Failing miserably

by Henry Farrell on September 6, 2005

Genuine conservative Greg Djerejian “on the response to Katrina”:

bq. [a lack of accountability] has become standard operating procedure with this Administration. Colossal missteps are made (no serious attention paid to what might happen if the levees were breached, no thought of moving to expeditiously evacuate the Superdome, no apprecation that basic law and order might be grossly imperiled if the city became submerged in floodwaters, no contingency planning for an insurgency in Iraq, no appreciation of the full ramifications of tossing aside the Geneva Conventions) and time and again there is a staggering lack of accountability. Well, here at B.D. we’re sick of the empty bear hugs and cutesy nicknames, the circle the wagons damage control mentality, cheap ass-covering and rampant buck-passing, the guitar-strumming and talk of Trent Lott’s porch looking all antebellum swell post reconstruction and Kennebunkport ‘let them move to Texas’ insouciance. Above all else, B.D is sick of the sheer spectacle of grim incompetence that humiliated this nation as New Orleans descended into mayhem reminiscent of wartime Haiti or Liberia–with hundreds if not thousands perhaps needlessly dying because of government ineptitude (though the human toll would be immense even if the planning and governmental reaction had been far superior). There was massive culpability, to be sure, at the local and state level as well. But, make no mistake, the federal response during the first week was grotesquely amateur. Particularly with FEMA, of course, but also at the now so risibly named Department of Homeland Security. The government failed in its most fundamental duty–ensuring the basic physical safety of its citizens. And it failed miserably. Does anyone have confidence that, tomorrow say, if Tulsa or Peoria or Dallas or Chicago where attacked by a chemical or biological weapon–that our government would be able to mount an effective response? I certainly don’t. After all, the government knew a Category 4 or 5 was about to slam into New Orleans. There won’t be any such warning issued by al-Qaeda, of course.



John Emerson 09.06.05 at 8:20 am

Hopefully thoughtful conservatives, if any such actually exist, will soon drop their knee-jerk liberal-hating and figure out that their only home is in the Democratic Party, and that they’re actually better off working with Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore than with Tom DeLay and Pat Robertson.

I don’t expect this to happen — liberal-hating is too deeply wired into the conservative reptile brain. Most of them (e.g. Marshall Wittman) would be willing to become Democrats only if they could take over and purge the liberals. None of them seems to realize that their complicity in the criminal Bush administration means that they really have very few choices left if they want to redeem themselves.

Yeah, I know, I’m not being tactful. But for those guys, it’s time to put up or shut up. I’m not a spokesmen for anyone but myself, and hopefully someone else will come along soon to coax those frightened, timid, slightly vicious little beasties out of their Republican nests.


Thomas Nephew 09.06.05 at 8:25 am

…hopefully someone else will come along soon to coax those frightened, timid, slightly vicious little beasties out of their Republican nests.

Welcome aboard, Greg! We’re always like this, don’t take it personally.


abb1 09.06.05 at 8:41 am

Purging the liberals from the Democratic party would’ve been a good thing all around, though. Democratic Socialists would’ve gotten along with Christian Democrats just fine, liberals ruin everything.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 8:54 am

Abb1, in American dialect, as in the technical vocabulary of Karl Schmitt, Social Democrats are liberals. Social Democracy is a liberal version of socialism, and welfare liberalism is a socialist version of liberalism.

You’re gonna have to work harder, Mr. Nephew. Lay on the schmooze. Offer him your daughter’s hand in marriage. Let him borrow your car whenever he wants. Bottles of single-malt scotch and Cuban cigars are always appreciated.


Delicious Pundit 09.06.05 at 8:58 am

Here’s Greg when it counted:

Finally….this election comes down to a risk calculus for me as well. For the Economist (and ostensibly, Andrew), this risk calculus was framed as a decision between the incompetent (Bush) and the incoherent (Kerry). …I believe a vote for George Bush is the wiser vote tomorrow.

Nice job, dude. The parishes thank you.

Also, we’re not like Haiti. Consider our great number of environmental catastrophes, nuclear weapons, and vacation dachas. We’re Russia.


abb1 09.06.05 at 9:00 am

Oh, and as a proof of my concept of liberals being the problem, consider for example this piece by Matt Taibbi:

…Oddly enough, Coburn, a hard-line pro-war, pro-life conservative who once advocated the death penalty for abortion doctors, is a natural ally for the “socialist” Sanders on an issue like this one. Sanders frequently looks for co-sponsors among what he and his staff call “honest conservatives,” people like California’s Dana Rohrabacher and Texas libertarian Ron Paul, with whom Sanders frequently works on trade issues. “A lot of times, guys like my boss will have a lot in common with someone like Sanders,” says Jeff Deist, an aide to Rep. Paul. “We’re frustrated by the same obstacles in the system.”


