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Three Meals From Anarchy

Paul Salopek and Deborah Horan of the Chicago Tribune write a detailed account of the hell inside the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center in How places of refuge became hell. They proceed to prove the thesis postulated in an episode of the BBC's sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, where Arnold Rimmer notes, "They say that every society is only three meals away from revolution. Deprive a culture of food for three meals, and you'll have an anarchy."

While Salopek and Horan are careful to provide relevant information that casts, at a minimum, doubts about some of the salacious claims, they fail to follow through with reporting on the following quote.

"I'm really not outraged at the people," said Capt. John Bryson of the New Orleans police, whose 80 to 90 officers were vastly outnumbered by crowds of up to 15,000 at the Convention Center. "Ninety percent of the folks were just reduced to an animal existence, trying to survive.

"I'm outraged at being abandoned there by the government," Bryson said acidly. "I felt totally helpless."

Wizbang readers already know who abandoned those people. As we reported previously Governor Blanco's administration ensured that there was no (or minimal) state presence in New Orleans; no food, medicine, or other need supplies for hurricane victims; and that vital repairs to the city's police scanners could not be completed.

It's been mostly ignored by the media that that was the states plan all along. They wanted people out and didn't want to make the temporary shelters too comfortable, as they were afraid people wouldn't leave. Read the article if you want to see how well that plan worked...

Update: Governor Blanco, who managed to strand all those people without food and water (by preventing the Red Cross and others from delivering supplies), was able to marshal a grand total of 68 school buses from the entire state of Louisiana to evacuate 50,000+ people. The obvious question would be why she didn't put a little more effort into following her plan of quickly emptying the Superdome and Convention Center. She's blaming that less that overwhelming response on a conveniently unverifiable promise of 500 buses from FEMA, specifically ex-FEMA director Mike Brown. Given her demonstrated dishonesty about her post hurricane activities, expect to see the air removed from her "500 buses" story shortly...


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Three Meals From Anarchy:

» Bring It On linked with Moses is being blamed...

» Reaganites Unite! linked with Impeachblanco.org... Was Just A Matter Of Time

» Sortapundit linked with 4 Meals from Chaos

Comments (22)

aaarrrrr...did someone say ... (Below threshold)

aaarrrrr...did someone say anarchy? me en me mates could have a hankerin for a wee bit a anarchy...

avast ye scurvy swabbies

Thanks you liberalism! Your... (Below threshold)

Thanks you liberalism! Your "someone else is responsible" programs have rendered a too-large part of society incapable of feeding itself when the groceries are bought and paid for by someone else. I hope it makes you proud. What's next, full-time delivery of prepared meals without waiting until a natural disaster occurs? You've managed to reduce otherwise able people to a prison culture, three hots and a cot, the only things missing are the bars.

That's right. FEMA did noth... (Below threshold)

That's right. FEMA did nothing wrong. The Federal government was as innocent as a new born baby.

Aye mateys, 'tis truly Blog... (Below threshold)

Aye mateys, 'tis truly Blog Like a Pirate Day" when wenches dump their bilges onto this faire site.

Jeanne is walking the Left Plank, me thinks...

Jeanne (eww, bad anchor on ... (Below threshold)

Jeanne (eww, bad anchor on the name; not your fault),

No one here is suggesting that FEMA was innocent. However, you seem to forget two things: first, as stated here repeatedly, FEMA "bats cleanup" in the lineup, not first. The local and state governments are considered to be "first responders" regarding disaster planning - and the first responders in this case, Nagin and Blanco, were clear examples of the Peter Principle - that is, tasked with executing plans that were beyond their competency levels. No mandatory evacutation order, no buses, no coordination of use of the "shelter of last resort" with the possibility that people would be trapped there longer than 48 hours.

Second, had FEMA superceded local authority (in violation of the Stafford Act), I believe most people who are pissed at FEMA's response now would be even more angry at a Federal takeover of things from state and local officials. Perhaps some may say my argument is a straw man; nonetheless, you can't have it both ways.

