Brilliant Human Achievement


<![CDATA[The collapse of emergency services and the complete bungling by Federal authorities who, nevertheless, say everything's fine and "help is on the way" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is appalling.
That FEMA yesterday claimed to have enough funding to respond and today is almost out of money is appalling, when this country has been on a war footing prepared for devastating domestic attacks since 2001, is appalling. That Homeland Security is virtually ineffective three days after the hurricane is stark evidence of the poorly conceived policies of the Bush Administration.
That the President's first reaction was to relax pollution control laws, when he failed to get the National Guard in place to remove tens of thousands of poor from New Orleans, a city below sea level, before the hurricane hit, is appalling. He always thinks first of his friends in business.
His talk today, with President Clinton and his father beside him, in which he said the Federal government would do its part, but that the private sector had to do its part, as well, leaves the sacrifices to be made a voluntary effort for the private sector—what Mr. Bush fails to see is that the Federal government is the lever that society can use to act together.
We're witnessing a historic failure of leadership, as profound or more so than any other in U.S. history, because the cares and prosperity of average Americans have been given a lower priority than that of business and the wealthy. Mr. Bush chatters about "the good people" who "have to understand" while those good people are dying and more will die because the long-term priorities established by and hubris of, this Administration. It is appalling.
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12 replies on “Appalling….”

Pollution control laws are being relaxed temporarily to allow the crazy patch work of gasoline additive laws by state/region which hampers the ability of gas to be sold from areas of surplus to those of shortage.
It is not just up to the President to be in control of this whole situation. Last time I checked the city of New Orleans was build below sea level hundreds of year ago. Have they had an evacuation plan set if any of the leeves broke before before 2005? What about state and local officials.
Relying on the government for everything is exactly what has gotten the people in New Orleans in trouble to begin with. They have a large underclass and they have gotten into a mindset where the government takes care of everything else, and when a Hurricane strikes they expect trucks/helicopters/ships to just magically show up out of nowhere and take care of them instantly. All this is on it’s way, but takes a few days.
One thing Bush has done is lowered the marginal tax rate and dividend tax rate across the board (and raising the threshold for people who don’t have to pay any income tax.) So thus many people who by this country’s standard are “rich” (meaning most likely you and me) have benefited from lower taxt rates on our income and investments. If you haven’t spent it on your family or self already, donate it to the charity of your choice. Now that would be helpful! You have gotten this break since 2001.

My point, Romeo, is that the the President’s first response—and the one he has dwelt on in public statements—has been about gasoline manufacturers and what he is doing for them. He lectured the people of New Orleans to be patient yet again today, so when exactly do they have the right to expect some help.
Likewise, the response was put off for days after it was clear Katrina would do damage; a mobilization should have begun on Friday night or Saturday, at the latest. That local officials had no resources to call upon is not their fault—the equipment and manpower for these kinds of evacuations has always been federal, in the form of National Guard units.
The National Guard did do exactly the kind of evacuation you describe, but it isn’t available now, is it? It wasn’t magic, it reflected preparations that have been undone by this administration’s folly. That’s not “relying on the government for everything,” it’s relying on the government to do a few things well, which is also what conservative Andrew Sullivan said today.
I’ve made donations to the Red Cross for Katrina, the tsunami and as part of my annual charitable giving, even though I am not “rich.” I’d be happy to match your contributions for Katrina dollar-for-dollar if you’ll reveal them here.
The problem is that the poor are not valued by this administration. Yes, the marginal tax rate is lower, but the amount the federal government spends to help the poorest Americans realize their potential has been slashed repeatedly by this president. It all adds up to a bad situation for the poor which has exacerbated by a natural disaster, a disaster the administration ignored until it could no longer avoid the political consequences of indifference.
Ultimately, Americans care about one another and there is no big-hearted way to decry these people for their lack of ability to act on their own to get out of the way of a hurricane.

