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Just a few observations

posted by awelborn

…and an open thread for any Katrina-related topic except natural theology.

1) Earlier today, Jonah Goldberg, whom I admire, posted this at The Corner:

JOKE NO LONGER [Jonah Goldberg ]

Posted at 11:25 AM

Everyone knows the 50 different versions of the joke about the Meteor (apocalypse, whatever) heading to earth and The New York Times (or Washington Post) running the headline: "World Ends: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit."

Here’s ABC News:

Poorest Hit Hardest By Hurricane Katrina

Disaster Disproportionately Affects Those Who Can Least Afford It

Now, I actually spent some time off and on today wondering about this. I couldn’t figure out what he was getting at. Did he mean that the possibility of such a headline wasn’t a joke anymore because a similar headline had made its way into print? Or did he mean that this isn’t funny anymore, that the poor are actually impacted more by disaster? I thought about writing him, I thought about blogging it, but then decided it was kind of minor and who cares.

But then later, he posted this:

OKAY, STRIKE TWO [Jonah Goldberg]

In a real sense the poor do have it worse, as a general proposition. You can’t watch these images and really conclude otherwise. I do think that I am entirely right about the nature of suffering in that it cannot be measured by a simple economic metric. For example, contrary to the grief I give Rich, I make a comfortable living. I don’t think my grief would have been 1/1,000th less had I made ten times as much when my father died. And I don’t think it would have been 1/1,000th more if I made half as much. That was how I saw it. To me measuring such things by an economic calculus seems as grotesque as some people seem to think it is not to.

But, while watching this footage of these poor people with absolutely no place to go and with the prospects of the city being closed for months it’s pretty obvious — as I said — the hardships affecting the poor become more pronounced and disproportionate. Your heart really does have to go out to these poor souls. I still don’t think grief and misery can be measured economically, but as this disaster stretches out over time, it seems impossible to deny that the grief and misery will be extended longer the further down the economic ladder you go. I sympathize for more for a middle class family which has lost everything it worked for than I do for some thug having a grand time smashing a jewelry shop window. But looking at these poor women carrying their kids aimlessly through the muck with no place to go, you have to concede their lot would be much better with the means to find a dry bed at the end of the day.

…and I realized that he actually had intended the first meaning in the first post, a statement he was now backing off from. I’m astonished. I’m astonished that it’s not just common sense that in a material and physical sense, the poor are, naturally going to be impacted more seriously simply because they have fewer resources and safety nets. Is this news? I’m also astonished that Jonah, I suppose in the context of the National Review readership, finds it necessary to go through such contortions to justify his change of heart – to emphasize the common suffering of all in such a situation, but gee, just maybe the poor might have it a little rougher than some others.

Suffering is suffering, and losing your life and loved ones and town is the cause of suffering to rich and poor alike, as well as everyone in between. We are all in the same boat. But to think that it requires any explanation or justification at all to suggest that a person who rents, has no property or health insurance, (and probably more compromised health because of that ), works a minimum wage job, has no savings and maybe even no transportation is probably going to suffer materially and physically more than many others of higher income brackets with more safety nets might…is odd. This does not strike me as rocket science.

The situation all over is terrible, and the reports from New Orleans are getting more desperate and frightening. Bands of looters demanding food from nursing homes, threatening hospitals…this is scary stuff. Get the military in there, faster, get those people OUT of the Superdome…no one expected this, I suppose, and the whole situation in NO is complicated by the misery of a totally disrupted transportation route, but something about this seems wrong and unnecessarily screwed up.

And on an odd, superficial note. Over the years, I’ve spent my fare share of time mocking Shepherd Smith of FOX – oh, he’s not terrible, but you know – the running over the woman who took his parking place thing in Florida was odd, and he’s kind of a cipher – it’s hard to tell sometimes if there’s a brain in that head, or just little cogs. Well, the past couple of days, he’s impressed me. I’ve found his descriptions of what he’s seen, his appeals to viewers, quite heartfelt and affecting and authentic. In that, I can agree with someone at NRO today, but perhaps in not quite as heightened terms. But yes, he’s been good.

As opposed, shockingly enough according to many at NRO (again), to the president…



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Boniface McInnes

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:04 am


I will say, in Jonah’s defense, that while such disasters have greater impact on the poor in a material sense (full disclosure: I earn $1.55 over the min. wage, rent, do not have health insurance, a bank account or a sock hidden in my mattress, though I do have a early 80’s toyota and a schwinn) the material sense is a small part of life in total. But the media, reflecting the American culture at large, concentrates almost entirely on the material aspect of life, ignoring all the rest of a human life that offsets material deprivation.
In fact, overall, I’ve always figured the rich man’s suffering must be much worse than mine. There are so many things I just don’t have to put up with, and so many things that just can’t get between me and the Lord. That’s not to say poverty is a gaurantor of sanctity, but it sure makes some sins all but impossible.



