Friday, September 02, 2005

Nice Zinger from Congressman Chuck Rangel

Yes, I'm still preoccupied by the outrageous situation in New Orleans.

Here's one from Congressman Charles Rangel, quoted in the New York Times:

"Most cities have a hidden or not always talked about poor population, black and white, and most of the time we look past them," Dr. Crew said. "This is a moment in time when we can't look past them. Their plight is coming to the forefront now. They were the ones less able to hop in a car and less able to drive off."

That disparity has been criticized as a "disgrace" by Charles B. Rangel, the senior Democratic congressman from New York City, who said it was made all the worse by the failure of government officials to have planned.

"I assume the president's going to say he got bad intelligence," Mr. Rangel said, adding that the danger to the levees was clear.


shibudada said...


11:12 AM  
MD said...

Utterly unfair Amardeep.
And completely beneath you. You are better than this.

An area the size of the *United Kingdom* is a disaster zone - the size of the United Kingodn! The governor requests federal help - that is how the law works. She did not do that immediately or before the hurricane, as far as I can tell, and if she had and the storm passed by, she would have been criticized too. She has about 8000 National Guard under her control, but they are differently trained: not all are trained to be MPs etc. It takes time to mobilize them - you have to call them up, collect them, get them packed, into vehicles, gas up the vehicles, and get them there. Roads, trains out of commission. Airports, even air force bases are flooded. What happened I think was she thought that the worst had passed them by; they didn't really think it was going to be this bad. And then the levee broke. The byzantine Parish system of government could not agree on what to do about the levees; corruption is rife in that city and the first responders in our federal system are local. That's how it is set up and that is how it should be. Mobilizing troops, logistically, takes several days. You can't just parachute in paratroopers. They would be injured dropped into the flood waters, falling on houses. I am sure you know all these things, right? Tell me. How long does it take to mobilize several thousand troops. Because you've done the math, right?

I have a friend who went to school in New Orleans and she says the did not really enforce the mandatory evacuation and made no plans to get out people in projects, etc. The plan was to go to the Superdome. No one thought to put food or water or security in the dome. That is at the aegis of the Mayor and governor.

The logists of air relief, air drops and getting soldiers in is enormous. If you drop food, it may spoil by going into the water, be wasted, fall on people and hurt them (this happened in Afghanistan) or may cause riots and stampedes if dropped into to crowded an area with people. I'm not saying that there are not problems, or failures. But this is an enormous catastrophe and Mr. Rangel's remarks are disgusting. Why has he no criticizm for the city, county, state?

Yes, the danger to the levee was clear. Clear to everybody for years and years and years. Lots of people dropped the ball.

Sorry Amardeep, I know you are a really good guy but the quote you highlighted really wasn't funny or relevant. It's the worst sort of partisanship. And yes, both sides play the game.

11:35 AM  
MD said...

Oh, and by the way, did Rangel vote for that gigantic porkladen highway bill? I'm sure he didn't because he was concerned it was a terrible use of resources. What a principled man - if only people had listened to him.

Congress dropped the ball too. They'd love to push off their responsibilities, the old suits.


11:37 AM  
MD said...

Oh, one more comment. Sorry Amardeep, it's the desi in me. We do have some sort of verbal diarrhea, don't we?

The poor are uniquely vulnerable, always have been. I have sympathy for those sentiments. But the bottom line is politicians of both parties, and local officials in NO ignored them and ignored their plight when ordering the mandatory evacuation. Why did Mayor Nagin not think of them when ordering the evacuation? Shouldn't he have asked the governor to ask for federal help at that point?

11:41 AM  
MD said...

Ok, I'm gonna stop now, because I think I am being a tad bit unfair.

I wonder if part of the slow Fed response is that there is a new command structure, NORTHCOM, responsible for this in the military. This is the first time this command structure has been in charge - one wonders if the old structure were being used, if things would be moving faster? Maybe this is at a nexis of people without experience putting together the rescue operations, when past military operations were run under a different, experienced command?

Ok, done now.

Take care :)

12:10 PM  
Amardeep said...


Ok, ok, Rangel's comments are partisan. He's no angel, and this is not just Bush's fault.

But there are many things that have been frustrating me about the national level of the response:

We've had four years since 9/11 to develop 'inter-agency' coordination in response to emergencies. But that coordination seems to be painfully lacking here. With a problem of this scale, it is the federal government's job to be in charge. They need to send in adequate numbers of troops QUICKLY. Not just promise them on Wednesday and have them show up on Saturday. They need to make decisions about what to do with the large numbers of people whose lives are in jeopardy and execute those plans QUICKLY.

