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Comment by William R. Cumming
September 4, 2015 @ 7:43 am
Well now a decade past of the land falling Hurricane Katrina.
One takeaway is the stark choices facing the states and local governments over disaster policy and politics. The roots are in federalism but they involve fundamentals beyond federalism
in the American future and the America vision of itself.
Post hurricane Katrina IMO Naomi Klein’s THE SCHOCK DOCTRINE
looms in importance to me.
One review below by Steve Koss:
“Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE is a stunning indictment of American corporatism and institutionalized globalization, on a par with such groundbreaking works as Harrington’s THE OTHER AMERICA and Chomsky’s HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL. Comprehensive in its breadth and remarkable for its well-researched depth, Klein’s book is a highly readable but disturbing look at how the neoliberal economic tenets of Milton Friedman have been implemented across the world over the last thirty-plus years.
The author’s thesis is simply stated: that neoliberal economic programs have repeatedly been implemented without the consent of the governed by creating and/or taking advantage of various forms of national shock therapy. Ms. Klein asserts that in country after country, Friedman and his Chicago School followers have foisted their tripartite economic prescription – privatization, deregulation, and cutbacks in social welfare spending – on an unsuspecting populace through decidedly non-democratic means. In the early years, the primary vehicle was dictatorial military force and accompanying fear of arrest, torture, disappearance, or death. Over time, new organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank were employed instead, using or creating impossible debt burdens to force governments to accept privatization of state-owned industries and services, complete removal of trade barriers and tariffs, forced acceptance of private foreign investment, and widespread layoffs. In more recent years, terrrorism and its response as well as natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis have wiped clean enough of the slate to impose these Friedmanite policies on people too shocked and focused on recovering to realize what was happening until it was too late.
According to Ms. Klein’s thesis, these revolutionary economic programs were the “medicine” deemed necessary by neo-liberal, anti-Keynesian economists to bring underdeveloped countries into the global trading community. Ms. Klein argues her case in convincing detail a long chronological line of historical cases. Each chapter in her book surveys one such situation, from Chile under Pinochet and Argentina under military junta through Nicaragua and Honduras, Bolivia under Goni, post-apartheid South Africa, post-Solidarity Poland, Russia under Yeltsin, China since Tiananmen, reconstruction of Iraq after the U.S. invasion, Sri Lanka after the tsunami, Israel after 9/11, and New Orleans post-Katrina. Along the way, she lets various neo-liberal economists and Chicago School practitioners speak for themselves – we hear their “shock therapy” views in their own words. As just one example, this arrogant and self-righteous proclamation from the late Professor Friedman: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – producs real change…our basic function, to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
What the author makes inescapably clear is that the world economic order has been largely remade in Milton Friedman’s image in the last few decades by adopting programs that would never have been democratically accepted by the common people. Military coups, violence and force, wars, induced hyperinflation, terrorism, preemptive war, climate disasters – these have been the disruptive vehicles that allowed such drastic economic packages to be imposed. Nearly always, they are developed in secrecy and implemented too rapidly for citizens to respond. The end results, as Ms.Klein again makes clear, are massive (and too often, continuing) unemployment, large price increases for essential goods, closing of factories, enormous increases in people living in poverty, explosive concentration of wealth among a small elite, and extraordinary opportunity for rapacious capitalism from American and European corporations.
Ms. Klein argues that from its humble beginnings as an economic philosophy, the neo-liberal program has evolved (or perhaps devolved) into a form of corporatism. Particularly in America, government under mostly Republican administrations has hollowed itself out, using private sector contractors for nearly every conceivable task. Companies ranging from Lockheed and Halliburton to ChoicePoint, Blackwater, CH2M Hill, and DynCorp exist almost entirely to secure lucrative government contracts to perform work formerly done by government. They now operate in a world the author describes as “disaster capitalism,” waiting and salivating over the profits to be made in the next slate-wiping war or disaster, regardless of the human cost. In an ominous closing discussion, Ms. Klein describes the privatization of government in wealthy Atlanta suburbs, a further step in self-serving and preemptive corporatism guaranteed to hollow out whatever is left of major American cities if it becomes a widespread practice.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE is truly a head-shaking read. One can only marvel at the imperiousness of past (mostly) American governmental behavior, the grievous callousness of it all, the massive human despair and suffering created for no other reason than economic imperialism, and the nauseating greed of (mostly Republican) politicians, former political operatives, and corporate executives who prey like pack wolves on people’s powerlessness and insecurity. Reading this book, one can no longer ask the question, “Why do they hate us?” The answer is obvious, and no amount of hyperventilation from Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News can erase the facts and consequences of behavior that we as a country have implicitly or explicitly endorsed.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE proves itself as shaming of modern American governmental policy as Dee Brown’s epic of 19th Century America, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. It is an essential read for intelligent citizens who want to understand the roots of globalization and its blowback effects on our lives.”