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Daniel Baker

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:04 am


I don’t get the dismay over President Bush’s lack of emoting over this disaster. When did one of the job descriptions of the president become therapist-in-chief? His job is to mobilize the resources of the federal government to meet the crisis, not to “feel our pain.”



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Elzar

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:14 am


The war reporters at Fox — Rick Leventhal, Greg Palkot, etc. — are always quiet good. Shepard Smith can be annoying at times when he is playing reporter, like announcing John Paul the Great’s death a day before he died, but he can also be quite good when he is not using his scripted reporter’s voice, but uses a more relaxed conversational style. Unlike reporters from other networks, whose editors and directors no doubt demand that they use sound-bite reporter-speak, or that they ask questions in prefabricated interview format, Fox has often allowed its reporters to simply have a calm, reflective conversations with each other, in everyday speech, including pauses where nothing is said, just a couple of guys shooting the breeze, and I find that such reporting can often be much more informative and certainly more interesting to watch.
I noticed this especially when I was getting up at 3 a.m. to watch the war coverage before Baghdad was captured. Of course, at that time of night, they have a lot of airtime to kill, but it was so much more relaxed and easier to watch than all the scripted shows that demand that people speak in soundbites.



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Jay Anderson

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:14 am


“When did one of the job descriptions of the president become therapist-in-chief?”
You must have missed the decade of the ’90s.
If only W could learn to bite his lip and cry on cue for the cameras, he’d be a swell president.



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Elzar

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:23 am


(1) My take on the “joke” is that it is a pretty pointless headline — typical of the MSM. Why not a headline “Sun to Rise in the East Tomorrow”?
(2) I don’t know that there is dismay over W’s “lack of emoting,” but I have heard grumbling that “he’s not doing enough” or “he’s blowing it,” etc. from the folks over at NRO, not to mention the libs. This is a continuation of the idea that government, and W in particular, is somehow supposed to be the savior of the world, that he is single-handedly supposed to solve all our problems. It ignores the basic reality that it is the state and local officials actually at the scene that have to be the ones to actually bring water to the people, patrol the streets, evacuate and move stragglers out of the area, and do all the hands-on clean up work.



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sam thomas

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:49 am


“His job is to mobilize the resources of the federal government to meet the crisis”
If it was apparent to me, in Philadelphia, just watching television, late on Monday, that order was going to break down and a crisis was at hand, why didn’t Bush know? He did not mobilize the resources of the federal government in a timely manner. They still aren’t there and it’s Thursday morning.
And, incredibly, there weren’t sufficient sandbags to protect the levees when they knew on Saturday that it was heading towards New Orleans. They should have been all over that area, as a precaution.
It’s because the military is overtaxed and the president was out for a bike ride on this one.



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Katherine

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:56 am


Not only do the poor suffer more in the material sense, but poverty makes it more likely that they will die or lose a husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, child or friend.
The rich neighborhoods in New Orleans are on higher ground than the poor ones. It’s not a coincidence in a city that floods. Evacuation is much, much easier if you have a car–they closed the Greyhound depot down before the evacuation order, and the city buses took people to the Superdome, not to true places of safety–and if you can pay for the hotel room and food. It’s also easier if you’re healthy, and unhealthy people tend to be poor and poor people tend to be unhealthy.
Not rocket science. Though, I was more surprised by Goldberg’s second post than his first.



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Elzar

posted September 1, 2005 at 1:14 am


He did not mobilize the resources of the federal government in a timely manner.
By the way, snarky Sam, the President mobilized the resources of the federal government BEFORE the hurricane even struck. The federal declaration of emergency was already in place. As I said, there are some people who apparently expect Bush to be the savior of the world, that he is single-handedly supposed to solve all our problems. Why didn’t he know? He did know — and so did all the thousands upon thousands of state and local officials who are actually there. Maybe a couple of them could find the time to deliver some water bottles or send some busses to all the folks lying out there on the highway? Does it really have to be Bush himself that fills the sandbags, flys the helicopters, and plugs the levies all by himself?



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Boniface McInnes

posted September 1, 2005 at 1:58 am


Sorry, Katherine, your first paragraph is manifestly false. Perhaps you meant to write more and failed to?
Your second paragraph, again, concentrates entirely on material matters. It borders on dishonesty to imply that the rich live on high groundthrough some conspiracy to use the poor as cannon fodder, rather than recognising that higher elevations, in such a locale, are legitimately more expensive.
But please, not to re-enact the Four Yorkshiremen, don’t lecture me on the plight of the poor without some disclosure of the levels of pverty you too have endured. Its really bad form, at least as bad as me lecturing mother’s on the finer points of the experience of childbirth.
(I admit I still chafe from comments made about that Shul in the Hamptoms some weeks back; thats where the tone here originates.)



