Everything you knew about Hurricane Katrina was wrong

We’ve heard it over and over again: Hurricane Katrina was not just a natural disaster, and not just a tragic case of government bungling, but a searing indictment of American racism and social injustice.

Apparently, this conventional wisdom is completely wrong.

Knight Ridder reports:

Four months after Hurricane Katrina, analyses of data suggest that some widely reported assumptions about the storm’s victims were incorrect.

For example, a comparison of locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. census tract data indicates that the victims weren’t disproportionately poor. Another database of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, compiled by Knight Ridder, suggests they also weren’t disproportionately African American.

Both sets of data are incomplete; Louisiana state officials have released no comprehensive list of the dead. Still, they provide the most comprehensive information available to date about who paid the ultimate price in the storm.

The one group that was disproportionately affected by the storm appears to have been older adults. People 60 and older account for only about 15 percent of the population in the New Orleans area, but the Knight Ridder database found that 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older. Nearly half were older than 75. Many of those were at nursing homes and hospitals, where nearly 20 percent of the victims were recovered.

Lack of transportation was assumed to be a key reason that many people stayed behind and died, but at many addresses where the dead were found, their cars remained in their driveways, flood-ruined symbols of fatal miscalculation.

The addresses where bodies were recovered were compiled by Louisiana state officials and released earlier this month. Knight Ridder charted the locations on a map of Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, then compared them with census data on income in those neighborhoods. The analysis excluded 216 bodies that were recovered from hospitals and nursing homes, as well as 63 recovered at collection points where people had dropped off bodies in the days after the storm …

The comparison showed that 42 percent of the bodies found in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes were recovered in neighborhoods with poverty rates higher than 30 percent. That’s only slightly higher than the 39 percent of residents who lived in such neighborhoods, according to the census data.

Similarly, 31 percent of the bodies turned up in areas with poverty rates below 15 percent, where 30 percent of the population lived.

The median household income in neighborhoods where Katrina victims were recovered was about $27,000 a year, just under the $29,000 median for the overall area.

One-fourth of Katrina deaths fell in census tracts with median incomes above $35,300. One-fourth of the area’s pre-storm population lived in tracts with median incomes above $37,000.

About 67 percent of the mapped deaths fell in the central and western portion of New Orleans, an area thought to have flooded primarily because of the failure of man-made structures.

The separate Knight Ridder database of 486 Katrina victims was compiled from official information released by state and federal authorities and interviews with survivors of the dead. It catalogued deaths according to location, race, age, name and cause of death.

In that database, African Americans outnumbered whites 51 percent to 44 percent. In the area overall, African Americans outnumber whites 61 percent to 36 percent.

In Orleans Parish, 62 percent of known Katrina victims were African American, compared with 66 percent for the total parish population.

In St. Bernard Parish, 92 percent of the identified victims were white. Census figures show that 88 percent of parish residents identified themselves as white.

Among hurricane victims on the Knight Ridder list, men outnumbered women 51 percent to 49 percent, about the same as in the overall area before the storm.

(Hat tip: Eric at Classical Values.)

Of course, deaths are not the only measure of Katrina’s impact. It may well be, for instance, that the people left dispossessed by the hurricane are disproportionately poor and/or black; it is very likely that people with few resources will find recovery more diffcult. But Katrina’s dead were certainly the starkest evidence of the hurricane’s devastating impact; and we were told that those dead had been killed by racism and economic injustice, by societal and political indifference to the plight of black people and poor people. So the Knight Ridder investigation does, in fact, seem to knock down Katrina’s central myth.

Eric inquires:

Is it reasonable to expect apologies from the people who claimed that the deaths were a form of “genocide” caused by Bush racism?

Reasonable, yes; realistic, no.

Meanwhile, GayPatriot.com suggests one obvious conclusion: “George Bush hates old people!”

On a more serious note: the paucity of coverage this story has received is disappointing, and rather remarkable. The article was released by Knight Ridder on December 30 and picked up by 22 Knight-Ridder newspaper, but few featured it very prominently. Only three — The Charlotte Observer, The Akron Beacon Journal, and The Bradenton Herald (Florida) — ran it on the front page; most buried it well inside. The analysis has received no mention in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or USA Today; there has not been a single editorial commenting on it, from any of the papers that told us all about how Katrina has exposed the inequities of race and class in America.

No wonder a lot of people think there really is a “liberal media.”

Rather surprisingly, the blogosphere has also paid little attention to this debunking of Katrina myths. Yet this is an important story which says a great deal about the knee-jerk acceptance of claims that support conventional wisdom about America’s social ills. It should be reported more widely, and there should be more apologies.

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60 Comments

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60 responses to “Everything you knew about Hurricane Katrina was wrong

  1. Paul

    An old adage applies to some of the outrageous statements made by some people in the wake of the Katrina tragedy. ” Don’t assume,because assuming can make an ass out of you and me .”

  2. Anonymous

    Death is certainly not the only variable in determining impact. There were few white faces in those crowds of thousands left behind and at risk of death due to the governments poor reponse.
    Cars don’t tell much either. Were they any good? Could people afford gas, food and hotels if they left?

    And there are still 3000 missing. LA officials admit some were certainly washed out to sea.
    And they are still recovering bodies from the 9th Ward.

    Death doesn’t nearly tell the story.

  3. Anonymous

    Interesting, thank you.

  4. Anonymous

    Well, there’s no accounting for that liberal blogosphere. They’re all too busy kissing up to the Hollywood Elite and going to Georgetown cocktail parties.

    Seriously, KN should get more attention. They were the only major outlet doing serious reporting on the run-up to the Iraq war (and were cut out of the daily gaggle because of it). I do rather like them.

  5. Cathy Young

    What’s KN?

  6. Cathy Young

    Oh — d’uh! Knight Ridder! I thought you were referring to a blog. *feels dumb*

  7. Anonymous

    Sorry, I should have abbreviated “KR” – I was referring to Knight Ridder in the above post.

