Natural Disasters

Only Big Government Can Save Us from Big Storms, Says The New York Times. Ummm … Really?

The New York Times tells us that Mitt Romney is bad bad bad - and wrong - to suggest that anybody other than ginormous central government has any business responding to storms and tantrum-ish eruptions from Mother Nature.


Wal-Mart relief convoy

As Matt Welch mentions below, as part of its ongoing effort to win Barack Obama another triumphant four years in the White House, during which time he can complete the task of raising the United States to the glorious heights of Great Britain circa 1975 take a moderate, restrained tone on matters of national import, The New York Times tells us that Mitt Romney is bad bad bad — and wrong — to suggest that anybody other than ginormous central government has any business responding to storms and tantrum-ish eruptions from Mother Nature. As it so happens, Mitt is bad bad bad — and wrong, but not on this issue. Even if he did squishily back off his point, a bit.

Editorialized The New York Times:

Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of "big government," which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.

"Absolutely," he said. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better." …

It's an absurd notion …

As it so happens, I've written on this issue before. So let me lazily quote myself rather than come up with something new. Specifically, I'm pulling from a piece I wrote for the Las Vegas Review-Journal after Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA apparently learned that thousands of people were waiting for rescue at the convention center from TV news reports. Local officials have little reason to boast; the already notorious New Orleans Police Department fell apart as soon as the storm hit. According to The New York Times, about a third of the force simply walked off the job. Local reports say that many officers used their badges and guns to join the ranks of looters. Says the on-the-spot Interdictor blog, "The people we've been talking to say they are not recognizing the NOPD as a legitimate authority anymore."

Even as they fumbled their own responses to the disaster, government officials found time to block private relief efforts. The Salvation Army was initially forbidden to send boats to rescue refugees sheltered in one of its facilities, one of the group's officials told the press. It seems the private relief organization's efforts didn't fit the government's schedule. Likewise, the American Red Cross said. Days after the storm hit, "The state Homeland Security Department had requested—and continues to request—that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane."

Aaron Broussard, Jefferson Parish president, put it best when he told interviewers, "Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress today."

I do apologize for a mention in that column of "Road Warior" conditions in the Superdome, since we learned soon after I penned those words that the carnage was way overstated and not so carnage-y, after all.

But government officials really did prevent experienced private relief organizations and convoys of supplies from reaching people in need in the wake of Katrina. Police and bus drivers really did abandon their posts. And private companies really were ready to help. Somebody at the Times must listen to NPR, and just may remember a 2011 report in which that exalted media outlet told us:

Forecasters don't expect Hurricane Irene to make landfall until Saturday. But for nearly a week now, big-box retailers like Walmart and Home Depot have been getting ready.

They've deployed hundreds of trucks carrying everything from plywood to Pop-Tarts to stores in the storm's path. It's all possible because these retailers have turned hurricane preparation into a science — one that government emergency agencies have begun to embrace.

"Begun to embrace," because they're learning from companies like Wal-Mart, which was on the scene at Katrina with convoys of emergency supplies. Continued NPR in its nasty, right-wing way:

Mark Cooper is Walmart's head of emergency management. Before his current job, he was the head of emergency management for the state of Louisiana. But in 2005, he was an emergency worker from Los Angeles who was sent to New Orleans as a first responder after Hurricane Katrina.

"We were there a week after the levees broke, and actually it was a Walmart that I went into to get supplies for myself after we arrived in Louisiana," Cooper says.

It was one of the few stores still operating, he says.

Walmart is able to anticipate surges in demand during emergencies by using a huge historical database of sales from each store as well as sophisticated predictive techniques, Cooper says.

Maybe it's true that "disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of 'big government,'" But we should probably take that job away and let people who know what they're doing handle the heavy lifting.

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  1. But people will just wander around aimlessly without a someone, a strong man, telling them what to do.

