Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Thanks to What Really Happened.com
I read what must be the world's stupidest (and cruelest) response to the horrific events in New Orleans. In
The Intellectual Activist, Sep 2 Robert Tracinski
says that welfare was to blame for the tragedy. He thinks that the alleged violence which greeted the alleged rescuers was the result of years of welfare dependency. First off, why believe the stories in the media? How childishly niave. Quite possibly they are gross exaggerations or even planted lies - think only of Saddam's "nookular" weapons - to let the Bushites off the hook for letting the people suffer.

Then, typical of the US authoritarian right, there is his irrationalism combined with provincialism. If "A" is the cause of "B", where "A" is significantly present, then so is "B." Across the 49th is a very well developed welfare system, far more generous than that of Dixie. But that would be too far to look - only the USA exists, I forgot. At the same time there have been natural disasters, Quebec's Great Ice Storm and the Winnipeg Flood. Neither of these were on the same scale as NO, but were significant enough to be a test of the anti-welfare thesis. In the poor, welfare-dependent areas of the cities there was cooperation, not violence, when disaster struck. QED welfare is not the cause of NO violence.

I would suggest the real reasons for the violence - if there was any - can be rooted in generations of brutal Nazi-like racism, bone-grinding poverty, poor education systems and CIA-introduced drugs. I would also suggest that welfare systems are the price you have to pay if you want to maintain a corporate capitalist system, otherwise you end up with a situation like Brazil, which I suppose for someone as cold blooded as Tracinski isn't such a bad idea.


Blogger eolienf said...

Exactly Well said Larry There seems to be a cloak of denial in Robert Tracinski's well rounded and socially scientific analysis of the tragedy

5:43 PM  
Blogger BeerNutz said...

Here's my response to this, in no particular order. I'm writing this at 1 AM, so please forgive any incoherence.

1. Local officials absolutely did not let prisoners go free. That is a total lie. The author probably knows this as he only says this is based on "early reports" even though he wrote the e-mail at least 4 days after the hurricane. But I guess it was too good a story to leave out.

2. This is an attempt to divert attention from the real scandal - the incompetence of the federal government to get aid to the affected area even 2 days after the hurricane had passed. (2 days after the tsunami, we were air-dropping supplies in Indonesia, but we can't do that in N.O.) The cmdr. of the National Guard said today that with much of the Mississippi Nat'l Guard in Iraq, relief efforts in that state were set back by at least 1 day. I read early in the week about an unnamed source at Ft. Bragg who said so many military helicopters were in Iraq, it took a while to get helicopters to the affected area.

3. There are a few code words/phrases here. "Pack of wolves"; "Third world" - contrasting New Orleans to what happens in a "small town" when a traffic light isn't working. Third world = black; small town = white. This is playing the race card. The small town traffic light example is so incomparable to the devastation of the flood that it's laughable. The author asks "why the chaos in N.O.?" when compared with his idyllic small town and NYC on 9/11. For starters, how about that communication was completely wiped out. With people cut off from the outside world, without supplies for more than a few days, & with rising flood waters, people will become paranoid and people will become violent. Rudy Giuliani couldn't have done any better than what the mayor of N.O. was doing after the hurricane hit because there was no way to communicate. Also, 9/11 had a 10-square block area affected; obviously this was far different. I would add that these same reasons can be given to somewhat defend the federal govt's slow response.

4. The emphasis of some in the media and some conservatives on the looting really misses the point. The looting of non-essentials (anything other than food and a reasonable amount of clothes) is not defensible, but when compared to the creation of conditions that lead to the deaths of likely thousands of individuals (cutting funding for the levees by 80% or not having the federal response ready), which deserves our attention? The real looting was spending $230M in the last transportation bill on a bridge to an uninhabited island in Alaska because the chair of the Appropriations Cmte. is from Alaska. Conservatives historically are very concerned about property rights and liberals about civil ( i.e., human) rights. This dichotomy is seen in the horrified reaction by conservatives to the looting. Regrettable? Yes. Missing the point? Absolutely. If you add the rapes and murders, that is terrible, but again it should be overshadowed by the larger tragedy. I would add that there were rapes and murders in N.O. every day before the flood as well. The real question, which I don't have an answer to, is how many more rapes and murders were there during the flood. To the extent there was an increase, and for the sake of argument, I will agree there was, it is partly due to the failure of government, local and federal, to provide order, which is the primary reason of having government in the first place.