  8. Anonymous

    No reason to feel dumb… I’m the idiot that misdirected.

    –me, who once again vows to stop using shorthand when conversing with others. At least until I start again.

  9. Helaine

    It’s still disgusting no matter how you try to rationalize it or look at it. The function of govt is to protect society’s most vulnerable members, a group the majority of elderly can be placed in.

  10. tracelan

    “The function of govt is to protect society’s most vulnerable members”

    Where does it say that in the Constitution?

  11. Korla

    I am still in shock at what a free ride the Governor and Mayor are still getting from the press. Why the President had to call the governor (interrupting her dinner) to finally beg her to order an evacuation, and why the Mayor then waited another half a day, is a question they have never had to answer to.

    I said to myself when I saw those lines of people in the rain, waiting to get into the Superdome, “that’s a deathtrap.”

    I blame the “Bush is not my President” attitude of the local authorities for their failure to allow a Fed takeover of the situation until it was way too late. And for them to try to turn that around and blame Bush sickens me to this day.

    So why do they continue to avoid even the slightest ounce of culpability? They’re too busy going back to stealing and misusing all the billions being poured back into their bottomless coinjar.

  12. Anonymous

    This story has been done by the AP, the NYT, the Washington Post, the New Orleans Times-Picayne, the Los Angeles Times, etc. etc.

    The media has done a lot of data aanlyses similar to the Knight-Ridder story you quote.

    It’s hilarious to say, as you do, that this story has been underplayed or minimized. It has, I guess, if you haven’t been paying any attention.

    Dexter Westbrook

  13. Anonymous

    Actually, I remember Rush Limbaugh, of all people, talking about this story last month, and I hardly ever listen to that guy. Somebody who has access to his paid archives could probably confirm.

  14. RogerA

    As usual, it takes the truth a bit longer to emerge–While the reporting about the Katrina disaster was dismal, even more dismal is the impression left by the MSM that somehow FEMA is reponsible for disaster response–NOTHING could be further from the truth–Rightly or wrongly, emergency response is a local responsibility and any competent emergency manager could tell you that–To allege that FEMA or the Federal government bears responsibility for response displays an abject misapprehension of the emerergency management system.

    Katrina reporting will be remembers as one of the nails in the MSM coffin.

  15. dadvocate

    Michelle Malkin touched on this about a month ago.

    Helaine inadvertently points out the lefts’ real motives, finding ways to blame government, especially the Federal (Bush) government. They continue to largely ignore the failures of the local and state governments as well as the individuals responsibility (freedom) to leave or stay in the face of impending disaster.

  16. dadmanly

    What happened to “it takes a village?”

    I dispute Helaine’s statement, “The function of govt is to protect society’s most vulnerable members.”

    The Federal government arguably can rightly be invested with responsibilities for safety and security, and for over 200 years, citizens and the representatives they elect have done just that.

    But these responsibilities can only be sustainable by viewing such vestment in a broader hierarchy of responsibility.

    Who is most responsible for the elderly, their care, safety, security and wellbeing?

    I would argue the following order of responsibility, in order of diminishing degree of responsibility:
    1. individual who will grow elderly, and rightly makes choices (as best they can) to save, prepare, maintain health, create and preserve support systems, maintain family and community relationships, etc.
    2. immediate and extended families of elderly, same tasks as above.
    3. local communities (government, church, community groups), to maintain visibility of support organizations and services, to foster self-help for families, to maintain vigilance in identifying those elderly with limited family support or means, in providing basic local services.
    4. State government, to maintain visibility of support organizations and services, to foster self-help for communities, to maintain vigilance in identifying those local communities with limited support or means and assist them in providing basic local services. Additionallly, provide those state level resources that would not feasibly be available to or provided by local communities.
    5. Federal government, to maintain visibility of support organizations and services, to foster self-help for states, to maintain vigilance in identifying those states with limited support or means and assist them in providing support to local communities. Additionallly, provide those national level resources that would not feasibly be available to or provided by local communities or state governments.

    Color me naive, but there are many boatloads of responsibilities before you get to the Federal level in my view. Odd that in the case of both flooding in Louisiana and heat in France, the elderly are disproportionately affected? Could it be that NO and LA populations share some similar assumptions as the French? (About social welfare, personal responsibilities, abandonment of the elderly).

    Just a thought.

  17. SWLiP

    Helaine said…
    It’s still disgusting no matter how you try to rationalize it or look at it. The function of govt is to protect society’s most vulnerable members, a group the majority of elderly can be placed in.

    It was the job of local government to have an evacuation plan, and to put that plan into effect. That’s a part of the FEMA regs. A state or municipality can’t qualify for FEMA assistance without such a plan. So, again, why did the local government fail to act on their plan, and why does Ray Nagin continue to get a free pass from the MSM?

    Nevermind. I think I know the answer.

  18. tyree

    I just hope that out here in California, the fifth (or sixth) richest country in the world, the State Legislature is setting aside 5 billion dollars a year for our next earthquake. They are mostly Democrats so we know they are working together on the really important issues.

  19. megapotamus

    Actually I remember a quite similar analysis done strictly from census records not long after the body count was made official just short of 1,000. That was at least a month ago. I think this piddled out as a political flail before that. Few people could take the BlameBush meme seriously after the dire descriptions of the calamity came acropper. The media is rapidly losing even sympathy, much less credibility out in the real world. The slapdash errors in the recent mine accident are one more kick to a shaky pedestal. Can’t happen too soon.

  20. Seneca the Younger

    It’s still disgusting no matter how you try to rationalize it or look at it. The function of govt is to protect society’s most vulnerable members, a group the majority of elderly can be placed in.

    I don’t think Cathy’s saying it’s good: just that most of the explanations — and the imputed motives — are wrong.