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Sam Thomas

posted September 1, 2005 at 2:43 am


Elzar,
The Red Cross mobilized and is there, in force.
The National Guard is not patrolling or present in force except spottily in safe areas on the bridge.
The Corps of Engineers was not prepared to save the levees and did not save them or repair them.
If Bush speaks from the White House as though he is in charge, then he is in charge.
The response has been slow, feeble, inept, and disorganized.



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Katherine

posted September 1, 2005 at 3:45 am


I think you are reading something into my comment that I didn’t write there. Do you disagree that poverty is correlated with lack of car ownership and lack of transportation is correlated with being left behind in NOLA and being left behind in NOLA is being correlated with death rate? I suppose I should have said this particular disaster, though I suspect there are actually similar correlations for other sorts–but . And certainly the U.S.’s wealth compared to say, Bangladesh (or for that matter the U.S. 100 years ago) is a rather huge part of the explanation for the different casualty rates.
How much the correlation is would depend on how much warning there is, I’d think.
Do you disagree? Or do you think I’m arguing something else? I was NOT saying that poor people suffer more when their relatives die, I’m saying, in this disaster, they and their relatives will probably have died in greater numbers.
And I wasn’t suggesting a conspiracy. I was suggesting that people pay more for land that doesn’t flood, so richer people end up living there. This isn’t conspiracy to kill the poor, I’d buy on high ground too in New Orleans if I lived there and had the means, anyone would. But it is another reason why the city’s poorer residents will probably be disproportionately represented among those who die and lose loved ones.
As far as I go: I’m not sure why this is relevant. Middle class. Um…everyone says that, here’s an actual data point: I went to a private college but had work study and loans & several semesters where it wasn’t clear just how the tuition bill was going to be paid. Family always owned one station wagon. Never gone hungry. But I wasn’t trying to lecture poor people, only Jonah Goldberg. Don’t see why it’s relevant.
I don’t remember about the Hamptons shul. I don’t attribute any of this to the incompetence of poor people or the immorality of middle class and rich people (I am one after all)–the incompetence of the gov’t in not having a full evac plan, yes, but that’s it. Mostly, it’s just reality.



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Maureen

posted September 1, 2005 at 6:03 am


Look, there were two layers of problems in New Orleans.
1. The state and city didn’t handle what they should have handled. The biggest problem being the non-coordinating radios, when most jurisdictions got that done in the year after 9/11.
2. FEMA didn’t coordinate the way they probably should’ve.
Bush logically assumed that folks in New Orleans were getting the job done, and that it would be best not to joggle their elbows. This is the normal stance that presidents take toward disasters, even and especially really big ones. Beyond that, he’s used to seeing the media paint situations as worse than they are, so he probably assumed things were going better behind the scenes than was being shown. It didn’t turn out to be that way.
In some ways, this was going to be a big huge problem however things worked out. It was a big disaster, after all. But to be honest, even if the official forces were overwhelmed, I was surprised not to see more unofficial rescuers and organizers stepping up to the plate. (People in the French Quarter did seem to do this, which shows they are a real neighborhood.)
Re: Jonah Goldberg
Well, my aunt and uncle were decently well off. Today I’m pretty sure they’re poor. They had investments, of course, but many of them were in the city. They probably had money in the bank account, but how much do most of us have from month to month? “They’ll have to start off again, just like newlyweds, and they just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary,” my mom said. I’m pretty sure that pretty much everyone else in that whole area is in the same boat.
So…how does Katrina disproportionately affect the poor? Now everybody’s the poor!



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TSO

posted September 1, 2005 at 6:07 am


Shepherd Smith seems different to me, more sober and less giddy, and I thought perhaps it is because he is suffering too, at least compared to his normal comfortable life. Less sleep, less real food (he told O’Reilly he’s been eating Doritos when asked where he gets food), more work, etc…
As for Jonah, I think it’s difficult for anyone to have pity for a poverty they’ve not experienced (and poverty not just strictly in the material sense). His father’s death, for example, gives him an empathy for similar situations that those who still have fathers simply lack. Another example is that those who have always had a strong faith in God will usually have weaker empathy for those with a little or no faith. It’s the human condition to some extent.