I have donated $ 100.00 today to Soldiers Angels, a charity to help members of our military’s families who have been displaced by Katrina.
The President has lots of federal level people reporting to him and I’m sure they all told him they were all prepared for Katrina. What happened was simply one of the worst case scenarios any one could or couldn’t imagine.
As American’s we all want instant answers and help, much, much, help is coming. But just take a look at this:
Why did the Mayor and/or Governor not get these buses rolling when they had a chance to help? Why did the mayor not evacuate the city at least 24/48 hours before he did, when he knew the Hurricane could come his way?
Again, let’s look at this in perspective. The city has taken many near misses from Hurricanes before. I’m sure many people just thought they could roll the dice again and it did not work out this time.
But let’s concentrate on getting help down there. Continuing to blame Bush for absolutely everything is not going to help. But it is going to help the Republicans in 2006. Because all this anger and absolutely mindless arrow throwing is going to backfire on the Democrats as their bases continues to leave them and isolate the people who are blaming Bush (Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink, etc.)
Bush is a caring and compassionate person across all segments of American life. Bush cut ALL tax payments for many of the working poor by raising the limit on the minimum taxed income. Simply transferring huge sums of money to the poor isn’t the way out of poverty. Ask youself, which former poor nations were helped by aid from the world at large and which left poverty behind by using economic growth (i.e. trade?)
If you hate Bush just say it. Then nothing he does will ever pass muster with you. And that is your right. But don’t pretent to analyse anything he does or doesn’t do and pretend to come to some rational logic about it.

Great. I’ve contributed $100 to Red Cross today. We’re even, for now.
I don’t hate President Bush, I am an American with every right to criticize his actions. You can’t dismiss that without dismissing my freedom of speech.
I don’t agree with you about Mr. Bush’s compassion or ability to care. I am not suggesting transferring “huge sums of money to the poor,” rather I am saying that the President’s war stance has depleted the country’s domestic preparedness.
The mayor and governor of Louisiana did order an evacuation a full day before the storm hit. The problem was a lack of resources, which has been my point all along, since before the storm on Sunday night—if I could see it coming, why couldn’t Bush’s people? A National Guard that had not been depleted by an unnecessary war would have had the equipment to rescue many more of the people who wanted to leave N.O. but couldn’t get out before the storm, as the Guard has in many other circumstances.
You say this was “simply one of the worst case scenarios any one could or couldn’t imagine.” But FEMA predicted it in 2001. It was the subject of a National Geographic cover story a year ago. It was the subject of a Nova documentary a couple years ago—all you had to do was read or watch television to imagine this; if you were a federal official, all you had to do was pay attention.
If you compare the response to 9/11, which was virtually instantaneous locally and nationally, the response to Katrina is absolutely abysmal. How did it get worse? Answer that question. It’s a simple one and would contribute to a rational discussion.

The response to 9-11 was faster, more efficient, etc. because the Pentagon and WTC were not cut off from all roads, airports, seaports, etc. Trucks into New Orleans can literally not travel on certain roads becaus of weight restrictions on the side/secondary roads. A fully loaded truck weighs over 80,000 pounds and can’t just drive over every small town’s bridge, road, etc. It just takes time to get down there.
Also there is damage to the leeves to be restored, power, water lines, food etc. A HUGE swatch of destruction was cut by Katrina. Millions of people are effected. In comparison, only three isolated areas were effected the the 9-11 terrorist attacks (with only two with living survivors.) The 9-11 attacks were also on where people worked. Not where they lived, mostly. The still had homes to go back to.
Yes, people knew there was a possibility that a category 4+ storm could hit New Orleans. But in the economics of life, the leeves were only build to handle a category 3. That’s what happens sometimes. Just likes planes can be built to survive a drop from 40,000 feet straight into the ground, but each ticket would cost $ 100,000 to fly on one of these planes because it would be a flying tank.
I bet you the media and other folks now critizing federal response would have been just as vocal if everything was pre-positioned just as everyone had said could be done and the storm had missed New Orleans and the Gulf. In fact, I bet people would say the President is helping his rich business friends in the MRE (packaged military food) business by getting all their products in position needlessly.
Or maybe they would say he is pandering to get influence if he acted ahead of the storm? Funny, that is what happened last Hurricane season when he declared parts of Florida a disaster area before a series of Hurricanes struck. People accused him of buying votes. So maybe he learned from that lesson? Thanks, media!
You just can’t win in these situations. This is a once in 50 or so years event.
But the Mayor of NO and Governor of LA could have ordered an evacuation not just a day before the storm, but two or three days before as forecasters had said an increasing liklihood of the storm hitting. Local plans are the best plans.
Yes, we have the National Guard in Iraq but we also have troops in Korea, Japan, Germany, England, etc. Funny, World War II and the Korean war ended 50 years ago! Isn’t this taking resources away from Katrina? In fact, let’s have the entire 1 million plus US military show up. Anywhere else they may be is taking away from storm victims. Rest assured, we have enough troops to do the job. They are on their way there or are there now.