  21. willis

    “I just hope that out here in California, the fifth (or sixth) richest country in the world, the State Legislature is setting aside 5 billion dollars a year for our next earthquake. They are mostly Democrats so we know they are working together on the really important issues.”

    If they do wash out to sea it will be because of the inept politicians Californians accepted as their rightful governers when they rejected the referendum proposal to have legislator districts determined by an independant panel. Californians made the most explicit statement possible that they did not want a voice in their government and so they deserve what they have, the worst government west of Louisiana.

  22. Robert

    There was an evacuation plan, it was employed, and the majority of residents of Orleans and Jefferson Parish successfully evacuated. What most people miss in this story is that the elderly folks who did not leave refused to leave. There are a number of factors involved, the two most important being a sense of security in one’s home, and the local history of people riding out hurricanes.

    To me the story was not that Katrina did not disproportionately affect black folks; what the MSM is not covering is that most of the people who stayed chose to stay for one reason or another.

    There is no evacuation plan in existence that could have taken people out of the City in significantly greater numbers than actually occurred. You cannot forcibly remove people, and a lot of people who now claim they would have left had buses been provided are lying. The horrific scenes in the Superdome and Convention Center occurred long after the flooding made it impossible to leave via car or bus; prior to those conditions existing – i.e. prior to the flooding, people who chose to stay would not have left.

    Cathy said that the blogosphere is not covering this issue. Local blogs here in New Orleans certainly are, and our local paper is as well. I know that’s irrelevant to the point she was trying to make, but I thought I’d point it out anyway.

    Finally, people keep calling out Ray Nagin; he’s the best mayor we’ve had in the city in my lifetime, and I’m a fairly conservative guy. He did not have a particularly Giuliani experience with/re: Katrina, but I still have a great deal of respect for him and for how he handles a very difficult job.

  23. Nahanni

    It’s still disgusting no matter how you try to rationalize it or look at it. The function of govt is to protect society’s most vulnerable members, a group the majority of elderly can be placed in.

    In cases such as Hurricanes it is the LOCAL and STATE governments who are supposed to be the “first responders”. The New Orleans and state of Louisiana government failed miserably in this instance. They waited way too long before calling for a mandatory evacuation. In fact President Bush had to call Governor Blanco and PUSH her and Nagin to call for one! And when they finally did they made little effort to get those people out who had no transportation-remember the pictures of all the drowned buses? Guess not. Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin are incompetent and corrupt.

    I live in Houston hun. I was a volunteer at the Astrodome. Want to know wht the first bus was that showed up there? It was an Orleans Parish school bus that a 20 year old kid HOT WIRED and went around picking people up to take to Houston, not one of the “greyhound buses” that Mayor Nagin demanded to be sent. One of the people on that bus had made a sign out of a cardboard box that said “You got alot to answer for, Nagin!” and was holding it up for everyone who was watching the TV coverage of their arrival on KTRK to see.

    You see, the people who came to the Astrodome KNEW who was to blame. There WAS a reason that Blanco or Nagin NEVER came to visit their own citizens who were taken to the dome-my guess is that both of them would have been killed and there would be no way that anyone could stop it. They blamed Nagin and Blanco for what happened, not the federal government or the president. When ABC went to interview them after President Bush’s speech they dumped out of the interview because NONE of the evacuees were saying what they wanted them to say-they did not blame Bush, they blamed Nagin and Blanco. The good LLL ABC producers did not like that so they bailed out. It was funny.

    When Rita was thought to be coming this way Mayor White and Governor Perry wasted no time calling for evacuations of flood prone areas and used city and school buses to pick up all that had no other way out. They even made provision for peoples pets because they KNOW alot of the elderly will not abandon them. Galveston was totally evacuated in 24 hours, and the few that stayed behind had to sign waivers stating they refused to leave and the total responsibility for their lives were their own.

    Those traffic jams you saw were caused by IDIOTS who did NOT live anywhere near the flood prone areas who decided to leave. They were also people who had no clue how to get into and out of the city without using a freaking freeway and never learned how to read a map. I drove back and forth to work during the whole thing using major city streets and had NO problem getting around or getting gasoline, and I live 25 miles away from work on the west side of Houston. My next door neighbors left for Austin Thursday night and it took them 6 hours to get there using FM and RM roads where the people on 290 may have moved 10 miles in that same time. I can remember hearing an interview on the radio with one of the people stuck on I-10. She was from West University Place (VERY rich area-and VERY Democratic) who was bitching that her kids had drunk all their juice boxes and watched all their DVD’s. The damn fool in her Lincoln Navigator never thought of getting off the freeway, driving 3 miles to the south down to Westheimer and driving posted speeds on there all the way out to Fulshear where she could have taken FM ro RM roads to San Antonio or Austin. Guess she thought that GPS system in her dash board was just some cool light. When I run into someone who is still biatching about being stuck on the freeway I suggest to them they might just want to learn how to read a map and learn at least three routes out of the city that do not use a freeway in any way, shape or form.

  24. rpu28

    Two thoughts: First, if the country goes to war, one can argue that the federal government is responsible for the outcome and the city government of New Orleans is not. But if Tom Tourist gets rowdy on Bourbon Street, one can argue the reverse. So where is the tipping point? At what level of calamity can a local, regional, or state government throw up its hands and say “You’re it” to the feds, thus dodging all political and moral responsibility?

    Second, why were the huddled masses in the Superdome, etc. 99% black? Is it just a coincidence, or is it because the 40% of New Orleans residents that live below the poverty level are 99% black? If so, how might one explain that statistic?

  25. Jeff

    going back to the top comments…
    “And there are still 3000 missing. LA officials admit some were certainly washed out to sea.
    And they are still recovering bodies from the 9th Ward.”

    Are there really still 3000 missing. I’ll take your word for it, but do you have a link?

