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Old 07-29-2007, 09:52 AM   #1
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Default Still doing a heckuva job?

Leonard Pitts thinks not. I found this interesting, but I also feel helpless to do anything about it, other than to keep it in mind the next time I vote.

http://www.miamiherald.com/285/story/181366.html


FEMA/KATRINA
Still doing a heckuva job -- not!
By LEONARD PITTS JR.

A few words about morality and the storm.

Meaning Katrina, which was a devastating hurricane, yes, but also a kind of Rorschach ink blot of right and wrong. Virtually from the moment it lumbered ashore at daybreak on Aug. 29, 2005, the storm began raising pointed ethical questions.

As in: Is it moral to break into a flooded and abandoned store in search of food and water? How about televisions and athletic shoes? Is it moral for storm-bound healthcare workers to euthanize critically-ill patients? Is it moral for the suburbs to turn desperate evacuees from the city away at gunpoint?

Safe and dry, we have argued these and other questions from the comfort of our armchairs. It was a moral parlor game, a harmless way of plumbing the depths of conscience, pondering who and how we would be if ever we stood, or seemed to stand, at the end of all things.

Last week's news about FEMA raised an entirely different question about morality: Namely, does this federal agency have any?

Don't bet on it. It seems the Federal Emergency Management Agency refused, on the advice of its lawyers, to test whether the trailers it provided for hurricane evacuees contained unsafe levels of formaldehyde. According to documents released by Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House oversight committee, when FEMA staffers urged the agency to respond to reports of formaldehyde in the trailers, they received an e-mail from a FEMA lawyer that said, ``Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK. Once you get results, the clock is running on our duty to respond to them.''

In other words, if we discover that the more than 120,000 trailers and mobile homes we have provided to families along the Gulf Coast are reeking with a toxic gas, we'll be obligated to replace them. So it's better if we don't know.

Which raises a few moral questions of its own:

Is it moral to let women breathe a gas that may cause respiratory illness in order to save money?

Is it moral to leave men in conditions that may cause raw throats and burning eyes so as to avoid responsibility?

Is it moral to expose children to a compound believed to cause cancer if it helps cover one's backside?

Apparently, for FEMA, the answers are yes, yes and yes. Which fits with jigsaw snugness the mind-set of an administration that frequently chooses to refuse acceptance of knowledge that challenges its preconceptions. It also points up with piercing clarity the hypocrisy of that same administration's frequent claims of fealty to the divine.

In the gospel of Matthew, after all, Jesus famously identifies himself with the poor. ``Insomuch as you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it also unto me.''

Economically speaking, the victims of Hurricane Katrina are among the least of these, our brethren. The Census Bureau estimates the median yearly income in Orleans Parish at a little over $27,000. Yet after giving them inattention and incompetence, the federal government now gives them indifference.

As moral choices go, I would argue this is more damning than looting, euthanizing, or meeting evacuees with guns. Say what you will about those decisions, but at least they were made in the heat of the moment, by people who saw the world falling down around them.

FEMA's decision, by contrast, was cool, considered . . . and unfathomably cruel. And if its purpose was to shield the agency from legal repercussions, it's also now a failure. Surely every trailer dweller who's ever had so much as a headache is now seeking legal representation.

Something tells me FEMA is about to pay a high price for treating human beings like dirt. Morally, that's just fine with me.
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Old 07-29-2007, 07:16 PM   #2
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

I read Pitts every time I see him published. It's too bad he has a one dimensional perspective, which is pretty much "the race card".

He would have an argument if the FEMA trailers were purposely contaminated prior to being dispatched to New Orleans, but they, of course, were not. If a tornado would have displaced 100,000 white people in Kansas 10 days earlier, those same trailers would have been dispatched, and the residents would have moved in, smelled a bad smell, cleaned the trailers themselves and solved the problem themselves. It's sad that it comes to this, but it's true.
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Old 07-29-2007, 08:44 PM   #3
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

I read Pitts every time I see him published. It's too bad he has a one dimensional perspective, which is pretty much "the race card".

