I Bet You'd Call the Fire Department, Mr. Libertarian!


By now you've probably seen at least one instance of this spate of tiresome ruminations on how the hurricane is some sort of ultimate gotcha to deploy against the idea of small government.

This is all profoundly stupid. There is no deep overarching ideological point here, because for pretty much everyone short of the anarchists, preventing the collapse of civilization into a huge Hobbesian clusterfuck makes the list—whether yours is short or long—of things governments are supposed to do—state governments when feasible (assuming adequate preparation on the ground is better than airlifts later), federal government when it isn't. So yes, Socrates, you've got me. The issue here really doesn't seem to have been some dire funds shortage—in principle, all the preparation we've supposedly been doing for terror attacks should've put us in position to do a much better job of this. The real problem here sure looks like nothing more or less than a staggering display of ineptitude, which as the anti-matter doppelganger of mom, apple pie, and puppies, is pretty easy to oppose across ideological lines. By all means, let's hold officials at all levels accountable for how this has gone down, but spare us the pretended insights into the merits of mohair subsidies we're supposed to draw from all this.

NEXT: I Still Hear Your Sea Winds Blowing

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  1. Julian,

    I would say that argument roughly as stupid as the one made, day in and day in the "Brickbats" column, that every spate of idiocy by a school board is evidence of the failure of public education.

    I'll spare you the point about mohair subsidies when you spare me the point about homeschooling.

  2. joe,
    Have you read this Harper's article by John Taylor Gatto? It makes a good case that compulsory schooling is inherently wasteful and cruel. I strongly disagree with his anti-consumerist stance-I think human beings naturally like to shop, and there's no inherent problem there-but his overall points are well taken.

  3. for pretty much everyone short of the anarchists, preventing the collapse of civilization into a huge Hobbesian clusterfuck makes the list?whether yours is short or long?of things governments are supposed to do

    If governments feel they have to be around, then, yes, keeping civil order is supposed to be the most important thing they do. It certainly ought to be the first of their pretended legitimacies.

    On the other hand, governments' saying things like "Please, volunteers, don't come into the disaster zone to try to help" and "It is illegal to charge high prices for needed supplies" are definitely outside the purview of any legitimacy and are downright counterproductive to actually helping people.

  4. Every public school board cock up IS a failure of public education because the taxes and schools are compulsory. Private enterprises have to, ya know, compete for and satisfy customers.

    If there is any civic lesson to be learned from Katrina it's that in the clutch, the 2nd Amendment is the most important one.

  5. The New Orleans disaster looks like an argument against government.

    (1) An evacuation was ordered that basically relied on individuals own capabilities to exit the danger zones. The poor, the elderly and the infirm appear to have been abandoned by the government. The people least able to help themselves received nothing from the state.

    (2) The government directed people towards certain locations and then abandoned them.

    (3) Flooding appears to have been caused by mismanagement of the levee and pumping systems.

    (4) Different levels of government aren't talking to each other.

    Even if the government did efficiently do everything possible the reality would remain that people would be on their own for hours or days depending on severity and scope of the disaster.

  6. Julian, was that headline a reference to the great Onion article "Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department"?

    Sadly, their archives are woefully incomplete (and they cancelled premium service) or I'd cut and paste it.

  7. Compared to big or small government, a functioning society* with _no_ government would likely have handled this disaster much better. In particular, the organizations that would be leading the reaction -- protection agencies or beefed up insurance companies -- are _not_ regional monopolies. That means (1) they could and would have moved assistance into the disaster zone quickly from all surrounding areas, and (2) decisions wouldn't be left up to a monopoly mayor, monopoly governor, or monopoly president who could, each in his or her own dominion, screw them up.

    Of course, private protection agencies would not have allowed their customers' houses to be sitting behind levees that were apt to fail without making them sign a pretty big stack of papers first.

    * I qualify my comments to avoid a digression into the feasibility of functioning anarchist societies.

  8. Not to mention the varios protection agencies lining up their evacuation busses in front of the media for their next "because we care" advertising campaign.