I am not a believer in cause and effect as the principle driver in HS and EM. Some may well disagree.
9/11/01 was a driver but of what?
Hurricane Katrina was a driver but of what?
What are the first principles and lessons learned from these key historical events for American life?
September 4, 2015 @ 7:58 am
A perfect STORM? A new book has been written about Henry Kissinger trying to evaluate his entire career and contributions. I am sure that this is the fore-runner of many on HK.
Why even mention HK? Because like many 1st generation immigrants HK never really got the history and cultural of the USA. But his analysis and theories on FP [foreign policy] readily disclose how FP efforts by the US during his lifetime document the analytic framework of THE SHOCK DOCTRINE and Milton Friedman’s impacts beyond economics.
September 4, 2015 @ 8:03 am
If the STATES want to survive as important players in American Democracy it is more important than ever that Standing Permanent Committees on Federalism be created in both Houses of the Congress perhaps even a permanent JOINT COMMITTEE like that on TAXATION, or the former Committee on Defense Production that conducted important analysis and investigation leading to the formation of FEMA in conjunction with the NGA [National Governors Association]!
The new committees like the Congressional Budget Office would provide a federalism analysis of each new bill introduced by members.
September 4, 2015 @ 8:13 am
One example of work product of the JOINT COMMITTEE ON DEFENSE PRODUCTION on EP [Emergency Preparedness] BEFORE ITS ABOLITION in 1978:
Senate Staff Report on Emergency Preparedness in the United States (excerpt), Senate Report 94-922, March 1976
Comment by Vicki Campbell
September 4, 2015 @ 12:16 pm
Bill, I’m amazed by what you just posted. I’ve basically just spent the last 2 and a half years fairly immersed academically in the study of neoliberalism, especially as it relates to disaster recovery, etc. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (which I read the second it came out) is widely heralded as one of the top 5 most influential books in the western world in the 21st century thus far. So I definitely have some things to say here, but I just wanted you to clarify what you mean when you say:
“I am not a believer in cause and effect as the principle driver in HS and EM. Some may well disagree.”
I’m just not sure what you’re saying exactly. Could you elaborate?
September 4, 2015 @ 2:04 pm
Vicki! Be glad to but at moment preparing for 8 guests over Labor Day weekend! Remind me if I don’t post by next Wednesday.
Many false paradigms in which the major premise erroneous and all following therefor defective. E.g. Trump leads in polls therefor he will be Republican nominee.
September 4, 2015 @ 2:06 pm
Am I correct that despite being quite different ethnically [race?] NOLA still down almost 100,000 residents from the day before Katrina made landfall?
September 4, 2015 @ 2:16 pm
A quick response Vicki!
1. 9/11/01 events were part of a continuum that for want of a better starting point I would suggest the MUNICH OLYMPICS of summer 1972.
2. Hurricane Katrina and its results was not only suggested by Exercise Pam [never completed] but the investigation conducted by FEMA 1979-1983 as part of an affirmative lawsuit against NOLA, Jefferson, and St. Bernards Parish.
In item 2 I personally briefed over 50 Paris and Levee Board lawyers and the USACOE that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane would swallow those Parishes. Many of the items discussed had not been accomplished before Katrina. And the decision not to sue Orleans Parish was made over the strong objections of FEMA. That lawsuit was approved by Ed Meese, Counsleor to President Regan, but it was DoJ that made the decision not to include NOLA in the complaint.
That case discussed in law review ARTICLEs including one by Oliver Houck of Tulane Law School.
Comment by Christopher Tingus
September 4, 2015 @ 6:51 pm
Bravo to Barry Obama et al! Well done chaps!
Iran Promises to ‘Set Fire’
to U.S. Interests
Washington Free Beacon | September 3
A senior Iranian military official has
vowed to “set fire” to all U.S. interests in the
region and maintained that the Islamic Republic
welcomes war with America, according to
regional reports demonstrating that Tehran is
still committed to fighting the United States in
the wake of a recently inked nuclear accord.