So, the Pentagon was burning on 9/11 and, yet, it was “not cut off” from the world? You have an extraordinary capacity to see the bright side of the Bush administration’s story while ignoring the reality of the situation.
The argument about trucks you make is ludicrous—the interstate highway system was built precisely to enable the kind of transportation you’re describing during a crisis. We’re talking about a major U.S. city connected by several interstate highways that would enable a large number of trucks and troops to access it; and we’re talking about before the storm, when the evacuation should have taken place.
If the interstate highway sytem needs upgrading, we should be spending that money to prepare now for future attacks by terrorists—that expenditure must be at least as vital as the $325 billion and more the Iraq war has cost. so far.
You also say it “takes time to get down there,” which only underscores my argument that having a well-supplied, well-manned domestic force in the region—in the form of a National Guard prepared for domestic crisis—is essential to homeland preparedness. Moreover, it makes how tardy the federal response was in the first place. President Bush repeatedly said today that the levees broke on Tuesday, as though that was the crisis that initiated the deployment; it was clear days before that greater preparation was needed.
You say that I am not being rational above, yet you urge me to “rest assured, we have enough troops” despite glaring evidence to the contrary. Could you cite sources, other than your opinion, that confirm these views? Seriously. We’re both adults and, I assume, you have been through a disaster or two, as I have, but I don’t see any of the same facts you do, and you conistently assert I am making absurd claims, mostly by drawing absurd analogies, such as to WWII; so, where’s the beef?
Can you prove that the National Guard officers in La. who several weeks ago said that there were not sufficient resources in the state for the hurricane season are wrong? Please, be specific.
Your argument that it’s really the mayor of N.O. and Governor of Louisiana are to blame is based on the timeliness of their evacuation order, yet it is still the lack of resources that prevented the evacuation of these people who are needlessly suffering. The blame lies with a federal government that under-invested in domestic preparedness. That’s painfully clear to anyone with their eyes open to the situation.
Seriously, your guy screwed up royally. You may eventually come to see that, but many of us have seen it since the beginning of his administration. 9/11, instead of making him great, gave Mr. Bush and his team the excuse to take the nation down a number of dangerous paths that promise almost nothing other than grief.