  26. Svolich

    I’d bet that those who stayed behind were disproportionately pet owners. My family is as prepared for disaster as one can reasonably be, but we do not plan to go to an “official” shelter because they would not allow us to keep our 2 cats. (we have other arrangements made already)

    Read Poppy Z. Brite’s blog in the time before the evacuation. Even though she couldn’t get the strays she feeds inside, let alone in cages, she very nearly stayed behind to “care” for them.

  27. Anonymous

    How can anyone rationally argue that 3,000 people or anywhere near that number were “washed out to sea”? What an amazingly non-credible attempt to support a “preconceived belief.” Where are the bodies washing back onto shore? Where are the bodies popping up in the gulf and being found by boaters?

    We now know the levees were not topped. They collapsed and the water flowed in! Water flowing in does not wash bodies out. If you want to hold to a belief, hold to one that you can at least try to support with facts.

  28. LonewackoDotCom

    The horrific scenes in the Superdome and Convention Center occurred long after the flooding made it impossible to leave via car or bus

    I believe they were able to do an evac of Algiers with buses after the flooding, and there was an open route between that bus barn and the Superdome. See the post about Algiers here.

    Search for ‘missing’ at that site for a couple entries. Search for ‘mortician’ for yet more unanswered questions.

  29. aprilpnw

    I’ve been skeptical of media coverage of natural disasters since our last big earthquake in Seattle – around 5 years ago.

    It was a 7 point something earthquake – pretty much an “event” for those of us in the city. However, there was very little damage (at least of the dramatic, obvious kind). The damage that did occur was in Pioneer Square – an area with the greatest concentration of older buildings. One or two buildings were significantly damaged, providing a good photo op. The photos of these buildings were the ones most frequently used in newspapers and other media vehicles throughout the US.

    As a result, I got many frantic emails and phone calls from friends and family, hysterical, and wanting to know if I was ok. “My God”, all of them said, “the city looks horrible.”

    I never trusted the media in terms of this kind of coverage again. I’m convinced that any natural disaster brings out the drama queen in all journalists.

  30. Elizabeth

    It’s true that the dead are mainly old, and white. But they’re only one measure of the storm, and the fact remains that most of what Bush promised in his nationally televised speech from Jackson Square has yet to happen. One commenter here lambasts our governor and mayor for having a “Bush is not our President” attitude; that person is clearly ignorant of our local politics. The mayor, Nagin, changed parties from GOP to Democrat when he ran for local office, and endorsed Republican Bobby Jindal over Blanco in the governor’s race. Nor is that post’s summation of the evacuation timeline correct. But please, blather on as if you know something. Pulling out the “They just hate Bush!” meme seems to work well for some conservatives; it makes all that actual thinking unnecessary.

    Meanwhile, Mississippi, with a GOP governor and U.S. congressional reps and Senators, is receiving more aid, and faster, than Louisiana is. The two states are receiving the same amount of aid to restore their colleges and universities, for example, but Mississippi’s system didn’t sustain even a 1/4 of the damage that ours did. You’d have to be a deranged Bush hater to find anything partisan in that, though, right?

    There are indeed close to 3000 people missing; if you want to keep up with that figure, check nola.com once a week or so for the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s reports. It’s presumed at least some of those simply have not contacted anyone after evacuating. The current Katrina death toll (for the entire affected region) topped 1300 this week.

    As for buses in the Westbank town of Algiers, the failure to use those will be Nagin’s biggest sin during the leadup to the storm. But after the storm, armed police from Gretna, a town across the river, blocked New Orleans evacuees–a large group composed mainly of black people–from crossing the bridge, the “open route” that Lonewhacko mentions. The Gretna police were afraid of looters, and a big group of blacks must be looters; what else? Our state attorney general is investigating that action.

    Meanwhile, the other racial issues currently in play are over Mardi Gras (some see it as a big party for white people–they ignore the crucial economics at stake), and bulldozing of houses. The houses the city wants to bulldoze immediately are all in the 9th Ward, a nearly all-black neighborhood utterly destroyed by the flood waters. Finally, race will be a heated issue as plans for rebuilding become finalized. It’s almost certain that the people unable to rebuild largely be black, lower middle class to poor, who owned homes in the city’s 9th Ward. White homeowners in parts of Lakeview are also going to be discouraged from rebuilding. The question is one of geography–what can we protect from future floodwaters? But the outcome of that decision will disproportionately affect black people.

    The essay is right; the death count demographics do expose one myth of racism. But there’s much more to learn from the aftermath of Katrina.

  31. Anonymous

    Robert: Finally, people keep calling out Ray Nagin; he’s the best mayor we’ve had in the city in my lifetime, and I’m a fairly conservative guy. He did not have a particularly Giuliani experience with/re: Katrina, but I still have a great deal of respect for him and for how he handles a very difficult job.

    I have to agree. The flurry of talking points that started circulating immediately (“local problem”, “dumb democrat mayor”, “if they were too dumb to leave..”, etc. completely ignore reality for the most part, but it is especially funny WRT Nagin. He’s really quite remarkably good.

    Elizabeth: Pulling out the “They just hate Bush!” meme seems to work well for some conservatives; it makes all that actual thinking unnecessary.

    Shhh… the highly partisan types go feral if you let them know you’re on to them.

  32. Helaine

    I didn’t mean to post and leave everyone hanging. Life, as it does, intervened and I’ve just signed back on.

    A few points. There’s lots of blame to go around on Hurricane Katrina. The federal govt. The state govt. The city and parrish govts. The families of people who got trapped. Bad decisions made by many of the elderly themselves. Etc. But one does not excuse the other. For example, I lived in So. Cal for years. If there is a fire and you are in an evacuation zone, the authorities will make a determined effort to force you out.

    And, yes, it is a primary duty of govt. to protect citizens when they are vulnerable. I won’t back down on this. In this specific case, not everyone had a family loving enough or savvy enough to come and get them out of their house. And some people do make bad decisions. But they don’t deserve to die because of that.