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John Koontz

posted September 1, 2005 at 6:53 am


This is one of the oddest news stories in my memory because it looks as if the reporters assigned to cover it, and the editors who assigned them, did not initially know how to report it. They have seemed as disoriented as I’ve ever seen or read reporters to be. I got the sense that they were looking for one kind of story — physical devastation, natural destruction, and so forth — and have found another far more complex and unsettling than they ever expected to see.
Perhaps one of the reasons Smith has been doing such a splendid job (as, indeed, he seems to be doing) is that he came to the story free of any prior notions of what it would be. He only knew it would be big. He is arguably the least ideological of the major Fox anchors. In this sense, he has a naturally unclouded lens. And he is clearly moved by what he sees and reports. No big picture for him, just endless, poignant, very human vignettes. What he lacks in ideological conviction he more than compensates for with empathy.
There will doubtless be more probing and substantive accounts appearing in the days ahead. But I am struck by the something we just don’t seem to be hearing anything about — the police. They are almost invisible. Contrast that with the role their counterparts have been playing in Gulfport, MS, for instance. Their absence in this disaster surely intensifies the suffering of those poor people now caught up in it. And it, sadly, suggests to me, at any rate, that their presence in less tumultuous times might have exacerbated a different, less dramatic, more chronic form of suffering for many of the same people.
Sitting where I am in the Northeast, I don’t know what the true state of affairs in New Orleans is with respect to the police. But it doesn’t look encouraging. What a contrast with the way police acted in New York City almost four years ago.



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Grant Gallicho

posted September 1, 2005 at 7:21 am


Boniface,
I’m sure you don’t mean to imply that only those who are or who have been poor can enter a discussion about the poor. Yet this is what comes through. Katherine, I think you’re spot on. “Focuses entirely on the material.” Is the New York Times supposed to run a headline on the state of their souls?



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Rich Leonardi

posted September 1, 2005 at 7:40 am


…and I realized that he actually had intended the first meaning in the first post, a statement he was now backing off from. I’m astonished.
An aphorism of my Dad — never one to dispense advice freely — was “When in doubt, shut your mouth.”
Jonah and the rest of the Corner would be wise to take my old man’s advice, assuming they felt a slight twinge of conscience before hitting “post.”
The same goes for a guy on the other end of the spectrum who yesterday blamed Katrina on Bush’s environmental policies.
Just give it a rest for a few days.



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Regina F.

posted September 1, 2005 at 7:47 am


It takes about a minute of watching the people streaming towards the Superdome to realize they are all African-Americans — I doubt I’ve seen 5 white faces other than reporters. These are the poor, coming out of the projects, begging for relief.
While everyone has lost everything, most will probably recover through insurance — at least they have options. For those who have so little to begin with, they have nothing to do but wander and hope that someone will help them.
It does seem to me, from hundreds of miles away, that this was a somewhat predictable disaster, and that the response to it has been very disorganized and inadequate.



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Jay Anderson

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:11 am


“While everyone has lost everything, most will probably recover through insurance — at least they have options.”
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case. Private insurance doesn’t cover flood damage – that’s the National Flood Insurance Program’s job. And I’m sure recovery for such extensive property damage on such a wide scale will be merely pennies on the dollar.
As Maureen said, now everyone in New Orleans is “poor”.



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Boniface McInnes

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:31 am


” Is the New York Times supposed to run a headline on the state of their souls?”
T’wasn’t the Times, Grant, t’wasn’t the times. But what is so sad is that anything not material must mean judging the state of souls to you. I cannot express what an utterly pathetic, sad, little existence such a life must be. I truly feel for you.
And of course you wealthy folks may chime in. Just don’t do it with a bunch of lies like “poor people are more likely to lose loved ones or their own lives” as though rich folks totally evade death for the most part. Or positing conspiracies on the part of uptown NO’ers to keep the poor down where they will all drown first. It’s kind of insulting to the intelligence of others.



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Anne

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:36 am


I think lack of options actually isthe case. While private insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, and property owners of every economic level will feel the loss in that regard, the middle and upper classes will are more likely to have monetary savings, education, experience, better access (and ‘know how’) to social services and the help of stable families to fall back on during the rebuilding or resettling processes, whereas the poor and lower middle class largely will not. So in that regard, I agree that those who are not poor will indeed have more ‘options’.
As for Fox, and Shepard Smith in particular, I too have noticed a higher quality to the coverage during this tragedy. In the past, Smith has come off as a sort of handsome, charming, aging-frat boy guy; reporting from the Gulf now though he seems dead serious and much more mature. Perhaps, like Jonah Goldberg showed in his Corner post, Shepard Smith had no previous experience of real, devastating human suffering – this doesn’t mean that he couldn’t sympathize with it, or couldn’t talk about it and be sincere, but I think when we experience things face to face, and actually live through them, it obviously gives us a much deeper understanding of them. That definitely shows through in his reporting the last few days.



