The California Fires: Where were the Looters?
by Jerry Bowyer | Posted: 11/01/2007
Did you see any looters on television last week? Neither did I. When New Orleans was flooded two years ago, there were looters all over my TV screen...
What about the rapists? There were rapists at the refugee camp formerly known as the Superdome, but did you see any reports about rapists at Qualcomm Stadium last week? I didn’t. Did the mayor of San Diego cuss and then lash out at George Bush on your TV screen last week? Did Governor Schwarzenegger cry for the cameras? Did he pass the buck?
San Diego had a major fire just four years ago. Did they wallow in their victimhood and demand more government funding? Did they play the race card, claiming that George Bush just doesn’t like Mexicans?
Where to begin? Let's first look at just the geographic and type-of-catastrophe differences: San Diego is a huge spawling region with dozens of lanes of interstate highway going in and out in all directions, plus local and secondary roads, and few natural obstacles.
New Orleans is an old city built in a bowl at the end of a peninsula surounded by water with very few ways out.
Hurricanes are massive catastrophic forces that hit all at once and disrupt/destroy hundreds of square miles simultaneously with a combination of deadly wind, rain and flooding.
Wildfires, by definition, start in uninhabited areas, spread locally and more slowly, and can be more easily avoided. Evacuations can be handled on an individual neighborhood level, rather than an entire metropolitan area at once.
Katrina is widely recognized as the worst disaster in U.S. History. This years wildfires, while tragic, are a frequent occurance in an area familiar with dealing with them. The fires in 2003 were worse. Mr. Genius continues...
The answer to all these questions is ‘no’. Here’s why: culture matters. San Diego is an entrepreneurial city. It’s a technology savvy, business-friendly region with unusually high rates of self-employment. Few of its citizens are unemployed; few receive welfare. Not many of its employed residents work for government. San Diego has seen its share of troubles. Like Pittsburgh had been a steel town and Detroit had been a car town, San Diego had been built on the defense industry. But when the Berlin wall came down and the defense budgets dried up, it shifted towards the next big thing – biotechnology. These changes have come from the bottom-up; from the marketplace.
San Diego sure has pretty beaches, and palm trees, and more laptops per capita, I'm sure—but Jerry's grand socio-ecomomic assertions are total bullshit...
San Diego—4.6% (January 2005)
New Orleans—5.0% (December 2004)
San Diego—Government (18%)
New Orleans—Government (17%)
Oh, and any of the rest of you recall "defense budgets drying up"? I didn't think so. Anything else, Jerry?
I wonder if a reverse 911 evacuation call like the one that went out to a million San Diegans would have even worked in New Orleans.
Um, no. Because everyone in New Orleans was told to leave at once, too late, and with no way to do so. Plus, they had to flee the entire region. In San Diego, things went a bit differently:
Residents were subjected to a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuations, depending on their location in the projected path of the fire. Voluntary evacuation areas were typically further from the fire's path, while mandatory evacuation areas faced a more imminent threat...
Many residents were notified of evacuations via a computerized Reverse 911 phone call system. Law enforcement officers also notified residents by driving through evacuation areas.
The 513,000 people notified by Reverse 911 is not actually "a million" and the system only existed a month before the fires... Oh, and all of that helpful stuff done in San Diego? It was the government, and it was implemented in large part in response to what went wrong in New Orleans.
And the Superdome versus Qualcomm comparison? Hmmm. Did the people in San Diego wade through sewage and corpse-ridden water to get to a ill-equipped, ill-supplied refugee camp where they were left trapped, in some cases forced at gunpoint, without food, water, electricity or sanitary conditions? While a hurricane ripped the roof off?
Or did San Diegans calmly drive in their cars, park in a parking lot and check into an overstaffed, well-prepared camping ground with 70 degree weather?
He concludes with one of the wierdest amalgams of red herring and straw man meets hypothetical I've ever read [emphasis mine]...
I’m already bracing myself for the hate mail. “YOU’RE BLAMING THE VICTIMS!” they will blare. But I’m not blaming them, I’m trying to help them. Poverty stinks to begin with, but it’s even worse when a hurricane or an earthquake attacks. If I told you that today you were going to be hit with a natural disaster, but that you got the pick the city where your family would be when it hit, would you pick a rich one or a poor one? Would you pick one with honest and efficient road construction agencies or patronage ridden ones? Would you pick a town where almost everyone had Blackberries and cell-phones or where almost no one did? Would you pick a town were most people were business owners or where most of them were on welfare?
Too bad nobody told the poor, car-less inhabitants of New Orleans they could have chosen to be in a fantastic city where they'd have flying cars and two-way wrist-tvs instead of trapped in a fucking swamp.
Whose blaming the victims? Not Jerry.