He would have an argument if the FEMA trailers were purposely contaminated prior to being dispatched to New Orleans, but they, of course, were not. If a tornado would have displaced 100,000 white people in Kansas 10 days earlier, those same trailers would have been dispatched, and the residents would have moved in, smelled a bad smell, cleaned the trailers themselves and solved the problem themselves. It's sad that it comes to this, but it's true.


Wait, who's playing the race card? I read that column twice to be sure, and you're the only one who mentioned race. And if you read him every time, you'd know that his perspective is anything but one dimensional. One example--during the Imus controversy, he tore into gangsta rappers instead of piling on the I-man.

As far as this article is concerned, if your trailer's contaminated with formaldehide, it's not as simple as cleaning the trailer. You'd have to literally rip the trailer apart to get rid of it all...in which case we'd be hearing crap about how "THOSE PEOPLE" tore the trailers apart.
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Old 07-29-2007, 10:14 PM   #4
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

what is nnot mentioned... is how screwed up Louisianna politics are.. how corrupt it is.

Alabama was hit by the same hurricane... I have people I know that talked about their entire towns being destroyed. However, they are not having the problems now. Why? COuld it be the local and state issues, instead of.. or on top of FEMA?

Why is Florida, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, etc. able to clean up, and Louisiana is not? I am not even talking about N.O. itself. But even worse, N.O. was hit once. SOme parts of Florida have been hit two, three times with devastating hurricanes.

So what is the difference? and please... no one sink to the level of "Jeb Bush was governor".

And no.. it is not a black/white issue, because there is both black and white in every other state mentioned.
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Old 07-30-2007, 07:41 AM   #5
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

The issue Pitts is writing about, though, is that FEMA has decided the best way to deal with the formaldehyde issue is to not investigate it, because once the answer is known then it has to be dealt with. So FEMA is putting the money before the people. They aren't disputing that they would be responsible, they in essence are agreeing; but they have decided to sidestep responsibility by choosing to be ignorant of the truth! Louisiana politics isn't the point, this is a federal agency and a federal issue.

He's calling them on the MORALITY of that choice, and pointing out the hypocrisy of an administration that has consistently claimed a moral and religious high ground. I'd say he has a point.


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Old 07-31-2007, 03:30 PM   #6
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

A) Pitts wouldn't have written this article if it was about white people. If you read Pitts, you'd know this. It's widely understood that the preponderance of displaced residents from NO were black.
B) FEMA gave these same trailers to it's own workers as well as volunteers who came in from around the country.
C) FEMA ran tests on many more than just 1 trailer http://www.fema.gov/media/archives/2007/051807.shtm
D) There were over 110,000 trailers deployed, and complaints on less then 200 of them, and 58 of those were replaced.
E) There is no conspiracy here, just typical government bureaucracy.

The bottom line is that US cultivates, propagates and perpetuates a sense of entitlement amongst it's poor which leads to a culture of dependency. It's our own fault that people who are assigned no responsibility don't know how to accept responsibility, but it is interesting that those who address the real problem are always the one's who are branded as racist. Pretty much seems like an endless loop that can never be broken to me.
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Old 07-31-2007, 06:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

I've been worried about my response since I first posted it, and I want to clarify. I think it's important.

Yes, I am racist and prejudiced.

I am racist because when I look at people from other races I recognize they are different from me because they aren't of my race. It's almost impossible to think that their race is exactly the same as mine, so I recognize that they are probably different than me. I recognize the differences between races, therefore I am a racist (in the strictest sense). There are further labels that apply, but they all stem from the FACT that every single person on this Earth also recognizes what I just stated in one fashion or another.

I am also prejudiced because I make judgments on things I lack complete knowledge of all day every day. If I see a shabby looking white dude with tattered clothes walking my way in downtown, I assume he's going to ask me for money. If I see a car with tinted windows, 22" spinners and rap music playing from it, I assume it is young kids (I no longer guess if they are white or black...I guess that's progress, right?). If I see a skimpy dressed woman in certain parts of Cleveland just hanging around, I assume she's a prostitute.

