Table of contents for The politics of disaster / by Marvin Olasky.

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Table of Contents
Part one: What went wrong in New Orleans?
Chapter 1: Katrina?s paperocracy
Chapter 2: What the press reported
Chapter 3: D¿j¿ vu, 1950?2004
Part two: What went right
Chapter 4: Rescue and relief
Chapter 5: Relief and recovery
Chapter 6: Recovery and religion
Part three: How to reform national disaster policy
Chapter 7: Welfare for the rich and the poor
Chapter 8: Let?s get real
Chapter 9: New roles for major players
Part four: The role of faith-based organizations
Chapter 10: How government needs to change
Chapter 11: How the church needs to change
Chapter 12: One church?s experience
Part five: Disasters abroad
Chapter 13: From tsunamis to malaria
Chapter 14: Religious entrepreneurs
Chapter 15: Political disasters
Part six: Disasters to come
Chapter 16: Earthquakes and nuclear terrorism
Chapter 17: Pandemic
Chapter 18: Beyond worry
A note on sources
We act as if we?re immune. We build below sea level, or on barrier islands, or on hillsides with brush that annually burns, or over earthquake faults? and we?re shocked, shocked when disasters occur. We use levee repair funds to build parkways or spruce up gambling casinos, and we?re shocked when old levees give way. 
We think that if we have well-built houses that we?re immune. British colonials had grand homes in Calcutta, but their roofs came off and many of their walls fell in when a cyclone struck the port on October 5, 1864. The cyclone also blew away rickety native huts as if they were twigs: eighty thousand died from the wind and the forty-foot-high wall of water it created. 
We think that if we build big, strong buildings that we?re immune. In the 1988 Armenian earthquake, the 1995 Japanese earthquake, and the 1999 Turkish earthquake, new multistoried {CMS 7.90} buildings?including ones that conformed to California?s Uniform Building Code?collapsed. Japan?s calamity left 5,500 dead and was, according to a subsequent risk management report, ?a terribly striking example of what earthquakes can do to a modern industrialized society.?
We think that with enough warning that we?re immune. However San Franciscans knew that an earthquake is coming, and New Orleans residents knew that a hurricane was coming. Many people over the years have had volcanoes as neighbors. Mount Krakatoa in Indonesia began erupting in May 1883, three months before its enormous explosion killed thirty-six thousand {CMS 9.4}, but undisturbed residents even climbed to the volcano?s peak to peer inside. Six years later in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, residents had a running joke that ?the dam has bust, take to the hills.? When it did break there was little time to run, so 2,500 died. 
Some people in New Orleans who thought, or hoped, that the city was immune behind its levees, should have read about the city?s 1927 flood or about how the Yangtze River flood in 1954 killed forty thousand and left one million people homeless. The United States had planned to build the world?s largest dam on the Yangtze River, for both power and flood control, but China?s new Communist government used clay soil to build levees that collapsed, submerging an area twice the size of Texas.
Disasters happen, but the number of fatalities increases when short-term goals take precedence over long-term safety. Before Mount Pelee erupted on the French island of Martinique in the West Indies on May 8, 1902, residents of the nearby city of St. Pierre smelled sulfur fumes for weeks. Compared to Martinique officials, Louisiana?s recent leaders seem like geniuses. The governor in St. Pierre did not want anything to get in the way of his May 10 reelection, so he set up roadblocks to keep constituents from leaving before they could cast ballots. The local newspaper mocked those who worried. Its editor, along with forty thousand other residents, died during the eruption.
Building houses below sea level or along a hurricane-hit shore makes as much sense as the southern European practice, during the eighteenth and nineteenth {CMS 9.36} centuries, of using church vaults to store gunpowder. Churches had steeples or bell towers susceptible to lightning strikes, and a lightning strike, fire, and subsequent gunpowder explosion in Brescia, Italy, in 1769 killed three thousand people. A similar lightning strike and explosion on the island of Rhodes in 1856 killed four thousand. 