  33. Revenant

    Meanwhile, Mississippi, with a GOP governor and U.S. congressional reps and Senators, is receiving more aid, and faster, than Louisiana is.

    Heh. Didn’t bother looking up what parties Louisiana’s politicians belong to, eh?

    Mississippi’s Congressional delegation contains 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Louisiana’s contains 6 Republicans and 3 Democrats. So not only are both state’s Congressional delegations equally Republican, but Louisiana has more of them — in fact, Louisiana has more Republican Representatives than Mississippi has *total* Representatives.

    You’d have to be a deranged Bush hater to find anything partisan in that, though, right?

    Yes, you would have to be a deranged Bush hater to believe that Republicans screwed over a larger Republican state in favor of a smaller Republican state for “partisan reasons”. What, were they supposedly bitter because only 57% of Louisiana voted for Bush in 2004, compared to 60% of Mississippi? Or, wait — did they decide that since their non-white candidate lost to the white Democratic candidate 48-52, the best way to win the next election was to make the whole Louisiana electorate mad at Republicans by sending “their” relief money to Mississippi?

    The truth, of course, is that both states are getting every penny they deserve and billions they don’t. Mississippi has been more successful in picking the other 48 states’ pockets because Mississippi’s Republican congresscritters are more influential than Louisiana’s Republican congresscritters. There’s no deeper reason than that.

  34. Anonymous

    Whatever happened to personal responsibility in this country?

    This is why libertarianism is on life support.

    People could have:

    1. Not lived in a city below sea level with an artifical system in place to keep the whole two nfrom being underwater.

    2. Lived in the city but made sure to live in an area less susceptible to floods.

    3. Not invested in real estate that had a decent chance to be ruined by a flood. They could have rented instead.

    4. Got their asses the hell out of the city when the hurricaine announcements were coming.

    5. Living in a coastal area prone to hurricaines, they could have been already prepared with supplies and escape routes and such should the worst happen.

    6. Even ignoring all of the above, not be a jackass pimple on the backside of humanity and engage in looting, violence and other lawless behavior just because they could.

    Anyone who couldn’t accomplish any of the above have as much responsibility for the bad things that happened as any government official, Republican or Democrat, federal, state, city or parish.

    I don’t understand people. Sometimes they complain that government tries to be like police state and control their lives. And then other times these same people beg them to do exactly that.

  35. Anonymous

    Wow. Here was a city which was run by one political party literally for decades without the dissent of evil, selfish, racist reactonaries. I mean, it should have been heaven on earth. The best education, the lowest crime, no corruption, the cleanest air and water, “free” on demand medical care, freedom from fear, from want, state of the art infrastructure and emergency services, the list goes on and on. That it was a social and economic basket case even before Katrina seems to be lost on some of us. And where are the “compassionate defenders of the little guy” now that the policies supporting their world view have again been proven murderously wrong. Averting their gaze and continuing their narrative about how its (always) someone else’s fault.

  36. Anonymous

    – The attention span of the nation and of the MSM has apparently been exhausted by Katrina/Rita, and whatever lessons might now be learned are being ignored. Nola.com needs to reorganize itself around the general topics: the list of dead, where the evacuees wound up & what they want to do, what needs to be bulldozed away, what needs to be preserved, how to supply temporary housing, what to do about MRGO, what to do about the other levees, etc. Both the internet and the MSM have become much less useful in following this story than than either were in September. If there is a blog focussed on tracking these issues, I haven’t found it.
    — Not everything I knew about Katrina was wrong. It has been, was at the time, and still is, very foolish to reside below sea level. Nederlanders may be an exception.

  37. Elizabeth

    Revenant, it’s my state, I don’t have to look it up. But your figures ignore the seniority of our GOP congress and Senate members, and the fact that our governor is a Democrat, as are our ranking Senator and many of our congressmen. Nor do I accuse Mississippi’s delegation of “screwing” Louisiana, as you put it. In fact, our governor has publicly thanked their senior congressional for help in getting anything. The fact is that GOP leadership is getting a better response from the feds. In a time of crisis, that’s a damn shame.

    Your assertion that we’re getting every penny we deserve is just your opinion. Back it up. You haven’t a clue.

  38. Elizabeth

    Anonymous offers:

    People could have:

    1. Not lived in a city below sea level with an artifical system in place to keep the whole two nfrom being underwater.

    I expect we’ll be depopulating North Texas and Oklahoma any day now. It’s dry there, and stuff burns!

    2. Lived in the city but made sure to live in an area less susceptible to floods.

    Part of the city that flooded is nowhere near any source of water. The levee and canal system failed.

    3. Not invested in real estate that had a decent chance to be ruined by a flood. They could have rented instead.

    Rented property owned by people who invested in real estate, right? You’re going in circles here!

    4. Got their asses the hell out of the city when the hurricaine announcements were coming.

    About a million people did evacuate, Einstein. What else have you got?

    5. Living in a coastal area prone to hurricaines, they could have been already prepared with supplies and escape routes and such should the worst happen.

    See above. That doesn’t save their homes, of course, or their businesses.

    6. Even ignoring all of the above, not be a jackass pimple on the backside of humanity and engage in looting, violence and other lawless behavior just because they could.

    Very little of this occured, so what exactly are you complaining about? Much of the looting was for food, water, and dry clothes. By far, people behaved well, and with each other’s welfare in mind.

  39. harscand

    You noted that the number of old people who died was disproportionately high. I have a couple of questions.

    1) Don’t old people die from natural causes at a higher rate than younger people?

    2) Of those who died in nursing homes, how many of them would have died on a daily basis just in the normal course of events without a hurricane to blame it on, i.e. what is the normal death rate in a nursing homes in New Orleans?

    I have a couple of other questions not specifically about old people.

    1) A few deaths have been attributed to murder and suicide. What is the historical murder/suicide rate in New Orleans? Was the murder/suicide rate higher or lower than the norm during the hurricance?

