Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Heartbroken: I'm a Texan, but New Orleans has always been my favorite place on Earth to visit. The food, the music, the culture, the fun, and the women -- absolute Heaven.

Now it's almost all under water. Thousands are feared dead. I know the city will bounce back. But it breaks my heart to see such a disaster.

Of course, we can't have a widespread catastrophe without a good controversy. An entire large American city has been destroyed and has had to be evacuated, and unfortunately things aren't going swimmingly. Even though this is a purely natural disaster, people can't help but blame somebody.

I've been on vacation away from the Internet, so all I've gathered about the controversy is from tidbits reported on cable news -- which never seems to offer much analysis or comprehension, just allegations.

I'm sure that our government agencies could have done a better job in handling the crisis. There's always room for improvement. But there seems to be this idea that government can magically solve big problems. Sure, the United States has more resources than any other country. But if those resources can't make it to the intended destination, they won't do any good. And after they get there, it takes time to make it work.

Remember, Katrina initially missed the New Orleans bull's eye. At first people thought we dodged a bullet. Then the levees broke and the flood waters began rising.

When we realized that we really did have a crisis, we couldn't just drive in supplies. Interstate 10 was broken and battered, along with much of the rest of the transportation infrastructure. And boats don't have easy access. Crushed buildings and other floating debris clogged most routes. It would be like trying to drive a boat through a swampy junk yard.

People are even trying to throw in racial accusations, considering that most of the neglected are black. Well, the ones hurt worst by this tragedy are poor, and most of the poor in New Orleans are black. While that is a significant problem on its own, that can't be fixed next week by the National Guard.

Wealthy white people were able to get out. Poor black people could not easily escape before Katrina landed. As far as I can tell, the rescue missions are helping everyone they can. And from day one rescuers were able to help save thousands of people and send them to surrounding states and cities. Yes, it's unfortunate that some people were left behind. But we only have the capacity to move so many people at a time, especially under such dire circumstances.

And the violence in the affected areas will continue to hamper rescue efforts. A rescuer can't rescue anybody if he is hurt or killed -- in fact he becomes a serious liability. So with so many rescuers being shot at, you can expect delays.

(On the issue of crime, though, I'm confused about this whole notion of "looting". Some people are stealing televisions and stereos from stores. Yes, that's looting, especially since there is no electricity for such appliances. But other people are taking food, clothing, and medicine. Let's give these people a break, please.)

With all that said, bring on the investigations. Let's figure out what went wrong and what went right. We can learn from this incident for next time -- and there will be a next time. But we need to maintain proper perspective and realistic expectations.


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