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September 07, 2005

POLICY/POLITICS: A harrowing story from Katrina

SignalHealth pointed the way to this story, which I've since found at another source by a couple of hotel guests who were basically imprisoned in New Orleans and not allowed to leave by the law enforcement and FEMA people who were supposed to be there to help them. Now before you take this entirely at face value, I've Googled a little bit, and found that the two authors of this account are San Francisco Paramedics who are very active in their SEIU chapter and were extremely anti-Bush, the military and police to start off with, and are posting this on an extreme left-wing (by my standards not by Fox News standards) web site.

But the problem with thinking that they've just made all this up is that it correlates with so much else that we know about what happened. Late on Thursday night on FOX NEWS (really!) Geraldo was in the Convention Center saying "just let these people walk out of there". They weren't allowed to go. They were just left there. Even worse was reported by another Fox correspondent, Shepard Smith, about people just abandoned on the freeway. It seems very likely that the two SF Paramedics were among those out there. See this for the link to that piece of video.

I saw someone on CNN or MSNBC -- a white man - telling his story about how the buses that they'd paid for had been commandeered (UPDATE: I've found the link the story about the buses for the hotel guests)-- that matches the Paramedics story. This guy was taken out by a black man standing next to him, who's name he didn't know but whom he credited with saving his life. (UPDATE: And here's another story from a St Louis lawyer that confirms the bus story AND the trapped on the freeway story)

Over at HIStalk, there's a link to this incredible story about how three college kids took a whole SUV load of water and supplies into the Convention center TWICE before any real help got in there. And they had to smuggle their way in as "press".

When you start putting these pieces together, it's clear that something went badly, badly wrong in our emergency preparedness, and how we responded to desperate people in our own country. The only people who emerge with any real credit seem to be the health care workers in the hospitals who kept their patients alive against the odds, and the people who went around the official channels to do what they could.

I would not have said anything other than on Saturday night at a dinner party, in so-called liberal San Francisco no less, one woman started explaining to us all that these were stupid people who should have a) left before the hurricane, and b) should have taken adequate supplies with them to the convention center and SuperDome, and c) were dumb and not like us because....well you can get the gist if I tell you that she was white, and in fact Irish. I lost it and pointed out that the English said exactly the same thing about the dumb starving ungrateful Irish in the potato famine. If you have time, read the whole history of that very sorry episode and weep.

I can think of no better riposte than to link to the greatest essay ever written on the topic. Go read it and marvel at how little distance we've come.

September 7, 2005 in Policy/Politics | Permalink


Monday morning quarterbacking is so easy. You have the benefit of rewinding the tape as many times as possible and pointing out what went wrong, what should have been done differently, blah, blah, blah.

For sure things went awry. No one (including hizzoner Nagin) seemed particularly concerned about NOLA until the levees broke. Most of what happened afterward was put together on the fly.

We now have over 250,000 displaced residents scattered all over the south. No amount of planning can adequately anticipate and handle the evac and tending to basic needs of that many people in an instant.

Just as we learned from the CA earthquakes that flattened a freeway, and another that leveled parts of SF, we can learn from this. Until 9/11/01 no one really expected guys with razor blades would commandeer passenger plans and turn them into flying bombs.

None of this is meant to diminish the tragedy and human suffering that has taken place and will continue for months or even years.

Based on recent history, I expect Ron to tell us all of this could have been prevented if people had an individual HSA instead of group insurance.

Posted by: Bob | Sep 7, 2005 3:59:45 AM

Individual insurance is not automatically terminated when a business bites the dust like "State Mandated" dangerous group plans but Katrina still would have hit.

I will say it makes a difference who your governor is. The Governor of LA and the mayor of NO forgot to read their Hurricane Manual. You can give a Democrat Governor a Hurricane Manual but you can't make her read it.

Just one more reason why Governor Jeb Bush calls Democrats, "Pathetic."

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Sep 7, 2005 5:36:35 AM

Bob, you made the right call about one-note tuba Ron. As for your Monday morning quarterbacking comment-- bullshit. We had 3 days to sort out the convention center and the SuperDome and nothing happen between Weds am and Friday night.

I'm glad to report that the White House press corp has found some cojones, and got Scott McClennan to specifically identify who was responsible.

Posted by: Matthew Holt | Sep 7, 2005 8:08:00 AM

And while we're on the topic of whether it could be done better, here's a (sourced) timeline of the rapid response in San Francisco in 1906

Posted by: Matthew Holt | Sep 7, 2005 8:33:27 AM

Thank you for consolidating these various reports. It will be interesting times, in the Chinese sense, when people start to see that the U.S. is no longer at the vanguard of humanity.

Posted by: gadfly | Sep 7, 2005 9:54:36 AM


You wrote, //Bob, you made the right call about one-note tuba Ron.//

Which exactly is the one note you are talking about. Is it my comments on tax free HSAs, individual insurance, group employee insurance, HRAs, FSAs, Comprehensive Health Insurance Pools (CHIP), States' Children Health Insurance Plans (S-CHIP), Medicare, Medicaid, ERISA, COBRA, medical underwriting, State mandates, Kerry's insurance proposals (he lost), tax credits (President Bush's proposal - he won), individual tax deduction for health insurance, Katrina terminating employees' insurance with no COBRA extensions, or the Brits bad mouthing America?