    2) In the overall population specifically confined to the greater New Orleans metropolitan area, how many people die annually from all causes – accident, suicide, murder, illness, old-age, etc.? How did the overall mortality rate in New Orleans during the crisis compare with the normal mortality rate?

    Overall, the national mortality rate is 0.877% (about 1 in 114 per year. Mortality rates differ according to age and race, so the mortality rate of a given city should be adjusted according to its demographic composition. But assuming the average, that means in an area with 1.5 million people, about 13,158 New Orleaneans would die in the normal course of the year. That calculates into about 36 deaths on a daily basis.

    According to your numbers, 486 bodies were recovered in New Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. My questions are:

    1) What was the population of those parishes during the height of the storm, and what was the mortality rate in those parishes during the storm and its immediate aftermath?

    2) As a corollary question, what proportion of the population evacuated and what was that population’s mortality rate? (The point being to try to determine if healthy people evacuated at a higher rate than sick and dying people.)

    3) Finally, what were the combined death tolls of the bodies recovered in those parishes PLUS the total number of deaths of those residents who evacuated those parishes?

    My purpose should be obvious. Given that the normal mortality rate across the USA is 0.877% annually, any analysis of deaths “caused by” hurricane Katrina must necessarily exclude those who would have normally died in the absence of the crisis. The total number of deaths is meaningless without this context.

    I have strong suspicions that the actual mortality rate during the crisis WAS higher than normal, if only due to the stress of the situation. But it would be much more instructive to determine the difference between total deaths during the crisis, and the total expected deaths without a crisis. Then we really could find an answer to the question, “How many deaths were caused by Hurricane Katrina?”

  40. Revenant

    Revenant, it’s my state, I don’t have to look it up.

    So you were deliberately dishonest when you tried to make it sound like Louisiana wasn’t a Republican state?

    But your figures ignore the seniority of our GOP congress

    I did not ignore seniority — I cited the greater influence of the MS Republicans over the LA Republicans. But you tried to claim that partisanship was to blame, not about the seniority system. The Congressional preference for senior Republicans over junior Republicans isn’t “partisanship”; “partisan” refers to interactions between *different* parties.

    and Senate members, and the fact that our governor is a Democrat

    Your governor is a Democrat because the GOP ran Piyush Jindal against a white person in one of the most racist states in America — and he still only lost 48-52. Besides, the governor doesn’t get to vote in Congress, so it doesn’t matter which state has a Democratic governor.

    as are our ranking Senator and many of our congressmen.

    I did not ignore that. You have one Republican Senator, one Democratic senator, five Republican Representatives, and two (NOT “many”) Democratic Representatives. Mississippi has two Republican Senators, two Republican Reps, and two Democratic reps.

    Nor do I accuse Mississippi’s delegation of “screwing” Louisiana, as you put it.

    You accused Republicans of routing money Louisiana deserved and giving it to Mississippi for partisan reasons. If you want to play semantic games over whether that counts as “screwing”, go ahead.

    In fact, our governor has publicly thanked their senior congressional for help in getting anything. The fact is that GOP leadership is getting a better response from the feds.

    The fact is that both Mississippi and Louisiana are hardcore Republican states these days. Ergo your claim that Louisiana was getting shortchanged because of partisanship is ridiculous. Now you want to change your argument and pretend you were talking about seniority instead of partisanship — hey, go right ahead. MS is indeed, as I already observed, getting more than LA because of the greater influence of MS’s congressmen. It is not, as you said, getting more because MS has Republican congressmen.

    So yes, only a deranged Bush hater would blame partisanship for your failure to get all the pork you want. You live in what is, today, as solidly Republican a state as Texas and Mississippi. If Congress gyps you out of something it isn’t because of partisan considerations.

  41. Revenant

    Your assertion that we’re getting every penny we deserve is just your opinion.

    Obviously any statement about how much aid money someone deserves is going to be “just opinion”, since it is only a matter of opinion that anyone deserves any aid money at all. But the idea that my money should go to some twit who decided to live below sea level, so he can go BACK to living below sea level, is absurd to me. To the best of my knowledge New Orleans is in fact getting aid for the below-sea-level portions of the city, so there you have it — more aid money than they deserve.

    Plus, of course, even in a non-Katrina year LA gets more government largesse than it pays for with taxes. Democrats used to complain about this fact, actually, since Louisiana was one of the solidly-red states that solidly-blue states like California end up bankrolling. It takes a lot of arrogance for a state that was already getting bags of free money each year to demand even bigger bags of free money.

  42. Elizabeth

    Revenant, you are being deliberately obtuse. Louisiana is not a Republican state, and I have never said it was. Our senior and ranking officials are Democrats. Our GOP senator and congressmen don’t have the juice to get much done. Mississippi’s governor is the former head of the GOP, and their GOP lawmakers have held top positions in Congress. They are getting faster, and more substantial aid from the administration, and from Congress. You bet that’s partisan.

  43. Elizabeth

    Revenant,
    I’m sorry; I replied to you before reading the rest of your comments fully. I wasn’t aware of what an idiot you are. I’m done trying to deal in substance with a nitwit.

  44. Anonymous

    I’m sorry; I replied to you before reading the rest of your comments fully. I wasn’t aware of what an idiot you are. I’m done trying to deal in substance with a nitwit.

    When you have no point to make, insults are always nice, right?

    ANY money you are given from the gov’t is more money than you are owed. You don’t deserve any. Anything given is a GIFT.

    Elizabeth, Louisiana is an overwhelmingly Republican state. New Orleans specifically is overwhelmingly Democratic, but Louisiana as a whole is very Republican.

    You have a governor who couldn’t successfully manage a bowel movement, much less a state gov’t. You cannot blame anybody else because she is so utterly incompetent.
    -=Mike

  45. Brian

    I assumed that bloggers ignore it because the “Katrina=racism” meme was so obviously absurd on its face.

