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this came in email format to me today and although somewhat harsh, is worth the read and definitely worth the thought:

An Unnatural Disaster: A Hurricane Exposes the Man-Made Disaster of the Welfare State

An Objectivist Review

by Robert Tracinski | The Intellectual Activist

September 2, 2005

It has taken four long days for state and federal officials to figure out how to deal with the disaster in New Orleans. I can't blame them, because it has also taken me four long days to figure out what is going on there. The reason is that the events there make no sense if you think that we are confronting a natural disaster.

If this is just a natural disaster, the response for public officials is obvious: you bring in food, water, and doctors; you send transportation to evacuate refugees to temporary shelters; you send engineers to stop the flooding and rebuild the city's infrastructure. For journalists, natural disasters also have a familiar pattern: the heroism of ordinary people pulling together to survive; the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and rescue workers; the steps being taken to clean up and rebuild.

Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists--myself included--did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.

But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.

The man-made disaster is not an inadequate or incompetent response by federal relief agencies, and it was not directly caused by Hurricane Katrina. This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.

The man-made disaster we are now witnessing in New Orleans did not happen over the past four days. It happened over the past four decades. Hurricane Katrina merely exposed it to public view.

The man-made disaster is the welfare state.

For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency--indeed, they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country.

When confronted with a disaster, people usually rise to the occasion. They work together to rescue people in danger, and they spontaneously organize to keep order and solve problems. This is especially true in America. We are an enterprising people, used to relying on our own initiative rather than waiting around for the government to take care of us. I have seen this a hundred times, in small examples (a small town whose main traffic light had gone out, causing ordinary citizens to get out of their cars and serve as impromptu traffic cops, directing cars through the intersection) and large ones (the spontaneous response of New Yorkers to September 11).

So what explains the chaos in New Orleans?

To give you an idea of the magnitude of what is going on, here is a description from a Washington Times story:

"Storm victims are raped and beaten; fights erupt with flying fists, knives and guns; fires are breaking out; corpses litter the streets; and police and rescue helicopters are repeatedly fired on.

"The plea from Mayor C. Ray Nagin came even as National Guardsmen poured in to restore order and stop the looting, carjackings and gunfire....

"Last night, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said 300 Iraq-hardened Arkansas National Guard members were inside New Orleans with shoot-to-kill orders.

"'These troops are...under my orders to restore order in the streets,' she said. 'They have M-16s, and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.' "

The reference to Iraq is eerie. The photo that accompanies this article shows National Guard troops, with rifles and armored vests, riding on an armored vehicle through trash-strewn streets lined by a rabble of squalid, listless people, one of whom appears to be yelling at them. It looks exactly like a scene from Sadr City in Baghdad.

What explains bands of thugs using a natural disaster as an excuse for an orgy of looting, armed robbery, and rape? What causes unruly mobs to storm the very buses that have arrived to evacuate them, causing the drivers to drive away, frightened for their lives? What causes people to attack the doctors trying to treat patients at the Super Dome?

Why are people responding to natural destruction by causing further destruction? Why are they attacking the people who are trying to help them?

My wife, Sherri, figured it out first, and she figured it out on a sense-of-life level. While watching the coverage last night on Fox News Channel, she told me that she was getting a familiar feeling. She studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Chicago, which is located in the South Side of Chicago just blocks away from the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the largest high-rise public housing projects in America. "The projects," as they were known, were infamous for uncontrollable crime and irremediable squalor. (They have since, mercifully, been demolished.)

What Sherri was getting from last night's television coverage was a whiff of the sense of life of "the projects." Then the "crawl"--the informational phrases flashed at the bottom of the screen on most news channels--gave some vital statistics to confirm this sense: 75% of the residents of New Orleans had already evacuated before the hurricane, and of the 300,000 or so who remained, a large number were from the city's public housing projects. Jack Wakeland then gave me an additional, crucial fact: early reports from CNN and Fox indicated that the city had no plan for evacuating all of the prisoners in the city's jails--so they just let many of them loose. There is no doubt a significant overlap between these two populations--that is, a large number of people in the jails used to live in the housing projects, and vice versa.