  9. all previous comments are wishfull thinking and not necessarily the opinion of the station or it's funder

  10. It grates on me, the popular equation of chaos with anarchy. When people rely on government for order, you get the Superdome situation. When people order themselves, you don't need government.

    It also grates on me, the popular equation of a terror attack with a hurricane. Somebody care to do the math to compare the power of a suitcase nuke to the power of Katrina?

  11. "pretty much everyone short of the anarchists, preventing the collapse of civilization into a huge Hobbesian clusterfuck makes the list?whether yours is short or long?of things governments are supposed to do"
    Erm considering there are ppl in the comments that are argueing that the government shouldn't be involved, does that mean this is now an anarchist blog?

  12. It also grates on me, the popular equation of a terror attack with a hurricane. Somebody care to do the math to compare the power of a suitcase nuke to the power of Katrina?

    No contest. Katrina is far more powerful.

    However, the situation with regards to New Orleans specifically is pretty similar: a downtown that's dangerous to travel in with survivors probably lacking power and communications. So being a DC metro resident, this confirms my already cynical suspicions of the preparedness of our beloved komissars to deal with such an event.

  13. Sandy: Remember that there's only one big passable road to and from NOLA, and you've got to split your resources with Mobile, Gulfport, Biloxi, Slidell, and countless smaller places similarly devastated.

  14. Thank you Julian for allowing me to believe that at least some libertarians have some sense....

    Then I read the comments, and see people agitating in favor of protection rackets. THanks guys, but I prefer my protection racket to be at least nominally based on a Constitution... I don't think that "I'll scratch your back" is quite enough.

  15. How anyone could figure that the bloated mega-bureaucracy of FEMA/DHS is an example of small government is beyond me.

  16. "When people rely on government for order, you get the Superdome situation."

    An even better illustration of the point I was making. Thanks, D.

    Because every disaster relief operation ever run by the government has resulted in the Superdome situation. It's the inevitable end result of having the government involved in dealing with a catastrophe. Uh huh.

  17. "Private protection agencies" aren't anarchy. That's feudalism, which is historically what happens when people get tired of anarchy and turn to strongmen for help.

  18. thoreau, I remember that. Here's the copy:

    CHEYENNE, WY-After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down." Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.

    I take the anarchist position, BTW. There are only two real reasons why private aid/charity organizations, self-organized groups, and motivated individuals can't repair the damage done or lessen the chances of it happening: the state getting in their way or lack of enough interest to get those people moving.

    The former is embodied in the order from "authorities" for people to stay away from the city. The latter isn't in play during a disaster because there quite obviously is massive interest in helping others, assessing damage, and rebuilding.

  19. When people order themselves, you don't need government.

    When people order themselves, you GET government. Where else do governments come from? Eggs?

  20. The argument to me isn't that the government can't do it. It is that when you rely on the government to take care of it, you get the government taking care of it and little else. A super duper catastrophe planning government might do great, but something about our electoral system makes me feel oogie about the probability of us actually selecting such a government.

    If we all count on the government to do it and we get the government of sausage creation as the ultimate actor responsible, well, we probably got the disaster relief we deserve right along with the government we deserve.

  21. The WWLTV blog continues to stack up evidence of the government's mind-numbing ineptitude:

    7:03 P.M. - CNN's Barbara Starr reports that there is "no indication" the convention center in New Orleans is secure. She reports there is still much unrest.

    6:26 P.M. - WASHINGTON (AP): Thousands of people stranded in two swamped parishes south of New Orleans are just as desperate for food, water and supplies as those trapped in the city, but they can't get the attention of federal disaster relief officials, Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., said Friday.

    And to make matters worse, Melancon said in a telephone interview, he was unable to deliver that message to President Bush during his visit to New Orleans on Friday because the president's security detail couldn't clear him in to meet with Bush on Air Force One.

    3:14 P.M. - St. Bernard Parish officials say that FEMA has not called them yet...five days after the storm.

    2:54 P.M. - WWL Reporter Jonathan Betz says the refugees at I-10 and Causeway are standing in squalid conditions. He said there are only 10 portable toilets for thousands of people and the Interstate median is full of human waste.

    1:35 P.M. - Xavier University spokesperson: 400 students still trapped at the university. One person is already dead.