They knew there were thousands of people waiting to get evacuated starting Tuesday. They've seen (I hope) the thousands of people sleeping on highway overpasses and in the convention center. Today's Friday. Lots of those people are still there. And some of the ones who've been sent to Houston don't have a place to go.

There's no coordination evident here at all.

--Another shock is with the Levee. It appears that 'officials' (might have been state, or city) were dithering over what to do about one of the broken levees. A private contractor, frustrated with the inaction, simply drove a truck in there and threw down some steel shavings, and closed it. (Washington Post)

Certainly, the levee thing isn't Bush's fault so much as a general governmental failure. But I still have a hard time comprehending the incompetence over something so fundamental to the city's future survival.

--With great difficulty, Charity Hospital started evacuating some vulnerable patients (on ventilators) to the airport yesterday, only to be waved off: sorry, we aren't equipped to handle ventilator patients. Go back to your hospital, with no power, no AC, and dwindling supplies of food and water. Oh, and good luck keeping those people alive.

--Some of the scenes of relief incompetency you describe as happening in Afghanistan are in fact happening with the National Guard. Check out the Interdictor, who is blogging while holed up in a skyscraper in downtown NO. (Don't ask me why he's trying to stay on, I don't know).

The National Guard is treating the refugees with extreme hostility. In one case, they dropped supplies of water and food from a highway overpass down to the convention center (don't know why they couldn't just go directly to the center). While dropping, many of the supplies were destroyed.

--I've heard of two really egregious statements from administration officials on the relief effort. One is from Michael Brown, who in this interview basically blames the people who didn't/couldn't leave for failing to heed the mandatory evacuation. He's the director of FEMA, so clearly he doesn't have anything better to be doing, right?

I also heard Chertoff yesterday on NPR, bragging about the government's "magnificent" response to the disaster, while denying that there were in fact 3000 (or 10,000) people in the convention center. This was the director of Homeland Security -- a Bush cabinet appointee -- and he didn't know anything what anyone in the country who had been watching CNN already knew.

I have a feeling Chertoff will be resigning in a couple of weeks. But I blame Bush for appointing this nincompoop to begin with.

Perhaps this rant should have been my post to begin with, not the comment from Rangel.

12:16 PM  
kanya said...

You forgot to add Amardeep, to the other magnificent points you made, that Bush cut, actually CUT funding to agencies that were working on buttressing levees and disaster management in New Orleans. md's points are good--that disaster management is much easier sitting in an armchair from a distance, criticizing what wasn't done. It is a HUGE, enormous task that boggles the imagination. But the evidence of Bush's incompetence, his inability to cut short his vacation in time (he had to cut it short by two days--so sad), his inability to say anything more than 'it will all come out well in the end' is being comprehensively recorded in the national media by people who ARE disaster experts, environmental experts, people experienced in administration, not just some misguided lefties who are being 'unfair.' Amardeep's earlier point is absolutely pertinent here--the disaster opened up the faultlines of class and race structures in New Orleans. Instead of being scuttled into alleys and byways, hidden from the view of tourists consuming magnicificent plantation-era buildings, here it was out in the open. It would be interesting to compare the response to 9/11 when New York was impacted to the response to New Orleans. I love NO, have spent some lovely moments there with my husband, but was always freaked out by the latent 'segregation' in the city. I just heard from a close friend who evacuated Saturday evening that she is fine, but determined to go back to join the relief efforts. Let's hope, as always, that the generosity of people will fill in the glaring gaps left by others. On that hopelessly 'liberal' note, I'll stop.

12:58 PM  
Rob Breymaier said...

I understand that it's Brown not Chertoff who's the real failure.

2:12 PM  
Rob Breymaier said...

To say that the diaster area is the size of the UK is not fair. The counties included make up the same area. But, the actual area that has suffered real devastation is not the size of the UK.

And, in UK slang, this was a total cock-up on the part of the federal government. Even when the disiater was declared, FEMA reposnded poorly. Before it, the Coast Guard, military, fish and wildlife, interior all should have been ready to act.

2:15 PM  
Kush Tandon said...

I lived in Southern Louisiana for 7 years. I must have gone to New Orleans ~ 100 times and spent quite bit of time there. I feel pained.

I really feel hurt when people (not you, Amardeep) talk about mandatory evacuation. A city which has a huge underbelly of poor people spread around in projects - things are not that simple. This is not what you see when you go to "House of Blues" at French Quarter as a tourist.

A large % of New Orleanians have less than $50 as spare emergency funds.

4:31 PM  
Anjali said...


Thanks for bringing this issue of race and class out in the open. This was the urban underclass - black and poor - that we thought we could just ignore. Wolf Blitzer is supposed to have said 'You see that picture [of people stranded on roofs or wading through water] over and over and over again but no matter how many times you see that picture, you simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals ... almost all of them are so poor, and so black...'
We should be ashamed that this is the case!