From Yahoo News on last Sunday:
Nagin also dispatched police and firefighters to rouse people out with sirens and bullhorns, and even gave them the authority to commandeer vehicles to aid in the evacuation. (Yet there were those 200+ school buses under water I pointed out in a previous post.)
Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said some who have ridden out previous storms in the New Orleans area may not be so lucky this time.
“I’m expecting that some people who are die-hards will die hard,” he said.
Despite the dire predictions, a group of residents in a poor neighborhood of central New Orleans sat on a porch with no car, no way out and, surprisingly, no fear.
“We’re not evacuating,” said Julie Paul, 57. “None of us have any place to go. We’re counting on the Superdome. That’s our lifesaver.” (They willingly gambled and lost.)
The 70,000-seat Superdome, the home of football’s Saints, opened at daybreak Sunday, giving first priority to frail, elderly people on walkers, some with oxygen tanks. They were told to bring enough food, water and medicine to last up to five days.
(So some people refused or could not/would not go. They were told to bring supplies with them. Remember, they have lived with the Grand Slam Hurricane scenario for years so they should have been prepared, right? All those TV documentaries, etc.)
Here is a link to the The Hurricane Emergency Evacuation Standard Operating Procedure:
Who is responsible for Hurricane Preparation needs: The MAYOR of NEW ORLEANS!
Surrounding Parishes ordered evacuations on midday on Friday. Mr. Mayor did not order an evacuation until Sunday morning. THOSE ARE THE FACTS. He lost precious, precious time (and gambled lives and lost.)
Here is the state of the Interstates:
The twin spans of Interstate 10 — the main artery in and out of town to the east — were washed out in parts and seriously damaged, officials said. Mark Lambert, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation and Development, estimated that about 40 percent of the eight-mile-long bridge was washed out by the storm.
It could be weeks before the interstate reopens. To the west, the interstate was impassable where it crosses Lake Pontchartrain, because of high water. The causeway over the lake was inaccessible.That left a tortuous route over the Mississippi River and through side streets as the only way in or out of the city — but even that route could soon be closed, authorities warned.
The Pentagon was not cut off from aid because it was a the only building destroyed in a city that was otherwise untouched. All points of access to the Pentagon survived the attack. NOT the case in New Orleans. BAD, bad, comparison. Also, people don’t LIVE in the Pentagon, they only work there. All the survivors had homes to go back to.
And then this isn’t very helpful at all (also from Yahoo News):
Looters used garbage cans and inflatable mattresses to float away with food, blue jeans, tennis shoes, TV sets — even guns. Outside one pharmacy, thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break through the glass. The driver of a nursing-home bus surrendered the vehicle to thugs after being threatened.
Police said their first priority remained saving lives, and mostly just stood by and watched the looting. On Tuesday, an officer who tried to intervene was shot in the head and critically wounded.
Also, rescue helicopters have been shot at. Actually, our war in Iraq is probably good training for this kind of situation. So in the end, it has proved helpful to other aspects of American life.
Then of course there are the people who say this, not very helpful at all. And not very American, don’t you think? Using potlitics to justify hatred:
You 60 million losers who voted for this loser open YOUR wallets. This president declared war on the poor long ago, and while some of us cared enough to vote for someone who gave a damn, you buried your heads in the sand, babbled about abortion and family values, and voted for the doofus.
And now you want to act all high and mighty and come asking me for a buck or two to help these poor people? Sorry, Charlie. Take an extra buck or two out of the fund you set aside to buy seventeen Support Our Troops magnets to stick all over your car to show how patriotic you are.
You want disaster relief? Impeach George W. Bush.
Or perhaps this nice gentleman:
My original reaction to the Katrina catastrophe was going to be: “NOT ONE DIME.”
For an hour or so, I contemplated the idea of turning it into a crusade: No-one in the blue states (where the money is) should give one dime of aid to the victims of this hurricane, which devastated Bush-friendly regions.
Why did I flirt with such a callous attitude?
Because it should be obvious to all that this tragedy was not just an act of God. Dubya and his diety conspired to transform mere disaster into an unprecedented mega-catastrophe.
And then, not to be outdone, a Kennedy , RFK Jr. (of course!) blames the whole Hurriance on Bush’s environmental policy. Oh, yeah, four years of DECLINING pollution across a range of standards caused this! (particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead pollution are all down during the Bush years.)
Wow, when people get this angry/unhinged, you just have to wonder, maybe we need more prescription medicine in this country.
All I’m saying in this, Mitch is that the disaster was of unprecendted proportions. There have been failures at local, state and yes, even national levels. But again, how can you really EVER prepare for something like this. There is blame to go around but blaming Bush for everything is wrong (and no, I don’t support him on everything either.)