    Since New Orleans as we know it as now gone, we might as well go ahead and rename what's left of the place New Dhaka.

  22. FEMA scoffed at hurricane expert. Brutal.


    What's more, it appears that the federal government did not follow up on an exercise last year that mostly predicted what happened in New Orleans ? devastating flooding and hundreds of thousands stranded.

    The scenario was dubbed Hurricane Pam: 120 mph winds, a massive storm surge, 20 feet of water in the city, 80 percent of buildings damaged, refugees on rooftops, possibly gun violence that would slow the rescue.

    "What bothers me the most is all the people who've died unnecessarily," says Ivor Van Heerden, a hurricane researcher from Louisiana State University who ran the exercise.

    Van Heerden says the federal government didn't take it seriously.

    "Those FEMA officials wouldn't listen to me," he says. "Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information."

    One recommendation from the exercise: Tent cities should be prepared for the homeless.

    "Their response to me was: 'Americans don't live in tents,' and that was about it," recalls Van Heerden.

  23. "Private protection agencies" aren't anarchy. That's feudalism, which is historically what happens when people get tired of anarchy and turn to strongmen for help.

    Some think that the organization of security in an anarchy would be by protection agencies. I myself think that the organization of security will grow out of insurance agencies.

    It's a natural growth path for insurance companies that already insure to some degree your safety and your property. Since they are the ones to pay for a loss, they'll be first in line to pay for prevention of the loss or investigation and restitution from those who caused the loss.

    The resulting services ought to be the same in the long run, as the market would dictate. But the path taken by the insurance agency seems more natural and more acceptable to people than the thought of competing mafias that the words "protection agency" conjure up. And it's simply a more friendly and more positive way to position the service in the end.

  24. The whole NOLA situation sucks, because it's gonna be a boost for the big-government advocates.

    Speaking purely in economic terms, the situation in New Orleans is actually quite positive, long-term. Yes there is the destruction of the port and that's bad, but consider: 80% of the population evacuated. The remaining 20% stayed, either because they didn't have the means to leave, or because they were just foolish; how much of each is a guess.

    But in EITHER case, you have to consider that these people were essentially surplus. In other words, the least-functional 20% of the population of New Orleans has been eliminated. That obviously INCREASES the overall functionality of the New Orleans population.

    I'm not blind to the fact that the people who chose to stay behind are suffering, and that's not good, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL. But all things aren't equal. Consider: normally, disasters like this have ALWAYS served to help weed out the less competent. In these days of Mommy Government, these people are saved to drag down the rest of us. This hurts EVERYONE in the long run.

    But of course you can NEVER get people to see things this way. It's all Boo hoo hoo look at that baby that Geraldo is holding, let's get the Government to Save That Baby.

    I despair for the future, I really do.

  25. Hmmm...

    Mr. Sanchez, methinks the comment stream here seems to resist your assertions concerning the tenous seperation of Anarchy and modern Libertarianism thought. And that would jibe with my experiences of LP opinion around this nation.

    Sure the dictionary definition of Libertarian is "maximum personal liberty, minimum govenrment", but in the breech, I find very, very few libertarians who believe in any government.

    As the comments here so delightfully show.

  26. I must admit to being an anarchist myself, but not for the reason stated here. You have no idea how much I would love to find myself in a lawless zone with the like of Dynamist, Shannon Love or the name I haven't seen here before...Floyd Alvis Cooper.

    The lessons on government I could teach them under such circumstances would be like sweet honey on my tongue. Absolutely Delightful. Might makes right, survival of the fittest and all that. Yummy.

  27. Damn, that's the first time I've ever seen someone rationalize that a national disaster was a good thing because it "weeds out the stupid people"...

    People like Floyd are the reason Kos types even exist. For every one of those remarks that slips from the mouth of a nominal "libertarian", another person is lost to government worship, probably forever. I don't care what nature dictates, this is a fucking natural catastrophe, not a sociology experiment.

  28. I don't care what nature dictates, this is a fucking natural catastrophe, not a sociology experiment.


  29. Speaking purely in economic terms, the situation in New Orleans is actually quite positive, long-term. Yes there is the destruction of the port and that's bad,

    In other words, "History, we don't know. We'll all be dead."