You can believe when my Grand Child is born they will be informed that their great, great great....Grandfather enlisted with the first United State's troops in 1775 to kick the King and England out of the country. Just last night my neighbor, a Brit was saying, "You white folks enslaved the blacks." She shut up when I told her, "I have a great, great...Grandfather who was shot freeing the slaves in the Iowa 23rd." Of course my father was in 16 major battles during WW-2 so the Brits are not required to speak German today.

I know what my "one note" is that you refuse to answer. Go ahead Matthew give it your best shot, I have asked you at least 18 times. Here it is again, - Why Matthew do you support American citizens losing their group health plan after a short COBRA with a serious illness like ovarian cancer?

Now you will say you support Socialized Medicine and get out of answering again. What a cop out, just so you can make a buck doing your consulting work for those merchants of death. Or maybe you have a good answer but are refusing to say it, yea sure.

Here is what another Floridian, named Mike Lafferty, said, " Looking good, Jeb. Say what you will about Gov. Jeb Bush's politics, but at least he was calm, candid and reassuring during last year's hurricanes.

He was in charge.

Contrast that with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen "Blankstare" Blanco, who appeared frightened and uncertain before and after Hurricane Katrina pummeled her state.

She is adrift."

Maybe you should take a look at all the school buses that the mayor of NO, a Democrat, left parked and didn't use to help get his people out of danger. He let all those buses just set there in the water. Here take a look.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Sep 7, 2005 1:13:46 PM

Ron -

So Matthew won't have to descend to the baiting, I'm going to point out that your "one note" is you make everything about HSAs. Those other topics you mentioned have all been the sprinkles on your big HSA cupcake.

Posted by: gadfly | Sep 7, 2005 3:11:42 PM


I never said one word about tax free HSAs with the Katrina posts. Yet Matthew did "decend" in calling me "a one note tuba".

That hurt my feelings.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Sep 7, 2005 3:37:07 PM

Of course Jeb was calm, candid and reassuring. He knew his brother wouldn't screw over a swing state in an election year.

Posted by: Christopher Davis | Sep 7, 2005 10:20:05 PM

You're all right, there was no way that anyone could have anticipated this happening. It took everyone completely by suprise.

It's a good job that terrorists always phone in their attacks a good month in advance, to let people get ready. I know if I were a terrorist with plans to bomb, say, the Colorado River Aqueduct, I'd be looking at this and saying "heck, I don't know whether it's worth the hassle, I'd only cause a bare minimum of suffering and damage, these guys are totally on top of disaster management."

How much federal tax money has the Department of Homeland Security spent over the last four years, does anyone know? And what did they spend it on?

Posted by: McDuff | Sep 8, 2005 7:21:31 PM

Make no mistake. This was a Bush/FEMA genocide. The overwhelming proof is sufficient to proceed with impeachment and removal of this president, and will be just for starters.

Posted by: Steve Magruder | Sep 9, 2005 10:36:13 AM

President Bush thought the mayor and Governor would follow the hurricane plan, which they didn't. The mayor should have used his 1,000 buses to get his citizens to safety, he didn't. The governor should not have stopped the Red Cross from entering the city, she did.

It just proves that Democrats should be unelected from every level of government, they are.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Sep 9, 2005 11:34:02 AM

Ron - try to let go of some of your seething hatred for just a second and admit that ALL have dropped the ball on this one. Bush was still on vacation three days after the impact, when it should have become clear to anyone with a heart and a functioning brain that SOMEBODY at the top needed to kick things in motion within hours after the storm's impact. This is not 1906, we knew about the overwhelming failures of FEMA aid arrival soon after the skies began to clear the morning after the storm hit.

Are there Democrats whose heads should roll over this? Oh, you bet! But to pretend that the Bush administration, who appointed cronies, and friends of cronies, to positions of power over the lives of American citizens, is an unconscionable act of heartless partisanship on your part. We are willing to admit to the failures of the Democrats in power, but are not stupid enough to think that it was because they were Democrats. Nor do we think that the Republican failures were because the leaders were Repubs. That sort of simple-minded childishness should be beneath us all.

The fact is far too many people of both parties simply did not care as much about the well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens as they did about protecting the oil production and other resources of the city. That decision to put people second is now coming back to bite everyone who made it in the butt, as more and more of the NON-heartless world pays attention.

Bush's beloved "Brownie" has been fired. Let's not stop there. Fire them all, I say, Democrat and Republican alike, right up to the very top-- charge them with negligent homicide-- send the message that any future politician who values his business interests over his citizens should be terrified.

Posted by: UnapologeticAtheist | Sep 9, 2005 12:51:34 PM

Sounds good to me UnapologeticAtheist.

I like to lump Democrats and Republicans together and call them all Politicians.

We couldn't have the problems that we do in America today if a large bunch of the Republicans were not just rolling over for special interests. Same with Democrats. They are all just a bunch of politicians.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Sep 9, 2005 1:57:56 PM

Well here comes a huge hurricaine directly to the West coast of Florida. To bad you never wrote about government-controlled employer-based health insurance when the business is blown away. No one has written about it yet. Dumb reporters.

Governor Granholm went on a Howard Dean style rant about Socialized Medicine it is being reported today. She says it's a TRAVISTY that America doesn't have Socialized Medicine like her native home Canada. GM shaved $15 billion off their health costs yesterday.

You can tell Granholm is not paying you Matthew. She is really bad at discribing a government takeover of health care.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Oct 19, 2005 2:31:05 PM

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