There were many decent, innocent people trapped in New Orleans when the deluge hit--but they were trapped alongside large numbers of people from two groups: criminals--and wards of the welfare state, people selected, over decades, for their lack of initiative and self-induced helplessness. The welfare wards were a mass of sheep--on whom the incompetent administration of New Orleans unleashed a pack of wolves.

All of this is related, incidentally, to the apparent incompetence of the city government, which failed to plan for a total evacuation of the city, despite the knowledge that this might be necessary. But in a city corrupted by the welfare state, the job of city officials is to ensure the flow of handouts to welfare recipients and patronage to political supporters--not to ensure a lawful, orderly evacuation in case of emergency.

No one has really reported this story, as far as I can tell. In fact, some are already actively distorting it, blaming President Bush, for example, for failing to personally ensure that the Mayor of New Orleans had drafted an adequate evacuation plan. The worst example is an execrable piece from the Toronto Globe and Mail, by a supercilious Canadian who blames the chaos on American "individualism." But the truth is precisely the opposite: the chaos was caused by a system that was the exact opposite of individualism.

What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face. They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. They don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

But what about criminals and welfare parasites? Do they worry about saving their houses and property? They don't, because they don't own anything. Do they worry about what is going to happen to their businesses or how they are going to make a living? They never worried about those things before. Do they worry about crime and looting? But living off of stolen wealth is a way of life for them.

The welfare state--and the brutish, uncivilized mentality it sustains and encourages--is the man-made disaster that explains the moral ugliness that has swamped New Orleans. And that is the story that no one is reporting.

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basically spot on.

mayor nagin, interviewed on the radio last week, talked a lot about the underlying social crisis that was already raging when the storm hit. the gulf coast is a major ingress point for drugs, and the mayor fully acknowledges the ongoing drug problem in new orleans...not to mention inadequate social services for the poor, or the evacuation plan that basically ignored the poorest crescent city residents.

the mayor has been harping at the federal government to get a handle on the endless tide of cocaine flowing in to his city, and when asked why things went as badly as they did, basically said that the folks left behind were either bitter because they knew that they had been marginalized already or they were jonesing. in either case you have a lot of very angry armed people in beyond 3rd world conditions.

wouldn't you be mad?

the bigger unreported story is the winnowing away of the mechanisms that are there to help people after this sort of thing...decaying levees, army corps of engineers flood control budgets cut...the fact that FEMA was rooled into the Department of Homeland Security encapsulates the siuation.

as Esau said in another thread,


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The picture of Bush says it all, by the way.

One commentator (I think it was Jello Biafra) has pointed out that the U.S.A. is rapidly going the way of the U.S.S.R.

To many "conservative" (read: merely illiberal) commentators, the idea will seem absurd as they live in an Ayn Rand-inspired fantasyland. But a close look at events in New Orleans supports the thesis that recent successive American administrations have scaled back on infrastructure investment (not just roads and levees, but education and community-oriented programs) while redirecting that money to the military (on a weaponry spending-spree and engaged in a foreign war), while at the same time supporting increasingly stagnant and redundant industries. Sound familiar?

More than anything, the catastrophe in New Orleans shows what happens to a society when its priorities become perverted and debased.

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education and community oriented programs? in new orleans? hah! these people aren't the kind of people who have been on maternity leave for five years and are eagerly anticipating getting back into a workplace that has rapidly changed since they last visited... these are close to one million virtually unemployable people in the United States. no education, no job history, no work ethic, no values... instead of helping each other in times of crises they shot at each other and stole their neighbour's tv.

they don't to be 're-initiated' into society, they want to stay in their swamp and loot! i, by no means a bush fan, can understand why he wouldn't dare waste tax payer's money on creating social and educational programs to help lift these people out of poverty. they like it! they PREFER it! It's EASY for them. creating a grant, developing a policy, implementing an infrastructure are all recipes for disaster for a people who won't stand in their lines. a good solid target marketing study needs to be conducted on social spending.

the mayor of new orleans and the governor of louisiana are at fault in this situation. new orleans forever has been a bullseye for a great natural disaster. geologists have been warning them for some time. they knew the levees wouldn't hold and they didn't. they should have focused on protecting the city as best they could and they didn't. at the end of the day an evacuation order is just that, an order. history is full of orders and the stories of those who did, and did not listen to them.

