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<nettime> More progressive responses to Katrina [2x]
Announcer on Thu, 8 Sep 2005 14:06:28 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> More progressive responses to Katrina [2x]

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   Re: <nettime> A Progressive Response to Katrina                                 
     Michael H Goldhaber <mgoldh {AT} well.com>                                           

   open letter to GB from Michael Moore                                            
     Deb King <debkking {AT} yahoo.com>                                                   



Date: Thu, 8 Sep 2005 01:34:06 -0700
From: Michael H Goldhaber <mgoldh {AT} well.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> A Progressive Response to Katrina

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Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  I don't quite agree though.

On Sep 6, 2005, at 3:01 PM, E. Miller wrote:

> The federal government maintained the levee system and provides FEMA; the
> state is the first responder for disaster law and order in the form of the
> National Guard, as well as statewide emergency planning; the local
> government is inherently responsible for preparations specific to the
> community; and individuals have a responsibility to themselves and to their
> neighbors.  At all of these levels there was catastrophic failure.  I don't
> know that it's reasonable to point the finger solely at the level most
> removed from the catastrophe, even if that level (the Feds) are ultimately
> the only ones with the resources to handle the largest emergencies.

I cannot accept letting FEMA and the federal government off the hook so easily. 
FEMA has realized for more than 4 years that one of the worst possible disaster it
had to plan for was just what happened. Did it plan? Not unless it wanted to take
the opportunity to take over the city for the federal government, as some blogs
are claiming (though even they are mum on whether this would have been planned in

Even if primary responsibility in some sense rests with the city and state, it
would have been easy for FEMA to have worked out and coordinated with them
detailed plans on how to respond to disasters of various magnitudes in advance.
Surely 9-11 showed the necessity of this.

Louisiana is a poor state, New Orleans a poor city.  We can't expect every little
borough or hamlet to have adequate disaster plans. Planning for emergencies is
complex, and requires a high degree of professionalism, with many tasks that must
be adequately coordinated. It only makes sense that this capacity can be far more
fully developed at the federal level than at state or local, and this
responsibility for making sure plans are ready should clearly be at that top
level. I have heard repeated claims that laws and even the Constitution require
that states have ultimate power in this, but it's obviously easy for the federal
government to force the state's hands quite thoroughly if it wants to. Just as
seatbelt requirements have been tied to federal highway money, federal
disaster-related grants could and should be tied to a coordinated plan. FEMA under
Clinton apparently regularly did such things, but this was undone under Bush.

Further, I don't see how responsibility to decide whether or not to evacuate can
be placed on individual citizens. We make it a law that people in cars or planes
must wear seat belts. It is not left up to their individual decisions, just as it
is not an individual choice whether to stop at a red light. To make it possible to
buckle up we require that cars and planes be equipped with the seat belts. In the
same way, New Orleans residents could not be expected to leave if not offered
transportation, a destination, and assurances that their homes would be protected
as far as possible against destruction, and that they could return. Even those
with means to leave cannot always view the situation dispassionately enough to
decide whether their own safety requires that they do leave. Home can be hard to
give up. (My own grandparents had ample warning =97 years =97 that, as Jews, they
should leave Nazi Germany, but they never could believe the danger, and so died.
Had there been some authority able to get them out of harm's way, which failed to
do so, I would have held that authority culpable, but not them themselves.)

> These were historic neighborhoods with strong communities.  They were
> also
> crime-ridden, filled with substandard housing, enforced de facto
> segregation, and helped institutionalize a lack of opportunity for the
> underclass.  I'm not sure that building reproductions of pre-hurricane New
> Orleans underclass residences (avoiding the term 'ghetto' here) would
> a good
> idea any more than I'd be keen on rebuilding a cloned copy of Cabrini Green
> if it had been gutted by a fire.  We'd be enshrining a monument to
> 'benign
> neglect'.

Certainly these neighborhoods are problematic. But destroying a community without
its members full agreement is pretty grievous as well. Considering that the
ancestors of a large number of the poor built New Orleans and the surrounding
areas, maybe now is the time to repay the favor by aiding them in rebuilding
better than what they lost. In any event, what is already being bruited, that the
poor will just be kept out and the areas where they lived turned over to
developers for casinos or theme parks or fancy housing, must not be allowed to
come to pass. I think progressives must insist that the poor be consulted and
allowed a chance to consider in full the various ramifications of their choices.
Certainly their churches should be rebuilt as well; that is restoring community,
not establishing religion.

>> What must our immediate demands be? We can only arrive at that by
>> swift
>> networking to develop consensus
> I'd respectfully suggest that ad-hoc committees, communities of
> interest,
> and study groups aren't really set up to lead in a dire situation like

> this.
> The "analysis paralysis" of the left seems to keep us from formulating
> innovative solutions.  And incidentally, it seems to be losing us a
> fair
> number of elections.

If you are right that the left can't do anything, why bother? On the other hand,
maybe now is a time we can get over "analysis paralysis." In the last election
some new networks were built, which are somewhat more than " ad-hoc committees,
communities of interest, and study groups."  Why not see if we can do something
real with them, rather than wallowing in the conviction of our own

If not now, when?



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