Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Distilling the Discontent

This piece by the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington Bureau Chief, Marc Sandalow, does a good job of condensing the criticisms that have been -- I won't use the L-word out of respect for the people of New Orleans -- directed at the the Federal government and, more specifically, the Bush Administration over their handling of disaster relief. While I can understand why former President Clinton found it necessary to defend his successor against attacks -- he has an innate sense of good-old-boy fairness and a wife running for office -- it rankles me regardless. If you're going to invest billions of dollars in "homeland security," then your first responsibility is to plan for possible calamities and manage them rationally if they actually happen. Clearly, many people had foreseen New Orleans's special vulnerability. Whether the money being wasted on the Iraq War might have done something to lessen the damage from Katrina is a question I don't mind asking but would feel less comfortable answering. What I do know is that I lived through a major earthquake that was initially imagined to have killed hundreds of people at a minimum -- I have the San Francisco Chronicle headline in my archives to prove it -- but ended up killing a little over fifty principally because the state of California's building codes and the people who enforced them actually produced the result they were deployed to produce. Had similar care been taken in the state of Louisiana or nationally with regard to the possibility of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans, fewer people would have died, less property would have been destroyed, and the unrest in a city that always seemed to be on the brink of a war of race and class anyway would have been easier to contain.

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