Unanticipated problems are inevitable, but politics and pride can turn them into disasters. In 1912 some fifteen hundred died when the ?unsinkable? Titanic {CMS 8.124} sunk on its first trans-Atlantic voyage, in part because of a prideful lack of concern about icebergs and in part because of a technical flaw: the separating walls in its ?watertight? compartments did not extend all the way to the top, so that water flowed from one to the next. Two years later, one thousand voyagers died on the St. Lawrence River when the Empress of Ireland, going too fast amid fog, slammed into a coaling ship. These were not acts of God. They were acts of men.
Why do such disasters happen? Thousands of books and articles have tackled the subject of theodicy, asking whether catastrophes disprove the belief that God exists and that He is good: at the end of 2005 Google showed 275,000 mentions of ?theodicy.? ?Anthropodicy? {note: not a word, MW}, the question of whether man acts rightly (and whether ?human intelligence? is an oxymoron), garnered only 145 mentions. Our tendency to put God rather than ourselves on trial is evident.
In 1946 the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, after running ads announcing it was ?Absolutely Fire Proof,? caught fire and 119 died. Twelve-inch-thick brick walls made the structure fireproof, but everything inside burned. The fifteen-story {CMS 9.3} hotel had no fire alarm or sprinkler system, no fire escapes or fire doors, just one spiral staircase plus elevators. An act of man, surely.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, and the like are acts of God. The extent of the damage they cause often depends on the politics and economics of man. That goes for good news as well as bad. When Hurricane Fifi wreaked havoc in Honduras in 1974, widespread starvation ensued. Katrina destroyed homes but caused no hunger {note: overstated to state ?no hunger?: could state, ?? but didn?t cause the same level of hunger?}, due to the productivity that this country has achieved. However we are not immune to natural catastrophe, terrorist-caused disaster, and the unnatural amplification of both. 
In one sense, personal disasters surround us. Every ten seconds in the United States a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident. Every twenty-six seconds a person has a heart attack. Every fifty-seven seconds a person dies from cancer. But this book examines incidents, some partially preventable, that have a major negative impact on the ability of an entire community to live peaceably. Some disasters, like hurricanes or earthquakes, are suddenly explosive. Others, like pandemics or the plagues of terrorism or revolutionary bloodletting, may start slowly and conclude with prolonged whimpering. 
This book examines the politics of disaster in six parts {note: in the table of contents and headers, the author states, ?Part one?, etc.}, each with three chapters. Using the Hurricane Katrina disaster as a case study, part one details what went wrong with government and media responses to Hurricane Katrina and explains how those problems were part of a long trend in disaster responses. Part two describes what went right by assessing the work of three Katrina responders that were effective: business, the military, and religious groups.
Part three proposes a reconceptualization of how we respond to disaster and suggests specific public policy measures based on our experience. Part four looks in detail at the role of faith-based organizations. Part five examines several recent disasters abroad and the effectiveness of key responders in meeting the challenges. Part six examines three disasters that many believe are likely to occur in the United States sometime during the coming decades?a California earthquake, nuclear terrorism, a pandemic?and assesses how prepared we are to respond. 
We?ll be investigating some new and frightening developments, but it?s important to remember that disasters aren?t new. Brimstone buried Sodom and Gomorrah about four thousand years ago, and an earthquake about three hundred years later brought the Minoan civilization on Crete to an end. Greek philosophers such as Plato knew about disaster: an earthquake and tidal wave buried the Greek city of Helike in 373 BC {note: why is the author drawing a connection between Plato and this event?} In AD 79 {CMS 9.38} Medieval disasters destroyed cities such as Dunwich, England, and Rungholt, Germany. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake became a propagandistic windfall for Voltaire.
Nor is the way we respond entirely new. The National Academy of Public Administration, in 1993, expressed concern about the ?CNN Syndrome?: ?Disaster and emergencies provide dramatic news and the appetites of news media, particularly television, are insatiable.? [Disasters] will now be ?nationalized? and politicized as a result of media coverage?. The media pressure reluctant local and state leaders to ?ask for federal help,? presidents to dispatch such help, and representatives and senators to demand it on behalf of their constituents.? That?s all true, but when Mount Vesuvius exploded in AD 79 and covered Pompeii and Herculaneum with molten ash, messengers reported the horror, Romans clamored for relief to be sent, and Emperor Titus complied. 