“In threatening remarks,” a top Iranian commander
of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc)
stated that Iran is prepared to “annihilate” U.S.
and Israeli war forces should they “take the
slightest military move against Iran,” according
to Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency.
“We monitor their acts day and night and will
take every opportunity to set fire to all their economic
and political interests if they do a wrong
deed,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the irgc’s lieutenant
commander, was quoted as saying in Tehran
In a direct threat to both the United States
and Israel, Salami promised to “cut off enemies’
hands and fingers will then send its dust to the
air,” according to the report.
These Iranian military officials were responding
to multiple claims by U.S. officials that a military
option against Tehran still remains on the
table, despite the recently inked accord, which
aims to constrain the Islamic Republic’s contested
In May, Salami said that Iran desires a war
with the United States.
“We have prepared ourselves for the most
dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal and
is simple to digest for U.S.; we welcome war with
the U.S. as we do believe that it will be the scene
for our success to display the real potentials of
our power,” he said at the time.
The comments came on the same day that the
Iranian military unveiled a new missile defense
system to track enemy threats.
“The system can detect and trace targets, take
decisions for the operation of the missile systems,
decide about the type of weapon systems
needed, assess and foresee hostile targets, and
field commanders can easily take a final decision
with the data provided by the command and control
system,” according to Fars. …
September 4, 2015 @ 9:05 pm
TSA doing its work!
TSA Week in Review: 35 Firearms, Black Powder, Concealed Knives and More
09/04/2015 09:46 PM EDT
September 5, 2015 @ 12:21 pm
Mr. Tingus – all you’ve posted are comments by the Iranian military that would also no doubt be made by the American military in relation to Iran, if Iran were anything close to the kind of extreme aggressor toward the U.S. in our region of the world that we have certainly been both in the Middle East in general, and toward Iran in particular (except for the Iranian penchant for waxing poetic…) – selectively written to make it look as disconnected from our invasion, occupation and general aggression and ever ongoing threats made constantly against them. I mean, what in the world would you expect their military to say but basically ‘we’re ready to annihilate the U.S. if attacked. Again, I can’t imagine our military wouldn’t say essentially the same, in different cultural language, if we were the one’s being threatened repeatedly by them (pretty much since at least the 1950s).
Further, in a massive international Gallup poll of over 66,000 people from 65 different countries asking “which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?” it was not Iran who came close to being the top country considered the biggest threat – it was the United States, by over 3 times more votes that any other single nation got, that was voted BY FAR the nation that was the biggest threat to world peace.
So you really do need to stop drinking the kool-aid Mr. Tingus, and start realizing that WE are, and have been for quite some time, the real Rogue Nation/State on the planet- not Iran, for goodness sakes. The only people on this planet who think that are Americans, because we’ve been subjected to so much false propaganda about both Iran and the greater Middle East, mostly by the political right, in order to justify our various obsession with and designs on their oil, and the military attacks that we trump up in order to further those designs. Iran is a threat to our desire for hegemony in that region, which we have no justification for claiming or desiring whatsoever in comparison to Iran’s considerably greater claim to it. It’s really not even a little bit more complicated than that.
September 7, 2015 @ 8:47 am
Question? Do the peoples of the world get the governments they deserve?
September 8, 2015 @ 12:52 pm
Yes, Bill – 100,000 less in pre-Katrina population is the number i’ve read stated repeatedly, and yes again, that figure doesn’t begin to describe the demographic remaking of New Orleans that was pulled off by the definitely neoliberal recovery that’s unfolded afterward.
And re: the old adage that you don’t get the leaders you want, you get the leaders you deserve – I would say this is directly correlated with the extent of the general freedom, access to information, and overall quality of democracy within the context that’s being referenced. Ie., I think that’s pretty true in the west, and especially in the U.S. – and much less so many if not most other places.
Re your comments on Federalism, much has been written about this in relation to EM in particular, but I think the issue is overstated, and that Witt’s era demonstrates this well. I belatedly posted a long response to Anthony’s post on the Thad Allen interview (2 forums down from this one) which fundamentally addressed this, and I’m going to post it again here, just in case others didn’t notice it. Also, I did my MPA thesis on social justice and human rights issues within disasters and EM, with a special focus on Katrina, and did a lot of relief work in NO after Katrina – and I’ll share my thoughts on the recovery later today.
The statement that “because it was a natural disaster rather than a terrorist attack, the federal government could not simply take control of the response” exhibits and replicates the false and very ideological myth that proved to be a major and deadly blind spot in the Federal response. That is a very poor and fundamentally inaccurate way of describing the Federal relationship to and responsibilities in a major disaster once a federal disaster declaration has been granted, which as most know, Bianco asked for and received before Katrina made landfall.