  30. Not only that, but three hundred chemical and industrial polluters were on the right bank of the Delta, in "Cancer Alley," where Katrina hit.

    15 oil processing hubs vanished. Like, nobody knows where they are. Where did all their chemicals go? Did they just vanish too?

    Cancer Alley Wexelblat

  31. Damn, that's the first time I've ever seen someone rationalize that a national disaster was a good thing because it "weeds out the stupid people"...

    It is possible that Floyd Alvis Cooper is a sociology experiment.

  32. Ya'll realize that discussion here is mostly theoretical, right?
    People are suffering waiting for the government to save them.
    Regardless of whatever theoretical possibilities are discussed here, that is the way it is right now. Have you made your charitable contribution yet?

  33. Go check the links on the next H&R item (Jabbor Gibson, American Hero) and tell me what the government is supposed to do. It ain't doin' it!
    There's a reason. What is it?

  34. John & Ken, dobies of talk radio in LA, had the FEMA wench for our sector on this afternoon. She, swear to god, couldn't explain what was so hard about dropping crates of water at the superdome. When asked how FEMA would air drop water at the Staples Center if a similar problem happened in LA she said (not making this up):

    We haven't planned for that because there would be no way that LA would be without water in a disaster.

    Okay, I'm paraphrasing.

    Expecting the government to do anything right is like expecting your dog to stop eating Kitty Roca. It cannot happen.

  35. Dynamist:

    So, the problem was a traffic jam on the one passable major road? That doesn't square with the reports I've seen.

  36. Well, one should keep in mind, when talking about how the hurricane "proves" the merits of a strong state, that:

    1. The state built the levees and then told people it was OK to live behind them in any number of ways.

    2. The state built public housing projects behind the levees and then moved poor, elderly and handicapped people into them.

    3. The state spent trillions of dollars and a century of effort building a national transportation system that boils down to "If you have no car, you're screwed, and we're leaving you behind."

    Having done #1, #2 and #3, I think it is incumbent on the state to save the people it has conspired for a century to screw.

    "You libertarians couldn't respond to an emergency like this," is an argument that loses some of its luster when you consider that the emergency wouldn't be anywhere near this magnitude if it weren't for the way the modern state has chosen to organize life.

  37. Look at the type of mentality we're dealing with:


    The author of this article actually asserts that it is safer to live in Honolulu than New England, because although Hawaii could be scraped clean by a tsunami, and although the entire state is pretty much one big Mount Vesuvius, there hasn't been a tsunami in a while, and there hasn't been a Pompeii level event in the a while, and in New England, you know, it snows a lot.

    Take that mentality and invest it with government power and a big enough budget, and you get:

    "Oh, of course that piece of land over there is a swamp that's below sea level, and is surrounded by water, and is in a hurricane zone. But don't worry, we're going to pile some dirt over here, and you'll be completely safe! We're building lots of roads here, too, so move on in, everybody! There hasn't been a big disaster in a while, so we know it's safe. It's much more dangerous to live well above sea level on solid ground, because it might snow over there."

  38. Jesus, people like Floyd are why I quit hanging around with libertarians and gave up on the LP years ago, soon after I left college...about the time I figured out that there was actually a real world that did not always conveniently conform to all the political philosophy I'd been reading.

    I seem to recall, though, from all the whatsis I read back then, that even Ayn Rand said that you don't define your principles based on what you'd do in an emergency. If you've got a rowboat and there's a guy in the water drowning, then you chuck your notions about altruism into the water and save the drowning man, and don't tie your head up in knots trying to justify it to yourself. It's an emergency. Shit happens, and there are cases where survival and basic human decency trump pretty ideas. (That's me paraphrasing, or possibly just making it up if I remember the essay wrong.)

    It's a good point that advocates of big and small government both ought to consider. On the one hand, the fact that it is awfully handy to have a strong, focused response to a natural disaster of this scale does not in itself justify having massive bureaucracies and regulatory structures on a daily basis: this is an emergency; that's not. In an emergency of this scale I may be willing to accept the necessity of martial law, for example, whereas ordinarily I get pissed off about random traffic stops.