Granted, it was a big storm. As big as Andrew, Camille—what Ivan would have been if it hadn’t turned away from N.O. But you start mixing up different messages here to justify the idea that it could not be planned for—the reaction of idiots who want to leave the red states to their fate, as though this wass not one country is irrelevant to the planning for a disaster.
As I’ve repeatedly said, the roadways were intact before the storm, which is when an evacuation should have taken place—and could have if the Mayor and Governor had had access to a well-supplied National Guard. Had the Guard simply positioned supplies in the days leading up to the storm, things would have been far better, but they did not have the equipment or the manpower to do it, as most of its trucks are in Iraq and we’re already at historically high deployment levels.
Had the Guard been deployed with the mission to get as many people out of N.O. who wanted to go and to supply and place guards at key areas, the approach we have come to expect over the past 50 years, the instances of looting you cite would have been reduced dramatically, too.
The quote from the poor woman in N.O. doesn’t show she made here bet and lost, but that she “had nowhere to go,” which means she had no capacity to leave the area and only clung to the hope that the Superdome, which she could reach, would be safe.
You made the initial comparison to the Pentagon. As the center of logistical operations for a national system of domestic preparedness, it was decapitated and, therefore, less able to perform its role in coordinating the response in New York, which, nevertheless, happened. That New York was not cut off entirely is true and a highly relevant point—but, again, my argument is that the mistakes by the federal government happened before the storm, the consequences have merely played out since the storm. We did not know that 9/11 was coming (though, perhaps we did), but we definitely knew Katrina was headed for N.O. and the federal government ignored the threat.
But, you’re also arguing that we simply can’t plan for this kind of thing, which undermines the logic of creating a Department of Homeland Security in order to centralize such planning. In substance, you’re suggesting that the $41-billion-a-year Homeland Security infrastructure is a wasted effort, because planning for disaster is impossible. If we can’t plan for these things and previous experience shows that a less vertically integrated approach to homeland security—that is, the approach used in Andrew, 9/11 and other disasters before the DHS was up and running—were more effective, then why are we spending record amounts preparing with the proof that it produces poorer results? That’s bad governing, and I do blame the Bush Administration for driving the country in that direction.
In fact, we have planned for tragedy for decades; where are the complaints about the response to Hurricane Andrew, for example? President Bush made sure that Floridians were well taken care of before and after a series of storms last year. Something has changed, and it is the President’s policies that depleted our domestic preparedness. There is some scientific truth to the notion that global warming—which Bush policy has prevented the U.S. from responding to—cause intensified storms.
I don’t blame Mr. Bush for everything, and there is plenty of blame to go around—but I do hold him responsible for what he does have a hand in. And I blame him as the head of the federal government, which botched this mission horribly.
He did not take this storm seriously, staying on vacaction until 36 hours after it hit N.O. I blame him for lying to people, such as his appearance yesterday, in which he repeatedly told people in N.O. to have patience while simultaneously arguing the federal government had been adequately prepared. I blame him for starting a war that left America less able to protect its people at home and that promises no improvement in America’s security internationally. As I wrote on Sunday, though I hoped I would be disproved, the storm was going to show that the casualties of the Iraq war are falling here at home because of the gross mismanagement of America by the Bush Administration.
If, by raising this criticism I can help spur a better response by the Bush folks, even if it is an effort born out of their desire to avoid political criticism—which seems their only real concern—then, by golly, I’m happy to do it. When the people talk back, government has to start listening and this Administration has gotten its own way and only its own way for far too long.

