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September 06, 2005

De-bunking the Bunk

For any of you that have goofy-ass friends or family members who continue to blame the state and local governments for not responding soon enough to deal with the hurricane Katrina crisis, and can't stop yip-yapping about how Louisiana Governor, Kathleen Blanco didn't declare a State of Emergency soon enough after the disaster... well, she declared a Sate of Emergency four days before the hurricane hit the Gulf shore. A full seven days before Mr. Bush decided to meander back up to Washington D.C.

Here's her statement:

dear mr. president:

under the provisions of section 501 (a) of the robert t. stafford
disaster relief and emergency assistance act, 42 u.s.c. §§ 5121-5206
(stafford act), and implemented by 44 cfr § 206.35, i request that
you declare an emergency for the state of louisiana due to hurricane
katrina for the time period beginning august 26, 2005, and continuing.
the affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the new
orleans metropolitan area and the mid state interstate i-49 corridor
and northern parishes along the i-20 corridor that are accepting the
thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded
as a result of hurricane katrina.

in response to the situation i have taken appropriate action under state
law and directed the execution of the state emergency plan on august 26,
2005 in accordance with section 501 (a) of the stafford act. a state of
emergency has been issued for the state in order to support the
evacuations of the coastal areas in accordance with our state evacuation
plan and the remainder of the state to support the state special needs and sheltering plan.

pursuant to 44 cfr § 206.35, i have determined that this incident is of
such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the
capabilities of the state and affected local governments, and that
supplementary federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect
property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat
of a disaster. i am specifically requesting emergency protective measures,
direct federal assistance, individual and household program (ihp)
assistance, special needs program assistance, and debris removal.

The Huffington Post has a nice post on how swell it would be to know who the "anonymous senior Bush official" was that started the ball rolling on with that lie in the first place.

The Post, citing an anonymous “senior Bush official”, reported on
Sunday that, as of Saturday, Sept. 3, Blanco “still had not declared a
state of emergency”… when, in fact, the declaration had been made on
Friday, August 26 -- over 2 days BEFORE Katrina made landfall in
Louisiana. This claim was so demonstrably false that the paper was
forced to issue a correction just hours after the original story appeared.

So here are a couple of questions: 1) Had everyone in the WaPo fact
checking department gone out of town for the Labor Day weekend? I mean,
c’mon, the announcement of a state of emergency isn’t exactly the kind
of thing government officials tend to keep a secret. 2) Why were the Post
reporters so willing to blindly accept the words of an administration
official who obviously had a partisan agenda -- and to grant this official


  • At September 06, 2005, Blogger rod said…

    This has Rove's fingerprints all over it. The man is evil.

  • At September 06, 2005, Blogger kelley b. said…

    I imagine every honest reporter that's cried foul over the administration's behavior over the last few days will eventually feel some sort of retribution.

    But really, if you want to have a piece of your soul as your own, sometimes it is best to make an enemy of the Devil.

  • At September 06, 2005, Blogger Johnny Virgil said…

    Note that I don't agree with this entire assessment, but thought the outline of the process was interesting:

    LEADERSHIP: What Failed in New Orleans

    September 6, 2005: Using troops and military equipment for natural disasters is nothing new, but the procedure for getting them in motion is complicated by federal and local law, as well as local politics. New Orleans, which has been getting hammered by hurricanes and floods for over two centuries, has to start the process by appealing to the state governor. The states control any National Guard troops who are not federalized (about two thirds of Louisiana troops were not federalized, and available to the governor for the recent hurricane Katrina). The governor also has to request that federal assistance, including outside troops (both National Guard from other states and federals). FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is set up to expedite this. FEMA is mainly a supervisory organization. The actual relief work is done by federal and National Guard troops, as well as many public and private relief agencies. In the case of New Orleans, any requests from the Louisiana, for federal assistance, go first to a Department of Defense headquarters already established to deal with the situation (Joint Task Force, or JTF, Katrina) at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The staff officers there will, if need be, translate the request into language the military understands (specific types of military units, equipment and supplies), and transmit it to Northern Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, units, equipment and material available will be matched with the request, and then the document will be transmitted to the Pentagon, where the Secretary of Defense signs it and has orders sent out to all units involved, to get moving. Many of those units may have already been alerted by Northern Command, that they might be ordered out for disaster relief operations. The activation process takes less than a day. Additional requests from the state governor are handled the same way.

    The governor can mobilize National Guard troops at any time, and some governors do so before a major hurricane hits. The problem with Hurricane Katrina was that it was the largest to ever hit the city directly. Historically, about once every 35 years, a category 4 hurricane hits within 160 kilometers of New Orleans. The last category 4 to come close (but not as close as Katrina) was in 1965. Before that, water came over the levees in 1940. Each time the city got flooded, the levees were reinforced, and more pumping capacity added. Katrina was different because several levees actually failed, flooding most of the city, more than at any time in the past. This was a worst case situation, and the city government had no plan in place to deal with it. The attitude in New Orleans was to “muddle through,” some how.

    New Orleans also has some unique leadership problems. The city is one of the most corrupt in the nation. Residents consider themselves survivors not only of the climate and weather, but also their own elected officials. The police force often provides ugly headlines about corrupt cops, and other city officials aren’t much better. It is a wild and lawless city even in the best of times. The murder rate in the city is one of the highest in the nation, ten times the national average, and higher than many cities in Iraq.

    The New Orleans government thought they were ready for anything, but they weren’t. The flooding was so quick and extensive that it knocked out most communications, power and accessibility. The city was unable to muddle its way out of this one. Embarrassing details will emerge over the next few weeks and months of how the city and state officials did little, or nothing, as the city was flooded. But those who know the history of New Orleans will receive this information with a sense of déjà vu. Meanwhile, the media and political partisans will invent villains to fit each of their particular agendas. In the end, however, it will be clear that the problems were a lot closer to the scene of the disaster.


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