Doug 09.06.05 at 9:10 am

There won’t be any such warning issued by al-Qaeda, of course.

Or rather, the blanket warning from a-Q has already been issued.


jet 09.06.05 at 9:46 am

All these attacks on Bush arn’t about writing what went wrong in New Orleans, but about hatred of Bush. If this was about making things right in New Orleans, these anti-Bush articles would also talk about the Mayor of New Orleans and the governor of LA, both of which shoulder most of the responsibility for taking care of their people.

You can start by asking yourself this. If massive violence was hampering the rescue efforts, why did the governor wait several days before authorizing the National Guard to work as police and not just relief? Why did she turn away other state’s National Guard? Does anyone here think Bush has the Constitutional powers to tell the military what to do in New Orleans? Ask the LA governor about the 30% increase in federal funds she received in the highway bill. Maybe she should have asked her senators to have that money spent on levies? Don’t forget, the interstate checkpoint that kept people trapped in the city was under the direct control of the LA governor. But yet the hatred impaired across the nation blame Bush.

All these articles that drone on and on about BushCo never mentioning the primary parties involved are a frick’n joke. CrookedTimber an’t what it used to be, by far.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 9:56 am

I really think you’re dreaming, abb1. Rohrabacher is highly erratic and has taken some extremely obnoxious positions. Individual conservatives will have good positions on scattered issues, and a few conservatives will occasionally see the error of their ways, but in the US nothing much can come from that.

The Christian Socialism / Social Democracy alliance is something of a reality in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and neighboring areas, and perhaps the ethnic East, but it won’t spread beyond that. The predominant forms of contemporary American Christianity are not at all friendly to Social Christianity.

Worse, in my mother’s Lutheran church here in Minnesota the social Christians tend to be older and the Christian conservatives younger, and I fear that that’s a trend.


Henry 09.06.05 at 9:56 am

Jet, if you really want to claim that Gregory Djerejian’s criticisms are motivated by irrational Bush hatred, you’re even further out in the Gamma quadrant than we’d all presumed.


KCinDC 09.06.05 at 9:59 am

Jet, I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the governments of Louisiana and New Orleans are less important to most of us, and most of he country, than the federal government is. If the places we or our loved ones live in suffer disasters or terrorist attacks, Blanco and Nagin probably won’t be involved in the response. Brown and Chertoff and Bush will be.


jet 09.06.05 at 10:04 am

We’ll see what he says when the facts of the matter start getting a little more nuance. Most people are running on pure emotion and think it perfectly reasonable that since the governor did not allow Bush to federalize the disaster that someone Bush should still be able to control the rescue. But that really doesn’t make sense, now does it? The governor was calling the shots at least until Friday.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 10:09 am

Yes, jet, but even if someone evenhandedly criticized both the famously corrupt Louisiana Democrats (most of them low-tax, low-services blue dog conservatives), and also Bush — as Brad DeLong, Matt Yglesias and I, along with many others, have all done — you would still defend Bush, because that’s what you’re about.

There is a point at which disasters are normally federalized, and Bush’s actions from that point on have to be looked at and judged independently of what other people were doing at some earlier point. Except for the most partisan hacks and ideologues, everyone who’s looked at what he personally did in his own area of responsibility has concluded that he failed miserably.

Given the weak, useless nature of the federal intervention in this particular case, you have to ask what the hell is going on with Homeland Security and FEMA. Almost four years after 9/11, they seem incapable of doing anything right.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 10:11 am

Jet, ALMOST NOTHING Bush, FEMA, or Homeland Security did was right. As I remember, the particular nit you’re picking at is actually invalid, but even if it weren’t Bush wouldn’t be absolved.


abb1 09.06.05 at 10:15 am

John, maybe in the technical vocabulary of Karl Schmitt liberals are democratic socialists, but in reality they are people concerned about gay rights, abortion rights and, most importantly, neoliberal world order – which is almost exactly the opposite of both socialism and democracy.

If Sen. Clinton is democratic socialist, then who is Rep. Bernie Sanders?


Doug 09.06.05 at 10:16 am

And with hurricanes, the time when the feds get involved, when people and materials are prepositioned, is before landfall. Look at the GAO report on hurricane Andrew (1992) and the entire practice of the art in the rest of the 1990s.