To compare New York again and N.O. is a good comparison. New York had competent leaders, especially mayor Ruddy. New Orleans has a joke as mayor. New York was a picture of state and local officials acting together. As far as I recall, the National Guard didn’t have that much to do with things, it was local and state police/fire/rescue.
He waited WAY to long to order an evacuation (Bush even urged him to declare one and he did not do so as other surrounding areas did on Friday, NOT Sunday as N.O. did.)
There was a major break down in local law enforcement and state policing.
The President himself can really do little but send in the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.. Like anything in our country, local and state officials know there territory the best, what has to be done, etc. There were PLENTY of National Guard troops available in nearby states to help Lousiana if they needed. it. All the governor had to do was ask. She failed to do this in a timely manner.
Why all the focus on New Orleans and Lousiana? Other states were hit with Katrina? Their troops are in Iraq as well. They seem to be doing OK, given the circustances.
This whole troops in Iraq so they can’t help at home thread is a total waste of time and Bush bashers can’t wait to use that as justification for everything. Get over it. We are in the Middle East to make America and the world safer. You are not cleaning up the suicide bombed remains of your relatives on your front lawn from all four corners of the wind because of what we are doing now in the Middle East. America needed to send a signal to the Muslim world that we have the power and ability to clean up there 500 year old mess and start making things better. We are in the process of doing that and the Iraq campaign, NOT war, is part of that.
Isn’t it amazing, we remove a racist, sexist, anti-gay regime from the planet and every liberal and wacko complains? Amazing. Don’t they have a little chant that call everything Republican this? Well folks we did something we thought you appreciate. A thanks would be nice.

Okay, so you refuse to address the questions raised and throw around accusations about other people who share the blame. I’ve conceded that there is plenty of blame to go around before, but because he is the commander-in-chief and his team set policies and made decisions that resulted in the disaster in N.O. spinning wildly out of control, Mr. Bush gets the majority of the blame. That’s the cost of getting to be leader of the free world.
My point, again, is that the local authorities were unable to call on federal resources that have been shipped overseas. Could you cite a source for the President’s having suggested evacuation earlier? IF you can, why did the President not follow up with federal resources instead of leaving the local governments to wrestle a problem that was plainly too big for them.
N.O. is no New York, it lacks the financial clout, the population and so much more compared to the financial and cultural capital of the world, New York. Ray Nagin is no Rudy Guliani, but Rudy Guliani was not left standing in 20 feet of water with no support from the outside world for five days, either. Mr. Nagin is not a joke, he’s a mayor of a city dealt a very poor hand against this disaster.
N.O. is the focus of this discussion because that is the region previously identified as being at severe risk of exactly what happened. It lies below sea level and surrounded by dikes that were underfunded by the Bush Administration in recent years. It was left to its own resources, as one of the poorest cities in the nation, rather than leant a hand by the federal government. The rest of the Gulf Coast has been poorly supported, too, but the situation in N.O. is a stunning lapse in the performance of the government, especially the feds.
As for Iraq, how is the current regime less sexist or anti-gay than the previous one? Was “anti-gay” ever mentioned as a rationale for this war? Would Pat Robertson and the Christian Right agree that, in the future, gay rights will be recognized in Iraq? This is a ludicrous argument on your part.
How is the temporary exertion of power you describe going to straighten up the “500-year-old mess”? Your historical insight is lacking, too, because it’s clear you don’t understand the “mess,” which has changed dramatically in the last half-millennium, even during the last 50 years. The great game ended in 1920, but you’re talking like the Victorian era assertion of power and setting up of local rulers under the protection of an empire is still the viable solution. Wake up and smell the 21st century.
How is creating a situation here at home in which hundreds of thousands of people were relegated to inhuman conditions for almost a week because the military resources that would have been used to save them are deployed in a war—or campaign—that has produced no appreciable improvement in conditions for Iraqis or Americans? When do we get to measure this campaign against the standards of humanity—Mr. Bush and his team say it’s a process, which we’re supposed to wait to see play out before criticizing them.
The bungled response to Katrina is the end of the suspended judgment of the American people. If you are asking for a thank you, I’d like to understand who you think “we” is, it certainly isn’t just Republicans. If Democrats have supported the war, they deserve some thanks, too, according to you. But for those of us looking at this objectively, there are a lot of people to blame for a bungled war and a bungled crisis on the Gulf Coast.
There are no “thank yous” in politics, only the next vote. Between votes, there is debate—democracy is government by arguing—and so, please, don’t whine about how unappreciative the “rest of us” are (that is, those who are “we” according to you). You’re being a divider, not a uniter, which is par for the Bush years. We’re all Americans.