Quoting from the dominant introductory textbook on Emergency Management by Haddow and Bullock (2011) “failure can be assessed at all levels, but when President Bush signed the federal declaration of disaster and announced it before Katrina even made landfall, the federal government, through DHS/FEMA, assumed the primary responsibility for the stewardship of the response to this storm’s aftermath. And by any objective evaluation of the response, it was a colossal failure” (pp. 19-20). This is what DHS and FEMA under Bush couldn’t begin to understand how to do because of their ideological blinders that left them only being able to comprehend a federal response component through a military lens, when in reality they were not restricted to such an extreme response either by the NRP or by law, either one. In other words, they couldn’t conceive of an emergency management response at the federal level, but rather only a military one.
One only has to look toward Bush’s and FEMA’s predecessors the decade before under Clinton, and to the decade of success that FEMA had under James Witt, which was widely heralded on both sides of the political aisle as being the most well functioning federal agency of that era – again by both parties. The key to all of that was the much more collaborative, pro-active, prevention and mitigation-oriented “lean forward” approach that FEMA took under Witt (as well as his renowned management skills that truly motivated people, both within FEMA and well beyond).
Continuing to quote Haddow and Bullock, in reference to how “the current emergency management system has reverted to the 1980s model” (p. 346) under DHS, “unlike their predecessor, the National Response Plan (which was active during Katrina), neither the new NRF (National Response Framework) or the NDRF (National Disaster Recovery Framework) actually require departments and agencies to agree to perform specific functions or deliver certain services. Nobody is accountable, and nobody is in charge. These are the exact circumstances under which FEMA functioned throughout the 1980s until the Federal Response Plan (the predecessor to the NRP) was finally developed and signed off on by the departments and agencies in the early 1990s” (p. 345).
Further discussing the “all-hazards” approach developed in the 1990s, wherein state and local governments were largely allowed to determine their own disaster planning priorities within a fairly broad set of guidelines and much federal support about sustainable planning best practices, so long as they in fact did so, Haddow and Bullock offer other examples of how the current emergency management system has largely abandoned the truly bottom-uo, all-hazards model of the 1990s and reverted to the 1980s model:
“During the 1980s, for instance, FEMA took the position that it would dictate to state and local governments what measures must be taken to comply with the federal response operations, and it measured this compliance through the CARL codes. The CARL codes were discontinued in the 1990s but were soon afterward replaced during the 2001 to 2009 period with requirements for state and local NIMS compliance. Furthermore, the Integrated Planning System (IPS) implemented by FEMA in 2006 dictates to state and local governments how they should plan for disasters, irrespective of the local or regional differences in risk or disaster type. Clearly, the top-down approach of the 1980s, when nuclear attack planning became the norm, was adopted in the post-9/11 era, where skewed perceptions influenced the policies such that terrorism became the leading hazard risk (and, it seemed, the only disaster-related concern). The all-hazards approach, in which state and locals determined their priorities, was given lip service but not supported by policies or funding” (p. 346).
They continue by concluding: ” In 2009, FEMA announced that the advancement of personal preparedness as a top agency priority and that individuals impacted by disasters have to learn to be “survivors” rather than victims. While this is certainly a lofty goal – as it was during the 1980s when FEMA supported the construction of personal bomb shelters – the question remains: How effective are personal preparedness programs? On the other hand, as was very clearly demonstrated during the 1990s, investing similar resource levels and providing the same leadership commitment into promoting mitigation by individuals and whole communities is highly effective in reducing the impacts of disasters” (p. 346).
So I’m in pretty good company when I argue that it was FEMA and DHS under Bush that couldn’t conceive of a more mature, competent, nuanced public administration and management approach at the federal level to the federal role and component to managing major disasters, both before, during and after Katrina, that led to their inability to imagine anything other than either doing nothing meaningful, or taking over completely via a military response. Republicans have never been very able to muster up anything more developed than a comparatively authoritarian, all-or-nothing approach to governing, and perhaps no where is this more evident than in the evolution of FEMA and the field of emergency management. FEMA and the management of disasters at every level under Witt in the 1990s began to establish better, less authoritarian and more collaborative and partnership-oriented ways to properly use the agency and the resources of the federal government to promote, support and incentivize state and local disaster planning and policy best practices that ushered in a new and, again, widely heralding era in emergency management. That was turned upside down and reverted backward under Bush and DHS, with the reinstitution of the habit of putting inexperienced and largely unqualified political hacks in charge of FEMA, which was the dominant practice of administrations until the 1990s, rather than skilled, experienced public and emergency managers like Witt certainly was on both counts. The difference can make all the difference, to both American lives and public dollars, and that is just one of the many lessons of Katrina.