There is a federal response because local and state authorities are overwhelmed. If local authorities could handle it, it’s not a disaster, know what I mean?


qwerty 09.06.05 at 10:23 am

Jet. To explain, patiently:
Bush is the most powerful man in the world. Is the governor of Louisiana even the most powerful person in Baton Rouge? You’re local, you tell me.
Understand that simple point and it becomes less of a mystery why Bush’s shallowness and incompetence generate more coverage. Particularly since the immediate, dramatic impact on fellow Americans is opening many people’s eyes to the fact that shallowness and incompetence is Bush Business As Usual.

There are a lot of straightforward mainstream people who, with the best will in the world, simply could not understand the widespread revulsion with Bush both in the US and across the world. For them, with the evidence of Katrina unmissably in front of them, the penny is starting to drop.


jet 09.06.05 at 10:23 am

John Emerson,

Given the weak, useless nature of the federal intervention in this particular case

Maybe that’s because it has not been a truly federal intervention? I know the disaster wasn’t federalized as of Friday, and I haven’t heard of it being federalized to date. This is, or at least was until quite recently, a state ran operation.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 10:39 am

Jesus, Jet. Bush is a mover and shaker. Are you telling me that there is nothing whatever Bush could have done before Blanco made a formal request? Is Bush the kind of guy who sits around quietly waiting for permission? Does he let red tape stop him in his tracks? That doesn’t sound like the Bush that people voted for.

You seem to be relying entirely on that particular “federalization” nit. I’m waiting for someone else to shoot it down — I’m pretty sure it’s not valid — but really, who cares? There are dozens of things wrong with what Bush, FEMA, and Homeland Security, said, did, didn’t say, and didn’t do.


Dan Nexon 09.06.05 at 10:52 am

Here goes: Blanco refused to let Bush “federalize” the operation, i.e., take away all control from Louisiana. This is a different order of magnitude in terms of Federal involvement than what liberals, conservatives, and moderates alike are criticizing the Feds for not doing. It is not, to my knowledge, a requirement for the Federal government to do the things she wanted them to do, i.e., send in a competent FEMA, provide assistance, allow other states’ National Guardsmen to be brought in with all due speed, etc. etc.

From the Washington Post:

“Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. “Quite frankly, if they’d been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals,” said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.”

This was about the distribution of authority, not the magnitude of Federal assistance. Indeed, given the way this has been (mis)discussed by the right, I can’t help thinking that state officials were right about this being a political gambit to muddy the waters and absolve the administration of their own responsibility for the mess.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 10:55 am

ABB1 — I used to make a distinction between corporate liberals and left-liberals (or populist liberals). Both are liberals by most definitions.

Like you, I much prefer the left-liberals, but they’re a diminishing force in the Democratic Party. During the last years of his life Paul Wellstone was regarded as almost a freak, though nothing he said or thought would have seemed extreme in 1980.

If I saw any possibility of the revival of populist liberalism in the US (left-liberalism, Social Democracy, even left Christian Democracy) that would be my preferred political faction. At the moment it doesn’t seem to be happening, though.

Liberal-haters hate Social Democrats and Christian Democrats just as much as they hate liberals of any description. Many of them just call all three groups Communists. The Zizekian left is an exercise in futility, even in Britain where it’s much stronger than it is here.


jet 09.06.05 at 11:03 am

Dan Nexon,
That’s funny, I read that entirely differently. I see it as the federal government deciding that 4 days of state assclownery need to be stopped and that the feds needed to take over. The governor would not allow the NG to keep the peace, only help with the rescue. But the cops couldn’t protect the rescue workers let alone partake in the rescue themselves. So the Mayor and Governor either would not, or could not provide security for the rescue, yet wouldn’t let the feds do it themselves. Keep in mind the NG answers to the governor, not the president. Keep in mind rescue choppers either aborted missions or ceased operating when they were fired upon. That many of the police simpley gave up rather than risk their lives helping people who were shooting at them. And I’m quite unsure what FEMA could have done besides drop tons of food at the Superdome and convention center, which was surely a major screwup. But as far as buses and evacuation go, that is completely on the state. Not having a real evacuation plan is criminal and LA should prosecute.


Kevin 09.06.05 at 11:07 am

abb1, Matt Taibbi is an idiot first, and a liberal second.

Though I’m no fan of the Catholic church, and I felt that the mysticism and conservatism of John Paul II did his followers and his church no favours, the column Taibbi wrote mocking the imminent death of the ailing pope was disgusting.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 11:12 am

Jet, who here is defending the LA Democrats? The topic was Bush’s performance. You’re off-topic. These are separable issues.

If you believe that Bush, FEMA, and Homeland Security acted effectively, will you please say so and explain why you think so?

If you believe that Bush is a helpless, passive rule-follower who is incapable of doing anything whatsoever unless someone follows the correct protocol for asking him to do so, will you please say so?

