Entry: Katrina's Fallout: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sunday, September 18, 2005

The most severe fallout from Hurricane Katrina's effects on New Orleans is in the federal government's reaction. I don't mean the administration's reaction to the hurricane itself, nor the disaster that befell a huge swath of the Gulf Coast, but their response to the media's overblown and falsified attack.

Remember the dire headlines of only weeks ago? The media proclaimed that ten thousand people may have died in New Orleans alone, warning that it would take months just to begin pumping out the deadly toxic water or allow residents back in. It would be years before people could live in New Orleans again, if ever, according to media consensus. Moreover, the media struggled mightily to pin the blame for everything that went wrong on President Bush. (They never did manage to explain how it was his fault that the mayor allowed buses to flood instead of using them for evacuations, or that the governor used the National Guard to turn the Red Cross away from New Orleans instead of patrol its streets.)

After three weeks, however, power is back on in parts of NOLA, the water was nowhere near as toxic as the media led us to believe, the gas pipelines are restored to service, businesses are already reopening and the entire death toll may not reach a thousand. Despite the lack of potable water and dependable levees, residents are moving back in -- disregarding FEMA's advice. (I wonder who they will blame if a late-season hurricane should flood their city again?) The situation was never as bad as the media painted it to be.

It's the same method the media has used to portray Iraq as a horrific quagmire, despite outstanding successes there. Coalition forces have helped Iraqis hold elections, assisted in rebuilding schools and hospitals, and witnessed a free people create a free country. The mainstream media sells stories based on the worst-case scenario, projecting and predicting doom and gloom in order to make a fast buck, regardless of the facts. The reason we can see the truth in New Orleans is that some reporters are actually hitting the streets, instead of holing up in a downtown hotel and reporting what they're told.

Until now, the Bush administration has more or less ignored the mainstream media's hyperbole and responded to the facts, especially in Iraq. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, however, they appear to be addressing the media hype more than the reality of the situation. President Bush's speech of 15 September summed up the good, the bad and the ugly of the administration's reaction.

The good part of what President Bush proposed is the application of Conservative principles to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. Bureaucratic environmental regulations will be eased. Corrupt union rules will be put aside. Home ownership and small business will be encouraged, not stifled. Money will be set aside specifically for job education and training. Federal expenditures will, as much as possible, be balanced by spending cuts instead of higher taxes. The next few years should see the entire area enjoying an economic boom like it's never seen before.

The bad, on the other hand, is short-term job creation fueled by dumping federal tax money into the area. Spending cuts, each of which will be bitterly opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans, can offset not all of it. Moreover, many people will become dependent on aid money, and become unwilling to take advantage of less-secure job opportunities. Unscrupulous politicians will undoubtedly promote federal jobs as a "right," making it more difficult to reduce the amount of federal -- that is, taxpayer -- money going to sustain those jobs. Just wait until the Democrats spend their 2008 campaigns bleating about how the eeevil Republicans are taking away federal jobs from poor people. Print this page and read it again in a few years.

The ugly part of the response is as ugly as it gets. In his speech, President Bush said, "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces." A more powerful central government with the ability to declare federal authority over a state at will is something that should never be allowed. Giving the federal government the power to declare martial law over a state by decree, without asking the consent of the state's governor, would be a betrayal of much of the freedom for which our forefathers fought.

Why should we bother to have state governments, if they can simply be bypassed whenever the federal government perceives a need to do so? Have state officials no responsibility to their citizens at all -- are they not the proper entities to conduct the local response to an emergency? Who should know better where rescue efforts would be effective and supplies might best be allocated -- some faceless bureaucrat in Washington DC? If state and local leaders prove themselves incapable of handling a crisis, the correct answer is to elect better local and state leaders, not to consign even more of our sovereignty to Washington. How can we surrender the rights of sovereign states to an all-powerful federal government merely on the latter's say-so?

In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of this country declared that "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States." The structure of the federal government was created to deal with other countries -- friends or foes -- and to regulate trade and disputes between those independent states. The Constitution itself is mostly a list of limits on federal power, including the strict admonishment that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Now we've come to a point where we're actually considering whether to cede state control to a vastly more powerful central government than our founders could have envisioned. I have too much respect for them and for the country they created to accept that.

