Skip to comments.The Big Easy rocked, but didn't roll [Steyn Alert]
Posted on 09/05/2005 5:14:07 PM PDT by saquin
Readers may recall my words from a week ago on the approaching Katrina: "We relish the opportunity to rise to the occasion. And on the whole we do. Oh, to be sure, there are always folks who panic or loot. But most people don't, and many are capable of extraordinary acts of hastily improvised heroism."
What the hell was I thinking? I should be fired for that. Well, someone should be fired. I say that in the spirit of the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, the Anti-Giuliani, a Mayor Culpa who always knows where to point the finger.
For some reason, I failed to consider the possibility that the panickers would include Hizzoner the Mayor and the looters would include significant numbers of the police department, though in fairness I wasn't the only one. As General Blum said at Saturday's Defence Department briefing: "No one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans."
Indeed, they eroded faster than the levees. Several hundred cops are reported to have walked off the job. To give the city credit, it has a lovely "Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan" for hurricanes. The only flaw in the plan is that the person charged with putting it into effect is the mayor. And he didn't.
But I don't want to blame any single figure: the anti-Bush crowd have that act pretty much sewn up. I'd say New Orleans's political failure is symptomatic of a broader failure.
I got an e-mail over the weekend from a US Army surgeon just back in Afghanistan after his wedding. Changing planes in Kuwait for the final leg to Bagram and confronted by yet another charity box for Katrina relief, he decided that this time he'd pass. "I'd had it up to here," he wrote, "with the passivity, the whining, and the when-are-they-going-to-do-something blame game."
Let it be said that no one should die in a 100F windowless attic because he fled upstairs when the flood waters rose and now can't get out. But, in his general characterisation of "the Big Easy", my correspondent is not wrong. The point is, what are you like when it's not so easy?
Congressman Billy Tauzin once said of his state: "One half of Louisiana is under water and the other half is under indictment." Last week, four fifths of New Orleans was under water and the other four fifths should be under indictment - which is the kind of arithmetic the state's deeply entrenched kleptocrat political culture will have no trouble making add up.
Consider the signature image of the flood: an aerial shot of 255 school buses neatly parked at one city lot, their fuel tanks leaking gasoline into the urban lake. An enterprising blogger, Bryan Preston, worked out that each bus had 66 seats, which meant that the vehicles at just that one lot could have ferried out 16,830 people. Instead of entrusting its most vulnerable citizens to the gang-infested faecal hell of the Superdome, New Orleans had more than enough municipal transport on hand to have got almost everyone out in a couple of runs last Sunday.
Why didn't they? Well, the mayor didn't give the order. OK, but how about school board officials, or the fellows with the public schools transportation department, or the guy who runs that motor pool, or the individual bus drivers? If it ever occurred to any of them that these were potentially useful evacuation assets, they kept it to themselves.
So the first school bus to escape New Orleans and make it to safety in Texas was one that had been abandoned on a city street. A party of sodden citizens, ranging from the elderly to an eight-day-old baby, were desperate to get out, hopped aboard and got teenager Jabbor Gibson to drive them 13 hours non-stop to Houston. He'd never driven a bus before, and the authorities back in New Orleans may yet prosecute him. For rescuing people without a permit?
My Afghanistan army guy's observations on "passivity" reminded me of something I wrote for this paper a few days after 9/11, about how the airline cabin was the embodiment of the "culture of passivity". It's the most regulated environment most of us ever enter.
So on three of those flights everyone faithfully followed the Federal Aviation Administration's 1970s hijack procedures until it was too late. On the fourth plane, Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, Thomas Burnett, Mark Bingham and other forgotten heroes figured out what was going on and rushed their hijackers, preventing the plane from proceeding to its target - believed to be the White House or Congress. On a morning when the government did nothing for those passengers, those passengers did something for the government.
On 9/11, the federal government failed the people; last week, local and state government failed the people. On 9/11, they stuck to the 30-year-old plan; last week, they didn't bother implementing the state-of-the-art 21st-century plan. Why argue about which level of bureaucracy you prefer to be let down by?
My mistake was to think that the citizenry of the Big Easy would rise to the great rallying cry of Todd Beamer: "Are you ready, guys? Let's roll!" Instead, the spirit of the week was summed up by a gentleman called Mike Franklin, taking time out of his hectic schedule of looting to speak to the Associated Press: "People who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society."
Unlike 9/11, when the cult of victimhood was temporarily suspended in honour of the many real, actual victims under the rubble, in New Orleans everyone claimed the mantle of victim, from the incompetent mayor to the "oppressed" guys wading through the water with new DVD players under each arm.
Welfare culture is bad not just because, as in Europe, it's bankrupting the state, but because it enfeebles the citizenry, it erodes self-reliance and resourcefulness.
New Orleans is a party town in the middle of a welfare swamp and, like many parties, it doesn't look so good when someone puts the lights up. I'll always be grateful to a burg that gave us Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima, and I'll always love Satch's great record of Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? But, after this last week, I'm not sure I would.
entitlement mentality. why should i do it when i can get you to do it. it runs from the governor down to the mayor and beyond. that explains 80% of the mess.
Thanks for the posting this.
Could be a good tag line.
If he needs a defense fund, I'll contribute.
Good article, as usual. I think Hurricane Katrina in NO will be the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of our time; that is, the fact that incompetence, confusion and greed resulted in a significant number of possibly avoidable deaths - and surely a lot of misery and horror - will probably result in a good reassessment of our structures for handling this.
Granted, nobody ever thought that an important US city would have a mayor so incompetent, or a governor who perceived federal help as nothing but a power-threatening interference. Still, there's got to be a plan for a breakdown on local levels, and it's got to be ready for quick implementation.
