Thursday, September 01, 2005

Should the U.S. Withdraw from Louisiana?

From the BBC:

Looting and lawlessness is widespread in flood-stricken New Orleans as people made homeless by Hurricane Katrina grow increasingly desperate.

There are reports of shootings, carjackings and thefts across the city, where a full evacuation is under way.

Medical evacuations from the Superdome stadium have been disrupted after a gun shot was fired at a rescue helicopter.

President George W Bush, who will visit the disaster area on Friday, called for "zero tolerance" against law-breakers.

From Australia's Herald Sun:

"A National Guardsman was wounded by a gunshot. This happened outside the Superdome," Colonel Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard said.

Col. Schneider said the Guardsman was being treated but was not in a life-threatening condition.

Officials also said that one shot was fired at a huge twin-rotored Chinook helicopter which has been taking part in an operation to move hurricane refugees out of the stadium to other cities...

Residents reported hundreds of looters on the streets, car-jackings, armed robberies and even shots fired at helicopters evacuating patients from local hospitals.

Media reports said one gang had commandeered a telephone company van to carry out robberies, while Fox News television said two men with AK-47 semi-automatic rifles had opened fire on a police station.

From the CBC:
"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt.-Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, a spokeswoman at the city emergency operations centre. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, 'You better come get my family.'"
From the City Journal:
Thousands of opportunistic vultures have looted stores all over the city, and shot in the head one police officer who tried to stop them. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has posted photos on its website of other police officers joining in the widespread theft from unattended stores. Looters have picked clean Wal-Mart’s gun department downtown.
Isn't it time for the left to start calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Louisiana? We could just change "New Orleans" to "New Baghdad" - but that might insult Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the whining begins:
...local officials said that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection - including fortifying homes, building up levees and repairing barrier islands - the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be.
"Washington" wouldn't let New Orleans, Orleans Parish, or the state of Louisiana do anything? Sorry guys, I can't find the federal duty to condemn and rebuild an entire American city on high ground anywhere in the Constitution. I also can't find the provision that abolished all levels of government in the state of Louisiana. Maybe the Supreme Court found that in the 14th Amendment too?

Interestingly enough, the local government has been less than helpful:

...the locals and outsiders who try to help New Orleans in the weeks and months to come will do so with no local institutional infrastructure to back them up. New Orleans has no real competent government or civil infrastructure - and no aggressive media or organized citizens’ groups to prod public officials in the right direction during what will be, in the best-case scenario, a painstaking path to normalcy.

...the city’s decline over the past three decades has left it impoverished and lacking the resources to build its economy from within. New Orleans can’t take care of itself even when it is not 80 percent underwater; what is it going to do now, as waters continue to cripple it, and thousands of looters systematically destroy what Katrina left unscathed?

The city’s government has long suffered from incompetence and corruption. Just weeks before Katrina, federal officials indicted associates of the former mayor, Marc Morial, for alleged kickbacks and contract fraud. Morial did nothing to attract diversified private investment to his impoverished city during the greatest economic boom of the modern era.

The current mayor, Ray Nagin, can’t help but be an improvement. A former cable executive, Nagin ran for office pledging to spur economic growth in New Orleans. He deserves our support now, but in his three years in office, he has made no perceptible progress in diversifying New Orleans’ economy. On television this week, the mayor has shown no clear inclination to take charge and direct post-Katrina rescue and recovery efforts for his population, as Mayor Giuliani did in New York on and after 9/11.

As some Bush-hating Canadians accidentally pointed out:
It has been known for decades that New Orleans, a seaport below sea level, was vulnerable to the great catastrophe that has occurred this week.
Did only President George W. Bush have those decades of knowledge? Every state has a different set of known recurring threats - local "leaders" need to stop whining and start dealing with them.

Update, Sept. 2: New Orleans vs. Houston:

Many years ago, an oilman in Houston pointed out to me that there was no inherent reason Houston should have emerged as the world capital of the petroleum business. New Orleans was already a major city with centuries of history, proximity to oil deposits, and huge transportation advantages when the Houston Ship Channel was dredged, making the then-small city of Houston into a major port. The discovery of the Humble oil field certainly helped Houston rise as an oil center, but the industry could just as easily have centered itself in New Orleans.

When I pressed my oilman informant for the reason Houston prevailed, he gave me a look of pity for my naiveté, and said, “Corruption.” Anyone making a fortune in New Orleans based on access to any kind of public resources would find himself coping with all sorts of hands extended for palm-greasing. Permits, taxes, fees, and outright bribes would be a never-ending nightmare. Houston, in contrast, was interested in growth, jobs, prosperity, and extending a welcoming hand to newcomers. New Orleans might be a great place to spend a pleasant weekend, but Houston is the place to build a business.

Today, metropolitan Houston houses roughly 4 times the population of pre-Katrina metropolitan New Orleans, despite the considerable advantage New Orleans has of capturing the shipping traffic of the Mississippi basin.

It is far from a coincidence that Houston is now absorbing refugees from New Orleans, and preparing to enroll the children of New Orleans in its own school system. Houston is a city built on the can-do spirit (space exploration, oil, medicine are shining examples of the human will to knowledge and improvement, and all have been immeasurably advanced by Houstonians). Houston officials have capably planned for their own possible severe hurricanes, and that disaster planning is now selflessly put at the disposal of their neighbors to the east.


JJH said...

Operation Brown Jackass - All the Operation Yellow Elephant cyber-hatemongers (presumably all in favor of disaster relief) must volunteer forthwith to clean up the pungent piles of poo at the Superdome or be called hypocrites, cowards, or worse! ;)

JJH said...

Nick, your update so totally does not answer the challenge to replace New Orleans's port advantage. You don't take up that yoke, and neither does the article you link to. I didn't dispute the fact that New Orleans is a crappy place to put a city (blame the French, it was King Louie's idea!), and I didn't dispute that Houston has significant cultural advantages. I simply stated that New Orleans is a vital port location and I doubt it could be replaced without significant economic discomfort. You can do better.

Nick said...

We're not talking about moving it to Montana.