    Same reason not many people bother debunking those who think the moon landing was a hoax or actually bother to engage Scientology seriously.

  46. Revenant

    Revenant, you are being deliberately obtuse. Louisiana is not a Republican state, and I have never said it was.

    You should pay closer attention, because I never said you thought Louisiana was a Republican state — I was criticizing you for making the bizarre claim that it *wasn’t* a Republican state, a claim which you just made again. Louisiana’s Congressional delegation is as solidly Republican as that of Texas and Mississippi and it enthusiastically supported Bush in 2000 and 2004. Sure, the local government contains a lot of DINOs, but the local government isn’t what appropriates money from Congress.

    Our GOP senator and congressmen don’t have the juice to get much done.

    So what? You claimed the reason they didn’t get money was *partisanship*, not a lack of political mojo. One Republican taking money another Republican wants isn’t partisanship.

    You bet that’s partisan.

    Only if you’re ignorant of what the term “partisan” means.

  47. Anonymous

    If your information is accurate and credible, it still doesn’t really matter.

    What was seen on the media cannot account for the facts that came out later. I don’t think anyone was saying, “George Bush and Co. is poring over the recorded racial/age/class data for each area that was hit by Katrina and not being a good leader because they are poor and black.”

    They were saying, “look on the television, it’s mostly poor black people stranded in New Orleans and if we were watching it with the difference being rich, white people, action would have been more speedy and efficient.”

  48. Anonymous

    tyree said…
    I just hope that out here in California, the fifth (or sixth) richest country in the world, the State Legislature is setting aside 5 billion dollars a year for our next earthquake. They are mostly Democrats so we know they are working together on the really important issues.

    Or we can sit around, after the fact, saying that you should have known better than to reside in an area where earthquake insurance is key.

    You know…like how they said those people should know better than to live in area that’s below sea level.

    It works both ways, eh?

  49. Cathy Young

    About the 3000 or so still missing, is there any reason to believe that the racial and class background among them would be different to the recorded deaths?

    As for the majority of the refugees seen on TV being black: could that have something to do with the fact that that cameras focused predominantly on NO, and not on other affected areas?

    Helaine, I certainly agree that the government has a responsibility to protect people from harm — it’s one of the functions of government that even most libertarian would recognize. And there certainly was a failure of government at all levels. My point, though, is that this does not seem to have been a tragedy of “racism and classism” as we were initially led to believe.

    And by the way, while I agree there were failure of individual responsibility as well, and while I don’t want to be the sensitivity police, some of the attitudes voiced here toward Katrina survivors are a bit… jarring.

  50. Anonymous

    I think that Louisiana’s reputation for corruption, and revelations of the kind of ratholes previous levee money was poured down, have more to do with NO’s problems than anything else.

    I have been through several hurricanes, including one which included intense flooding, my home was covered in mud and some kind of oil to nearly the second floor in Agnes in ’72. This “shocked, shocked..” attitude toward people who question bellyaching at us for money while at the same time accusing us of racism, is well, not working for you.

    It’s been said a lot because it contains a lot of wisdom. Get a job!

  51. Anonymous

    What was seen on the media cannot account for the facts that came out later. I don’t think anyone was saying, “George Bush and Co. is poring over the recorded racial/age/class data for each area that was hit by Katrina and not being a good leader because they are poor and black.”

    They were saying, “look on the television, it’s mostly poor black people stranded in New Orleans and if we were watching it with the difference being rich, white people, action would have been more speedy and efficient.”

    If the pictures broadcast do not reflect the reality of the situation, then the pictures are irrelevant and were cherry-picked for maximum political impact.

    And the last sentence of your post is insane, since the statistics of those impacted clearly disprove your entire notion.
    -=Mike

  52. Revenant

    Or we can sit around, after the fact, saying that you should have known better than to reside in an area where earthquake insurance is key. You know…like how they said those people should know better than to live in area that’s below sea level. It works both ways, eh?

    There are two problems with your argument. The first is that I live in southern California, and it IS an earthquake zone — so I bought earthquake insurance! If I had refused to do so, and then an earthquake knocked my house down, I like to think I wouldn’t have the nerve to insist that I was entitled to have my house rebuilt for me anyway. Granted, a lot of the people in New Orleans lived in areas insurance companies wouldn’t cover… because they were guaranteed to flood. But it is hard to see why a person is entitled to benefits because they lived in an area that was SO foolish to live in that no insurance firm would touch them with a 10-foot pole.

    The second point is a little more controversial. Basically, it is that Californians pay many billions of dollars per year more in taxes than we receive from the federal government, and have for many years. So a good argument could be made that, unlike Louisiana and Mississippi (which regularly receive more than they pay), we’re *owed* a lot of benefits.

  53. Elizabeth

    A lot of the places that flooded in New Orleans were not required to have flood insurance, because they were considerd, by insurance companies using flood maps, as not likely to flood, being on high ground. The storm did not flood anything; the canal and levee failures did that. That created a complex insurance situation. Some people had wind and weather coverage, but the flood isn’t covered by that, since it wasn’t the storm that caused it.

    Louisiana and Mississippi provide oil royalties to the federal government. Saying the states take more than they give is correct only if you’re looking at tax revenue. When you include the oil revenue–which neither state gets back in adequate amounts–that is no longer true. Both states would like to use more of their oil royalties for wetland restoration (which is directly related to oil production) and flood protection.

  54. Elizabeth

    Cathy,

    Another measure of the storm’s affect is flooding. Today’s New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: “That Katrina’s floodwaters affected black residents more severely than white residents is a matter of statistical fact. Using flood maps and block-by-block data from the 2000 census, city consultant Greg Rigamer estimates that about half of the city’s white citizenry experienced minimal or no flooding. By comparison, fewer than a quarter of black New Orleanians were so lucky.”

