The Blame Game

I said something like this in the most recent podcast, but I wanted to inject this sentiment into the text blogosphere. Not only am I sick of hearing that we “shouldn’t play the blame game” but in fact anyone that I hear say it is being marked as a dangerous tool in my opinion. You see, I live in an area that not only is affected by hurricanes but is being affected by a hurricane as I type this. To me, this is not a fricking “game” but basic questions about life and death. I will attempt to mitigate the danger to myself, but if things go crazy and I find myself in need of help, will I get it?

Last night as we went to bed, the news was that things wouldn’t be so bad in my area, that Ophelia was relatively weak and will be hitting to the north of us. Suppose that immediately after that it strengthened, changed course directly towards us and picked up speed. We might have awoken to find that it is right on us and worse than expected. In that case, if there wasn’t time to evacuate or evacuating was more risky than staying put and we got hit by a hurricane, would we find ourselves getting the help we need? If our local responders were themselves hit too hard or stretched too thin to provide aid to us, would anyone be backing them up? Will I be left to die, will I find guns pointed at me if I tried to walk out of a disaster area? I don’t find asking any of these questions “a blame game”, I find them holding an administration that has spent four years exchanging my rights for the perception of safety to that promise.

You ran for re-election on a platform of keeping people safe, and now I and much of the country have no faith in this government’s ability to do that. It seems that rather than beefing up our capabilities over the last four years that they have actually gone backwards. Where has that money gone, what happened to the organizations that have previously been able to respond in better fashion? Why are you failing at the most basic function of a government, to keep its citizens alive? If the only thing you have to offer is demeaning the questions, that reads to me like your admission that I am fucked. I deserve better, the nation deserves better and anyone that suggests otherwise by suggesting that accountability to the merest level of competence in the most fundamental governmental responsibility is a “blame game” is an accessory to criminal negligence.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

7 thoughts on “The Blame Game”

  1. Tilted Edge says:

    It’s horrible but like I said before more people die in preventable car accidents so why is it we don’t care about them? The answer is because they die maybe at the rate of 1 or 2 or 3 people per day rather than all in the same day. Unlike Katrina these deaths never stop. Another reason is media hype. The media loves a big story. It’s so easy for them to gather testimonials and act on public outrage over the botched evacuation. The more they report, the more angry people get, the more the story plays, the more angry people get, the higher ratings go. They don’t have to dig hard to get compelling testimonials etc..

    I’m calling for an end to tragic car accidents through the use of sonar and intelligent cruise control. When I go out on the freeway, I think to myself. This is a day I might die.

  2. Ken Kennedy says:

    You said it better than I could, Dave, so I just linked to you. ( *grin*


  3. Don Traeger says:

    I don’t mind the blame game. I just don’t like the obvious and overly partisan attacks. I think it is fair to point out deficiencies in the Federal response to Katrina. But it must also be delivered with reasonable consideration for the utter failure of the State and Local authorities….most of whom high tailed it out of dodge and just left shit to hit the fan. I suspect if you look under the sheets of Louisiana politics you are going to find a lot of corruption and a lot of “levee money” under mattresses (or in freezers).

    As far as the Federal response….”the blame game” started before the hurricane was even finished. And that was laughable. First it was Kyoto, then it shifted to Iraq….when none of that really stuck….it was the slow Federal response. And something I don’t get….why was the Federal response seemingly ok in Mississippi and Alabama? What….the Republicans and Feds just have it “in” for New Orleans? I guess I’ll have to wait for the Michael Moore movie.

    I live in a danger zone, too. I have been through at least 2 major earthquakes in San Francisco….the last one being Loma Prieta, (1988 or so?) which knocked down all the freeways around here and killed lots of people. There are still to this day parts of the City that haven’t been repaired. I never heard crying over the Federal response. As far as I can tell, we didn’t want their help. It was the State and Local guys that jumped in and got things rolling. And I suspect (by distant observation) over the years, that the California money that has gone in to disaster prevention/repair has been much better spent than what has gone on in Louisisana….And who’s fault is that? Who do you blame for that?

    Red Cross update. Finally got a call back on my volunteer app. They want me to do some training and be ready to go either to Texas or Louisiana in about a month or two. I’m ready to roll and help in whatever capacity I can.


  4. Ricky says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree with Don’s comment about the local authorities, at least in New Orleans. If there is one government official that I respect after this mess, its Ray Nagin. He took the initiative to enforce a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. Twice. That takes some balls, and in addition it was probably one of the best preventative measures possible. So don’t even start tearing Nagin down.

    As far as local authorities, do you know how many police officers jumped ship after the hurricane? Do you think that just happens? What would you do if you were faced with a situation like that? If you honestly can admit that you’d dive right in and start your normal job, then I can say you’re a better man than I am.

    I’m not saying state and local authorities were blameless, but Nagin is the best thing that happened, and FEMAs execution was miserable.

  5. Don Traeger says:

    Yeah, I’m not so sure about that, Ricky. I’m kinda agreeing about this idea, though, that because of immediacy and urgency we need to make people accountable right now….and I think we gotta look at the problems at the State and Local level as well as the Federal. If I lived in Louisiana right now and was faced with another hurricane (this is possible, right?)….I don’t think I’d feel any better about the State and Local abilities than I did about the Federal abilities. I’d be scared all the way around. They all sucked.

    I’d love to give these guys the benefit of doubt. And Mr. Nagin seems like a nice enough guy faced with an impossibly tough situation. But the screw-up was so immense. With so many lives at stake. I saw Mr. Nagin on Meet The Press on Sunday. He wasn’t very impressive. In fact, he was almost as bad as Chertoff the week before….and jeesus that is hard to do!

    The key sticking points with me on his performance are: The school buses under his control never left to evacuate people (he said it was because there were no drivers). And, by most accounts he waited until way too late for mandatory evacuations. He even admitted this to Russert. I also thought the plan to put 30,000 people into the Superdome without food, water or police protection was also insane. And I said that to my wife on the Saturday before the storm hit! Terrible. Am I wrong here? Doesn’t it seem as if these were all things under his control?

    I think the evidence of failure is even worse in the case of Governor Blanco. She really screwed the pooch, too. In fact, in the Nagin interview with Russert….he implicated her as more at fault than Bush. I thought that was fascinating. He was basically painting a picture of a Governor completely out of touch and out of communication with anyone throughout the ordeal. Amazing.

    I’m really not trying to defend Bush or the Feds, here. I do think they owe us more than delivered. They screwed up and should be held accountable. But, in an objective discourse about who to blame and what went wrong….you can’t possibly indict the Feds without also looking seriously at the State and Local screw-ups….and holding their feet to the fire, as well. To not do so seems disingenous to me…..but that seems to be what a lot of folks are inclined to do.

    There are a lot of people and systems to blame here. A lot of people to add to the “fuck you” list.


  6. Tilted Edge says:

    On the September 16th edition of NPR’s Science Friday (a great podcast), experts talk about how the death toll could have been adverted. They came to the conclusion that nobody is interested in preventing such problem until a big event like this happens and then we quickly forget about so we are doomed to never really do anything until it is too late. I agree with this and it goes for both parties. We live in a grayscale world but people are constantly trying to make it seem black and white, just because the republicans botched the rescue and did no planning before Katrina doesn’t mean that a democrat controlled White House and congress would have done any better. I’m sure the end result would have been exactly the same. It’s just a crappy government.

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