Here is the summary of the evacuation notice. Bush pleaded for N.O. to have a mandatory evacuation. Nagin finally gave in on Sunday when other cities already had evacuations underway. Previously cities has just had voluntary evacuations.
You are right, there is plenty of blame to go around but I still think we had mass failures at local and state levels that made any delay at all of the federal government compounding to problems.
The Feds can act when asked, but it is up to the state and local governments to know what to ask for. They know best. If they can’t handle something, ask for it. Seeing all those school buses under water is pretty infuriating.
As far as Iraq and the War on Terror in general, we need to eliminate the 500 year old dream of some Moslems of a Caliphate with draconian laws similar to what existed under Afghanistan under the old Taliban. Given that Spain, a country of under 50 million people has a greater GNP than the 300+ million people of the dozen plus nations of the Arab League is shocking. This includes oil. And this economic growth has been stagnating.
Far to many people in that part of the world have gotten away with blaming the West for all their ills and not looking inwards. It is this that we are up against. What is your suggestion to get the Arab and Moslem world moving and part of the world community?

If you read the news link you offer carefully, there is no evidence that President Bush “pleaded” for a mandatory evacuation before Sunday—so, it looks like Nagin, Blanco and Bush share the fault for the lateness of that decision rather than that the locals balked at his suggestion.
BUT, the question remains, at whatever point the evacuation order was given, what resources did the federal government have at the ready—knowing the threat to N.O.—that the locals should have been able to draw on in lieu of local fire and police. Prior to the deployment to Iraq those resources would have been available.
All those school buses could not have driven themselves. SInce the drivers would have been unavailable at any time over the weekend before the storm, whether because they were evacuating or simply that there is no system for calling those employees in to work at odd hours (which, I believe would be true in any city—try to order school bus drives in NYC to work a weekend).
If the Louisiana National Guard were not over-extended, they might have been easily available to drive those buses.
As for the Moslem desire for a Caliphate based on Islamic law, this is a remarkable oversimplification and one completely defied by reality. There are more Moslems outside the Middle East and most of those live in secular countries, like Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan. There are extremists in each of these countries, but they do not control or even have much influence in these countries, which suggests that violence is not the only answer.
Supporting widespread communication and commerce with these countries would be a far more effective way of eliminating the influence of extremists. The evidence of Iraq is that violence begets violence; there is little evidence that fundamentalists are behind the insurgency, rather it is backed by a wide range of Iraqis and Arabs who are fighting what is perceived as an incursion by an outside power.
The fact that oil wealth is outstripped by a diversified economy isn’t at all surprising. One-dimensional economies can be rich, but not vibrant. There are plenty of investments being made in the Middle East in other industries, including especially airlines and tourism, that we can support and profit from. But getting more information into these countries, launching educational efforts that widen the range of choices for the young, would be a good step in the right direction.
Reducing or eliminating our dependency on oil would certainly be a step in the right direction, too, because with reduced demand for oil the Middle East would be forced to diversify.
Bombs and bullets, however, only galvanize the unity of organizations that normally and historically do not collaborate. Al Qaeda and the Baathists, for example, have no political or religious agreement and are united only by the presence of the U.S. in Iraq. We were far better off when U.S. forces had cordoned off Iraq with a minimum of men and arms; the U.S. invasion of Iraq has ignited crises that were brewing, but could have been postponed or defused, in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States as fundamentalists capitalize on anti-American feeling.
At this point, however, we are far off the subject of this thread….