Media move much more quickly now and make news of suffering immediate, but most Americans still don?t take the precaution of always having several days of food and water on hand. Rebecca O?Connor, in December 2005, wrote in the Los Angeles Times: ?[I] took a good look in my pantry yesterday. I have enough soup and refried beans to last two days. There's a six-pack of water and a half a box of crackers, both of which would be gone by tomorrow if something happened today. I have no spare batteries, which isn't a problem because I don't own a battery-operated radio?. I live right smack between two active fault lines. A devastating earthquake is inevitable here in somebody's lifetime. Still, I just can't bring myself to stock my shelves?. I surely believe in natural disasters. I just don't believe they'll happen to me.? {note: this quotation may need to be set off as a block quotation due to its length.}
While we act as if we were immune from disaster, governmental policies now normalize it. Just as insurance now covers regular dental checkups, disaster designation now covers thoroughly predictable events, like blizzards. The first president with the power to issue a declaration of disaster, Dwight Eisenhower, issued 107 such declarations during his eight years in office, an average of 13 per year. That rose to an annual average of 18 during the Kennedy/Johnson years and more than doubled to an average of 37 during the Nixon/Ford administrations. 
Engineer Jimmy Carter, trying to rein in the excesses, averaged 32 declarations of disaster or emergency per year. Budget-conscious Ronald Reagan reduced the average to 28. But the number jumped under George H.W. Bush, who averaged 43 declarations during each of his four years, and it was off to the races with Bill Clinton, who more than doubled the total to 88. George W. Bush has been even more promiscuous in his declarations: during his first five years in office he averaged 139 per year, or one every 2.6 days.
A further dive into the numbers shows that they peak in presidential election years, and that?s not just coincidence. Two researchers, Mary W. Downton of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Roger A. Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, took into account the amount of precipitation each year as they examined flood-related disasters from 1965 to 1997, and found that the average number of flood-related disasters declared by the president in election years was 46 percent higher than it should have been. 
Two other researchers, Thomas A. Garrett and Russell S. Sobel, concluded that congressional {CMS 8.67} as well as presidential politics have an effect on disaster declarations. Controlling statistically for the damage caused by storms from 1991 to 1999, they found a correlation between disaster relief dollars and the number of representatives a state has on the two major FEMA {note: spell out acronym on first use} oversight committees in the House of Representatives: each additional representative on one of those committees brought an extra $36.5 million of assistance from FEMA. Overall, one-third of FEMA payments seemed directly attributable to representation on one of the nine FEMA congressional oversight committees, regardless of a disaster's severity.
The result is not just budget busting, but amplification of the already existing tendency of Americans to become subjects rather than citizens, dependently waiting for federal money rather than independently acting. That leads to an atrophy of local and state muscles. The availability of funds from Washington leads people to ask what this country can do for them, instead of what they can do for themselves and for their neighbors. 
And as poor welfare recipients have learned over the years, middle-class Americans, who are the main recipients of disaster aid, grow to despise the hand that feeds them but also points them toward stacks of paper. As one housing official said after the 1989 California earthquake, ?Middle class people are not used to standing in endless lines to get a government handout,? and they are angry when told to do so. Meanwhile, congressmen {CMS 8.25} tend to hate disasters rhetorically but love them politically?they are not forced to cut anything and many of their constituents benefit, even prosper. 
But this is far from a victimless political crime. The likelihood of a federal bailout often leads to reduced caution on the part of local residents and owners. Governmental compassion enables people to love a piece of property and lose it, then receive sufficient compensation for them to love and lose again, and again. From a budgetary standpoint, it is not better to have materially loved and lost than never to have loved at all. When the process becomes repetitive, it becomes insane. 
Is there a way out? This is one of the questions we will explore.

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

Disaster relief -- United States.
Disaster relief -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina, 2005.
Church charities -- United States.
Church work with disaster victims -- United States.
Church and social problems.
Humanitarian assistance.