    1. I couldn’t stop myself from choking on the irony this morning when I saw that Mr. An-Ounce-of-Prevention-Equals-a-Pound-of-Cure Bloomber was erring on the side of complacency when commenting on the unpredictable nature of hurricane storm systems.

  2. Wal-Mart is the evilest corporation ever; therefore, government wins.

    1. The great irony in that statement is that Walmart has given a ton of dough to Obama.

      1. I see no irony in Danegeld.

  3. I had to laugh as I read dire predictions of Twitter-organized looting sprees, mass Facebook rapes and wanton Tumblr destruction yesterday. I’m surprised someone didn’t suggest that Craigslist was going to be the preferred venue for fencing all the looted loot the looters were going to loot.

    1. Seems like every major storm/natural “disaster” brings us closer to Peak Retard.

      1. Well it was greedy enterprise/corporations that warmed the climate, that created the storm, that wreaked havoc on victims…so they cannot be trusted to undo the mess they’ve created. Also, greed=murder.

        1. Wait, it wasn’t George Bush and Dick Cheney’s weather machine?

          1. that too…Halliburton!

        2. I thought meat = murder.

          1. Tasty, tasty murder.

    2. and it missed the true horror of Sandy – it will be like the London riots, unleashing photoshop art to terrify and bewilder

      1. I am both terrified and bewildered. Gobsmacked, I dare say, Your Spunkiness.

  4. Only force and coercion can help people. Voluntary and consensual help simply cannot do the job because there is no violence involved. Only people with guns and the power to use them without consequence can help people. Besides, private businesses are tainted by their profit motive, making any “help” that they offer simply a capitalist trick.

    It is immoral to profit from disaster relief, just as it is immoral to profit from health care. Therefore government is the answer.

    1. Gun-rights advocates are often claimed to have a “gun fetish.” Whatever the case, there does seem to be a kind of gun fetishism on the left, as well, so long as they’re instruments of the state.

      1. The left has an authority fetish.

    2. It is immoral to profit from disaster relief

      As a retailer of construction equipment, this one really sharts my panties. People really do expect you to give stuff to them below cost during an emergency even though they had plenty of time to deal with preparations before anything happened.

      1. You soulless, cold hearted bastard!

        1. I know, I know, my kids remind me of that every day.

      2. People really do expect you to give stuff to them below cost during an emergency

        You obviously have never worked in a ER.

        1. Yeah but ER has more consolations – Scruffy doesn’t get to pull weird stuff out of strangers’ arses. Well, not get paid to do it, at any rate

          1. I’ll just have to keep hoping.

        2. I’ve always recognized the ER to be the opposite.

          Emergency? Jack up the prices, they’ll agree to pay anything right now and EMTALA means the insurance companies we contract with have to play ball.

      3. below cost during an emergency even though they had plenty of time to deal with preparations before anything happened.

        I tell people the same thing. A failure to plan on your part does not create an emergency on my part. Suck it up butter-cup.

    3. If it is immoral to profit from disaster relief, how are we supposed to fix the economy with all these wonderful broken windows opportunities that nature has given us? Maybe Krugman can help us out with this one.

  5. The government’s handling of Katrina was fucking sickening. Are the pinkos ever going to learn that it’s infinitely better to leave this shit in the hands of private entities and individuals?

    1. no, because they think the problem with Katrina could have been easily solved by moar gummint, not more voluntary, peaceful action

    2. The government’s handling of Katrina was fucking sickening.

      but, Booooosssshhhhh!

    3. You can’t leave things like that in the hands of private entities, because they are motivated by profit. It is simply immoral to allow people to profit from situations like these. Therefore the only option is to ban any private help that might turn an immoral profit, and only allow government men with guns to help people.

      It’s a moral issue.

    4. Gov. Bobby Jindal might have a word or two to say on the subject. Granted, that wasn’t a disaster of weather, but do you see a peculiar pattern here?