Ladies and gentleman of CT, do you really think that arguments with Jet are productive? He’s got the modus operandi down and has already succeeded in narrowing the discussion down to one partisan point of his choosing.

People here are always whining when CT descends into the swamp of partisan point-scoring, but isn’t it more toxic to let the threads be taken over by the likes of Jet? Is talking with Jet what people mean by “rational discussion”? Isn’t this worse than the dread “echo-chamber”?


Dan Nexon 09.06.05 at 11:21 am


I believe your timeline is wrong. The total Federalization request came Friday night, September 2nd. Louisiana already shifted its forces to suppress looting earlier in the week. Indeed, on August 31(!), “Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she has asked the White House to send more people to help with evacuations and rescues, thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.

Seems, from here, like you’re confirming the earlier point…


AvengingAngel 09.06.05 at 11:32 am

How do you explain FEMA’s abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina only one year after its swift action in the four storms of 2004?

Well, Louisiana isn’t Florida. And Kathleen Blanco isn’t Jeb Bush.

For the full story on the politics of Bush era disaster relief, see:

“FEMA: Florida Election Management Agency.”


abb1 09.06.05 at 11:32 am

I don’t know, John.

This morning, for example, I read this piece by Paul Craig Roberts: Resurrecting Karl Marx. He sounds like an honest conservative. He sounds like a conservative who could easily ally himself with Sanders, but is there anything at all – anything at all – for this guy to look for in the party led by Clinton and Kerry? Is this really about irrational hatred or does it tell us something about the Democratic party?


Kevin 09.06.05 at 11:35 am

john emerson, thank you for so eloquently stating what I’ve been thinking. As my mother (and probably many of yours) would say: “He’s just doing it to get attention. Ignore him and he’ll stop.”


Firebug 09.06.05 at 11:38 am

Fuck the red tape. When people are dying in a natural disaster, you do what needs to be done, and worry about the legalities later.

Sophistic arguments about federalism are a non-starter. Most of the American people simply do not give a damn. Besides, what if a natural disaster happens in our communities? That is far from a mere hypothetical if you live in Florida, or in Tornado Alley, or in numerous other areas. Blanco and Nagin are not going to be handling the disaster response then. Unfortunately, Bush, Chertoff, and Brown are. That’s why they matter more than state-level officials to most Americans. Let the people of LA and MS vote out their public officials if they find them corrupt and incompetent. Probably they should. That doesn’t let our national leaders off the hook. Wake up and smell the coffee; this isn’t the 1920s, and we no longer believe that disaster relief should be the sole provenance of the states.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 12:03 pm

Unfortunately, Jet won’t voluntarily go away. Ignoring them doesn’t work.

ABB1, if it happens, fine. I don’t see signs of it. I would support running primary candidates against the weaker DLC Democrats, but my sense of today’s electorate doesn’t lead me to be optimistic about the outcomes.

My bottom line at the moment is: new media. With today’s media we can only lose. I have a partial proposal up at Seeing the Forest (URL). But really, we need a complete national array of radio-TV-newspaper.


jet 09.06.05 at 12:43 pm

dan nexon,
From reading that timeline you see that the governor waited until the 31st to ask for National Guard help, and by the 1st (one day later) the city was back under control and the Superdome all but evacuated. She and the mayor knew New Orleans. They should have asked for the NG to back up the cops on the 28th.

Is it FEMA’s fault that the no one told them about the convention center until Thursday? Or is that the city’s fault for not having a plan? And you have to love the part about Nagin’s begging for buses and then saying he didn’t use his school buses because they “didn’t have toilets”.

But anyways, I don’t see how that timeline is an indictment of FEMA and Bush. But I also don’t see how it could be accurate. It says that there were only 2,000+ people in the Superdome on Thursday. I thought there were more like 30,000.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 12:47 pm

So anyway, before Jet returns: what should we think anout FEMA, DHS, and the Bush Administration based on what we’ve seen in Louisiana recently?


asg 09.06.05 at 1:17 pm

I find very little to disagree with in Greg’s post, and I do agree with john emerson(!) that the issue of federal vs. state/local incompetence is separable. There is only one sense in which Bush is not responsible for *some* of the criticism presently being thrown his way, and that is that he, like every other modern president, inherited a bureaucracy over which he actually has little real control. Nonetheless, the cronyism and lack of accountability that has characterized his administration are unconscionable.

Where I differ with most posters here is that it’s very clear to me that a government with the size and scope that we (Americans) have cannot fail to be characterized by cronyism, incompetence, and lack of accountability. It is simple blind partisanship to pretend otherwise.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 1:24 pm

Of the array of possible things that Bush could have done during the period starting about three days before the storm hit, which ones did Bush do? Were they the right ones to have done?

