Friday, September 09, 2005

New Orleans is a "National" Disaster

Katrina Divides Rather Than Unifies U.S.

After 9/11, "There was a surge in patriotic feeling which had to do with being in a common boat," political psychologist Stanley Renshon says. While Hurricane Katrina horrified everyone, it directly damaged a particular region and not the nation as a whole.

I respectfully disagree with Stanley Renshon. Given the economic and strategic importance of New Orleans to the entire US (agricultural trade, oil, refineries, etc.) Hurricane Katrina has damaged the nation as a whole. It has directly damaged the heart land more than the attack on the east coast ever did.

Stanley Renshon works in New York, and while 9/11 was an event that played out in front of us and contributed to a "national trauma" (one might say we, as a nation, have PTSD over it) it wasn't as personal to those in the heartland. It was horrible, it was an attack on the US, but it was also something that happened in New York City and Washington DC and therefore something "over there" in places they cannot relate to, something rather foreign.

New Orleans is somewhat like that too, however, the human tragedy of the disaster is reaching their front door with the evacuees, 9/11 never had that. The ports, facilities and the refineries of New Orleans are vital to our national interests. Their destruction, a personally felt pain for gas prices effect everything. Farmers not being able to get their goods to the world market effects even greater our trade deficit, the list goes on and on. We are all terribly affected by the centralization of goods and shipping there.

After 9/11 insurance companies forced many industries to de-centralize their operations, having a back up office somewhere incase of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Though the intent was to force companies of critical industries to have a back up office miles away, some companies have gotten around that and have a "back up office," two blocks away. Did insurance companies not force a similar back up plan with the oil companies for diversionary and secondary ports and/or refining operations? OR, if they did, did companies just move 1/2 mile down the coastline?

Too costly? Um, that's our economic and goods/products infrastructure that is incredibly vulnerable. Or do you like staring at a recession every time we have a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Didn't 9/11 teach us anything?

Whatever finger pointing the Bush administration is doing back toward Ray Nagin (mayor) and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (governor), about their slow or lack of response, and yes they do have some share of the blame (one of the posts I'm working on), the fact that these ports were/are so important to Americans all over the US and to the economic and trade health of this nation, means that the federal government had a special interest in emergency management of this area. FEMA and DHS should have been heavily involved since 9/11 and not need to wait for an "invitation" from LA for involvement. This is national interest, it effects every person living in the US mainland, it was a cat. 5 hurricane and now super disaster there, the effects are felt from the gas pump to what people pay for their food, goods, services and how they will heat their homes in the coming winter, etc.

Yes, I know they'll say "states rights" but there are two words that counter that Republican argument, "Terry Schiavo." (Notice I said Republican and not conservative). Republicans have already demonstrated that they can and will ignore states rights when it suits their purposes. Why was a life of one person more important than the thousands in New Orleans or the ports, etc? The President’s base, which he courted so during Terry's last weeks (remember is was so important he even fly home to sign legislation) is even more adversely and immediately affected (especially the middle class and poor, that do support him on religious, etc. grounds) throughout the country, than whatever the outcome of Terry Schiavo was.

As for the Brown/Chertoff line of needing a "request" from state authorities following a chain of command, I'm sure the state and local governments of small states, like Rhode Island, feel terribly comforted by this. In case of a WMD attack, it is conceivable that the entire chain of command could be wiped out. How many days will the surviving citizenry wait and suffer while the feds wait for the chain of command and a request for help to be activated?

Help themselves? Do you know what to do in a cholera outbreak, small pox exposure, or radiation sickness? Do you have the resources?

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