    5. They just repeated over and over Grover Norquist’s quote about reducing government until you can “drown it in a bathtub”, and claimed that Bush had actually done that. You see, if you repeat something enough times it’s true!

      Fuck, you couldn’t drown the federal government in a bathtub the size of the Pacific Ocean.

      1. Fuck, you couldn’t drown the federal government in a bathtub the size of the Pacific Ocean.

        But, a bathtub that size might be just big enough to finally give Candy Crowley a thorough cleaning.

  6. It was like choose the evilest tweet last night. How about this one? (Halliburton?) Or maybe you prefer the more explicit absurd dickishness of this one.

    With the FEMA bullshit, though, I was just like…so I guess all of y’all have forgotten Katrina, then, right? I mean, that is what you’re saying now?

    1. No, the right Top Men are in charge now, it’s efficient, effective and warm-hearted.

    2. I liked all the ones of the form “still think global warming isn’t real….”

      Meghan McCain to Mike Godwin took part.

    3. I like the NYU hospital v. Goldman Sachs. Gee, which one do you think invested capital in making sure their generators worked?

      1. I know, don’t you just love that? And here I thought businesses weren’t supposed to be responsible. Shit. Neez moar cognitive dissonance.

    4. I’m imagining what a privatized cleanup would look like right now. Seems pretty good. New York would probably be the best place to leave to private interests to clean up. Do these people really not see the huge interest many big businesses have in having lower Manhattan functional as soon as possible?

      1. Particularly funny when you look at the other tweet. “Private efforts would be a disaster!” Followed by, “This private company is doing fine against the storm, the bastards!”

    5. “The fact that the NYU hospital is dark but Goldman Sachs is well-lit is everything that’s wrong with this country.”

      Ol’ ken is right about that, just not in the way he thinks he is.

      1. Well put.

      2. Let’s see, NYU hospital – any bets on whether that generator was being “maintained” and “serviced” by unionized employees?

    6. Wow, those are terrible. The worst I saw in my limited circle was Mike Schur (creator of Parks and Rec, also “FireJoeMorgan”), saying there shouldn’t be pop-up Internet ads on pages with Sandy info. As if it were a targeted effort by evil profitmongers.

  7. While we’re on the subject of disasters, maybe the New York Times can tell us exactly what happened at Benghazi, and why the President sat on his hands while the whole thing was going down?


  8. Bah. Katrina was the worst experience of my career in the military – I’d have rather been shot at and mortared instead. Giant horde of National Guard sent to show the Feds “cared” – and there was nothing to do. Wal-Mart had a better logistics train than we did, and the Coast Guard and the Salvation Army were more responsive. Uncle Fed is too damn clumsy for such responses.

  9. Yeah, OK that makes a lot of sesne when you think about it.

  10. And Soledad O’Brien this morning perpetuated the Big Government myth by completely politicizing disaster relief for the storm victims:
    “DemSlut and 0 supporter Soledad O’Brien to the Delaware governor during Sandy reporting:

    “So you think the state of Delaware can provide all that assistance without FEMA? Because you know, that is what Mitt Romney said – that FEMA should be returned to the states. Do you think you can get by without FEMA?”

    Delaware Gov., with that leading question, obliged- “No, that is ridiculous, FEMA has a lot of resources, blah blah blah…”

    Soledad still reprensting the 0 campaign, shamelessly politicizing the Sandy storm coverage and needs to be shamed for it on the air.”…..2197/posts

  11. Look on the bright side–at least we are sure to get some good stories of government idiocy to laugh about, like the first responders who were not allowed to get to New Orleans until they completed sexual harrasment trainign and the coast guard prohibition on foreign oil skimmers operating becuase the cleaned water they discharged had a higher oil content than the coast guard allows for bilge discharge.

  12. Of course private companies would be better at providing goods and services after a disaster than the US Federal Government. Private companies do this every day and their livelihood depends on doing it well. If you subbed me in as a pitcher for the NY Yankees, I probably wouldn’t perform very well, either.

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