Of the things that Bush actually did do, were they the right ones to do? Are there any things he should have done that he didn’t do?

What was the effect, for better or worse, of the changes Bush made in the federal bureaucracies? How well did Bush’s appointees perform — for example Chertoff and Brown?

Starting when Buish took office in 2001, what changes did Bush and his appointees make in disaster preparedness? Were they positive or negative?

These are the questions Jet should talk about if he returns.

As for the rest of us, we should ignore Jet if he continues his lame excuse-making.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 1:28 pm

ASG, you have made government failure into an a priori metaphysical necessity. Yes, perfection is impossible, but we should be talking about better or worse — praising the better, and condeming the worse. My judgement is that, from the beginning, Bush did a bad job where he could have done a good job, and that Bush should thus be condemned.

The idea that government always fails is part of Bush’s ideology. We shouldn’t allow him to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Henry 09.06.05 at 1:36 pm

asg – no it isn’t. There are plenty of examples of quite successful governments which are larger than the US federal government in terms of their relative scope and size, and which do a pretty good job all in all. Nor, as no less a conservative than William Kristol has admitted, are all US administrations equally incompetent; he accepts that the Clinton administration would have handled Katrina better than the current shower. The claim that government _can_ do a good job, and be accountable isn’t blind partisanship, however much you may disagree with it. There’s plenty of empirical evidence to support it.


abb1 09.06.05 at 1:42 pm

Yeah, the Clinton administration was better. Somerby writes about it today. But yeah, corruption is a characteristic, that’s true too.


Peter H 09.06.05 at 1:58 pm


Some of the criticisms made of Blanco and Nagin are valid (e.g. the decision not to use the National Guard to keep the peace), some are not (e.g. the claim that New Orleans had the resources and infrastructure to organize a mass evacuation before Katrina, when it did not). Certainly, their mistakes should not be overlooked, although it should recognized that when you are dealing with perhaps the greatest national disaster in American history, some mistakes are inevitable.

My anger with the Bush Administration is based less on the specific decisions it has made (beause, again, mistakes are inevitable in a crisis like Katrina) and more on its overall ineptitude and lack of responsibility. Well before Hurricane Katrina, informed observers were warning that the Bush Administration was gutting FEMA by appointing people with virtually no experience in disaster relief and gutting the agency’s focus on disaster preparedness programs. Then there are the comments made by Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff this week –for example, that nobody anticipated the levees would be breached (Chertoff), or that the federal government was unaware of the people stranded at the Convention Center until Thursday (Brown)– which indicate a disconnect from reality. The White House campaign to shift blame to Blanco is the last straw.

BTW, I should point out that it’s not just Louisiana which is angry at FEMA — plenty of people in Missisippi are pissed too:


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 2:03 pm

Here’s Kevin Drum’s summary of Bush’s pre-hurricane failures:

This is what we should have been talking about all along — with the addition, of course, of Bush’is post-hurricane failures.

I’m still waiting for Jet. He was very active when he was off-topic. Will he disappear entirly once the actual topic starts being discussed?

And if so, should he be allowed to return? Won’t disappearance amount to a confession to being a troll?


John M. 09.06.05 at 2:25 pm

No, it is important that Jet be allowed to continue to post – and indeed that Steyn etc. be published. They serve to constantly remind me that no matter what evidence is presented, however clearly, on any particular subject there will always be someone continuing to insist the earth is flat and happy to light the pyre to prove it.


abb1 09.06.05 at 2:34 pm

Oh, c’mon. I don’t know about Steyn – he seems to be an extreme case, but clearly most people agree that the feds fucked up. But when they feel that the Bushies are attacked too harshly, they’ll defend. That’s normal, you would do the same. You have to acknowledge their point – the state and local politicians fucked up too.


Steve LaBonne 09.06.05 at 2:40 pm

The point, abb, is that Bush’s FEMA was designed to fail; see the Kevin Drum link above.


abb1 09.06.05 at 3:01 pm

The point, abb, is that Bush’s FEMA was designed to fail…

Do you mean they purposely destroyed the organization in order to increase the number of casualties and overall amount of suffering? Sorry, I am not quite convinced yet.

These people are exceptionally corrupt and irresponsible, yes, that’s clear, but so are many other politicians. And so are the US voters; you get the government you deserve.

Incidentally, corrupton is one of the major characteristics of much-admired ‘liberal democracy’. The Nazis probably would’ve executed it flawlessly. Stalin’s equivalent of FEMA used to relocate population of a small republic within 24 hours.


soubzriquet 09.06.05 at 3:07 pm

abb1: There is no reason to infer that if in fact the organization was purposely destroyed, that the motivation was in order to maximize suffering….