6:57 PM  
Anonymous said...

I think that these kind of disasters show the "other side" of United States to the rest of the world. Most people who live outside of U.S. think of big buildings, prosperity, opportunity, and Caucasion people when they think of America. They do not see the poor people living few blocks from these tall buildings.

8:14 PM  
Khalistani_Commando said...

I've never seen so many young, able-bodied men just sitting on a pile of garbage, waiting for the White-man to come along and fix their life. They have the wide screen television, the bling-blig, and the Nike or Fubu. But they don't own tools, a truck, a boat, a chainsaw, a generator, fuel tanks, air compressors, water purifiers or anything of real value. The dependant mentality thats been bred by welfare is the true slavery thats keeping black people oppressed today. Federal policy should be simple in NO ...if you are a child, female, elderly or infirm - we will get u out. Otherwise u are on your own. Lock down the area and let them sort it out between themselves. At a certain point the only ones left will be the ones smart enough to organize themselves into militias or get out. Those we accept back into society as for the rest ...good riddance.

11:31 PM  
Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

They have the wide screen television, the bling-blig, and the Nike or Fubu. But they don't own tools, a truck, a boat, a chainsaw, a generator, fuel tanks, air compressors, water purifiers or anything of real value.

This is beyond stupid. Are you a visitor from another planet? No, wait, I know, you are spoofing a racist right winger response.

4:32 PM  
khalistani_commando said...

Whats stupid about my post and whats racist? We encourage our children to be self-sufficient and obey the law, right ...the consequences of not doing so being that u suffer. But when it comes to blacks we tell them relax, we (the state) look after u no matter what. Then when the wrath of nature takes its toll these people are in no way equiped with the mind-set and material it takes to survive. Sorry pal, you're the stupid racist - I'm saying that blacks ARE CAPABLE of looking after themselves if only we stopped nurtering them on welfare. The NO disaster has proved that the government simply cannot look after everysingle man woman and child. Ultimately we all stand alone against nature - whites, asians, indians understand this and prepare for the worst - unfortunately due to the liberal slavery-guilt complex suffered by many white people ...blacks do not.

6:10 PM  
Onkar said...

What about Khalistanis? What would they do in such a situation?

Such a lovely, sympathetic, human and dignified poster you are *sarcasm off*

5:18 AM  
khalistani_commando said...

I do sympathize...I sympathize with the young, the infirm and the elderly. For those who had the chance to leave but didn't I say learn from this ...see the filth you are living in and see how you can change it by changing yourself and your attitude. The Federal government cannot change peoples mindsets, its up to people to do that themselves. As for Khalistanis well I can tell you this we would be self-sufficient thats for sure, Khalistanis would get their women-folk, children and elderly out first - then go back for others regardless of race, color or religion and regardless of risk to self. As for the looters and the rapists...well theres another solution for those people.

11:40 AM  
Kanya said...

I was just reading some educated and informed Americans argue exactly the opposite--that the hurricane showed that 'limited government,' that is, 'shrinking the government' is exactly the problem. Stronger government intervention in a matter which requires moving large infrastructure and looking after those 'who cannot fight for themselves' is exactly what is needed. The tragedy shows that a conglomeration of private structures cannot do the job. This is not a Robin Hood/Batman to the rescue situation (or an Amitabh Bachchan movie) where you will save the old and the infirm out of the goodness of your heart. It is a claim that taxpayers in a society have on a government elected by them. Nor, we hope, is it a Darwinian fight for the survival of the fittest (in this case, the richest). That notion--that those who can save themselves should have etc--belongs to the movies.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous said...

The 'shrinking' government is not the problem. The problem is ineffective local government. The bulk of the responsibility for this disaster goes to the local government which had no idea on how to deal with this disaster. Most of these poor people are not taxpayers either. Many of them don't have any jobs and were on welfare. The people who were the taxpayers and had jobs evacuated before the hurricane came. These people are just used to government coming and solving their problems. They are paralyzed by the welfare system where they can never take responsibility for themselves.

6:19 PM  
khalistani_commando said...

Where has stronger government been more successfull in averting tragedy? Indonesia is an example of an autocratic regime that was helpless in the face of the Tsunami... the bottom line is that this disaster is so massive in scale that the resources required for a central government intervention would be so vast as to make it impossible. So the only option is to foster self-reliance. Thats all I'm saying.

7:08 PM  
Amardeep said...

Thanks everyone for visiting this site and offering your comments. There have been some things said that I seriously disagree with, but I'll let them stand, and cross my fingers that readers will know where I stand on things.

At any rate, the time has come for me to close comments on this post.

7:59 PM  

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