Thursday, September 08, 2005

Intelligent Design?

Despite my natural tendency to "reason with the worst that may befall," I've tried to avoid assuming that BushCo's shameful response to Hurricane Katrina involved anything more sinister than criminal negligence. Recent evidence, however, leads me to worry that my rosy outlook may not be justifiable for very much longer.

Even so, I don't want to jump to the conclusion that Bush's response plans were intelligently designed to minimize the chances of survival for those unfortunate people who were - as Wolf Blitzer eloquently phrased it - "so poor, and so black." There are other explanations, after all. Bureaucracy is a race to the bottom, tending towards an absolute zero of efficiency, competence, and compassion, and its effects can sometimes be hard to distinguish from those of organized crime, or clinical sociopathy. It's also possible that what looks to the cynical observer like premeditated murder could be nothing more than callous opportunism, aided by entrenched political and corporate structures that enable the same handful of people to profit, again and again, from catastrophes they do little to mitigate, and a great deal to exacerbate.

Granted, there does seem to be a clear and consistent pattern here: FEMA has made a habit of delaying its own aid, while preventing other sources of aid from reaching people who need it desperately. And we know that for several crucial days, virtually every decision made by BushCo and its creatures served to increase misery, confusion, and the risk of mass fatalities in New Orleans.

But for the time being, it's more comforting to accept that the President simply hired a bumbling equestrian buffoon to run FEMA, without foreseeing a single negative consequence; and that far from being shocked or remorseful when those consequences materialized, he insisted that the buffoon had done "a great job."

Because the alternative...well, that's just too terrible to contemplate. Isn't it?

(PLEASE NOTE: If you've noticed that this post has been rewritten, it's because I was working on it in a coffee shop, on a rented computer. My time ran out before I could finish it...and like an idiot, I hit "Publish" by mistake! Since the post amounted to little more than unedited ravings, I felt obliged to clean it up when I got home. Now you know!)


The Heretik said...

More than enough misery going around. Incompetence seems the order of the day. That the imcompetent are giving the orders makes the misery that much worse.

Toby Petzold said...

I think the problem is your prose. You want to talk around in circles until your actual beliefs are obscured with the language of insinuation. That way, you can always come back and say that the reader doesn't understand you.

It's not going to work.

Phila said...

I hate to disappoint you, Toby...but if I wanted to accuse the federal government of premeditated murder, I'd simply do it.

If you don't understand this post, I'll be happy to let you in on my little secret: the jocular tone aside, you can pretty much take what I'm saying at face value. I have indeed preferred not to believe that there was a plan in place to let people die, but certain information (see link) has caused me to question that stance.

Fortunately, there are other possible explanations for this disaster. Unfortunately, they're so repulsive and alarming that I'm not sure they're really that much better than premeditation.

If I see compelling evidence of premeditation, I'll be more than happy to post it here, and explain why I find it compelling.

Phila said...

I have to add, by the by, that it's pretty goddamn droll to get scolded for this post by a guy who believes that the federal government has not just a right, but a duty to wipe out a certain group of people based on their ethnicity. And who claims that morality not only has no valid role in government, but doesn't exist in any meaningful sense.

albion said...

i thought it was pretty good prose.

JLo said...

Without getting into the pissing match (and I agree with albion that the prose is above par), I'd like to offer a small bit of nuance to this well-written phrase:

Bureaucracy is a race to the bottom, tending towards an absolute zero of efficiency, competence, and compassion, and its effects can sometimes be hard to distinguish from those of organized crime, or clinical sociopathy.

Bureaucracy in normal conditions sacrifices competence and compassion for efficiency. It's in the rare abnormal circumstances that it becomes a race to the bottom. As much as one might dislike the local DMV, the IRS, or the US Postal Service, those systems are set in place to do statistically well given the volume they accommodate. They are fairly inhuman (and inhumane) systems, but the one thing they do well is to reach a statistical level of efficiency that is either impossible, impractical, or undesirable for any other organization than government. Bureaucracy does have a place, but that place relies on stable conditions, and it is a sausage no one cares to see being made.

Phila said...

Good point, Joseph. The sentence in question was a bit over the top!

Let me see if I can salvage things, or at least explain why I went wrong. I'm thinking here of bureaucrats who cripple social programs; in my experience, what happens is that cronyism and nepotism run rampant at the expense of services, and that highly individualized programs are forced into some trendy managerial model at all costs. I've seen this happen repeatedly at women's shelters and alcohol treatment programs, usually because "business experts" are brought in to streamline operations, and increase efficiency. But the efficiency is often achieved by turning against the purpose of the program, especially in cases where the clients are predominantly poor or black. I've seen a number of laudable nonprofits perish this way, but you're right that bureaucracy itself isn't the culprit across the board.

Thanks for the defense against Toby, but it's unnecessary. He's a racist and a moral nihilist, so his praise would worry me much more than his condemnation.

Cervantes said...

Yeah Phila, I kind of felt the same way. Sure, the Idiot in Chief would screw up this badly and would truly not give a FFOARD, but where were his babysitters? Is it really humanly possible for them all to be so arrogant, so callous, and as stupid as sponges? I kind of felt the same way about the unbefuckinglievable Iraq disaster -- they must have done this on purpose, for some dark motive.

I see you've caught Toby. Congratulations! You've arrived!

Cervantes said...

And oh yeah, if you don't mind a quick blogwhore, here's what I wrote on the subject.

Phila said...

You're always welcome to blogwhore, Cervantes. It's a great post, and everyone ought to read it.

JLo said...

Cervantes is one of my favorite people, as are you, Phila. No, you didn't go horribly wrong on that, but your explanation adds some great nuance. Thanks for clarifying, and for putting the blame squarely where it belongs.

Toby's a nihilist? Say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, dude, at least it's an ethos.