OK, I am becoming a Libertarian

by Kieran Healy on September 5, 2005

I’m a little late to notice this, but via “Alan Schussman”:http://www.schussman.com/article/1157/short and “AmericaBlog”:http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/09/hyatt-hotels-got-food-and-supplies-to.html, I just read the following “press release”:http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/050902/094479.html, which was issued on Friday:

CHICAGO, IL–(MARKET WIRE)–Sep 2, 2005 — Hyatt Regency New Orleans and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced the evacuation of hurricane victims — including both guests and employees — from the hotel. With the exception of a small group of Hyatt executives, safety experts, city officials and FEMA representatives, all guests have vacated the premises. … *A convoy of food and supplies provided by Hyatt hotels in Atlanta and Houston arrived at Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Wednesday of this week*.

Hyatt had a convoy arrive by _Wednesday_? As “Alan notes”:http://www.schussman.com/article/1157/short, Google Maps helpfully tells us that the New Orleans Hyatt Regency is “less than two tenths of a mile”:http://maps.google.com/maps?spn=0.009273,0.014799&saddr=500+Poydras+St,+New+Orleans,+LA+70130&daddr=900+Convention+Center+Blvd,+New+Orleans,+70130&hl=en away from the goddamn Convention Center. I guess FEMA couldn’t figure out the last leg of the trip or something?

*Update*: Look, just to be clear, this post isn’t really about whether the disaster should make me or anyone else want to become a libertarian. Examples like this show — in case you needed more evidence — that there is absolutely _no good reason_ the federal government couldn’t have mounted a serious relief effort for the people of New Orleans much, much faster than it did, and especially for the thousands at the convention center and the Superdome. Commenters who claim I’m somehow ignoring the way the problem scales up are mistaken. You can fit an awful lot of food and water into a few container trucks. Don’t tell me that isn’t within the operational capacities of the U.S. army. The people down there could have at least had a minimum of care. Instead, they were abandoned. I don’t accept that evacuating the people at the center and the Superdome was some kind of impossibility in the first day or two, either: sports stadium- and convention-center-sized groups of people are moved via train or bus all the time, filling and emptying venues in the space of a couple of hours. It’s a question of good organization, that’s all.

Something rotten

by Henry Farrell on September 5, 2005

From “Editor and Publisher magazine”:http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001054719:

bq. In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: “Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we’re going to move to Houston.” Then she added: “What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this–this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.”

Jaysus. The very rich are different from you and me.

(via “Atrios”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2005_09_04_atrios_archive.html#112596381619694000).

Update: It’s even worse. “Michael Froomkin”:http://www.discourse.net/archives/2005/09/the_modern_let_them_eat_cake_moment.html has a link to an “NPR segment”:http://www.publicradio.org/tools/media/player/marketplace/2005/09/05_mpp?start=00:00:01:00.0&end=00:00:04:36.0 recording her comments. She actually said, “What I’m hearing _which is sort of scary_ is that they want to stay”

Every Man for Himself

by Kieran Healy on September 5, 2005

Via “Brad DeLong”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/09/new_orleanss_hu.html, a report from the _Times Picayune_ from July 24th of this year about the New Orleans city government’s plan for evacuating the city in the event of a major hurricane. The plan (presented here in full) was: 1. Make a video telling people that if disaster threatens they will have to get the fuck out of town themselves, because the city isn’t going to do anything to help out. 2. Distribute the video around town on DVD. This completes the evacuation plan.

In storm, N.O. wants no one left behind; Number of people without cars makes evacuation difficult By Bruce Nolan, Staff writer, New Orleans Times-Picayne, July 24, 2005

City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans’ poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you’re on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm’s way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation. “You’re responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you,” …

Officials are recording the evacuation message even as recent research by the University of New Orleans indicated that as many as 60 percent of the residents of most southeast Louisiana parishes would remain in their homes in the event of a Category 3 hurricane. Their message will be distributed on hundreds of DVDs across the city. …

In an interview at the opening of this year’s hurricane season, New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews acknowledged that the city is overmatched. “It’s important to emphasize that we just don’t have the resources to take everybody out,” he said in a interview in late May.

So, the city told them in advance that they’d be left to drown like animals and FEMA were careful not to take any action — e.g., planning and executing a relief effort — to prevent this plan from being put into effect. It’s clear that the city and federal authorities were just made for each other. What a nightmare.

*Update*: Archpundit “has a lot more context”:http://www.archpundit.com/archives/012870.html (“1”:http://www.archpundit.com/archives/012866.html, “2”:http://www.archpundit.com/archives/012865.html, “3”:http://www.archpundit.com/archives/012864.html, “4”:http://www.archpundit.com/archives/012863.html, “5”:http://www.archpundit.com/archives/012862.html) on city, state and federal preparedness, notably on what was learned from Hurricane Ivan and how all of this speaks to current arguments over responsibility.