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Boniface McInnes

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:39 am


Katherine,
“I’m saying, in this disaster, they and their relatives will probably have died in greater numbers.”
You forgot the “in this disaster part” before. Hence my question “Did you forget to add some to that paragraph?”
And no, in NO, wealth and car ownership do not directly correlate as they do in most parts of America. It is more like NYC in that respect. Lots of people who could afford a good car opt out.
And yeah, the materially poor got shafted here just like always. But in concentrating on their poverty as the cause, you overlook the real cause of their suffering. They did not have neighbors who loved them.
It isn’t the materially poor who were unduly burdened and endangered here, it was those unloved by society at large, whether that be a single mother on the dole or a wealthy cripple on the second floor of his Garden District mansion. Its not lack of money, its lack of love.
Concentrating on one doesn’t let us off the hook for the other, it just makes it appear so.



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Boniface McInnes

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:45 am


“I think lack of options actually isthe case.”
But is it news? Are Americans really so ignorant of such a simple thing that they need to be informed of this by the media? I mean, I have a really low opinion of this country and its citizens, but I’d have never thunk, in a million years, that we’re that stupid, by and large.



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Catherine L

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:45 am


The response in NO has been horrible and oh so predictable. The federal government (read military) can’t just jump in and override the police forces of the city and state. The governor should have asked for military help two days ago when it became apparent that a crisis was upon us. Furthermore, the vast majority of poor people in NO are black and live in HOUSING PROJECTS. For 4 decades there has been absolutely no civilizing force in these projects–they’re a cauldron of drugs, sex, and barbarism. What we see spilling out of the projects right now are the victims and the barbarians (or the “cruel, stupid young men”, as Peggy Noonan calls them). This is the culmination of years of populist politics, federal social engineering, and an insane constitutional relationship between the state and the city of NO (created by Huey Long, may God have mercy on his soul).



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Bernardo

posted September 1, 2005 at 8:53 am


Does Jonah get the meteor joke? It’s funny precisely because if the world ended it would be ridiculous and typical for the NYT to claim that women and minorities were hardest hit. “World Ends” is the key part of that headline; without that, no headline is remotely similar. He sure went through some contortions to avoid admitting that he made a dumb comparison.



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lourdes

posted September 1, 2005 at 9:43 am


I think Catherine L is spot on. What may be exposed over these long days of rescue and restoration is the inept, and often corrupt, state of politics on the state and local level in Louisiana and New Orleans. From what I understand the NOLA police department has been under federal observation as one of the most corrupt departments in the country. I was shocked to see police officers among the looters as I watched the coverage last night. The federal government will help, but as in NY on 9/11, much of the groundwork needs to be managed state and local government officials.



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frank sales

posted September 1, 2005 at 9:45 am


In partial defence of Jonah, there is a type of poor person who would be less affected by the disaster than the middle class entrepeneur who has lost his home and business. A student or a single menial worker who has the material possessions of a Franciscan monk, can work at a broad variety of jobs anywhere that work is available, and lives an itinerant life of successive rented apartments, would be displaced but not suffer as much as someone who has invested more in the location. I think this is what Jonah was thinking about before he realized that “the poor” is a broader concept and that most are, in fact, suffering disproportionately. Sometimes bloggers post only half-thought out ideas, Amy, and at least he caught his own mistake.



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Susan Peterson

posted September 1, 2005 at 9:54 am


It seems obvious to me that the poor suffer more from almost any natural disaster and certainly have from this one. Think of the man from ETWN who left before the storm with his whole family and is now staying in comfortable surroundings. Yes, he has lost his house, and maybe insurance won’t cover it all, and this will be a financial loss. But he still has a job, and, I am sure, some resources. And he certainly isn’t wandering around carrying his children through the dirty water. He isn’t sitting on an interstate in 90 degree heat with no shade. Last night I saw the cameraman with Shepherd Smith focus in on the face of a young boy, maybe 3 or 4, who looked to be stuporous from dehydration, whose mother was trying to shade him from the sun and wipe his face with a damp cloth. I saw the other Fox reporter who was in downtown NO stop a man from drinking from a contaminated water fountain, promising to give him some clean water as soon as he finished his broadcast. I am sure people died in their houses who didn’t leave because they had no cars or no gas for their cars and no money to get any and no place to stay if they did leave and no money to pay for a motel.
Of course the poor suffer more. They always do.
And it isn’t true that everyone from NO is poor today. Some are poorer, but if you have a few thousand in the bank, a small 401K, a credit card you can still charge a few hundred or a few thousand on…and relatives who own houses and have even small funds they can lend you…as would be the case with many middle class families, you are a long long way from a person who was completely out of money because it was the end of the month, and who doesn’t know how she is going to get her check this month, who doesn’t have a car or know how to drive, who doesn’t know anyone with a car, who has no savings of any kind, absolutely none, who knows noone in any other part of the country with whom she and her kids can stay, or who could afford to lend her a few hundred bucks.
All feel pain and loss, and certainly money doesn’t protect against the grief of losing a loved one. But the poor suffer more losses and certainly many more material discomforts and trials, in this kind of natural disaster.
Susan Peterson



