September 3, 2005

The Death of Politeness

One of the victims of hurricane Katrina is veneer of politeness that governs our political discourse. You simply are not rude in modern politics. No matter what line of crap someone is peddling, they will be heard and asked polite questions that can be easily dodged. No one has taken advantage of this politeness more than the Bush administration. No has every confronted Bush or his administration directly with a line like "You lied about the WMD, you ass." They are always allowed to offer their worthless explanations because we wouldn't want to be rude, would we?

Well Katrina has brought an end to that. Jack Shafer has a piece in slate outlining all the rudeness from the news people when they are confronted with administration BS. It cumulated in CNN showing the difference between administration quotes and their reporter's reality. Rapper Kanye West just tore into Bush during a benefit concert. The Mayor of New Orleans was losing it in buckets in a radio interview.

So what is different about this event? Why was no one rude about Iraq and WMD? Because people are dieing, slowing, right in front of reporters and cameras and there is no "enemy" to invoke. The dirtiest and most effective rhetorical trick of the right has been to criticism bush aids terrorist/Saddam. But Katrina is just weather. It can't be "aided" Screw ups are screw ups and pointing them out isn't going to hearten the flood waters. So three cheers for the death of politeness!

1 comment:

Roy said...

I've got no particular loyalty to Mayor Nagin, but I
want to make sure that he's portrayed in the right
light in these events, because I've heard people
lambaste him elsewhere with faulty information (and
the news shows stuff that looks bad on his record).

So here's some points that I feel should be made, and
I'm hoping that if you find them interesting and
valid, you can point them out to other people.

First, a chain of events:
- Mayor Nagin declared a Voluntary Evacuation on
Friday, August 26th.
- Contraflow (the converting of inbound lanes of the
freeway to outbound lanes) was implemented Saturday,
as well as Sunday, and stayed in efect Sunday until 6
hours before the hurricane hit.
- Mayor Nagin was on the news Saturday, August 27th
saying that he was having the City Attourney figure
out whether he (Nagin) had the authority to declare a
Mandatory Evacuation, and also to figure out how to
resolve certain other issues (what to do about
hospitals, which would not be able to admit new
patients even to the ER if a Mandatory Evacuation was
declared, and what to do about the tourists, many of
whom did not have suitable resources to follow through
with a Mandatory Evacuation if one was declared)
- Mayor Nagin asked repeatedly for local church groups
to "buddy up" with people who might not be able to
leave the city, to help carpool the population out.
- Mayor Nagin declared a Mandatory Evacuation Sunday,
August 28th, sometime shortly before noon (perhaps 10
in the morning), with ammendments to it to account for
the issues that he had.
- My understanding is that Mayor Nagin did not leave
the city, but instead weathered the hurricane in the
Hyatt (which loses him points for stupidity, but earns
him points for keeping in the middle of things to the
last, at least in my book)

The news has shown a number of scenes with flats of
school busses flooded by the hurricane, adn left
people wondering why Nagin didn't use those to ferry
people out of the city.

First, as of 9:00am, Sunday the I-10 westbound was
moving at approximately 1 MPH (well, it was probably
ging faster, but it was still slower than LA during
rush-hour). The I-10 westbound is one of the few
routes out of the city.

So if Mayor Nagin packed a posse of school busses with
people, they would be sitting in traffic for a
long-ass time. And even if it's only 6-hours to get
to Baton Rouge (which it was during Ivan), that's only
one load of people, and there was no refugee center
set up in Baton Rouge at that time, ergo the people
would be ferried to a possible hurricane side-swipe
zone, and then told to get off and make something up.
And this assume that the gas to power this fleet was
available and that people would be willing to court
school-bus misery at this early time.

Instead the mayor tried to use his bus-fleet to ferry
as many people as possible to as many buildings as
possible that could withstand the brunt of the storm.

My understanding is that Nation Guard troops require
72 hours to activate (and I don't know how weekends
affect that timetable), so if New Orleans activated
the National Guard every time a hurricane entered the
Gulf of Mexico, they'd never get to their day-jobs.

And last but not least - why didn't anyone order a
shoot looters on sight order sooner. This part is
just kind of opinion, but it is my personal
opinion/suspicion that people would respond with
equal, if not greater, outrage when the newspaper
showed pictures of women and children gunned down for
grabbing water from Wal-Mart. Why? Because you can't
issue a "we shoot all looters who aren't looting
essentials" you have to issue a blanket statement,
because virtually all looted goods can be deemed
essential to some people. And if everyone loots just
water, then you can't distribute the water on an
as-needed basis. (i.e. you have to issue simple
"shoot all looters" directives to keep things goign
smoothly, and then you have the issue of people seeing
dead crowds of people who just wanted water and/or
food) (and we're talking elected officials here, who
would rather look incompetant than have a large black
mark on their record that they will never escape)