February 9, 2007

Blame the Victims

Filed under: Katrina — PolitiCalypso @ 11:43 am

One trend that I am thoroughly sick of seeing is the one that goes something like “let’s attack the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”

The first kind of it is the government-endorsed attack line branding the victims as fraudsters who were ripping off taxpayers. This is epitomized by the December 2006 GAO report that makes note of “questionable” payments amounting to about $1 billion. (Now, let’s see, how long did the Coast have to wait for help to arrive in the first place, and, oh, how much have we spent in that wasteland known as Iraq, again…?)

CNN reported on the findings. Some choice samples:

In one case, FEMA sent $46,000 to 10 people in Plano, Texas, to cover out-of-pocket housing expenses while at the same time paying for their apartments. Seven of the 10 people “self-certified” to FEMA that they needed rental assistance despite the fact they were living in rent-free housing.

Since, of course, no one who’s lost their home and most of their property might have any expenses to cover beyond rent. And that average of $4,600 per person is just outrageously over-the-top. How dare the government be so wasteful?

The GAO says FEMA also sent nearly $17 million in potentially improper rental assistance to people living in FEMA trailers.

Potentially improper. But I’ve forgotten; this has become a world of “guilty until proven innocent.”

And don’t even get me started on those FEMA trailers. If I had to live in one of those things after experiencing a natural disaster and having my home destroyed or condemned, I’d want some spare cash too.

And nearly $20 million went to individuals who registered for assistance for both hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For example, one individual received two housing replacement payments of $10,500 each, despite the fact he had only one property to replace.

Where can I get one of these $10,500 houses?

There is, of course, another line of attack used against the hurricane victims.
This e-mail, which apparently made the rounds in several variations, is a fine example of it:

North Dakota News Bulletin

This text is from a county emergency manager out in the western part of North Dakota state after the storm.

Amusing, if it were not so true…


Up here in the Northern Plains we just recovered from a Historic event — may I even say a “Weather Event” of “Biblical Proportions” — with a historic blizzard of up to 24″ inches of snow and winds to 50 MPH that broke trees in half, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed all roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10’s of thousands.


George Bush did not come….
FEMA staged nothing….
No one howled for the government…
No one even uttered an expletive on TV…
Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards…..
No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House….
No one looted….
Phil Cantori of the Weather Channel did not come….
And Geraldo Rivera did not move in.

Nope, we just melted snow for water, sent out caravans to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars, fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Aladdin lamps, and put on an extra layer of clothes because up here it is ‘work or die’. We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for ‘sittin at home’ checks.

Even though a Category “5” blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early…we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

“In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the worlds social problems evaporate.”

Fortunately, the good people at Snopes debunked this smear. Debunking is great; that’s what Snopes does. But some things don’t really deserve that honor, and this is one of them.

Even if the e-mail were accurate, let’s compare:


  • 24 inches of snow
  • 50 mph winds
  • Trees broken in half
  • Motorists stranded in snow banks
  • Roads closed
  • Communities isolated
  • Power cut to tens of thousands
Hurricane Katrina

  • 35 feet of rushing water
  • 130+ mph winds
  • Trees washed away
  • Motorists drowned in flood waters
  • Roads washed out to sea
  • Towns obliterated
  • Electrical infrastructure destroyed for hundreds of thousands

To anyone who penned, sent, or enjoyed this type of e-mail: Just shut up. Now.

Personally, I would like to take every single person who cheered on this type of message, and stick them smack in the middle of the Superdome on August 29, 2005.

Or Waveland, Mississippi, which was virtually wiped clear by the winds and surge of Katrina.

Let’s see how long these self-styled “tough guys” last in conditions like that.

The victims of Katrina won a settlement against State Farm Insurance recently, but a federal judge has rejected the ruling. Not so fast, though — it looks like the judge’s problems include a criticism that the ruling doesn’t go far enough:

Senter said he was “struck,” however, that under the agreement, even policyholders left with only a slab or pilings are not guaranteed any payment, noting State Farm’s offer could be offset by policy limits of other insurance.

“Under the proposed agreement, the insured owner of a property worth $100,000 who insured the property against $50,000 in wind damage and $50,000 in flood damage, and who has collected his flood insurance benefits, would not be entitled to any recovery even if only a slab remained,” the judge wrote.

This is all great, of course, provided that the settlement is actually re-worked to address this issue. It’s about time that the Mississippi homeowners had some justice against the insurance industry.

This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are scores of issues with the response and recovery, issues that are not being touched on by anyone, and that are even being touted in certain press outlets as good things. One such issue is the total domination of the recovery by big business, at the expense of local businesses and residents. Another is the class-based division in the level and quality of recovery. Another is the environmental destruction at the behest of the tourism industry. And, finally, one more issue is the ugly fact that the rebuilding is not taking concerns of global warming into account at all. I will be looking at all of these issues in future work.

1 Comment

  1. Two years ago at this exact day and exact minute, Hurricane Katrina made its first Gulf landfall on the Louisiana coast.

    I would like to mark this day by providing a series of links to recent news about the recovery, or what passes for it. First i

    Comment by PolitiCalypso — August 29, 2007 @ 4:14 am

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