Thanks to Ray Nagin failing to use the RTA and school buses he had control over, to evacuate people from the city prior to the storm, he got caught with his political pants down when the levees - don't forget, the NEW levees - were breached. Since Nagin depended solely on personal transportation ownership to evacuate the city on a voluntary basis, of course the demographic of evacuees in the Superdome and Convention Center reflected those who were either too poor to own a car or hire personal transportation, or too sick to be able to drive.

FEMA could not send US troops in to act as law enforcement agents either, without violating the Posse Comitatus Act. Yes, government is slow, yet the reasons it is slow are sometimes actually valid (in that its deliberation is set up on purpose, in this instance, to protect States from "invasion" by federal troops). Blanco failed to enact the official protocol required to coordinate the National Guard response across states, federalize control of the LANG, or use regular Army troops to act as law enforcement officers, to keep order and prevent looting.

Meanwhile, I hope you don't live in the area, because Rita is picking up steam...and once again, Nagin had to be pushed by the Feds (as much as legally possible) to keep people from going back into the City while yet another storm is brewing, and flood defenses are still fragile.

So instead of ranting about who is wrong, why don't you work to fix it instead?

I cannot accept that human ... (Below threshold)

I cannot accept that human beings with a moderate amount of self awareness, self control and conscience would be "reduced to an animal existence" in a matter of days, and in some cases from what we've seen and read and heard, a matter of hours.

Desperation for water and food is one thing but the looting, assaults, murders and general barbarism that sprung forth and so easily, so immediately, in New Orleans is not a case of emergency but of the "state of existence" existing PRIOR TO the disaster and the disaster just being there to rationalize the massive breakdown in what little social reserve remained in and among many people there.

Just a few days prior to the Hurricane Katrina advance upon the Gulf Coast, Mayor Nagin was going on about the murder rate being what it was (among the highest in the nation) in the city of New Orleans, and surely he was/is aware of just how many people lived in poverty in his place.

What the world saw was mostly very well fed people after the storm, however, so I can't say I'd even begin to believe that the majority of the people who remained in New Orleans during and after the storm were struggling to feed themselves. There was no excuse for the violence, none at all, just no excuse. That the goods 'were there anyway' isn't the point -- that is, the material goods are not the point, it's a case of the point being the lack of ethics and personal morality that seems to have made it just alright to loot, steal, run rampant just because they could.

The material goods can be replaced, yes, but even if destroyed as they lay unstolen, if unstolen, the fact that people opted to cave to barbaric behaviors and so soon and easily indicates the problem.

And THAT existed prior to the storm. You can't rationalize it because all poor people do not behave that way, do not make such easy choices to run around unbridled and destructive. It isn't poverty that is the problem in New Orleans, but something else altogether.

I've read about many small towns and even cities on the Gulf Coast where everyone pitched in and shared and helped and didn't rip each other off but in New Orleans, it's as if they were just waiting for the opportunity. Hurricane arrived, presto: opportunity.

Oh, this is just pathetic: ... (Below threshold)

Oh, this is just pathetic: How desperate and weak the once mighty right has gotten when it has to defend the (in)actions of this bumbling administration by desperately pointing fingers. You were supposed to be the one's who'd keep us safe, remember? All the color-coded terror warnings, the aircraft landing, mission fucking accomplished, remember!? Well someone forgot to tell the Iraqi's because they keep shooting at us and blowing things up! And then, with day's to spare, on our own shores where we could all see it coming and still, STILL this ignorant, arrogant, pampered, wealthy, stupid frat boy can't help our own citizens or keep them safe. What a sad, pathetic bunch of overpaid, overpraised and unprepared demagogs they turned out to be. And now the entire nation is starting to realize it and the only ones left on board this wreck, the SS bush, are the dumb-as-rock hacks like Bill, Rush and Sean. The professional politicians, the one's who want a job anyway, have already edged toward the exits and are looking to distance themselves from this crippled and embarrassing sideshow. Their only hope now is to salvage whatever is left of a bankrupt party that has become the laughingstock of the world and the albatross around the neck of every American.
God help us all.