This political correctness is disturbing. It asks us as humans, the top of the food chain, the most evolved beings on this planet, to ignore all the same instincts that brought us to prominence in the first place. It's an impossible impasse, and I refuse to play along anymore.
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Old 07-31-2007, 08:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

Quote:
Originally Posted by revefsreleets View Post
A) Pitts wouldn't have written this article if it was about white people. If you read Pitts, you'd know this. It's widely understood that the preponderance of displaced residents from NO were black.
I do read Pitts occasionally, and he's no Al Sharpton. While he did make a reference to Orleans where more of the displaced people are black, the same FEMA trailers are in majority white areas like St. Bernard Parish and the Mississippi Coast.

Quote:
I am also prejudiced because I make judgments on things I lack complete knowledge of all day every day. If I see a shabby looking white dude with tattered clothes walking my way in downtown, I assume he's going to ask me for money. If I see a car with tinted windows, 22" spinners and rap music playing from it, I assume it is young kids (I no longer guess if they are white or black...I guess that's progress, right?). If I see a skimpy dressed woman in certain parts of Cleveland just hanging around, I assume she's a prostitute.
Nothing wrong with that at all..it's not being prejudiced to make assumptions based on the way peple choose to present themselves in public.
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Old 07-31-2007, 08:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

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Originally Posted by Preacher View Post
Why is Florida, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, etc. able to clean up, and Louisiana is not? I am not even talking about N.O. itself. But even worse, N.O. was hit once. SOme parts of Florida have been hit two, three times with devastating hurricanes.
I hate to sink to the level of saying who's governor, but Kathleen Blanco is an incompetent buffoon. And the local leaders in NOLA's suburbs make Ray Nagin look like Rudy Giuliani.

But the sheer magnitude of the disaster is also a factor. New Orleans was not only 80% underwater, but it stayed underwater for a month, and the threat from Rita forced the city to delay re-opening. St. Bernard Parish had a major toxic waste cleanup because one of the refineries ignored basic hurricane precautions. We had to wait for Congress to act on closing the Mississippi RIver Gulf Outlet, one of the worst federal projects in history, before businesses were willing to re-invest in the area. Louisiana would have problems even with competent leadership.

Mississippi isn't doing that well either. We still haven't replaced the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge and it took over a year to get a ferry in Bay St. Louis to replace the Bay Bridge. It took a year and a half to pick up downed lightpoles on I-10. And the state did nothing to help local governments that had lost their entire sales and property tax bases.

One other thing to remember, though--LA and MS are small states to begin with and suffered catastrophic damage to their primary economic regions. Florida wouldn't be doing quite so well if Miami took a direct hit, and NC would be in trouble if the Research Triangle took a hit like Katrina (fortunately it's too far inland for that)

Last edited by Godfather; 07-31-2007 at 08:47 PM. Reason: added Fla/NC comparison
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Old 08-01-2007, 01:56 AM   #10
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Default Re: Still doing a heckuva job?

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Originally Posted by Godfather View Post
I hate to sink to the level of saying who's governor, but Kathleen Blanco is an incompetent buffoon. And the local leaders in NOLA's suburbs make Ray Nagin look like Rudy Giuliani.

But the sheer magnitude of the disaster is also a factor. New Orleans was not only 80% underwater, but it stayed underwater for a month, and the threat from Rita forced the city to delay re-opening. St. Bernard Parish had a major toxic waste cleanup because one of the refineries ignored basic hurricane precautions. We had to wait for Congress to act on closing the Mississippi RIver Gulf Outlet, one of the worst federal projects in history, before businesses were willing to re-invest in the area. Louisiana would have problems even with competent leadership.

Mississippi isn't doing that well either. We still haven't replaced the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge and it took over a year to get a ferry in Bay St. Louis to replace the Bay Bridge. It took a year and a half to pick up downed lightpoles on I-10. And the state did nothing to help local governments that had lost their entire sales and property tax bases.

One other thing to remember, though--LA and MS are small states to begin with and suffered catastrophic damage to their primary economic regions. Florida wouldn't be doing quite so well if Miami took a direct hit, and NC would be in trouble if the Research Triangle took a hit like Katrina (fortunately it's too far inland for that)
Good points. I think my over-all point however, is that Louisiana brought more on themselves then the other states because the state politics and way of doing things is SO Good ol' boy... and it came back to bite them in the butt.
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