To add one final comment, and although I like and respect the man a great deal, I would have to strongly disagree with Admiral Allen’s characterization of Katrina’s impact as basically that of a “mass weapon effect.” It really is the epitome of just how much emergency management has become militarized and consequently truncated under DHS, and how crude or comparatively uninformative and just generally inadequate the frame actually is for describing or understanding almost any disaster event except an actual military/terrorist one. The Katrina disaster was at core a mitigation failure of catastrophic proportions. If the levees hadn’t failed when they should never have, there would be no 10th anniversary of anything, and we would likely not have this forum topic. The words we choose and use to identify, frame and describe things matter. They shape our thinking about and understanding of both causes and solutions in pretty much any professional or service-related setting – certainly including in emergency management. Crude and barely relevant militaristic phrases and analogies such as this one just takes us further from describing or understanding the nature of the actual event, and its real causes and impacts – and as a result, ever further from an understanding of actions and policies necessary for better risk and vulnerability reduction in the future. The intentional detonation of weapons, of any kind, are deeply, fundamentally not the same thing on literally every count and impact of disasters, anything like a flood or a hurricane – and I really don’t think that asking professionals in HS properly comprehend and reference the massive differences is asking to much of anyone. Anything less simply hasn’t and won’t serve the public very well at all.
September 9, 2015 @ 5:19 am
Thanks Vicki for your extensive and substantive comments on this thread with which I largely agree.
Haddow and Bullock were significant officials under Witt and it should be remembered that the Witt era FEMA experienced nothing like the impacts of Katrina although aspects of the Witt-era events were of significance or should be considered so.
As I have repeatedly written. the employment of the National Guard. Reserves, or Active duty forces in large-scale domestic events is usually for LAW ENFORCEMENT not humanitarian purposes. This is never stated. And in fact today’s military forces are not well equipped, well trained, or prepared for large-scale domestic events. Nor for civil riots and civil disorders. The National Guard as an organization comes the closest to understanding FEDERALISM as does the Coast Guard. Both organizations punch above their weight in their multi-role missions. IMO of course.
Over 30 major studies of the NG role have been conducted since WWII and the so-called STATE missions of the NG are often identified as key areas of concern. In fact the Governors want the NG as their primary federal backup for LAW ENFORCEMENT. But if you look at actual NG unit capability for domestic catastrophic events the cupboard is largely bare.
Witt, Haddow, and Bullock IMO do not now understand the role of the military in large-scale domestic catastrophe, never have and never will. And almost no others understand it either to be fair including those in the formal chain-of-command of the military.
And of course the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan of the US military was largely a function in how CIVIL AFFAIRS
September 9, 2015 @ 5:28 am
CONTINUED: officers and policies were trained or not trained and formulated or not.
THE MILITARY/CIVIL INTERFACE FAILURES PLAGUES US EFFORTS BOTH
DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY. And since the US Constitution is not clear on the military civil interface, and few judges including SCOTUS understand it we can be sure that problems will arise in futuro in large-scale domestic crisis and disasters.
I once shocked an audience of high level federal officials in lecturing when I stated the primary job of federal officials was to get state and city governments back in operation first, even before federal organizations and facilities destroyed or impacted in their capability even before federal regional units. This requirement is a Constitutional mandate often misunderstood by federal officialdom that see crisis as their opportunity to subvert state and local government.
September 9, 2015 @ 8:32 pm
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers in a closed-door session on Wednesday that he favored significantly increasing the number of refugees the United States is willing to accept, possibly to as many as 100,000 next year, according to congressional staff members and Obama administration officials.
Tell the immigrants to find another country for residence – we have far too many who have been waiting with applications and appropriate medical “docs” filed and waiting sometimes two and three years – No to any more immigrants — we are nation bankrupt and find a city of Baltimore and a government making a settlement of $6.4 mln without going to trial – spending tax dollars – what a sham!
There are laws and there are laws and apparently from the WH to the Clintons and down the roster, no one gives a damn — the food banks here on “Main Street USA” cannot keep their shelves full – we need no more immigrants – its called adhering to the law and tough love!
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