Love Story

by Kieran Healy on September 5, 2005

Go read “this L.A. Times report”:http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-children5sep05,0,113027.story?coll=la-home-headlines about seven children — mostly toddlers, the eldest, six years old — who were lost and found in New Orleans these last few days.

In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one was wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.

The story of how they got there, and what happened next, is just remarkable. There are a lot of lessons you might draw from it — organizational failures and successes, the appalling choices that people sometimes have to make, courage in unexpected places, and how important it can be be for people to pay attention and make an effort. It’s also a reminder of something else, something I can’t quite articulate properly. Events like Katrina breed chaos, and that leads to long chains of contingencies, to accidents piled upon accidents, sometimes lucky sometimes not. We come across people in the middle of such chains of events. In most cases, their situation will not conform to some tidy morality tale. It might _look_ like it does, but that’s because we like to tell stories about how people got what they deserved. What you are really seeing — as in the case of these seven children — may turn out to be another thing altogether, or the accidental byproduct of many things.

The Cheese and the Worms

by Henry Farrell on September 5, 2005

Maria writes below about American mythologies; Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book (“review by Scott McLemee”:http://www.mclemee.com/id149.html) coming out which speaks to one particular version of this by examining the genteel poverty of the middle aged woman with middling qualifications seeking a white-collar job. She catalogues the chancers, coaches and con artists who purport to be able to help desperate job-seekers to reinvent themselves and to make themselves employable. This “New York Times essay”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/14/books/review/14EHRENRE.html?ei=5070&en=e62ba9053f2ac858&ex=1126065600&pagewanted=print gives a taste of her main theme – how job coaches, business best-sellers and the like reproduce a kind of mythology of the market which systematically masks the forces that actually drive it. Her take on _Who Moved My Cheese?_, which seems to have spent umpteen fucking years at the top of the NYT non-fiction bestseller list:

bq. The Mice Come Out Ahead. Although the plot of ”Who Moved My Cheese?” centers on two tiny, maze-dwelling, cheese-dependent people named Hem and Haw, there are also two subsidiary characters, both mice. When the cheese is moved, the tiny people waste time ranting and raving ”at the injustice of it all,” as the book’s title suggests. But the mice just scurry off to locate an alternative cheese source. They prevail, we learn, because they ”kept life simple. They didn’t overanalyze or overcomplicate things.” In the mysteriously titled ”QBQ! The Question Behind the Question,” we are told that questions beginning with ”who” or ”why” are symptoms of ”victim thinking.” Happily, rodents are less prone to it than humans. That may be why we never learn the identity of the Cheese Mover; the who-question reveals a dangerous human tendency to ”overanalyze,” which could lead you to look upward, resentfully, toward the C-suites where the true Masters of the Universe dwell.

William Browning Spencer’s wonderful “Resume With Monsters”:http://www.powells.com/partner/29956/s?kw=Resume%20with%20Monsters, a grim comedy of dead-end jobs, in which Ehrenreich’s Masters of the Universe have escaped from the Cthulhu Mythos, gets the underlying message of these books exactly right.

bq. It was a payday at work, and the motivational pamphlet that came with the check was entitled “You Matter!” and Philip effectively resisted reading it at work, but when he returned home and was emptying out his pockets, he saw it and read it while standing up, and it was every bit as bad as he suspected. It began “Successful people are people who always give one hundred percent, who understand that a company’s success depends on an individual’s determination to excel. You may say to yourself, ‘I am an insignificant person in this big company. I could be laid off tomorrow along with five hundred of my fellow workers, and no one would care.’ The truth is, what you do is important to people who _are_ important. While you may, indeed be one of many, your labor can benefit someone who is, in fact, _genuinely_ important. You can …” Philip put the motivational pamphlet down. The writer had gone too far this time, Philip thought.

Charles Bukowski

by Chris Bertram on September 5, 2005

Listening to “Bob Harris Country”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/shows/bobharriscountry/playlist.shtml last Thursday, I was really captivated by “Tom Russell”:http://www.tomrussell.com/ talking about Charles Bukowski. I didn’t know anything about Bukowski, except having a vague idea that he might be something to do with the beat poets. Anyway, I was intruiged enough to go out and buy “Post Office”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0876850867/junius-20 , Bukowski’s grittily written account of working for the US post office as a relief postman and then as a clerk whilst being almost permanently drunk, gambling and womanizing.

bq. It began as a mistake.

A great opening line to hook you in, reminiscent of Hammett or Chandler, except this isn’t a crime story. Brilliant muscular writing about snagging with petty authority figures, trudging around delivering letters to lunatics in the pouring rain, mean and manipulative men and women, making money at the track, routine, boredom, cheating the system.

One of the best things I’ve read in a while, I don’t mind saying. Completely non-boring. I’ve now gone out and bought “Ham on Rye”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0876855575/junius-20 , which I’m really looking forward to, as well as a book of poems: “You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0876856830/junius-20 . Comments to further remedy my Bukowski-related ignorance (or my Tom Russell-related ignorance for that matter) would be most welcome.