Dear Huan Yi,
Once again you strike, Huan Yi!
Once again you leave "the Mark of Huan Yi," a question with a peculiar form. It offers two alternatives, sometimes merely at widely different ends of the same spectrum, sometimes at widely separated ends of slightly different spectra, to increase the terror and confusion when minds struggle to fit together the jig-saw pieces of two different puzzles and attempt to make them yield an answer other than purest dada. Hoo Mama! that's what I say to you. So, Huan Yi, what have you given us here today?
Let's see. A hurricane is coming to hit the the coast of Texas. Yes, I see that; and the government has issued an evacuation order. Yep, I see that as well. And 90, 000 folks have apparently refused the evacuation order so far, OK, I have that. And your question is what? Ok, it's:
"So if all 90,000 drown will that be their stupidity
or a failure of the current administration?"
Well, now that is a difficult one, isn't it. First, you're drowning 90,000 people. Why would you want to do that, Huan Yi? You've taken a list of probabilities and chosen the single most unlikely occurrence from the list. Given the length of time a hurricane takes to pass over land and the amount of rain and wind that comes with it, over the period of 2-3 days, I would expect at least one death among 90,000 people without the storm. At least one death would be likely to my thinking. No deaths would be unlikely, even without a storm in a population that size, even if it were of normal folks. In this case, the population will probably be biased toward the more unhealthy, elderly, less mobile and poor. You're assuming the most unlikely scenario, though, that everybody dies.
The choice of that scenario suggests that this is not a serious question. A serious question would look at the likely casualty figures, and plan for perhaps a single or perhaps two standard deviations out from that number. I suspect resources allocation would rise exponentially for results expected beyond that point. And you wouldn't actually get results beyond the two standard deviation level. These are, of course, my assumptions. If you care to dispute them, you might try some research; I'm merely meatballing the figures.
So, the actual figure of 90,000 at this time may be accurate in terms of those who've stayed behind. It may also be grossly inaccurate. Are these figures from FEMA? Who has gathered them? If they are FEMA figures, I'd have to give FEMA a pat on the back for being a bit more on the ball than they were in New Orleans. Before we're even to guess how much responsibility belongs to the feds and the government, we'd have to know what the government's doing and how well it's functioning, Huan Yi, wouldn't we? Are there food supplies and disaster relief supplies ready to move? Have they been pre-positioned? Have the glitches that kept the movement of these supplies from moving after Katrina, such as the denial of the permission of movement by FEMA officers for the movement of army supplies and disaster relief workers been ironed out this time? Have these glitches been settled? Or is it likely that they may be a problem yet again? There are a great many issues like this to be examined before one can actually say what degree of government credit (yes, credit, should things go well) or responsibility should be portioned out.
Your assumption that the government will be blamed for disaster has some basis in reality. It also deserves that responsibility in reality for Katrina in large part. Hopefully it has changed policy in the meantime. I believe government can be an enormous help in situations like this, and would hope that this will prove the case here.
Clearly the current administration had not found a way to do this before Katrina; it is philosophically opposed to government doing this job, and it had systematically sought to undermine the government's ability to do it. During Hurricane Andrew, by way of contrast, the government had done a much better though certainly imperfect job, and FEMA apparently shone.
Suggesting that the death of 90,000 would be due "to their own stupidity" or "a failure of the current administration" would be of course an example of a false dichotomy. It is unnecessary simply to offer two choices. One might be reminded that bad weather plays a part in hurricane deaths. One might be reminded that everybody who wants to leave is not able to leave for one reason or another, and those reasons are not always stupid. Many people in Texas, it might be remembered, are survivors of Katrina; they might have reason for being less than trusting of either the federal government or of the governments of the local Texas towns whose welcome of them was in some cases less than totally gracious.
I picked the following up from a Wikipedia discussion of black and white thinking or logical fallacies or some such:
The informal fallacy of false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, the either-or fallacy, or bifurcation) involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are other options. Closely related are failing to consider a range of options and the tendency to think in extremes, called black-and-white thinking. Strictly speaking, the prefix "di" in "dilemma" means "two". When a list of more than two choices are offered, but there are other choices not mentioned, then the fallacy is called the fallacy of false choice.
When a person really does have only two choices, as in the classic short story The Lady or the Tiger, then they are often said to be "on the horns of a dilemma".
False dilemma can arise intentionally, when fallacy is used in an attempt to force a choice ("If you are not with us, you are against us.") But the fallacy can arise simply by accidental omission—possibly through a form of wishful thinking or ignorance—rather than by deliberate deception.
When two alternatives are presented, they are often, though not always, two extreme points on some spectrum of possibilities. This can lend credence to the larger argument by giving the impression that the options are mutually exclusive, even though they need not be. Furthermore, the options are typically presented as being collectively exhaustive, in which case the fallacy can be overcome, or at least weakened, by considering other possibilities, or perhaps by considering a whole spectrum of possibilities, as in fuzzy logic.
The "fuzzy logic" here is not "unclear thinking," but a field of mathematics which allows electronics to be calibrated along a whole range of possibilities instead of only at specified points, so you can set your toaster to brown your toast at the level you want it and not at dark, medium or light exclusively. Just an explanation of something you probably already understood for general clarification in case somebody didn't.
Yours, Bob Kaven