Friday, March 03, 2006

Ray Nagin and the Art of Accountability Dodging

Yesterday, footage surfaced that clearly proves George W. Bush lied when he said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," regarding the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin’s response was predictable, “It surprises me that if there was that kind of awareness, why was the response so slow?” In light of this latest development in the ongoing game of ‘Who-Was-The-Most-Incompetent’ Hot Potato, I thought it would be additionally illuminating to examine some of the information that Ray Nagin had at his disposal.

In September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan, one of the strongest and most costly hurricanes on record, slowly spun toward New Orleans after decimating the Caribbean. Fortunately for the Crescent City, Ivan changed it’s path and went on to wreak destruction in coastal cities in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and North and South Carolina.

Spurred by the near miss, Shirley Laska, a researcher for the Center for Hazards Assessment at the University of New Orleans, constructed a nightmare scenario that described what would have happened if Ivan had stayed on it’s original path and hit the Big Easy. Laska’s research paper, candidly entitled “What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans,” gave an honest, brutal assessment of the flooding, evacuation challenges and damage to New Orlean’s infrastructure that would have occurred had the massive storm struck. This paper was sent to the Nagin Administration and, one can only assume, given it’s “response” to Katrina, promptly dismissed.

Far be it from me to let Bush – who inexplicably appointed former Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, Michael Brown to head FEMA, and played the fiddle while New Orleans drowned, or FEMA itself for that matter – off of the hook. But I find it interesting that ol' Ray – the voice of Righteous Indignation during the Katrina disaster – continues to point the finger at Bush and FEMA and the state of Louisiana but refuses to take any blame for allowing New Orleans’s emergency evacuation plan to fall apart, stupidly bussing people to the Superdome, or ignoring the city’s impoverished communities and nursing homes altogether.

Like it or not, none of those things fall under the jurisdiction of FEMA, the State or the Fed. Those were CITY issues. Nagin is the mayor and he had several days advance warning that Katrina was on it’s way. It was his responsibility to act preventively on behalf of his constituency. To simply say that he failed in this would be to utter one of the most dramatic understatements in the history of the English language. Good ol' Ray should have the decency to take his place beside the oblivious Alfred E. Neumann look-a-like who runs the country, and his inept political appointee, in the hall of shame.



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