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bill

posted September 1, 2005 at 9:58 am


I think it’s important to read Jonah’s post in the context of NRO’s general editorial policy. Every day they fight against the victim mentality of liberal politics. “Helping the poor” is all well and good but how are you helping them with constant handouts and no accountability or responsibility (I’m not talking about the hurricane here, just public policy in general). Every day they see the flip side of this “it takes a village” stuff that makes people think that the government owes them a job and a home etc. And they push back against that. And they push back against the NYT’s which looks at tragedy that strikes everyone and focuses only on the poor. And he bristles a little at the coverage that can look at a poor man who had little to lose and lost it all and said “Who’s gonna save me?” and a rich man who had much (through hard work and sacrifice and self-relience) and lost it all. And he (Jonah) says “Why is this persons suffering so much more important than this other persons?”
And then he walked back from that a bit when he began to realize (as I did, after seeing more of the coverage) that in this particular circumstance (because of an intersection of factors) the poor really were disproportionatly affected to a greater degree than some more “equal opportunity” disaster in a different place and time. I don’t think he was as obtuse as I think you suggest. At least I hope not ’cause he kind of echoed my train of thought.
Anyway, that’s how I saw it.



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Jay Anderson

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:06 am


“And it isn’t true that everyone from NO is poor today.”
I guess what I (and maybe some others) are trying to say is that now is not the time for class warfare or playing the blame game. That time will come soon enough. Now is the time to focus on ALL who are suffering loss due to this tragedy.
Sure, the poor are suffering disproportionately. They always do when disasters strike. But I still think Maureen has a fair point – if everyone in New Orleans is not “poor” today, they sure are a helluva lot “poorer” than they were.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:08 am


“Shepard Smith had no previous experience of real, devastating human suffering”
Umm, and you know that how Anne? You were a personal friend of Mr. Smith’s?



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amy

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:10 am


Actually, I think Shep said last night that he had covered 15-20 hurricanes, but this was the most overwhelming, which is what everyone’s saying.



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Grant Gallicho

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:12 am


Boniface, let’s take this discussion off-blog. I think we could have a fascinating exchange.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:16 am


But hurricanes aren’t the only form of devastating human suffering.
Who knows what has happened in anyone’s personal life.
And that leaves aside other stories Smith covered (Columbine, 9/11 [and FNC is based in NYC], Jonesboro, TWA 800, the Oklahoma City Bombing).



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Anne

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:16 am


Hey Samuel,
I said perhaps he hadn’t experienced devastation of this magnitude, and perhaps that’s why his reporting seems to have stepped up a notch during this tragedy. I was just speculating on how to explain the change in him (and other reporters as well) that some of us have noticed, not impugning him in any way (in fact, I’ve always enjoyed watching him, just he seemed a bit ‘light’ in the past, as I said, a handsome, charming type of guy, rather than serious reporter type of guy).
Sorry if that wasn’t clear.



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Maclin Horton

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:18 am


What Bernardo said. I always thought the humor of the meteor joke lay in the fact that the destruction of the planet would be one event which would indisputably affect all equally. I took it to be a joke about the NYT, and never took it to imply that the poor are not in fact worse off, in every material way. I mean, really: that’s, like, the definition of “poor.” What exactly Jonah Goldberg thought I don’t really want to bother trying to tease out.
And what Catherine L said. I live 120 miles or so from New Orleans. I’ve run into a number of people over the years who moved out of NO because they just couldn’t stand the crime anymore. “Victims and barbarians” may sound harsh, but the reality is harsher. I am not trying to make an ideological point here: there is no single reason for the breakdown of civilization that Catherine describes, but there’s no pretending that’s not what it is, either.
This situation would be considerably less horrifying without the gangs and looters. I can get WWL (famous old New Orleans AM radio station) here. They’re taking calls from people who are in the city and miraculously still have phone service. I heard a guy break down: his area is not flooded, but he’s running out of food and water, is afraid to walk out because of the looters, and afraid they will come to his neighborhood. He has no way to protect himself. Lord have mercy.