Steve LaBonne 09.06.05 at 3:07 pm

Did you read the part in Drum’s piece about Mitch Daniels being worried that disaster relief was becoming an “entitlement program”? Doesn’t that spell it out for you pretty darn plainly?

You may not like us liberals, but our reality orientation occasionally comes in handy as a reality check against ideologies, right and left. As we jsut saw, nature tends not to pay much attention to ideology.


abb1 09.06.05 at 3:28 pm

That wasn’t Mitch Daniels. And I don’t think the size of the program was necessarily the issue; they were providing 0-size assistance for about a week; according to that weeping guy on the Russert show they actually blocked assistance that others tried to provide. And avoiding being overly ideological is exactly what I’m talking about.


Sebastian Holsclaw 09.06.05 at 3:34 pm

“Stalin’s equivalent of FEMA used to relocate population of a small republic within 24 hours.”


I suppose if you don’t care if they die on the trains it is rather easy. Stalin also used to create the disasters for political control. If Bush can create hurricanes you have more to worry about than the fact that he is president.


Kevin Donoghue 09.06.05 at 3:47 pm

No, it is important that Jet be allowed to continue to post….

Agreed. Jet is a treasure. We should have a post citing his most bizarre comments. My favourites are the historical ones, especially re Japan’s poor level of literacy pre-1945 and the massive casualties caused by mustard gas in WW1.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 4:11 pm

Sebastian, do you want to take over for Jet and defend FEMA, DHS, and Bush? He disappeared 3 hours ago when it seemed that the thread might end up going on-topic.

ABB1 is an anti-liberal devil’s advocate and provocateur, so he doesn’t really do your side any good.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 4:32 pm

OK, after eight hours no one has stepped up to defend FEMA, DHS, or Bush.

Jet has blamed everything on the Democrats, Asg has explained that it’s all the same within the grand cosmic perspective, and Abb1 has given us the left version of “The Democrats are just as bad”.

But no one has defended Bush or anyone in his administration.

I do not agree that Jet is even worth a bucket of warm piss. He narrows interesting arguments into hackneyed cliches, and he’s consistently dishonest and tendentious. His kind is all-too-plentiful IRL.


Uncle Kvetch 09.06.05 at 4:52 pm

I suppose if you don’t care if they die on the trains it is rather easy.

Far preferable that they should be left to die on highway overpasses, right, SH?

As for the vexing question of Jet: My last encounter with him was in a discussion of the British/Sri Lankan pop singer M.I.A. and the controversy surrounding some of her lyrics & public statements. I entered the thread by saying that I loved her music, but wasn’t aware that there was a controversy–could someone please fill me in? Jet responded by saying that I was just like the Italians in the ’30s who supported Mussolini because he made the trains run on time.

Ever since, it’s been pretty amusing to just watch Jet immolate himself in thread after thread, barging into every discussion with bogus “facts,” telling anyone who disagrees to “put down the crack pipe, Dude,” and then slinking away when someone bothers to point out that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


jet 09.06.05 at 4:59 pm

John Emerson,
Some of us have day jobs and every once in a while have to perform them instead of being here, honing the truth. Where have I defended Bush? I can’t get my head around the lack of food and water at the collection centers. That was surely a costly failure squarely on FEMA. And I may have deflected some other blame, but I thought I was always careful to include criticism, as it was due. My point was that most of the blame appeared to be falling on the wrong people.

But anyways hell froze over because not only did Abb1 appear to make my point, I could almost make out he meant me in “most people”. But I probably just insulted him by saying that. Anyways, my take probably falls somewhere between Peter H and Abb1.

And I can’t express how humorous your continued posting about me have been. Heh, speaking of off topic ;) Looks like I got your balls in a twist…..0wn3d

Kevin Donoghue,
You might want to get your people straight. I don’t believe I’ve ever discussed mustard gas casulties in WWI, and I wouldn’t have ever thought Japan’s pre-WWII literacy pertinent. But if you can find the posts, I’ll PayPal you $20. Otherwise you’re just making shit up which is about normal.


Ted 09.06.05 at 5:20 pm

You know, I’m in a small town in the middle of Michigan, and if a natural disaster happened here, and the federal government didn’t respond quickly, I would think, well, that’s bad, but we’re in a pretty low risk area, and it’s not like we’re a key city for America as a whole, so I wouldn’t expect them to have developed contingency plans – it would be a local and state problem. But New Orleans is an extremely valuable port for the country as a whole, and we all have a stake in its continued existence and functioning, so I expect more from the federal government by way of planning and resource commitment. The city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana can’t possibly have the resources to protect the city in proportion to its importance to the country (unlike, for example, where I am), can they? So isn’t this a case where the federal government needs to be more on the ball?


jet 09.06.05 at 5:20 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

Uncle Kvetch today: “Who cares if MIA supports the Tamil Tigers, her music is da bomb.”