Give someone in the straigh... (Below threshold)

Give someone in the straights who has some accountability $2,000.00 and they'll save some of it and devote the rest to securing housing and immiate practical things like toiletries, two week's groceries, a bus ticket (even if they own a car because for if two grand is all they have and expect to have for a while, they're going to be sensible about expenditures and sensible about what they need and how they'll get around, if at all possible), and two pairs of pants, two shirts, five pairs of socks, undies for a week and that will just about use up all of that two grand.

But they'll be in housing and have basic transportation, clothes, food and the ability to be decently clean and they can immediately then find a job and more income in a few weeks.

But give that two grand to someone who claims "poverty" and that they're poor and they'll go buy a fancy set of wheels for their car, get their hair and nails done, go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant after buying perfume and some CDs, and then they'll have no housing, no groceries to call their own and resort to compromised behaviors (stealing, conning comes to mind here) "because they 'have to'" to "get by."

It's a matter of character. Poverty is a condition of the heart and mind, not of the wallet.

Brian's glass is definitely... (Below threshold)

Brian's glass is definitely half empty.

Hmm, this Brian guy seems t... (Below threshold)

Hmm, this Brian guy seems to buy into all the lies and distortion coming from the media. Such as that it's the US Federal Government's job to babysit him and the war in Iraq is going badly. So sad...

RE: -S-'s postsSo ... (Below threshold)

RE: -S-'s posts

So right, so often here.

I don't believe the media stories hook, line, and sinker and our caution towards them is justifiable. Neither do I believe that typical refugees (oooh, there I said it - watch the Lefty's heads explode) turned into a uniform mob of disintegrated civility. However, no doubt a portion sought to capitalize on the catastrophe in view of the absence of proper authorities. Such is the case in any population and perhaps, disproportionately so, in NOLA in particular.

But your mention of a preexisting culture of rationalizing misbehavior is valid. It's an undercurrent in our humanity that vacillates between unnoticeable to overt. It just took the right blend of unchecked "victim" action, media spotlight, and political gamesmanship to expose it in the ugliest terms. Rather than provide excuses for those who exploited the situation most abominably, I hope that we, collectively, will readjust our moral compasses and punish the worst offenders, scorn the moderate ones, and provide opportunity to the real victims. That means everywhere and not solely certain parishes of New Orleans.

The 3 meals from anarchy th... (Below threshold)

The 3 meals from anarchy theory was used by MI5 a couple of weeks ago with regards to the UK (only with 4 meals - maybe we're a little more stable), and Terry Pratchett used it a couple of books ago. You can read about it here.

Remember th... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

Remember the good ol' days, when beggars couldn't be choosers?

Brian's glass is definit... (Below threshold)

Brian's glass is definitely half empty.

My thoughts exactly, except where you said "glass" I thought "head," and where you said "half" I just moved right along to the next word.

In my youth I was a waiter ... (Below threshold)
Jim Hines:

In my youth I was a waiter at a restaurant on the east side of Manhattan. Read that rich, white folk country. The theory needs to be changed to "one meal from anarchy".

The well heeled with good jobs would come in as hypoglycemic, savages in designer clothes. After their meal they would be as narcotized kittens.

Don't underestimate the negative effects of hunger. It transcends race, class and species. Just saw this item on the news crawl; lions in Ethiopia have eaten 20 people and all their pets during the month of August.

Properly feeding the population is a worthy mutually beneficial endeavor. It is the only so called social program that I would be willing to underwrite with my tax dollars. Free cafeteria style meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner for any who care to partake.

It is to every ones advantage that every one else’s metabolisms be properly stabilized.

