Monday, December 19, 2005

Malkin Is Wrong

Last week I wrote that Malkin was misleading in claiming African Americans were not the majority of Katrina dead. This week I realize she was Wrong.
The LA Times has done some analysis of Katrina dead. The focus was on class. They conclude Katrina deaths cut across class because "of the 528 bodies recovered from identifiable addresses in city neighborhoods, 230 came from areas that had household incomes above the citywide median of $27,133. The poorer areas accounted for 298 bodies."

Unlike Malkin or Newsmax the LA Times is at least upfront in saying "the information used in The Times analysis was incomplete, due to difficulties in gathering data in the days after Katrina struck and to bureaucratic problems that followed." The state official in charge of identifying Katrina's victims, Dr. Louis Cataldie told the Times that "the data you have leaves a lot to be desired. I don't know if it'll ever be 100%." The Times also reports a few bodies are being found each week and "officials say other victims may have been swept into the Gulf of Mexico, never to be found."

This was my major objection last week to Malkin's claim that the majority of Katrina dead were not African American. We don't have a full picture and more important probably never will. Given that, it is dangerous to make proclamations as Malkin did to make political points. But something that I suspected however could not ascertain is made clear by another part of the LA Times' analysis which regards race....
New Orleans was the site of most of Katrina's fatalities; the state reported that 76% of storm deaths statewide occurred in the city. Of the 380 bodies from New Orleans that have been formally identified, a moderately disproportionate number are white. New Orleans' population was 28% white, yet 33% of the identified victims in the city are white and 67% black.(emphasis mine)

From these statistics we see Malkin's post entitled: "Who Died in New Orleans?" isn't just dishonest as I said last week. Malkin is dead WRONG. Malkin and Newsmax used the total number of dead for the entire state of Louisiana and then applied it to New Orleans. They then said that the majority of dead were not black because New Orleans is 67% African American but only 48% of the victims were African American. That 48% is for the entire state. But as the LA Times reports, in New Orleans 67% of the victims were black. Not only were African Americans the majority of New Orleans dead they made up 2/3 of the victims. But Malkin and Newsmax jumped to their false conclusion because they were lazy, sloppy and frankly didn't know what they were talking about. But it fit their political agenda.

One last important point regarding race, class and Katrina. I don't believe the death rate is the best means to judge the impact of the hurricane response as regards either variable. That more poor or black didn't die bears no relation to the fact that they were left behind in NOLA in greater numbers and they were the one who disproportionately suffered from the poor response. This is what Americans found so disgusting.....seeing fellow Americans left behind to fend for themselves. They didn't die from the hurricane but their lives were endangered due to neglect.

One variable that may end up to be deserving of attention in terms of future planning for disaster response is age. The LA Times reports that 70% of NOLA dead were over 60 years old. From statewide stats I found 64% of Katrina dead were over 60 and 39% over 75. The elderly are less mobile. They may be physically unable or even less willing to heed evacuations. Once the hurricane struck and they found themselves in dire situations they were certainly the most physically unable to save themselves as they were the weakest. Age may end up being the one variable that is predictive of likelihood to have died in Katrina.

But can we wait until all the statistics are in? Unfortunately even then we won't 'know if it will ever be 100%.'

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