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the mayor of new orleans and the governor of louisiana are at fault in this situation. new orleans forever has been a bullseye for a great natural disaster. geologists have been warning them for some time. they knew the levees wouldn't hold and they didn't. they should have focused on protecting the city as best they could and they didn't.

So maintaining the levees is a Municipal and/or State responsibility? The Feds have nothing to do with it, so their hands are clean?

i, by no means a bush fan, can understand why he wouldn't dare waste tax payer's money on creating social and educational programs to help lift these people out of poverty. they like it!

no-one ever said a welfare program was going to work smoothly or not be taken advantage of by people who are just lazy. That doesn't mean it should be abandoned or that those people are best left to die.

The tone of your post is mean-spirited and desperately cruel. Funny you're not a Bush supporter then, those seem to be the very attributes at play for Bush.

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actually marco i do agree... after i wrote that, i did look back at it and think to myself.. whoa that could totally be taken out of context... i know it sounded harsh, but i didn't want it to. promise.

i'm not saying that the feds should wash their hands of the mess and leave the people to die... i'm definitely not that mean-spirited! i just hate all the finger pointing that's going on down there and how quickly people have politicized this disaster into a battle of the left vs. the right. why? what good is that doing anybody?

however, i am going to stick to my guns on social programs. they really do need to be target marketed when you're spending other people's money... the welfare state has needed a serious reformation for years now and that reformation can't come by means of throwing more money at it. i'm sorry if this comes across as mean and harsh, but it's true... throwing money at problems doesn't make them go away, it just holds them off a little longer until something like katrina shows just how nasty they really are.

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Birdy, you're talking out of your ass so much you might as well sh!t out your mouth while your at it (it migth sound better too). I suppose that the homeless have only themselves to blame right? That all it takes is that "work ethic" that you feel poor people so sorely lack. Who the fu#k are you to suggest that poor people like to stay in crappy situations they're in? Or take advantage of social programs because they're too lazy to get out of them? Maybe if you actually did a bit of research on the subject you'd find out how places that have reduced poverty, did so through managed social programs that used MONEY to help people out of crappy situations. Yes people, money placed in the right spot can lift people out of poverty and crime. What's the biggest one? EDUCATION. But building schols, hiring teachers, getting textbooks costs money. Maybe if you and the asshole who wrote that crap op-ed piece (cause he sure didn't back anything up with facts) noticed that many local and state govt's have been cutting back on spending MONEY on things like schools and breakfast for kids in the morning, you might put 1 and 1 together. No education, no job skills, no job skills, no good paying jobs, no good paying jobs, no cars or hotels to stay in when a hurricane hits your town and detroys your home.

So it took a natural disaster to show how social programs made things worse by giving people too much, who didn't deserve it and only ended up abusing it? Wow that makes sense to me. Had nothing to so witt the fact many of the poor had 1) no where to go 2) no cars or money to get them out. 3) little to sustain themselves outside of their homes and jobs, err welfare cheques, cause of course poor people don't work, they're all to lazy right?

There's a big world outside small towns, and that kind of narrow minded, rugged individualism bullsh!t that Harris et all peddled was thankfully shown to be totally off today in a report done by TD bank.

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i think i'm going to respectfully bow out of this one... as my politics are obviously getting me into some trouble.

i'm not here to swear at you deranger or to get into cyber fights over the politics of a brutal human/natural disaster. i don't like it when things turn ugly and things are turning ugly on this one.. pretty fast.

my point is this, quite simple. there's always a two sides to any given story. it's easy to sit back and point fingers and lay blame and everybody has been pretty good at doing that. i'm just throwing a different side out to the story out there to see what it musters up. and voila. it sure did some mustering up.

please no harm intended...