Could someone tell me what ... (Below threshold)
Lew Clark:

Could someone tell me what color the FEMA buses are and what their markings look like. They are predicting the most likely hit by Hurricane Rita to be Galveston. So I'm thinking of parking my SUV in the garage here in Dallas and hitchhiking to Galveston with just the clothes on my back and no money. So that when/if the hurricane hits there I can get a lot of free government stuff. But if it gets to looking too bad, I will want to leave, and I need to know how to recognize the FEMA ride when they send it for me.

Brian,um... er..... (Below threshold)


um... er... uh... I'm sorry, I really wanted to respond to your argument (sic) without sinking to ad-hominem comments. No, really!! But, you see, I am afraid that you would simply consider anything I proffered as reasoned dialogue automatically invalid because I'm just a racist, fanatical, Right-wing, Christo-Nazi extremist bent on depleting the earth's resources, robbing the poor, Inquisiting Heathen Liberals, and oppressing working mothers and negroes.

But then, I'm from a red state.. what do I know?

Oh my.... I didn't do too well, did I???

Yeah, but, Jim Hines, every... (Below threshold)

Yeah, but, Jim Hines, every single person I saw in and from New Orleans was VERY WELL NOURISHED, if not obese. They were certainly not so impoverished that they'd been going without groceries in the past year (or at least ten months given the weight of most), and were no where even approaching starvation.

Even that 76 year old guy that was recently rescued out of his attic in New Orleans STILL SHOWED the effects of substantial body weight after having nothing to eat for over two weeks. He was almost certainly overweight (probabaly obesesly so) when he went INTO the attic, such that he'd been able to stay alive for the two weeks that followed.

Nothing so much wrong with that (I'm making no value judgements here) but that there were none to no "starving people" coming out of New Orleans that would begin to explain any crazed state due to starvation after only two, three days waiting to be rescued from the mess in New Orleans after the hurricane.

Meaning, the population there was NOT suffering starvation or limited caloric intake prior to the devastation by the Hurricane. And the rampages of "desperation" that ensued were not to seek food (for most, other than water) but to go grab what they could steal as soon as they could.

I'm not saying that ALL people there behaved that way (not at all), I'm just saying that the issues of "starvation" and looting/assault/barbaric denegration of social behaviors that was displayed by some in New Orleans after the Hurricane are two distinct issues.

About a week after the storm, Senator Lambreaux-whateverhernameis (apologies here) from Louisiana made a statement condoning/if not endorsing the terrible behaviors in N.O. as trying to suggest it was due to people being "starved" and "desperate" and such...while also going on to say that the people who remained behind had done so "inorder to collect their foodstamps and welfare checks" in the mail that was to be delivered on the Monday after the Hurricane and levee occurences.

So, what is noticable about MOST of those who DID remain behind in N.O. and were caught in the flood is that they were well nourished people who had low incomes but were certainly anything but "starving."

Hunger does NOT explain the rioting, looting, assaults and snipers.

Looks to me like all the lo... (Below threshold)

Looks to me like all the lowlifes have been evaced out of NO now....I feel terrible for those towns that get these scum evacuees

PS Brian-FEMA has ... (Below threshold)

PS Brian-

FEMA has always maintained that a 72 hour window is there before they get into be able to help you.

But don't let facts get in the way of your rant.

PPS- You'll still lose the next election

-S-I don't disagre... (Below threshold)
Jim Hines:


I don't disagree with what you wrote. Not enough time had passed to justify so called desperation looting in order to survive.

In fact when I first saw the pictures of people who got caught up in the flooding of New Orleans my first reaction was not "Hey, look at all the black people." but rather "Hey, look at all the fat people."

All I'm saying is people's personalities -all people's- change dramatically when they are even a little bit hungry. This is especially true in our shallow, instant gratification, push button, microwave culture. That's not an excuse for bad behaviour in extra ordinary circumstances. It's just an observation.

The one thing the hurricane... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

The one thing the hurricane and flood missed cleanig the gunk out of city hall






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