ice storm hits the plains and knocks out the power, and people start to freeze in their bungalows, do we as a nation say, tough luck, you shouldn't live in such a dangerous place? Or do we as a nation rescue the stranded, clear the debris, rebuild the power grid, even though we are certain that another winter storm will do the same in the future?

The West Coast has temblors and tsunamis, the Central Plains have drought and tornados, the Mountain West has forest fires and the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts have hurricanes. We rally to support the victims of natural disasters every year, and we almost never feel the need to declare that this state, or that city or town must be abandoned. (Almost never because some Mississippi valley towns did accept Federal funds to relocate after repeated flooding).

If we must abandon all or part of NOLA due to the risk of a future flooding, remember that we must also abandon all or part most of the cities along the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers, as well as Sacramento, CA, most of the Gulf Coast, almost the entire state of Florida and most of the East Coast up through Long Island NY.

NOLA didn't get into this mess overnight. Just like my home in the North, public works are required to protect the population. Rebuilding will be a long hard task. First you have to get the people back into more permanent housing. At the same time strengthen the levees to actually meet the pre-K design criteria. We also need a crash program to rebuild the wetlands that are the natural hurricane defense.

Do all this in a rational determined fashion, and the result will be a new thread in the complex fabric of this unique culture. One that keeps the good times rolling because we as a nation share the load of keeping us all safe.

P.S. - It's as hopeless to use reason to get the rabid locals to stop blaming Bush as it is to use facts to educate the rabid right wingers. Save your strength, there's serious work to be done.

brianinor said...

puddinhead- Thanks for the info. I was actually aware of what the 'lower' part of 'lower ninth' means, but that is a great explanation to those that don't. The reason I use lower ninth and ninth ward as examples is that I helped gut a house on what used to be Deslonde St. (north of Claiborne). Looking west from that home site toward the canal, you have to think "why on earth did anybody ever build here." You can still see the sandy track of the floodwaters running from the levee.

I don't have access to any statistics, but having lived in twister-prone Texas and Rocky Mountain Colorado, I'd have to say I'd feel much less safe living in those parts of New Orleans.

Pirx, I'm not advocating abandoning NOLA. I just question the wisdom of rebuilding the areas on the down sides of canals, such as the ninth ward area I spent time in, and that are completely destroyed. And I'd like to intelligently ask the question without being accused of not caring about NOLA.

Regarding the attitude of locals (not all locals, I understand), I actually just bit my tongue while I was there. I tried to focus on helping them, not judging them or correcting them. I did not let my vehement disagreements with them destroy my relationships with them. But I'd be willing to bet that if most of my friends down there were to read my comments on this thread, they'd disown me.

Roux said...

It is difficult for people who have not seen the devastation with their own eyes to understand it. I've been in NOLA and all over the Miss coast and it is really bad.

New Orleans was in very bad shape Pre-K. From the councilman to the congressman the whole place was very corrupt and incompetent. NOLA is a very different place and really is like another country. In Louisiana there's always been New Orleans and then the rest of the state and neither like the other very much. Being from Baton Rouge I've always had a love/hate relationship with it. You love the music, food and fun but you hate the crime and the grime.

There were failures everywhere but the real blame lies with us. I mean the Louisianians that allowed it to get out of control. That looked the other way, or threw our hands up in disgust. We gave up.

It will be up to us to rebuild. We've got a short window of sympathy and we need to take advantage of it. But before we can rebuild we need some leadership and unfortunately I don't see much right now.

Sophmom said...

Golly, pirx, that was beautiful, more of a post than a comment. I believe you completely nailed it with, "we as a nation share the load of keeping us all safe."