We go to our street reporters, on the beat in New York City, to bring you the latest update in on-going, massive, carefully coordinated relief efforts for the most vulnerable of Tropical Storm Sandy’s victims.
[sound of needle screeching across vinyl record]
Actually, let’s see what’s happening in . . . say, Brooklyn. Gee whiz, where have we ever seen local authorities taking insufficient preparatory action, then getting smacked by natural catastrophe known to be a threat (exactly the Sandy scenario was presented in quite some detail several years ago on How the Earth was Made, the first season of which my mother gave my boys on DVD)? Same local authorities then absolutely fall apart on the post-disaster relief efforts, all the way from misallocation of resources (think: all those supplies stockpiled in Central Park for the marathon, as well as the single help center trailer blocks from the people described in the Puffington Host article) to simply running out of real simple stuff like bottled water (FEMA), to the union line crews refusing to cooperate with the “scabs” from outside the area (a very close friend of mine has a brother-in-law who’s employed by a company that does exactly this, viz. large-scale utility disaster relief work, and he reports that the tales of union-vs-non-union labor are, unfortunately, entirely accurate).
It was the local and state authorities’ botched responses to Katrina in 2005 that were relentlessly presented as George Bush’s fault, and which were — artificially — kept in the spotlight all the way through the 2006 elections. That attribution to a national political party of a corrupt local system’s failings (example: a seventh of the NOPD’s officers didn’t show up to police the area after the storm; why? because they didn’t exist, they were phantom employees whose paychecks had gone to sundry criminals and criminal organizations) was entirely successful, and we bought ourselves Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Harry Reid as majority leader. Wow.
My humble prediction for this fiasco, however, is that it will be either not reported at all outside the metropolitan NYC area, or only cursorily, and no questions will be asked about why all this mismanagement is occurring. Not one bit of the failings will be attributed to anyone . . . except possibly to the House Republicans, or maybe them fat-cat Wall Street bankers. No one will demand to know why the president did not personally take charge of relief efforts. No one will demand the FEMA chief’s head on a platter, with watercress. No one will investigate the unions’ conduct. No one will demand statutory short-circuits to all the regulatory red-tape when it comes to re-building. Davis-Bacon will be enforced to the letter. All the enviros will litigate every reconstruction effort into oblivion, and no one will ask what, precisely, all this has actually helped.
You can’t prevent storms like Sandy. They’ve happened before and they’ll happen again. You can’t prevent massive damage, injury, and dislocation when a storm the size of Sandy hits a concentration of people the size of New York City. That’s just part of having 13 million people crammed into a single urban area. When you jam people together like that they perforce have to rely on other people and systems over which they have no influence to deliver them necessities of life. Those systems, by the way, tend to be much more robust in a place like NYC than elsewhere. But when those systems fail in a sufficiently massive disaster, there are no alternatives to them, as there are in other parts of the country not so densely populated. When something like Sandy comes along that disables those systems, the failure is not incremental but catastrophic. There’s very little distance between functional and chaos.
All you can do is prepare, and have in place practiced systems and protocols to deal with that catastrophic failure. Which does not seem to have happened here, much, at all. And that failure is very much the fault of those people and organizations who have been in control of New York City for several decades now. New York City is experiencing the same degree of local failure for in large measure the same reasons that New Orleans did: prolonged single-party government and the toleration of a culture of active corruption, peculation, and graft which has to be fully investigated and examined to be believed.
And in 2014, my humble prediction is that the voters who are sitting in the dark, freezing their butts off, hungry, thirsty, and crapping in buckets, will loyally troop down to the polling place, and pull the lever for another straight party ticket.