Uncle Kvetch 1939: “Who cares if Mussolini supports the Nazis, he makes the trains run on time.”

Choice quotes from M.I.A.:
“Freedom fighting Dad bombed this pad / Called him a terror put him on wanted ads / Daddy M.I.A. missing in action / Going to start a revolution”—M.I.A. “FREEDOM SKIT”

“That’s why I wrote the song ‘Sunshowers,’” Maya says over the phone from Berlin before a gig. “You can’t separate the world into two parts like that, good and evil. Terrorism is a method…”—M.I.A. Eye Interview

And what did I say about that later in the thread?

Uncle Kvetch has never once, to my knowledge, been “fair” to someone he disagrees with on here. His usual style of argument is to wait until the thread is dieing down, misinterpret their argument in the most obscene way, and then bash them for that. So if I used his own style and hurt his little feelers, I’m deeply sorry. I mean really….what…you don’t believe me? Maybe next time, Robin, you can stand up for someone that Kvetch is kvetching to in the same manner.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 6:17 pm

So Jet, you’re working half-time at your “day job”? Congratulations! Do you plan to make any on-topic comments on this thread nw?

CT is a potentially interesting site which is routinely trashed by you and others, and I’ve spent part of the afternoon pointing that out. I didn’t notice any actual truths being honed in your various posts. I did notice you disappearing once you were called on your BS, and you STILL are not on-topic.


jet 09.06.05 at 6:57 pm

At least my posts were about the subject at hand (the quote did also talk about state and local incompetence), you’ve just been bitching about another commentor that you wish you didn’t have to read. And guess what, you can just skip my comments. And if that is too much for you,I can provide you with a URL that will give you CT minus any commentor you desire.


John Emerson 09.06.05 at 7:04 pm

Jet, if you start providing value-added, people will stop despising you.


Interested party 09.07.05 at 1:50 am

How do you filter out a commentor?


MFB 09.07.05 at 2:26 am

Hi, there, John. You seem to have cheered up a bit since your Washington Monthly months.

By the way, John, abb1 is your standard left-winger who’s pissed off with the Democrats (and let’s face it, the Democratic leadership in Louisiana hasn’t covered itself in glory over Katrina, even though the miserable failure of the Federal government is obviously a more important issue for every serious observer). So he’s basically on your side (and not an agent provocateur, aka troll), since you’re not unknown to criticise the Democrats yourself.

But the real problem here is surely that the United States has been shown to have an amazingly incompetent administration at a number of levels. What’s more, this was predicted by various observers, all of whom had political axes to grind, but not all of whom were so partisan that they couldn’t be trusted. It could have been predicted, for instance, through the unbelievable catastrophe of Iraq since the fall of Baghdad.

And the big question is, what are we all going to do about it? Not just Americans, and not just Democrats, most of whose leaders, frankly, I wouldn’t use as a toilet-brush. It’s the whole world at risk, because the more incompetent a state is, and the more it promotes internal conflict through class warfare and corruption, the more dangerous it becomes. What’s more, many overseas countries are mirroring the United States, partly because it’s such an attractive model for corrupt oligarchs, partly because the elite is easily bought off.

What are we gonna do now, John?


abb1 09.07.05 at 2:29 am

Well, according to Chris Floyd there’s no question who was responsible for the relief effort: Blame Game, Set and Match.

Here is the voice of George W. Bush himself, in the proclamation issued in his name, over his signature on Saturday, August 27, 2005:

“The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing. The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures”

Bush goes on to say: “Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.”

what I was trying say is that the problem is probably more systemic than episodic.

Personal anecdote: I asked a Pakistani guy at the office a couple of years ago: you used to have a democratic government and now it’s a military dictatorship – how do you feel about it? The guy said something like this, he said: with the democratic government a fellow who just gave a bribe would meet the next guy coming with bribe on his way out. He said it’s much better with Musharraf now.

I’m not saying that military dictatorship is a solution, but there’s certainly a problem, especially when one party controls everything, like in the US now.


Kevin Donoghue 09.07.05 at 3:23 am

Otherwise you’re just making shit up which is about normal.


(That’s you describing me – and I’m not making that up!) Here is your comment about literacy in Japan, which I didn’t bother replying to for reasons explained in the thread; and here is my reply to your comment regarding gas fatalities in WW1. In the former thread you also cited evidence that Muqtada al-Sadr “is about as popular as a dog turd at a wedding”. If you knew how radically the planet you describe differs from Earth, you wouldn’t be surprised that your comments are memorable.