    The problem is, of course, that this fact of geography and nature is being used to fan the idea of a conspiracy to depopulate the city of its black residents. Racism did not cause this flooding pattern, but the fear, not entirely unfounded, is that racism will shape our response to it.

  55. Anonymous

    If the pictures broadcast do not reflect the reality of the situation, then the pictures are irrelevant and were cherry-picked for maximum political impact.

    Wrong. No picture was irrelevant because there was truth in every, regardless of which pictures were “cherry picked.” To believe in that notion is to believe that the people in the pictures were irrelevant. Besides, nothing you said negated what I said.

    And the last sentence of your post is insane, since the statistics of those impacted clearly disprove your entire notion.

    And…what? When were those statistics made public? After the fact? Yes. So, again, you’re not negating anything I said.

  56. Anonymous

    There are two problems with your argument. The first is that I live in southern California, and it IS an earthquake zone — so I bought earthquake insurance! If I had refused to do so, and then an earthquake knocked my house down, I like to think I wouldn’t have the nerve to insist that I was entitled to have my house rebuilt for me anyway. Granted, a lot of the people in New Orleans lived in areas insurance companies wouldn’t cover… because they were guaranteed to flood. But it is hard to see why a person is entitled to benefits because they lived in an area that was SO foolish to live in that no insurance firm would touch them with a 10-foot pole.

    Everyone would like to think a lot of things about situations they haven’t encountered…the question is will your opinion hold true to the reality? Debatable.

    The second point is a little more controversial. Basically, it is that Californians pay many billions of dollars per year more in taxes than we receive from the federal government, and have for many years. So a good argument could be made that, unlike Louisiana and Mississippi (which regularly receive more than they pay), we’re *owed* a lot of benefits.

    There’s a reason why your state pays more taxes. California is owed nothing less and nothing more than any other state.

  57. Anonymous

    People still aren’t getting it.

    Living in places below sea level or hurricaine alley or earthquake zones are choices people make. They are free to make these choices, but with those choices comes responsibility for the consequences of those choices.

    But we don’t like consequences. We want our lives to be consequence free, so that when the forseeable or the unforseeable happens and we’re unprepared, it immediately becomes somebody else’s fault, not ours.

    Expecting the government to defend you from an invasion by the Russians is fine. Expecting the government to step by step remove you from the path of a hurricane at the government’s expense is the height of socialist largesse.

    Uncle Sam is not your rich uncle who sends you blank checks and a limo to cart you to and from the store, and this entitlement mentaility that has gripped most of the population is just infuriating.

    The events that happened in New Orleans were forseeable (hurricane, levee failure, flooding, etc.) and a risk to living in that area. So the big bad happened and people suffered. My sympathies are sincere. But governments don’t make hurricanes and they sure as hell were crystal clear about the dangers this one might bring.

    That whatever branch of government didn’t succeed in miracling up some theoretical happy fun place for everyone to ride out the damage without anyone suffering is a testament to just how dependent on government we’ve become.

    And when the earthquakes hit California or the blizzards hit Minnesota, I’ll sing the same tune.

  58. Anonymous

    “And by the way, while I agree there were failure of individual responsibility as well, and while I don’t want to be the sensitivity police, some of the attitudes voiced here toward Katrina survivors are a bit… jarring.”

    I have sympathy for the survivors (which is a loaded term since in this case “survivors” means 99% of the population), but my sympathy extends only as far as the bounds of emotion are appropriate.

    They sure as hell don’t extend past the more rational areas of what actions are and are not appropriate for the government of a free people to take.

    You can’t just bail out everybody who runs through a streak of tough luck. Where does it end? Exactly how are we supposed to draw lines here? When 100 people die in Chicago of a heat wave, does the government then buy air-conditioners for the whole country? Does the government become the main supplier of snow chains in the northern states and the Rocky Mountains? When Barbars Streisands California home slides off the side of a mountain during a rainstorm, does Uncle Sam buy her a new home? If not because she’s already got money, what income levels do we set as to whose home gets rebuilt or not? If a kid in a public park next door hits a baseball through my window, do I send the bill for the window to Uncle Sam.

    Where does all this end if not everybody waiting in line for toilet paper?

    The outpouring of private charity to the victims of the hurricane is heartening and reassuring. But our government has a responsibility to not express it’s symptahy with dollar figures. The infrastructure costs in the New Orleans area are going to be massive but an appropriate expenditure of government funds. You pay taxes so that are roads, schools, fire, police, etc. Those need to be rebuilt, restocked and re-inforced.

    Put when the government starts rebuilding homes for private citizens I put my damn foot down. This is the proverbial road to hell paved with good intentions. If that makes me callous, I don’t care. I’d rather be callous and maintain a proper idea of the role of government, then be caring and open Pandora’s box.

    I care about the million and a half residents of the New Orleans area, but I care about the 290+ million residents of this country who don’t live there too, and turning our government into “the big checking account that releases us from any worry” is a recipe for disaster for all of us.

  59. Elizabeth

    Put when the government starts rebuilding homes for private citizens I put my damn foot down.

    Well, you can calm down and stop stamping your little foot, then. The government isn’t rebuilding homes in Louisiana or Mississippi. They ARE paying to bulldoze the ones that can’t be repaired, providing trailers for people while they either rebuild or relocate (there’s a time limit; the trailers are not indefinite), and some people with major damage are getting a small cash settlement–deducted against their insurance, and nowhere near the value of even a modest, matchstick home. If a person is without insurance, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to rebuild.

    What we need money for, and quick, is to fix the levees and canals, and restore that infrastructure you acknowledge is appropriately addressed with federal funds.

  60. Pat

    Again, please take a look at a re-analysis of the data showing that once age is taken into account blacks actually were over-represented among Katrina’s casualties.
    http://www.newvisioninstitute.org/VictimsOfKatrina.pdf
    As it turns out, the media’s concerns about race appear to be validated.

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