I fully expected Liberals to push for a stronger central government after Hurricane Katrina -- that and calling for higher taxes are the two things we can always expect from the Left on any provocation. However, I never expected President Bush to accede to that demand.


Litl Bits
September 19, 2005   12:27 PM PDT
Sadly, I have to agree with you. But I also wonder what would happen if we leave that authority to such corrupt and ineffective state and local authorities, who are basically responsible for allowing this to happen. i.e. Had the Eco-terrorists not had their way, the levees would have been strengthened years ago. Army Corps of Engineers, plans in hand, money appropriated, were ready to go - until the Eco-terrorists put a halt to that! ----and I can't help but wonder what happened to that money??
Now Mayor Nagin, man of no principle and obviously no intellect, is bringing people back in - in violation of FEMA and Pres. Bush advice. Perhaps what should happen in the case is the Federal Gov't should tell Nagin this - If you insist on re-population now, against our advice, we are OUT OF THE PICTURE. You are now responsible for the clean-up, you are responsible for the reconstruction, you are responsible for the medical care of these people, many of whom will end up very ill from being here - and there's no hospital to care for them!
If he insists on re-populating, then NAGIN ALONE should be completely responsible for them - and for what happens to them.
After all, he was too smart to pay heed to his own Disaster Evacuation Plans in the first place!
September 19, 2005   07:47 PM PDT
The mayor seems to me to be a foolish man, more concerned about asserting his "ownership" of the city, not necessarily stewardship over his citizens. His statements that Vice Adm. Thad 'Allen had apparently made himself "the new crowned federal mayor of New Orleans."' and that HE 'was still the mayor" of N.O. is proof of that. He was encouraging the people to move back, yet he himself settled his own family in a house in Dallas! I think that the business community is pressuring him to allow people to come in so they can fill their restaurants, shop at their stores, etc. BTW, the new hurricane, 'Rita', appears by most of the computer models to be headed for..... HOUSTON.
Neal J. Lang
September 20, 2005   02:45 PM PDT
Hi, Joe, interesting commentary. Unfortunately I am afraid you got some of your facts wrong:

"The media proclaimed that ten thousand people may have died in New Orleans alone, warning that it would take months just to begin pumping out the deadly toxic water or allow residents back in. It would be years before people could live in New Orleans again, if ever, according to media consensus. "

Actually, Joe, it was Louisiana officials (both State and local) who opined on the likely "bodycount", the press merely reported (and perhaps amplified it). As for the efforts to "plug the levees and de-water" New Orleans, as I recall it was USACE operational types who made the dire predicitions - including "we don't have any idea on how we will be able to plug the breaches" and "the dewatering effort would take up to 6 months". Again, the media merely reported (and amplified) these dire projections.

Personally, I believe it was these dire projections in the first few days after the hurricane struck New Orleans that caused the impression that the Bush Administration wasn't up to the task. Of course, misinformation, including that from the USACE field grade officers seeking their "15 minutes of fame", and the exaggerated claims plus "buck passing" of incompetent Louisiana government official, from the governor down many of the New Orleans police that ignited the "firestorm" that cost FEMA director Brown his job and pinned the blame on the President and the Federal government.

Of course, when FEMA Director Brown compared the armed and lethal "gang-bangers" terrorizing New Orleans and shooting at rescue "choppers" to "kids playing Pacman", I, too, knew he had to go.

As for whose responsible when local and State governments fail in their duties and responsibilities, I am afraid that this a case where the "stuff" flows up-hill. Bush's big mistake, IMMHO, is his failure to declare Federal Martial Law in New Orleans when it became obvious that the local and State officials had abdicated their authority by permitting the city to fall into anarchy. It was within the President existing Constitutional authority to do so, just as Ike Nationalized the Alabama National Guard in order to integrate that State's the public schools.

"In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of this country declared that 'these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States'."

While our Declaration of Independence does specify the "right" of the Colonies "to be Free and Independent States", it also states:

"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

The "rights" that ALL governments are "instituted" to "secure" are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Property)". Neither the local nor the State governments were fulfilling their obligations to the people of New Orleans to "secure" either their lives or their property. In such circumstances, under the Classical Liberal "Principle of Subsidiarity" the next higher level institution must step in, to wit:

"SUBSIDIARITY, THE PRINCIPLE OF: A principle from Catholic Social Teaching but with correspondences to American federalism (see Limited Government) and the Dutch Calvinist concept of sphere sovereignty (see Sphere Sovereignty) which views society as comprised of various networks of natural mediating institutions (such as family, neighborhoods, churches, voluntary organizations, the free press, among others). Each of these institutions has natural functions, responsibilities, and obligations. For example, families raise children, churches provide moral and spiritual guidance, and so on.