Also, there's got to be punishment for the incompetents and obstructionists. By the end of this, both the mayor and the governor should be out of a job and even on their way to prison.
Mayor Culpa! LOL! How does Steyn come up with these, week-in, week-out?
The Mayor Culpa
"I guess the government will be hiring illegal aliens to clean up NO."
Although you are being sarcastic, you might well be right.
Free Jabbor Gibson!
I don't think this guy will be lacking funds for legal representation.
I think Mark Steyn refers to this picture:
The master at work.
Mr. Gibson did NOT get caught up in a snark hunt.
(Unlike Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin)
Every lawyer in the South will be lining up to represent him for free. Too bad the rest of the brothers were busy looting and raping to emulate his heroic actions.
One of the true heros that GW should present a medal to. Initiative from NO was sadly lacking, it should be rewarded, not punished.
That is so good.
"I think Jabbor Gibson is a hero."
He really does deserves a medal for what he did.
For the ping list.
Yeah, but Steyn says it better than any of us. "Mayor Culpa!" LOL!
That man drips talent.
There were not just "200 buses". There were 200 buses in just one photo and Freepers studying the post-Katrina satellite images have counted over 400 buses altogether at other city parking.
At 70 people per bus that is 28,000 people per round trip that could have been taken out of the storm surge area in the 48 hours prior the Katrina striking.
After the storm hit, what makes you think that buses sent from outside of New Orleans could drive through the flooded mess any better than the 145 New Orleans city buses that were parked 1.2 miles away from the Superdome?
Was Scotty supposed to beam the outside buses to the Superdome and them beam them back out so that they would not have to drive through impassable roads?
The time to evacuate those 200,000 low-income people on public buses OUT OF THE STORM SURGE ZONE was BEFORE the Category 4 storm struck.
That was what the Southern Louisiana Evacuation Plan for New Orleans specifically called for.
The Democrat Governor and the Democrat Mayor did NOTHING to carry out that portion of the plan. They left 200,000 low-income resident abandoned and they now blame the Federal Government for not having Scotty beam down a massive logistics effort after a human disaster of their own making.
Classic Steyn...thanks for posting.
Mayor Culpa - I love it!
God, I wished I had this much talent as a writer.
Dont worry I remember Geraldos quote about the Vietnamese community in New Orleans. According to him they were an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos or somesuch.
LOL. Its because theyre somewhat clannish, capable, distrust government, and are suspicious of the motivation of others that would help them. So they help themselves and each other. Theyre intelligent, industrious, and will thrive (not survive THRIVE) under conditions that will cause our fourth-generation welfare citizenry to wilt like pansies.
Vietnamese arent alone. Many, many other groups fit that description. Lots of Mexicans and other Latin Americans do most Asians Ive run across do many northern/eastern Europeans do too, believe it or not (well, the ones I met were Polish and Romanian and appeared to be both somewhat fun-loving and slightly on the rough/tough side, even the females well, especially the females).
Americans particularly the poor ones have developed an attitude of expectation and entitlement that borders on obscene. No matter that they made absolutely NO preparations of any sort wheres my free ride and free food/water, clothes and medical care? I been standin here two days with my hand out and nobody gave me nuttin yet. Good Lord, it could gag a maggot.
Its leadership rolled over. Everything left got stolen, raped, killed and/or waterlogged. End of story.
Great read. Steyn puts his finger on one of the main problems - the dependence on government to solve all of a person's problems.
It appears to me that a lot of people think that life is supposed to be easy and fun, and if money doesn't drop into your hands from the sky, and you aren't having fun, it's someone else's fault.
From your lips to Mexico's ears.
President Fox said his country shared the pain of the hurricane... he said the contributions of Mexican workers could be more important than ever. "The reconstruction of that city and of that region is going to require a lot of labor. And if there is anything Mexicans are good at, it is construction."
There is no one better. People seem to like Ann Coulter because she's a red-meat columnist (who happens to have pretty nice legs) but nobody devastates the Left with more clarity, wit and style than Mark Steyn.
Mark Steyn bttt!!!!
At least that kid showed some balls and some concern for others. He wasent swimming away with 2 DVD players like many of the other gang bangers.
Which begs the question..who would work harder for 14 hours a day at $10 per hour..an illegal mexican looking to support his family or one of the welfare people who's lived on handouts all their life, then complained about not having a job...??
Putting aside the merits, this is really a very fine piece of advocative writing. The man is frankly a genius. I don't want you to miss it, with all the activity around here. When I run for potus, Steyn will be at my side, or I just won't do it. :)
Excellent. All very true, and very unfortunate. If someone in the New Orleans had put their heads on their shoulders Saturday or Sunday, as late as Sunday evening, instead of having them neatly tucked between their knees for buoyancy practice, babies and kids and elderly, and sick people, like the Jackson Parish President's mother who drowned Friday after the flooding, could have easily been evacuated. But it's easier for him and Nagin and everyone else to blame Bush and take no responsibility for their inaction. Well, with the internet and radio and the responsible new media, that just won't "float" anymore.
It's Mark Steyn. Capital M. Capital S. Don't forget the "y".
And if anybody can explain to me why he doesn't have about 5 Pulitzers by now, I'd love to hear it.
No need to think, just vote democRat. Cleveland once had Congressman DENNIS! Kucinich for mayor.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: There should be a Steyn sidebar. I'd put it above Breaking News.
Funny how NOLA is making noises about going after a kid that rescued a lot of people by commandeering a bus, yet consider looters to be 'victims'. People like Jabbor expose the mayor and other authorities as the idiots they are and provided a shining example of what a person can do on his own, without government help (or in this case, interference).
IF those were the only two choices, I'd say that the "illegal mexican looking to support his family" would work harder. However, those are NOT the only two options available.