    On the other hand, the fact that you believe that people should be responsible for themselves has little to do with the fact that basic human decency requires that we help victims of a natural disaster. This is real life, not a philosophy class, and real human beings make exceptions to principles in cases of great need. Wisdom is knowing when to stick to principle and when to set it aside and do what has to be done.

    And if, Floyd and a few others, you can't grasp that, I'd appreciate it if you'd call yourself something other than a "libertarian" (how about a "fuck-the-rest-of-you-itarian"?) so the rest of us don't suffer politically from association with you.

  39. Why assume that Floyd considers himself a libertarian, B-Psycho? He sounds like a might-makes-right type to me.

  40. Find an instance where the government (at any level) screws up.

    Take this as evidence that every government everywhere will always screw up.

    Instead of demanding better results from the government, expect people to take care of themselves, regardless of the fact that, if such a system were feasible, people wouldn't have created governments in the first place.

    For extra credit, see if you can apply the above formula to the school hostage situation in Beslan.

  41. Mr. Walker,

    I've been to a number of LP meetings, where the policies discussed would inevitably result in just that. I've also been to some that recognize the falut line in those situations. I cannot honestly say "Might makes Right" to be non-libertarian ideal. I would concede it is not what you or Mr. Sanchez would endorse. I have often been struck that much of what passes for Libertarian thought is essentially "vacuum causing". And we know how nature abhores a vacuum, many things will fill it up. Sometimes some of those things will be "might makes right".

  42. Gotta say something.

    Couple days ago, I was on the NY Times web page and they offered a view of the front page of the paper from September 1, 1939, the day WW II started. Among the headlines, one reported that one million people had been evacuated from London. Apparently over a very short period of time.

    Got me to thinking. I don't think it is a matter of less competence on the part of public officials, but rather, in this case, an unwillingness to think the unthinkable and act on that.

    In the case of the British, in 1939, there was a terrible fear of indiscriminate bombing of cities, owing to the idea that there was no real defense. (As it turned out, there was, although not a perfect defense of course.) That logically meant that, in the case of war, survival depended on mass evacuation. That in turn depended on organizing the transportation and remote housing beforehand; and, I have to think, at the same time educating the general population that getting out of town was not an option, but a necessity.

    Fast forward to New Orleans. An effective evacuation before the storm would have required local government to develop detailed plans, AND make sure that the mass of the population knew what was going to happen in the event of a Katrina.

    But the city has dodged the bullet before; and in the face of that, it's easy to imagine the moans and groans and recriminations that would have ensued had the city government dragged people, kicking and screaming, on to the buses. Especially if it turned out to have been another false alarm.

    I don't believe that anyone could have prepared the city for what, in 20/20 hindsight, they were going to be in for. With Katrina as evidence, though, I think people in hurricane prone areas (I being one) are going to be a lot readier to get out of town than they used to be.

    But I think that blaming ANYONE for the aftermath of Katrina is unproductive, and just plain wrong.

  43. Mike,
    Good points. A few other thoughts...

    Brits will queue up for anything, they'll do what the gov't says pretty much anytime a guy with a megaphone starts directing them. Americans tend to think they know better and are more willing to take their chances, very generally speaking.

    Besides, when people KNOW bombs will fall into their neighborhood - because someone has declared war on them - they're more likely to haul out of town under their own power (which is what an evacuation order is) but they'll take their chances with Mother Nature who isn't specifically out to get them. Compiled with the reality that London still had its roads intact, it just seems a bad analogy.

    But having whined about the comparison, I agree with most of the points you make.

    The reality, however, is that no one has ever prepared for a disaster this serious in a US city. there's been a lot of money spent on studies, and bureaucrats have talked a lot, had lots of meetings with "memo items" and "deliverables" but nothing actually DONE. That's what gov't does, for the most part, it conducts meetings for the standard purpose of bureaucratic CYA.

    Even the riots of LA, the CA hurricanes, and the periodic hurricanes along the East and Gulf coasts didn't wake us up to the real necessity of preparing. I can't imagine any gov't would operate any better during a crisis like this, even tho many would argue it's impossible to imagine it being much worse, either.