"Subsidiarity teaches that the higher or more complex social structures (such as government) should not interfere unnecessarily in the affairs of the lower social structures (such as the family). Unnecessary interference from the higher structures robs the lower structures of their natural functions. Over time this interference can cause the breakdown of the mediating institutions in a society. If breakdown occurs politics will replace private association as the infrastructure of society.

"Subsidiarity does allow for the interference of higher institutions in the affairs of lower ones in situations of crisis, emergency, or when they are not capable of being self-sufficient. However, when such interference occurs it should be specifically focused, limited, temporary, and seek to reestablish the institution's self-sufficiency."

"SPHERE SOVEREIGNTY: A principle of Reformed Christian social ethics, usually associated with the thought of Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper*, that identifies a number of God- ordained creational spheres, which include the family, the state, culture, and the church. These spheres each have their own organizing and ruling ordinances, and each maintains a measure of authority relative to the others. Just social and political structures, therefore, should be ordered so that the authority of each sphere is preserved (see Limited Government and Subsidiarity, The Principle of)."

"LIMITED GOVERNMENT: The idea that government is not all-competent. Government is one social institution among others having its own distinct sphere of responsibility and authority. The tendency of government is to assert regulatory authority beyond its proper bounds. Limited government was an essential idea undergirding the founding of the American republic. The framers of the Constitution, who had experienced first-hand the tyranny (see Tyranny) of the British monarchy, reckoned that it was imprudent to endow one branch of government with supreme power. They reasoned that unless authority was distributed equally among different branches of government, fallen human nature would eventually cause leaders to become tyrants. As Lord Acton wrote nearly a century later, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Key thinkers include John Jay*, James Madison*, Alexander Hamilton*, Thomas Jefferson*, and John Adams*."

"MONARCHY: Literally government by a monarch or sovereign, such as a king or emperor, who has supreme power over a realm. Key contemporary advocates include Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn."

"STATISM: Generally, a program or viewpoint that looks to the state for resolution of social and moral problems, rather than to individual effort. Specifically, a condition where the nongovernmental institutions of a society develop an overextended and unhealthy reliance upon political structures for the solution of problems. Statism stands in direct violation of the principle of subsidiarity (see Subsidiarity, The Principle of) and sphere sovereignty (see Sphere Sovereignty). Statists believe that the resolution to social problems should be obtained through legislative measures."

"TYRANNY: A form of government where a single ruler is vested with absolute power. The defective version of monarchy (see Monarchy, Statism, and Totalitarianism). Any absolute and oppresive power. Infamous tyrants include Mao Tse-Tung*, Adolf Hitler*, and Joseph Stalin*."

"TOTALITARIANISM: This is the view that any institutional separation between the state and nongovernmental organizations (such as churches, private hospitals, civic groups, charities, etc.) must be eliminated. Totalitarians insist that all the major institutions of society should be directed by the state (see Statism). Key political movements include Italian Fascism, Nazism, and Communism."

(All Definition are from: "Dictionary of Key Terms for a Free and Virtuous Society" at: http://www.acton.org/research/dictionary/index.html )

Under the "Principle of Subsidiarity" it became the DUTY of the Federal Government (which was instituted to "secure" the rights of the People) to take the place of local and State governments when it became obvious that both were "not capable of being self-sufficient".

Constitutitonal authority for same is found in Article I. Section 8. was Grants the Federal government the Power to call "forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union,
suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions". The Framers put the "public Safety" on a very high pedestal. In fact, even the basic civil right of "Habeas Corpus" could be Constitutionally suspended by the Federal government in order to serve the needs of the "public Safety".

