Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tale Of Two Hurricanes

A few weeks ago, the media spotlighted the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated parts of New Orleans and became a major media story.

But with all the attention paid to Katrina, curiously lost in the shuffle when it came to both attention and aid were the victims of Hurricane Ike, which devastated the Texas Gulf Coast last year.

Over at Rhymes With Right guest blogger Paula, a victim of Ike, has an excellent post which needs to be read in full that compares and contrasts the way the two disasters were handled, both by the media and the Federal government:

A couple of weeks ago, I watched and listened to the coverage of the fourth anniversary of the natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. I've waited for our turn, for the retrospectives on the events of September 12 & 13, 2008 -- the natural disaster that we call Hurricane Ike.

I'm still waiting.{...}

I feel that our communities were failed by every level of government. FEMA gave help to 17% of those that asked for it -- 17% of the residents of communities that were devastated by the third most destructive hurricane in American history, people who were left living in hotels, church youth rooms, and finally (if they were lucky) other small living spaces. Those that could afford it were paying for two households for much of the last year and those who couldn't ended up bunking with friends and relatives, pitching up tents and or living in campers. We here in the Houston/Galveston area didn't get the $2000 debit cards given to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, either.

Galveston Island did get a "special visit" from Bush 41 and Clinton. Yee-Haw good buddies! But no telethons, no national fundraising campaigns, and precious little help compared to how another devastated city was treated three years before.

Let's fast forward to 2009. Our new Congressman, Pete Olsen, must be too busy meeting up with his buddies in DC, and President Obama still seems to just think that the only hurricane that devastated lives was that girl called Katrina. Hey Barack, there was a guy called Ike that still has victims and survivors that your "Yes We Can" administration ought to help, but so far we've seen little more than "No We Can't".

Paula wonders why the victims of Ike continued to be ignored when it comes to aid and attention, and I believe I can shed some light on the subject. As unpleasant as it may be to discuss, I think Ike victims got the muddy end of the stick ( to be polite about it) because they got screwed by both sides of the political spectrum where race meets politics.

To expand on that old saying about the real estate market, it's all timing and location.

Katrina was a major media story, and it was used by the Dinosaur media and the Democratic Party to make political points against a president they despised. Katrina, remember, occurred little more than a year before the 2006 midterms. Even if you're not a fan of our former president (and as you know, I wasn't) even a casual examination of the facts behind what happened has to give the lion's share of the blame to the ineffectual inaction of two Democrats, Louisiana's Governor Kathleen Blanco who refused to cooperate with a federal order to evacuate the city before the storm hit and Mayor Ray Nagin, who was too incompetent to carry out the city's own disaster plan and left buses commandeered for the purpose of getting people out sitting empty in the water while residents of the city were forced to make their own way into the Superdome because they had nowhere else to go.

To add to the mix, the majority of the victims of Katrina were black, which added a whole different dimension to the assault from the media and from certain members of Congress. Because of the race of the victims, there was the added dimension of appealing to a loyal Democrat constituency painting a sitting Republican president with the standard brush of being insensitive and unsympathetic to black folks, particularly since this particular president came from Texas.

Bush, of course, overcompensated against the thinly veiled charges of racism by lavishing aid and assistance on the victims of Katrina far beyond normal federal guidelines and by refusing to criticize Blanco or Nagin for their part in things. He did exactly the same thing after an idiotic UN bureaucrat criticized America's Asian Tsunami aid as 'cheap'...doubling the aid money, even though in the case of both the Tsunami and Katrina, that meant a lot of money was wasted or improperly diverted.

When it came to Hurricane Ike none of these features were in play. Bush was a despised lame duck president already on his way out and the Democrats were already in control of Congress and expecting to win the White House. The victims were perceived as white Texans in a state that would mostly vote Republican anyway, so there was no need of a major firestorm from either the Democrats in Congress or the dinosaur media.

As a consequence, there wasn't any political pressure on George W. Bush when it came to expanding aid either.

As for President Barack Obama, he's already proved during his brief time as president that he's far from being the post-racial president he was advertised as being. And that means that predominantly white victims of natural disasters, especially in Red states go to the back of the bus where he's concerned. There was a superb example of this early in his term..just ask the people of Kentucky.

When they were hit with ice storms that took out power in most of the state and blocked the roads last January, fifty people died of the cold while FEMA and the Feds were nowhere to be found and president Obama was busily hosting his SuperBowl party in his toasty warm Oval Office.Needless to say, he didn't even bother to mention the disaster, let alone visit the area.

The media except for FOX hardly gave this a mention. If this had been the Bush Administration or a Republican president and the residents were primarily black, I guarantee you this story would have been front page headlines throughout the nation,and rife with accusations from the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Julianne Malveaux and their ilk of racism.

The same thing unfortunately applies to the victims of Hurricane Ike, ugly though it might be to say it. One can only hope that the resiliency and courage of the Gulf residents will enable them to rebuild their communities..because in terms of timing, race and political clout, just like Kentucky they're pretty much screwed as far as any Washington gimmees or special attention is concerned. My heart goes out to them.



Anonymous said...

You said: "of the natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina"

You did good with your article. You made your excellent points and you did it without bashing New Orleanians. Thanks.

However, just to let you know, west of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, New Orleanians suffered the worst engineering disaster in the history of North America.

Our outfall canal floodwalls fell down without even being overtopped (at less than half their design loads) because of negligent engineering in the design of those floodwalls' foundations by engineers employed with the US Army Corps of Engineers as reported in the official levee failure investigation reports and reported to Congress by Corps leadership in June of 2006 and as decided by US 5th District Judge S. Duval in 2008.


Freedom Fighter said...

hey Ray,
I'd never bash NOLA or the good folks too many friends there.

The problem with New Orleans has always been that it's a basin surrounded by water. Any major blow sooner or later was bound to flood the city, and it's certainly shameful if the levees were built below standard and didn't perform properly as you say.

It was still a natural disaster because of the magnitude of the storm in my view, even if the floodwalls weren't built properly.I wonder if there were private contractors employed by the Army involved.

My focus was on the politics involved in how similar disasters were handled, and I certainly agree with you that the blame doesn't belong on the residents of New Orleans.


B.Poster said...

I must say this is an excellent analysis. I was heavily impacted by Ike. Its been a long hard effort but the areas most affected around here are doing a great job rebuilding, however, there still remains much work to be done. Frankly, I would rather the Government stay out of the way and allow us to do the work that needs to be done without there interference. It would be all the better if they would stop taking our money through exorbiant taxes.

Now about the idiotic UN official who charcterizes American aid as "cheap", does this man have any idea of the financial problems America faces. America's national debt was a huge problem that has unfortunately been exacerbated by the policies of the current government. As such, America could barely afford this aid even at the time it was given. When a financially strapped person or entity reaches deep into his pockets to help you, the appropiate response is "thank you." You DO NOT blast his efforts as being "cheap/" This is distasteful and rude. Oh how I wish we had officials in the US government who would point this out this person and people like him.

louielouie said...

I was heavily impacted by Ike.

i usually read all of ff essays, and most of the comments. i can't remember you ever mentioning this. with that said, all i could have done is offer a prayer and verbal encouragement. i remember at the time khou suspended regular programming and did a live telecast of the hurricane. never did go off the air. generators i'm sure.

i'm sure ff is employing a journalistic standard, however, the only thing i disagree with him on in this essay is the continual use of phrases/terms such as:
ugly though it might be to say it.
when conditioning his statements regarding race/politics and their interfaces in these disasters.
it's as plain as the nose on your face.