    I tend to think most of the blame should fall to the locals, who should expect to operate without the federal gov't assisting them for at least the first week or so. How fast do we expect reinforcements to arrive? The logistics alone are pretty insurmountable without direct action at the local gov't level. But it's always the individuals who make the difference in these situations. ("Go Jabbor Gibson!")

  44. rob, the only problem I have is this: La National Guard. Where were they? 4 days to get there? Last I heard, the NG units of America, which were under the command of local governments, are now essentially under the command of the feds. (many, many libertarians approved of the war, which required the feds to override this local control).

    Where were the NG units? Many of them were in Iraq, or looking at the comments by the Gov of La, just back from Iraq.

    If this had happpened before 9/11, all evidence I have based on prior crisis, the La NG would have been on the scene Tue night or no later than Thursday morning.

    You say "I tend to think most of the blame should fall to the locals, who should expect to operate without the federal gov't assisting them for at least the first week or so"

    But if the feds have taken away our first line of defense by usurping the states rights to maintan a local state funded militia, don't the feds then have to assume some responsibility as well?

    If the La NG would have been left for La to use, this post-crisis would never have reached the proportions it did.

    Back in the 90's the nothern states had record cold temps. Minn for instance relied on the local NG, because of that they did not need to rely on the feds. Now however, since that resource has been "stolen" from the states, they must rely on the feds.

  45. I've heard a lot of people excusing the government's incompetence on the grounds that the government's focus is on terrorism, not natural disasters. Does this mean New Orleans would have been better-handled if the levees had been breached by a terrorist with a suitcase nuke, rather than a storm?

  46. Interesting article at Chicago Trib (yahoo link)

    It suggests that Republican love for Soviet Style centralized government may be adding to the problem.

    "Pleasant Mann, former head of the union for FEMA employees who has been with the agency since 1988, said a change made by agency higher-ups last year added a bureaucratic layer that likely delayed FEMA's response to Katrina.

    Before the change, a FEMA employee at the site of a disaster could request that an experienced employee he knew had the right skills be dispatched to help him. But now that requested worker is first made to travel to a location hundreds of miles from the disaster site to be "processed," placed in a pool from which he is dispatched, sometimes to a place different from where he thought he was headed.


    And there isn't an experienced disaster-response expert at the top of the agency as there was when James Lee Witt ran it during the 1990s. Before Michael Brown, the current head, joined the agency as its legal counsel, he was with the International Arabian Horse Association.


    And hell...I know the world is upside down...even Newt is pissed...from Newsday
    Even Republicans were criticizing Bush and his administration for the sluggish relief effort. "I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

    But...this must be the fault of those big guvmint liburals...uh huh, uh huh...I really, really don't like nanny state liberals, but I sure as shit will take them over Soviet style Repubs just about any day of the week.

  47. I don't mean to sound harsh to those who say...don't blame...like Mike G above, or Jane Galt...but isn't that just a soviet cop out? Would these people also disagree when Washingtom praied the rabble rouser Tom Paine for writing what Washington called one of the most influential pamplets of the Revolution?

    No doubt, no doubt.

    Blame and responsibility are part and parcel of a free nation. Which is no doubt why folks like Jane and Mike tell us to be quiet, she has never been found of freedom, except of course for chartered corps, If the news were quiet, maybe the National Guard would still be outside, instead of inside of NO?

  48. Libertarian philosophy provides a critique of political government in particular. It does not intend to address other areas of social relations and behaviors (outside of the non-aggression principle).

    Unfortunately, this is extremely difficult to explain to crtitics of libertarianism who seem to assume that just because libertarians oppose coercion, they are therefore disinclined to be charitable, cooperative, willing to lend a hand in emergencies, or forgiving of tresspasses born of necessity.

    Repeat as needed till you get it.

  49. Further, any acknowledgement that, having taken resources for the purpose of having them available for crises, the expectation that the government should therefore make them available when needed is not an admission that the government should have taken the resources in the first place.

  50. Heh...no, they are many things, but not that. Good points in that article you pointed to. And we all should debate just how much money is going to be thrown at this after the "crisis" is over.