5. "Why are they attacking people who are trying to help them?" I asked myself this question and was certainly disturbed by this as well. When people believe their very lives are at stake, it is little wonder they will try to commandeer buses, carjack, scream at the police, etc., etc. Where their belief is irrational, the action is criminal; where the belief is rational, even people in small towns would do the same.

6. The author claims that 300,000 people remained in New Orleans. He also claims he got this from Fox News. I don't even think Fox was that wrong. About 100,000 people remained. 80% of the population was evacuated, which makes it a rather successful evacuation; especially when you consider you can only leave N.O. by bridges to the northeast or by road to the west-northwest. Speaking of evacuations, if local officials even had time in 2 days or the manpower to enforce a mandatory evacuation (which they didn't), there aren't enough buses in the state of Louisiana to transport 100,000 people - not to mention the clogging of roads, gas stations, etc. And where exactly could the mayor of N.O. send 100,000 mandatorily evacuated people? Was the author's hometown ready to accept them?

7. This reminds me of an interview on CNN in the small Louisiana town where a provisional morgue has been set up. A woman there said she'd rather have people coming in dead than alive because of all of the "problems" the living evacuees would have brought. Now that's compassionate conservatism.

8. The author claims that in a welfare state, local officials are only concerned with getting welfare payments out and political patronage jobs. Well, there is no better example of a political patronage system gone horribly wrong than when all of the top officials at FEMA have no prior disaster experience and the director's main qualification must have been that he was Bush's campaign manager's college roommate, because it certainly wasn't the years he spent at the Arabian Horse Association. The author is so perplexed by the welfare state, perhaps he forgot the welfare reform of 10 years ago. Of course, he offers no solutions for chronic poverty. He doesn't even offer specific criticisms of any particular aspects of what he calls the welfare state - just that it has fostered a sense of entitlement and a lack of initiative (I'm giving his poorly worded argument more justice than it deserves).

9. The author says that there were some good people in N.O. but they were trapped by criminals (wrong, see paragraph 1) or "wards of the welfare state" selected over decades for a lack of initiative living off of "stolen wealth" (wealth! hah!). Selected? Wow, this guy is racist. As of this week, they are now wards of something - of a society that would rather ignore them. In time, we will remember to ignore them again, but for now at least, the forgotten of this country are finally getting some attention. It's too bad they didn't get some 2 weeks ago. This guy makes being a ward of the welfare state sound absolutely wonderful. It is such a wonderful existence that it is no wonder that people would prefer to live under such terrific conditions. Poor people like being poor - now that is rich, no pun intended.

10. At the end, the author strongly hints that the victims of the flood don't have "values" like the rest of us do. No, they are "welfare parasites" with a "brutish, uncivilized mentality" - note the code words. I'm happy to talk about values. What are this guy's values? Every man for himself, apparently (although a lot of poor people with guns is unlikely to be his vision of utopia). I believe that is an uncivilized mentality. Blithely accepting the poverty and deplorable conditions of millions in this country and using them as an excuse for a feeling of moral superiority is a brutish mentality. I wish I had more answers to solve poverty, but I don't. I've got more than this guy, though. If we gave kids in the inner-city the same education we give kids in the suburbs, then future generations would have a much better shot of breaking the cycle of poverty. What if we offered them the same security - both in terms of police presence and health insurance - that more fortunate Americans can take for granted? I guess the author wants to end public housing - throw people out on the street and cut off their benefits. Who will that affect the most? The children and the elderly. What did they do to this guy? What have they done that makes the author feel so superior to them? They were born or they grew old in the ghetto. But I'd still rather have their lot in life than be someone who lives his life in bitter ignorance and writes e-mails that spread his ignorance like a virus.

5:37 PM  

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