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Pam

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:47 am


“I’m also astonished that Jonah, I suppose in the context of the National Review readership, finds it necessary to go through such contortions to justify his change of heart”
What’s astonishing, with all due respect, is that you’re astonished at the lack of compassion which J.G. has been evincing abundantly for years.



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John J. Simmins

posted September 1, 2005 at 10:56 am


First of all, the Corps of Engineers wanted the flood walls high enough and strong enough to withstand a category 4 hurricane when they rebuilt them in the 90’s (yes, 90’s when GWB was not president). They were told no, to plan for a fast moving category 3 instead. Next, the mayor of NO had the chance to spend money on flood control, and they opted to develop the waterfront, instead. Finally, NO is below see-level. It is a really stupid place to live. This disaster was inevitable. Each politician (local, state and federal) hopes that ‘the big one’ doesn’t happen on his watch. They all roll the dice to keep taxes low during their tenure and leave it to some other poor bastard to cope with this situation when, not if, it happens.



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Amy Wong

posted September 1, 2005 at 11:16 am


“Shepard Smith had no previous experience of real, devastating human suffering”
I seem to remember watching him on 9/11 in the streets of New York near the towers as they were falling and watching him live on TV telling everyone to get the hell out of there. Maybe it was someone else, but I’m pretty sure he was there in the middle of it.



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Dan Crawford

posted September 1, 2005 at 11:47 am


Goldberg’s coments aren’t surprising – it’s the kind of thing I’ve heard from certain types of conservatives for nearly 50 years, and the kind my parents and grandparents heard. It’s one of the reasons that whenever I hear the phrase “compassionate conservative” I tend to gag, and then demand evidence that the so-called “compassionate” conservative show some understanding of the word conservative. Unfortunately, he or she tends to suggest that making the rich richer and enabling them to avoiding paying anything like the kinds of taxes the poor pay makes the less fortunate more fortunate. My experience has been that “trickle-down economics” is better described as “pissing on the poor”.
Let’s see how the “compassionate conservatives” respond to this crisis. Buying more stock in the oil companies?



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Sherry Weddell

posted September 1, 2005 at 12:36 pm


Hi Boniface:
Yes, it is important to remember that New Orleans is the most European of American cities. If I had a dime for everytime my Yankee mother complained about the mystery of die-hard New Orleanians who refused to learn to drive, I’d be operating the Institute out of a Tuscan villa.
So it isn’t just poverty that ensure that many didn’t have cars although the poverty in NO is very great. Sometimes it’s a combination of old-world urbanite lifestyle (I mean, who wouldn’t rather ride the elegant, ageless St. Charles streetcar than right traffic?) with poverty.
Just FYI, 67% of NO is black, only 26% of city residents are of white, non-Hispanic background. And of course, as is the tradition there, there are many people of mixed race who would appear “black” on TV. It’s important to remember this when looking at the photos on the internet.
Louis Armstrong, not Scarlett O’Hara is the face of New Orleans.



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Peggy

posted September 1, 2005 at 1:02 pm


I think that the NYT, JG, and Amy all misunderstand the meaning of disproportionate. Sherry W says that 67% of NO residents are black. If 80% or 90% of those No residents who suffered were black, then blacks would have disproportionately suffered. Or one could argue that, if the percent of NO blacks suffered is higher than the percent of NO whites who suffered, then blacks have disproportionately suffered. Neither is true, I think we can all generally believe at this time.
As far as measuring the degree of emotional suffering, all have lost homes, many have lost family, and some have lost their own lives. How can we dare compare emotional suffering of people based on their race or income rather than on what they lost–if even the last is valid? [“I’ve suffered more than you, nya, nya!”] Yes, people who have depended on government programs will have a harder time re-establishing themselves; but on the other hand recovery might be faster for those who qualify for govt help (typically low-incomes and non-whites), than for those who are “too rich” to benefit–but not really “rich” at all (the middle class).



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chris K

posted September 1, 2005 at 1:09 pm


I must say that Shephard annoyed me with his ignorance coupled with his personal passion during the Terri Schiavo situation, but he’s found his niche on the highway bridge! He’s the type who needs to be in the thick of things to see the truth. The obvious lack of the local authorities to use the media to direct more help to where it is immediately needed shows me that we’ve gotten so “efficient” in our organizations that there is no longer any “thinking on one’s feet” approach allowed or the authority to do so. I often wonder how generations who can’t play pick up ball with one bringing the bats, another bringing the gloves, etc., or stray away from the organized crowd with uniforms provided, playground properly secured, bicycle helmets in place and moms chauffeuring to walkable venues, will respond to the unexpected. Shephard literally read to a local authority the exact needs of the hundreds if not thousands of refugees, dehydrating in the hot sun; simply asked for someone to come direct the people to buses; save some possibly dying infants…and…gave them the exact exit which to respond. The local authority he spoke with on camera who COULD do something kept the robot response of “they are being directed to buses”. No they weren’t. People are now, I’m afraid, so used to not stepping out of their little boxes of defined responsibility to take risks, that those who do, appear very irregular. That is why a true leader, locally, is necessary..like Rudy was in NY. I saw only one little truck – the Salvation Army – with some bottles of water (that was all they had) come to the spot. They’re the ones getting my donation. The local family should be the ones to care the most and direct the help offered from the outside. The Federal gov. mobilizes the bigger picture. Strangers take a lot longer to get to know the lay of the land!