I don’t need the $20 right now so please donate it to charity.


Dave F 09.07.05 at 4:35 am

People who insist Bush should simply have wrested control of the National Guard effort from Blanco are failing to understand that the only way he could do that was by declaring martial law. Imagine the shitstorm that would have hit him then.

The BBC website has a good and succinct piece apportioning the layers of blame — federal, state and local — today. I can just see them being accused of supporting/bashing Bush — this issue has been party-politicised to the detriment of the hapless NO victims.


bad Jim 09.07.05 at 4:52 am

In a time of strapped state and municipal budgets, it’s hardly surprising that one of the poorest states in the US was unable to cope with this disaster.

What sort of a scale would one use to balance the culpability of a poor state and a poor city of medium size (population less than a million) against the capability of the planet’s only superpower?

Perhaps the blame should be apportioned by the size of each polity’s budget.


jet 09.07.05 at 7:12 am

Dave F,
That was actually a really good story by the BBC. Looks pretty evenhanded, although not very detailed. Here’s the link for anyone interested.


Uncle Kvetch 09.07.05 at 8:21 am

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population

What more needs to be said about this? It’s not like there’s ambiguity or wiggle room here.

[Aside to Jet, after which I’ll let this rest: Thanks for the little trip down memory lane in #54, Dude. Exactly as I remember it. See, I didn’t know any of M.I.A.’s lyrics (it’s not like they’re clearly comprehensible on her records) and I’d never read an interview or article about her. I only knew that I liked her tunes. So I asked if somebody could fill me in on the backstory. And you responded by putting made-up words in my mouth, solely in order to slander me. And when called on your shit, your response was “Well, he’s always mean to me, so he deserves it, so nyah.”

That pretty much sums up the “value-added” you provide to CT, as John E puts it.]


John Emerson 09.07.05 at 8:51 am


Abb1 is a disgruntled leftist contrarian whom I know very well (in the blog sense of “know”). I can’t follow him on the peculiar Musharraf tangent he’s chosen to take.

The topic of this thread was Bush’s performance. You want it to be “What do we do now?”, but it isn’t. These are different questions. If we were first responders, we wouldn’t be talking about Bush’s accountability much — we’d be too busy. But we aren’t first responders. We’re blog commenters.

Bush’s accountability is important for those of us who don’t live in LA because he has national responsibilities. The evidence we’ve seen that FEMA and DHS are incapable of functioning is pretty frightening. Bush’s personal non-responses and misreponses in this case are worrisome too. These are legitimate things to talk about.

Local responsibility is a separable problem. Very few are defending Blanco and the NO mayor. Yglesias and DeLong slammed them hard. Their culpability takes nothing away from Bush’s. This is a red herring — there’s enough blame to go around. (LA Democrats are mostly low-tax low-service conservatives in the pocket of big oil and big business. Why should I defend them?)

Your point of view seems to be that partisan criticisms are always wrong. This is an ignorant, knee-jerk assumption characteristically held by people who think of themselves as being wise and above the battle. In fact partisan politics is one of the main ways accountability is assigned in two-party democratic political systems. Perhaps your distaste for Democrats or lingering affection for the Republicans prevents you from being able to say that Bush failed disastrously, but that’s your own personal problem.

Dave F:

People who insist Bush should simply have wrested control of the National Guard effort from Blanco….”

This is a red herring too. Republicans have zeroed in on this particular issue, like the violence issue, because they think it makes Bush look good and the Democrats look bad. There are dozens of issues which are equally important.


engels 09.07.05 at 9:23 am

abb1 – Do you really think corruption is less of a problem in dictatorships or are you just trying to wind people up? One anonymous Pakistani anecdote is hardly compelling evidence for your view. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, on the other hand, appears to refute it. As does a mountain of rather well known history. You’ve lost me on this one, I’m afraid.


abb1 09.07.05 at 11:26 am

Well, Engels, didn’t Mussolini make the trains run on time? In Italy?! I think it’s really quite a trivial observation.


jet 09.07.05 at 1:28 pm

This poll is very interesting. Looks like the country is pretty much split on party lines on blaiming Bush for the disaster.


Kevin Donoghue 09.07.05 at 2:02 pm

Never mind the links Jet, have you paid that $20 you owe me to some deserving charity?


jet 09.07.05 at 3:37 pm

Yes, your mom has been paid. But I’ve already given more than I can afford to Katrina charity. So bite it.


engels 09.09.05 at 9:44 am

This poll is very interesting. Looks like the country is pretty much split on party lines on blaiming Bush for the disaster.

This one shows a clear majority criticising Bush’s response.

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