Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Orleans Police Chief Quits

The Times-Picayune reported that Police Superintentent Eddie Compass of New Orleans has announced his resignation.

The police union's spokesman was surprised:

Lt. David Benelli, president of the union for rank-and-file New Orleans officers, said he was shocked by the resignation.

"We've been through a horrendous time," Benelli said. "We've watched the city we love be destroyed. That is pressure you can't believe."

Benelli would not criticize Compass.

"You can talk about lack of organization, but we have been through two hurricanes, there was no communications, problems everywhere," he said. "I think the fact that we did not lose control of the city is a testament to his leadership."

But in fact, chaos reigned in New Orleans as Katrina's floodwaters rose. Gunfire and other lawlessness broke out around the city. Rescue workers reported being shot at.

At the height of the Katrina chaos, Compass fed the image of lawlessness in the city by publicly repeating allegations that people were being beaten and babies raped at the convention center, where thousands of evacuees had taken shelter. The allegations have since proved largely unsubstantiated. [Emphasis added.]

Compass was a part of the problem, so here's hoping New Orleans can find a competent replacement.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Wild Men or Wild Rumors?

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has looked to see whether reports of animalistic behavior in the Superdome and Convention Center had any basis in fact.

So far, there is essentially nothing that corroborates those reports.

Note that Mayor Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass publicly repeated what now appear to have been wild rumors.

Was there some part of the New Orleans government's response to Katrina that wasn't disgraceful?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Venezuela's Chavez Barks

The collectivist ruler of Venezuela seems to have lost touch with reality.

In an interview published by the Washington Post, he stated, inter alia:

The government of the United States, that's the empire. We have evidence that there are plans in this country to invade Venezuela.

This was shortly after claiming:

This [present U.S.] government is a threat to humanity.

And, after saying:

I could deal with President Bush. I would like very much to be able to debate issues with him. I would like to transform this confrontation, this aggressive rhetoric, into a mature, serious debate on common issues.

Does anyone know of similar "aggressive rhetoric" from members of the executive branch of the U.S. government?

Chavez is apparently following in the footsteps of other collectivist "true believers."

One must wonder whether he actually believes the nonsense he says; and, if so, whether his delusions indicate the existence of a mental disorder.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Don't they ever get tired of this nonsense?

So now it's the Army Corps of Engineers that doesn't care about poor people.

St. Bernard Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez let his inner bigot loose:

Rodriguez said the repair job on the Industrial Canal levee was shoddy and accused the corps of exerting more of an effort to repair a breach on the 17th Street Canal at the Orleans-Jefferson parish line because it protects more wealthy neighborhoods than those in the 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

"It's rich and poor,'' Rodriguez told a WWL-TV reporter, adding that St. Bernard Parish and 9th Ward residents are treated like "second-class citizens.''

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to identify all the idiots who spew this nonsense and put them at the bottom of the list when it comes time to assist in reconstruction?

Random variation vs. Intelligent Design

The Dover School District case will be heard in court starting on Monday.

On one side are those who adamantly oppose anything in the curriculum of a public school which could be taken as a hint of the existence of a Creator, while on the other side are some who assert that any prohibition of the teaching of "intelligent design" would amount to unlawful censorship.

Then there are a few who simply want our children to retain the ability to wonder when confronted with new ideas.

Here's hoping the judges don't screw things up again.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Louisiana Neighborliness?

In a disaster such as the flood that hit New Orleans when the floodwalls broke, survivors often seek simply to get out of the flooded area.

According to this article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, people trying to leave New Orleans will need to force their way through police cordons in any similar disaster in the future.

The "first responders" in areas adjacent to New Orleans have a strange idea of the appropriate first response to the plight of their neighbors.

Friday, September 16, 2005

First things first

Before figuring out whether anyone screwed up during the initial response to hurricane Katrina's devastation in Louisiana, it's necessary to identify what went wrong.

According to an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune some people are beginning to take this approach. For example, communication systems were inadequate -- why?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Brown said, Blanco said, etc.

The New York Times has published an article based on an interview with the erstwhile head of FEMA.

It seems that Brown realized how disorganized Louisiana was at an early stage. On Monday, he expressed his worries to superiors. On Tuesday night, he asked that the White House take over the response coordination.

Governor Blanco's spokesman says it ain't so:

A spokesman for Ms. Blanco denied Mr. Brown's description of disarray in Louisiana's emergency response operation. "That is just totally inaccurate," said Bob Mann, the governor's communications director. "Everything that Mr. Brown needed in terms of resources or information from the state, he had those available to him."

Well, that certainly clears up things. Everything was available. All Brown and FEMA had to do was figure out where it was.

Louisiana's politicians seem not to understand that disaster response works best as a three-horse team: Local, state, and federal agencies must pull together. When two members of the team act like stubborn donkeys -- sitting and braying rather than pulling their share of the load -- progress doesn't occur as quickly.

FEMA cannot take over the responsibilities of the state and local governments. They have neither the legal authority nor the personnel.

Blanco seems to believe that she need only say to the President or any other federal officer, "give me everything you've got." She doesn't appear to have the cognitive ability to grasp the fact that something more is needed from her.

Would she call 9-1-1 in an emergency and simply yell, "give me all you've got," then complain when the person on the other end of the line asked for a little more information than that?

Maybe so.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Local Control in Theory and Practice

In the September 11 edition of The New York Times is an interesting early description of the mess that was Louisiana and FEMA’s response to hurricane Katrina.

If the article’s description turns out to be correct, it appears that the biggest flaw was the failure of the federal authorities to recognize in the first couple of days just how completely the Louisiana authorities had lost the ability to respond.

FEMA personnel expected the state and local authorities to assess the situation, figure out what they needed, and request what they didn’t have.

Neither Louisiana’s state government nor New Orleans' government could do that:

The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials expected the state and city to direct their own efforts and ask for help as needed. Leaders in Louisiana and New Orleans, though, were so overwhelmed by the scale of the storm that they were not only unable to manage the crisis, but they were not always exactly sure what they needed. While local officials assumed that Washington would provide rapid and considerable aid, federal officials, weighing legalities and logistics, proceeded at a deliberate pace.

If this paragraph is correct, FEMA at some time in the past took more of a leadership role in coordinating the response.

The power-sharing arrangement was by design, and as the days wore on, it would prove disastrous. Under the Bush administration, FEMA redefined its role, offering assistance but remaining subordinate to state and local governments. "Our typical role is to work with the state in support of local and state agencies," said David Passey, a FEMA spokesman.

If there was a change to a policy of responding to state and local requests rather than taking the initiative, that ought to be examined closely to see what they thought would be accomplished – and whether they now think it was.