While I concur that the "public Safety" should be "secured" at the level of government closest to the People, however, when the local and State governments fail in their DUTY, the RESPONSIBILTY must be taken up by the next higher level. Post Katrina in New Orleans it was apparent that government at the local and State level had failed to secure the People's "rights to life and property". It was then necessary for the Federal government to step in to "secure these rights" until such time as the local and State governments demonstrated their willingness and ability to do so. The first item in the "Disaster Relief" play book is always "First, Establish Order". The City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana failed to execute this most necessary requirement to secure the "public Safety" of the People.
September 20, 2005   05:21 PM PDT
2 cents worth…
I hope this is wrong, but it seems correct. The democrats and liberals have been trying to strengthen federal powers and weaken state powers. This is one of their main goals. It seems ironic that the liberal mayor’s and governor’s complete and total ineptitude during this disaster is going to be used to further the liberal cause. I hope the mayor and governor are simply incompetent morons. Because if they are not they could be deliberately using their failure to further their cause.
Of course the (D) behind their names leads me to believe they are simply morons.
Well maybe that was only 1&1/2 cents worth.
September 20, 2005   06:38 PM PDT
"Actually, Joe, it was Louisiana officials "

Louisiana officials do not decide or write newspaper headlines. The media trumpeted this projected death toll as they did every other scrap of bad "news" they could get their claws on.

After the first thousand words, I stopped reading and skipped to the next comment. What a longwinded nitpicker... get your own blog.
Antonio Mendez
September 20, 2005   09:21 PM PDT
Its unfortunate to see Bush and his true colors shining through here. Never in our country's brief history has America been such an entitlement oriented nation. Of all the nearly as disasterous and deadly natural disasters in our country, this is the first one whereupon the government has not only pledged to provide direct relief indiscrimantly, but has done so with unprecedented speed. I am glad Bush is not calling for tax hikes to cover these costs. I hope that we are not forced in the long run to pay higher taxes due to all these hand-outs.
Neal J. Lang
September 21, 2005   03:10 PM PDT
Hmmm! Apparently you have a problem with the truth, Joe.

"Louisiana officials do not decide or write newspaper headlines."

As a matter of fact they do to the extent that their "quotes" might be considered "news".

"The media trumpeted this projected death toll as they did every other scrap of bad 'news' they could get their claws on."

Having grown up in the US where, since before the Vietnam War the operative philosophy of our mass media has been: "If it bleeds, it leads!", find angst over "dire headlines and quote" rather quaintly naive.

I believe that "precision when laying blame" seems to be at least one point of your commentary. Of course, such a commentary is much less compelling when its author fails himself to be precise when "laying blame".
September 21, 2005   05:31 PM PDT
>As a matter of fact they do to the
>extent that their "quotes" might
>be considered "news".

So, newspapers are not responsible for the stories they write, or how they write them. That's an interesting new point of view.

>I believe that "precision when
>laying blame" seems to be at
>least one point of your

Unfortunately, you missed the point, if you think the media has nothing to do with the hype of bad news.
September 21, 2005   05:57 PM PDT
Thank you! I've been saying this same exact thing.

Great stuff as always.
September 22, 2005   10:08 PM PDT
Well, for all the global warming enthusiasts, here is something that squashes your theory:


Since record keeping began in 1886, there have been 27 cat 5 hurricanes (just in the Atlantic). The first recorded was in 1928....
Neal J. Lang
September 27, 2005   12:37 PM PDT
"So, newspapers are not responsible for the stories they write, or how they write them. That's an interesting new point of view."

Joe, I never said that. Of course, what you don't understand about journalism would fill several books. First, a story published in a Newspaper that is not based on at least some set of facts (like a quote from the Mayor of New Orleans) is known as an "opinion piece". You should be familiar with opinion pieces, because that is what you write. The key components of a "news story" are "who, what, when, where, how, and why!" In the case of the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana blame shifting, the press' failure is in the "why" aspect of the news story.

Second, blaming the media for reporting what the Mayor of New Orleans or the Governor of Louisiana states is exactly like blaming the messager. The real culprit is the shiftless politician much more so than the messager.

"Unfortunately, you missed the point, if you think the media has nothing to do with the hype of bad news."

I never said that the media has no responsibility for the news they print (good or bad). I merely stated the real guilty party is the politician making false statements that try to shift the blame to someone else for their own faults. If the media can be blamed for anything it is in not being credulous enough to report the facts that would make a lie out the false statements of these shiftless politicians. Of course, the "free press" in this country has long had an agenda that plays right into the lies of certain politicians. But without the lies of shiftless politicians for the media to "report", their published agenda would be nothing more than so many opinion pieces.

Have a nice day, Joe.

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