    Of course that still doesn't explain the missing National Guard.

    No, no if Cato comes out and says it's good that Bush stole the National Guard to force individual NO residents to support themselves, that would make them anarchist.

  51. Johnny,

    While I agree that National Guard units should not be deployed abroad, I think that it's been fairly obvious for a long time that the size of the US military is inadequate when you need to mobilize the NG in order to fight a war on foreign soil, rather than act as a State/Home Guard.

    However, unless specifically mobilized, the National Guard is STILL under the control of the state. Only during a federal mobilization does any specific NG unit fall under the DoD, all the rest of the time it belongs solely to the state governor, who is the NG commander-in-chief.

    The fact that the NG hasn't responded as we'd like to have seen is directly the result of the state governor's failure to mobilize the units under his command in a professional manner. The fact that there are NG units from Louisiana in Iraq doesn't alter the fact that all of the rest of them are still under the governor's command.

    Even so, there's still - from what I've read - about 18,000 NG folks and about 7,000 active duty folks working the disaster. That's a significant number of troops, and I wonder if it's even counting the Fort Polk, La. soldiers or the Barksdale Air Force Base airmen.

  52. good point rob, and that may be the what the legal paperwork says. But my friends here in the Illinois say that the NG's of all states have been under the command of the president since 9/11. And in this case were completely under the direction of the feds. And that there were Zero on the ground in NOLA until late Thursday, early Friday.

    I was specifically told by a friend still stationed here (col level I believe) that his orders come directly from the feds and that the states have very, very little say in the matter.

    I hope I'm wrong, because I mainly oppose Bush becuase his guvmint looks awfully centralized and soviet to me. And I apologize to anyone about the Nanny staters. I could do without Soviet Republicans or Nanny Democrats. We all could.

  53. The fact that the NG hasn't responded as we'd like to have seen is directly the result of the state governor's failure to mobilize the units under his command in a professional manner.

    For the "blame the states" crowd: Gov. Blanco's Aug. 28th letter to Bush and FEMA requesting aid. (One full day before the storm hit.)

  54. The energy released (as per a television interview I saw the day before it hit, so I have no linkable source) said that at the moment of landfall, the hurricane contained the power of 10 Hiroshimas. Multiply that by the decreasing power as you move inland, and the Hurricane was exponentially stronger than a suitcase bomb.

  55. I like the way the people who have been pimping for our Republican president and our Republican Congress for the last four years on this board are suddenly using the word "government" as if referring to an unknown alien entity.

  56. joe, it takes some time for some people to acknowledge the truth.

    some never get there. save your tears for them.

  57. Who's been pimping for the GOP prez and congress?
    Let me at 'em.

  58. When people rely on government for order, you get the Superdome situation.

    Sorry, joe, I wasn't clear enough. The failing is not in the management of this specific disaster. The failing is shown by the people grouped there, exhibiting their chronic inability to order themselves. Why is it that some groups can pick up their trash, while others insist it is the state's job to do it for them?

    Johnny: What? Are you fronting to be a tough guy? If so, what does that have to do with classical anarchy?

    Sandy: With all the finger-pointing, I'm trying to remind all of the scale of this hurricane. USA can fix it, but such a huge operation doesn't go from zero to saviour overnight.

  59. Piss on fire departments.
    Does that pass your urine tests, joe?

  60. Johnny - The National Guard is still under the command of the governor, so no matter what the governor asked for from the federal government, mobilizing NG troops on the ground was her responsibility.

    And joe, the difference between you and I is that I have equal disdain for both Republican and Democrat administrations. However, I think that there has been a ridiculous tendency to try to hang a lot of crap on Bush that won't stick - Geneva convention violations, illegally making war, the whole list of positions that the liberal side is trying - often erroneously.

    Just like the other side beat the drum during the Clintgon administration about everything from the ridiculous to the horrific: Monicagate, Whitewater, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Elian Gonzalez, Somalia, Yugoslavia...

    It's crap regardless, but if it makes you feel better I'll agree that there are plenty of things I wish Bush & Clinton would have done differently. But I appreciate that sometimes there are situations that require tough decisions and have no perfect solutions.

