ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE (NOT?)...
Fourth day after Hurricane Katrina passed through and it's hard not be affected by the personal stories of human suffering coming through the TV news. It got so bad yesterday, that I turned off the TV to just focus on print reports of the news, so that I might get a broader perspective on what's happening.
It didn't help. The print media was also for the most part focused on the personal anecdotes that make you shake your head that this is occurring within the United States.
And then another shock. Regardless of political party affiliation, it was very surprising to hear President Bush refer to the situation as "unacceptable". It's good to see the administration getting off the one key that has been the primary focus for modus operandi since 9/11.
And speaking of 9/11, one can't but help and compare & contrast (my favorite exercise in high school), the first few days of this disaster vs. the first few days of the last one, Rudi Guiliani notwithstanding (as Jason Calacanis wonders here).
Maybe whichever philospher who said it, got it right: human beings do need an external enemy to motivate them to get off their duff.
Which is why politicians throughout the ages have used that basic tool of governance. And which is why they continue to invent external enemies when there are none, or exaggerate the ones that may exist in the far distance.
It's tough to make political hay out of mother nature as an enemy.
Here, there is no external enemy other than Hurricane Katrina, and of course the levees. As an aside, the last time I thought of the word levee was whenever I heard Don McLean's "Bye, Bye American Pie" on the radio...remember?:
So bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Now, the whole nation is going to become expert on levees and how they work, and of course what happens when they don't. Already there's talk in southern California of re-examining the levees in the area which are prone to earthquakes, which occur at a greater frequency and far less warning than hurricanes.
So, coming to the point of this post (finally), all this for me anyway, generated far more questions than answers.
I thought I'd share them with everybody, and see if people have thoughts/comments on them, or if they have more questions they'd like to add. These are in no particular order or priority. For ones that I have some partial, half-baked answers and/or assumptions of answers, I've added them in parentheses:
1. When will the people, especially around the Superdome, finally be evacuated?
(A: Probably in the next week, especially given the intense public, media and now political focus on the situation).
2. When will the looting and lawlessness be brought under control?
(A: Same as for the question above, especially with thousands of National Guards troops moving in...but important questions and issues around "Grand Theft Auto: The Big Easy" will remain. Tom Evslin has some good thoughts on the crime spree here and comparisons to 9/11 here).
3. When will the levee breaches be temporarily staunched?
(A: In the next two weeks or so?)
4. When will the city be totally evacuated?
(A: Next 2-3 weeks, but with thousands of troops, volunteers and other organizations doing clean-up in the city, the issues of property protection remain...
RELATED QUESTION: What are the legal precedents if any, around authorities going through hundreds of thousands of homes searching for bodies, WITHOUT the owners present? Who's responsible if owners find things missing? What if evidence of other crimes are found on the premises during these body searches?)
5. When will we see all the bodies collected, identified and returned to families, along with a total death toll?)
(A: Likely 2-3 months, so by the end of the year?)
6. When will the first memorial services be held for the victims, locally, regionally and nationally a la post 9/11?)
(A: This is a great opportunity for politicians go get airtime, so this will likely happen much sooner than later, possibly by the end of September?
RELATED QUESTION: When will all the Senatorial and Presidential aspirants for 2006 and 2008 respectively start showing up regularly on TV for the next few months on Hurricane Katrina related issues?)
7. When will the first looter and other related criminal trials be held?
(A: Again, given the political dividends, this will likely occur sooner than later, so likely in the next 3-6 months...nationally televised of course, with books to follow).
8. When will see the first books, mini-series, movie of the week, and possible feature films based on these events?
(A: The writers are probably being engaged as we speak...so probably in 9-12 months?
RELATED QUESTION: When will start seeing the first celebrity fund-a-thons and concert drives?)
9. When does the "blame game" start, especially at the national level?
(A: Some would say it's already starting, but full-fledged Congressional hearings and the like are probably 2-3 months away...again, there's political capital to be accrued here
RELATED QUESTION: When will see the first law-suits around the blame, crime and insurance issues? The issues on the latter item are already murky given that about half of the home owners do not have flood insurance and the insurance industry is going to use that to limit coverage, as in "hurricane and winds are covered, but floods are not"...how do you delineate which damage is caused by which event? Good day for lawyers coming, not to mention constructions folks from all around the country).
10. When will policies be put in place so that something like this does not happen again, and we learn from history and our mistakes?
(A: You want fairy tales, go read a book).
I'm more of a natural optimist than a cynic, so even I'm surprised as to where I'm coming out on some of these answers...maybe I'll be positively surprised...to be continued...
1. September 3rd, Saturday, 1pm EST: It's truly difficult to find the words to describe one's feelings as this story continues to unfold. Both Fred Wilson and Brad Feld express their feelings in thoughtful ways...recommended.
Also worth reading is Nick Bradbury's post, which emphasizes why this is so beyond regular party politics.