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25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath

1) "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." –President Bush, on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina

2) "What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them." –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the Hurricane flood evacuees in the Houston Astrodome, Sept. 5, 2005

3) "It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level...It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." –House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Aug. 31, 2005

4) "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is — and it's hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — he's lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." (Laughter) —President Bush, touring hurricane damage, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005

5) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." —FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005

6) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." –President Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring Hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005

7) "I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water." –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, on NPR's "All Things Considered," Sept. 1, 2005

8) "Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse." –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, blaming media coverage for his failings, "Meet the Press," Sept. 4, 2005

9) "I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.†–Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sept. 6, 2005

10) "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals...many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold." —CNN's Wolf Blitzer, on New Orleans' hurricane evacuees, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

11) "What didn't go right?'" --President George W. Bush, as quoted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), after she urged him to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown "because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right" in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort

12) "Louisiana is a city that is largely under water." —Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, news conference, Sept. 3, 2005

13)"I also want to encourage anybody who was affected by Hurricane Corina to make sure their children are in school." –First Lady Laura Bush, twice referring to a "Hurricane Corina" while speaking to children and parents in South Haven, Mississippi, Sept. 8, 2005

14) "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground." –President George W. Bush, turning to his aides while surveying Hurricane Katrina flood damage from Air Force One, Aug. 31, 2005

15) "I believe the town where I used to come – from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much – will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to." –President George W. Bush, on the tarmac at the New Orleans airport, Sept. 2, 2005

16) "Last night, we showed you the full force of a superpower government going to the rescue." –MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Sept. 1, 2005

17) "You know I talked to Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi yesterday because some people were saying, 'Well, if you hadn't sent your National Guard to Iraq, we here in Mississippi would be better off.' He told me 'I've been out in the field every single day, hour, for four days and no one, not one single mention of the word Iraq.' Now where does that come from? Where does that story come from if the governor is not picking up one word about it? I don't know. I can use my imagination.†–Former President George Bush, who can give his imagination a rest, interview with CNN’s Larry King, Sept. 5, 2005

18) "...those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city..." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, on New Orleans residents who could not evacuate because they were too poor and lacked the means to leave, CNN interview, Sept. 1, 2005

19) "We just learned of the convention center – we being the federal government – today." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, to ABC's Ted Koppel, Sept. 1, 2005, to which Koppel responded " Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today."

20) "I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, arguing that the victims bear some responsibility, CNN interview, Sept. 1, 2005

21) "I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That's just not happening." -Bill Lokey, FEMA's New Orleans coordinator, in a press briefing from Baton Rouge, Aug. 30, 2005

22) "FEMA is not going to hesitate at all in this storm. We are not going to sit back and make this a bureaucratic process. We are going to move fast, we are going to move quick, and we are going to do whatever it takes to help disaster victims." --FEMA Director Michael Brown, Aug. 28, 2005

23) "I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen." --GOP strategist Jack Burkman, on MSNBC's "Connected," Sept. 7, 2005

24) "As of Saturday (Sept. 3), Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said." –Washington Post staff writers Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, who didn't bother to fact-check the blatant lie peddled by the Bush administration as part of its attempts to pin blame on state and local officials, when, in fact, the emergency declaration had been made on Friday, Aug. 26

25) "Thank President Clinton and former President Bush for their strong statements of support and comfort today. I thank all the leaders that are coming to Louisiana, and Mississippi and Alabama to our help and rescue. We are grateful for the military assets that are being brought to bear. I want to thank Senator Frist and Senator Reid for their extraordinary efforts. Anderson, tonight, I don't know if you've heard – maybe you all have announced it -- but Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating." –Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), to CNN's Anderson Cooper, Aug. 31, 2005, to which Cooper responded:

"I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians slap – you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up. Do you get the anger that is out here?"

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