    That's where we're different. You just haven't quite figured out that neither side is a good deal.

    Call me a hard-hearted bastard, but if I had to choose, I'd choose incompetence over outright butchery of US citizens, I suppose. Even if that means that people who choose to rely on gov't to rescue them and provide for them end up getting egregiously screwed.

  61. shinypenny: The reference to LANG is under "state and local resources" - not under the part of the memo asking for aid.

    The only thing the Guv apparently planned for the NG to do under her auspices was (along with the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness) "Providing gnereators and support staff for SNS (Special Needs Shelters) and Public Shelters and field personnel and equipment."

    The letter is not a request for the President to call out the NG - or really, to do anything in response to the immediate danger.

    Rather, it's the standard boilerplate request for federal (financial) bailout of a declared disaster area - the only difference is the bit about how they need 100% rather than 75% federal support of welfare programs (Individual Assistance, Public Assistance and Direct Federal Assistance) and other handouts to the Small Business Administration, etc.

    The only direct assistance asked for is post-hurricane debris removal, for crying out loud!

    In other words, this isn't an example of a governor calling upon the President for material and manpower, but for all the money it can get funneled into the area AFTER the danger is over.

  62. Jesse: Far as I can tell very few people reply on here that aren't libertarians of some sort, and out of that I can only remember off the top of my head "Joe", the token Democrat. Sites like this are a hangout for us.

  63. Private contractors seem to be able to function, even if the govt isn't:

    Moving Toward Drying Out
    ...For three days, Corps officials had lamented the difficulty of gaining access to the canal, but yesterday a local contractor, Boh Bros. Construction Co., apparently drove to the mouth of the canal and started placing a set of steel sheet pilings to isolate the canal from the lake. This job was finished yesterday afternoon....

  64. The Corps, and nearly everyone with a big project (levees, highways, housing development, sewerage, etc.) in New Orleans, contracts with Boh Bros. They're the local Halliburton/KBR.

  65. "Why is it that some groups can pick up their trash, while others insist it is the state's job to do it for them?"

    How many times has your home been destroyed and half the people on your block killed in a natural disaster, Dynamist? Have you ever even had a sewer line back up into your basement, Mr. Tough Guy?

    rob, insisting on the equivalency of unlike things is as dishonest as insisting on the difference between like things.

  66. Add the name of Newsweek's Jonathan Alter to the list (if you haven't already); he says the debacle in New Orleans is comeuppance for the "small tax conservatives."

    ...and the straw men are dropping left and right...

  67. I would call the Fire or Police department because I PAY FOR THOSE SERVICES! The ineptitude of the some people, especially those who do nothing for themselves, is not my responsibility and I shouldn't be forced to pay for their sevices.

  68. I would call the Fire or Police department because I PAY FOR THOSE SERVICES! The ineptitude of the some people, especially those who do nothing for themselves, is not my responsibility and I shouldn't be forced to pay for their sevices.

    Comment by: Peter Cantwell

    Peter, do your taxes pay for the ENTIRE cost of those services? Or are they mitigated by others' taxes as well? We pool our resources so no one individual has to pay for the entire cost of putting out a blaze at their home or the cost of a n investigation into their murder or robbery. And some folks, can't or won't pay their share of taxes, so, do we let their homes burn or crimes against them go uninvestigated? No, because we can't afford to have their fires/crimes spread unchecked among us. It's called civilization. Look into it.

    As for private fire departments and police agencies...been there, done that. Unaffiliated homes were left to burn while private fire depts. fought over the oppurtunity to put out the fires and collect the fees, or simply ignored them because the home owner didn't belong to their fire company. That's why Ben Franklin created the municipal fire department. Heh, what an idiot that guy was.

  69. Floyd Alvis Cooper: Best troll ever.

  70. "Since New Orleans as we know it as now gone, we might as well go ahead and rename what's left of the place New Dhaka."
    -Eric II

    I'd rather go with my name for it.

    Lake Rand.

    What better name for a place so idyllic; where the poeple who can take care of themselves do by nay means neccessary and those who aren't able to suffer like they deserve to.


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