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Jay Anderson

posted September 1, 2005 at 1:20 pm


Yeah, what Peggy said.
“… ‘trickle-down economics is better described as ‘pissing on the poor’. Let’s see how the ‘compassionate conservatives’ respond to this crisis. Buying more stock in the oil companies?”
I guess my call for avoiding class warfare at this time – when people of all socio-economic backgrounds in New Orleans are suffering – will go unheeded.
So, tell me, does your animosity toward “so-called ‘compassionate conservatives'” extend to the conservatives posting here as well? In what way have I (or the other conservatives commenting here) shown a lack of compassion with regard to this crisis?



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Peggy

posted September 1, 2005 at 1:53 pm


More thoughts:
Thanks Jay.
Part of the silliness of such headlines is that it’s obvious that poor people (regardless of race) have fewer of their own resources with which to recover from such disasters. Hence we’ve got all kinds of “social safety nets” to minimize this economic disadvantage.
I predict a permanent relocation of very many of these standed folks to Houston, since that’s where they’re being shuttled. I suppose the term “disproportionate” might fairly be applied to the relative difficulty of recovery. Sure, income affects this. Duh!



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Boniface McInnes

posted September 1, 2005 at 3:19 pm


Chris K,
Entirely off topic, but I said a long, long time ago that putting protective grills on window fans, and replacing their steel blades with plastic, would lead to the downfall of the postmodern West.
Glad to see I am not alone.



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Catherine L

posted September 1, 2005 at 4:03 pm


Another point on the poor and getting back on one’s feet: NO has a vast blue-collar middle class that works hard and does live from paycheck to paycheck. The kicker is that, while these people do have extended families that would help out in emergencies, most of these families all live in NO and were all affected. There are many, many people whose whole support system is in the same boat they are. These are the people who will be affected the most, and most of them probably are not sitting outside the Superdome right now waiting to be bused to Houston.



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Peggy

posted September 2, 2005 at 8:27 am


I’m thinking this morning, watching the chaos at the Super Insane Dome last night, that the poor are currently getting a raw deal. [If they stayed there by choice, well, sure they’re largely responsible for their fate. But this many people chose to stay behind? Unbelievable!] There are great questions to ask about where the hell the buses and food, for example, are. I want to know what efforts were made to encourage these folks to leave before Katrina, before the levee break, etc.
Now, I have seen film of military and police in various areas herding the crowd or threatening looters. Some food drops have been made, but they’re inadequate. But, there are still HUGE crowds that are getting sicker, angrier, more desparate, etc. They ought to think about starting to organize themselves and figure out where they can obtain more food (ie, pilfer) to feed the crowds in the meantime. God help them.



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Daniel H. Conway

posted September 2, 2005 at 1:09 pm


“But to think that it requires any explanation or justification at all to suggest that a person who rents, has no property or health insurance, (and probably more compromised health because of that ), works a minimum wage job, has no savings and maybe even no transportation is probably going to suffer materially and physically more than many others of higher income brackets with more safety nets might…is odd. This does not strike me as rocket science.”
There are many conservative Catholics who hols such views. I have worked in Catholic Workers and have had an assortment of volunteers show up at the door. Not infrequently is the earnest hard-core conservative Republican seeking God, having discovered Dorothy Day and her strict conservative Catholicism. These individuals have the same type of epiphanies as Jonah Goldberg seems to have had as they have personal contact with those labeled as “the poor.”
And these conservative “seekers” change by what can only be described as the Crucified Christ of the Poor. What I would describe as a “hardened heart” in the attitudes of peace, justice, and charity become much softer, particularly in those who retain personal connections and relationships among the financially less fortunate.
I have phenomenal respect for these individuals, and hope to change and grow as much as they in their relationship to God.
I am amazed not by Mr. Goldberg’s revelation, but that he is clearly reflecting on it and he commenting on it publically.
I respect him for this.
The Lucan beatitudes have been a point of reflection for me these mast few days:
“Blessed are the poor….Woe to the rich…”



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