Saturday, September 10, 2005

It Worked, So They Fixed it

"We are so much less than what we were in 2000," said an unnamed "senior FEMA official" in a Sept. 1 Washington Post article. Another FEMA veteran said, "It's such an irony I hate to say it, but we have less capability today than we did on Sept. 11."

Yes, it's the common answer to departments and agencies that actually work in government. "Fix" it.

On Sept. 5, the Los Angeles Times carried these remarks from Morrie Goodman, a Clinton-era FEMA official. "They've taken emergency management away from the emergency managers. These operations are being run by people who are amateurs at what they are doing."

Yeah, like people who've only run equestrian organizations. Why would you hand something as important as managing an emergency, saving lives, dealing with comincation problems, and an exteremely fuild situation of a disaster to someone who actually knows what they are doing, has actual experience?? It's not like there's anything important at stake; like lives, property, security and international reputation.

But there is support out there for Brown and recognition that he was, in some way, doing "a heck of a job." Just read this quote from former Miami-Dade emergency management chief, Kate Hale:

“He’s done a hell of a job, because I’m not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm,” *

Wow! You know she's right. To this date I have not heard of any Arabian horses being killed in Hurricane Katrina. So maybe he has done a bang up job in one area.

But remembering Brown's problems last year and his seeming "out of touch" responses in the first few days of the disaster there might be something more at work here. He might have some here-to-fore unknown learning disability like dyslexia. Or his seeming confusion and "out of touch" responses about the help the gulf region and NOLA was and was NOT getting may all be due to the need of a geography lesson.

Last year FEMA paid out $31 million in aid to Miami-Dade County after Hurricane Frances. However, Hurricane Frances hit 100 miles north of the county. Miami-Dade County itself never had hurricane force winds ( sustainable winds for a category 1 hurricane begin at 74 mph )

Maybe we should cut Brownie a break. He may know the difference between the front and the back end of a horse, but may need some assistance to do his current job at FEMA. And to do that well all he may really need is a map, a globe, or a geography class at the local community college!

Maybe then when the next disaster happens he'll be able to figure where the people who need assistance are and where to drop the water and the MREs.

* from

My thanks to Alas (I'm putting these links here so I can find them quickly on my own blog)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Analogy Lesson

In some of my wilder moments, I have let the thought cross my mind that the ineffectiveness of DHS and FEMA was/is part of wider plot by Republicans/conservatives to make government responsiveness so ineffectual that the general public would clamour for offices/departments to be shut. I mean it was no surprise to me to hear that conservative youth taking part in the government leadership training programs believe that it is part of their mission to shut down the Department of Education. I heard this from conservatives some 10 years ago.

So it was interesting to come across this cartoon in Slate

If true, here is a possible analogy question:
Brown is to FEMA, as Watts was to __________

(answer: EPA)

Katrina, NOLA Timeline... FEMA KNEW. This is not the "blame game," this is ACCOUNTABILITY.

Today NPR's "All Things Considered" had basically what could be considered the Katrina Timeline. It shows that the local, state and federal government, including FEMA were all communicating as early as Thursday, August 25 about Hurricane Katrina.

On Friday Joe Suhayda, a scientist formerly of LSU, sat and watched the models he created and warned about, come true. Walter Mastrie, who has long been involved in hurricane preparedness, starting sending the alarm and warnings that non-alarmist, Max Mayfield, of the National Hurricane Center, gave him.

Through meetings FEMA was involved every step of the way. They can't claim other wise. This isn't finger pointing, this is accountability. This isn't myth and partisan head hunting, this is the truth. And really because of the spin and the cover-up this administration is trying to foster, it cannot be trusted to investigate itself. We need an independent commission.

Please listen, especially if you have doubts. To borrow a phrase; "If you aren't outraged, you aren't listening."

Katrina Timeline: Unexecuted Plans

Katrina Timeline: Misdirected Aid

Background on Joe Suhayda and Walter Mastrie:
Hurricane Risk for New OrleansSeptember 2002

I tip my hat to State Senator Walter J. Boasso (R) for leadership by example (watch "Politics Aside" on ABC Nightline

Surreal account of refugee/detainee housing

Thanks to Alas where I saw this story first.

I'm not Christian and I applaud what the Southern Baptist Association of Oklahoma has offered and given. I'm appalled at FEMA continuing to mess things up (which I think they are here).

If even "W's" core constituents are taking a jaundice eye of how people were treated and are treated as they try and recover, how volunteers and donations are welcomed and treated ... remember Geraldo at the Superdome crying on Fox News saying "Let them walk out of here! . . . well then, one can only speculate.

Hopefully now that Brown is out of the way things will go better. But how do you get back to normal life or even rebuild if you are kept in domatories and are unable to come back if you leave to find places to live, jobs or find relatives, what if one day's search is fruitless. For the sounds of it, these people are being stuck in the middle of no where, and in sounds more like a prison.

New Orleans is a "National" Disaster

Katrina Divides Rather Than Unifies U.S.

After 9/11, "There was a surge in patriotic feeling which had to do with being in a common boat," political psychologist Stanley Renshon says. While Hurricane Katrina horrified everyone, it directly damaged a particular region and not the nation as a whole.

I respectfully disagree with Stanley Renshon. Given the economic and strategic importance of New Orleans to the entire US (agricultural trade, oil, refineries, etc.) Hurricane Katrina has damaged the nation as a whole. It has directly damaged the heart land more than the attack on the east coast ever did.

Stanley Renshon works in New York, and while 9/11 was an event that played out in front of us and contributed to a "national trauma" (one might say we, as a nation, have PTSD over it) it wasn't as personal to those in the heartland. It was horrible, it was an attack on the US, but it was also something that happened in New York City and Washington DC and therefore something "over there" in places they cannot relate to, something rather foreign.

New Orleans is somewhat like that too, however, the human tragedy of the disaster is reaching their front door with the evacuees, 9/11 never had that. The ports, facilities and the refineries of New Orleans are vital to our national interests. Their destruction, a personally felt pain for gas prices effect everything. Farmers not being able to get their goods to the world market effects even greater our trade deficit, the list goes on and on. We are all terribly affected by the centralization of goods and shipping there.

After 9/11 insurance companies forced many industries to de-centralize their operations, having a back up office somewhere incase of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Though the intent was to force companies of critical industries to have a back up office miles away, some companies have gotten around that and have a "back up office," two blocks away. Did insurance companies not force a similar back up plan with the oil companies for diversionary and secondary ports and/or refining operations? OR, if they did, did companies just move 1/2 mile down the coastline?

Too costly? Um, that's our economic and goods/products infrastructure that is incredibly vulnerable. Or do you like staring at a recession every time we have a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Didn't 9/11 teach us anything?

Whatever finger pointing the Bush administration is doing back toward Ray Nagin (mayor) and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (governor), about their slow or lack of response, and yes they do have some share of the blame (one of the posts I'm working on), the fact that these ports were/are so important to Americans all over the US and to the economic and trade health of this nation, means that the federal government had a special interest in emergency management of this area. FEMA and DHS should have been heavily involved since 9/11 and not need to wait for an "invitation" from LA for involvement. This is national interest, it effects every person living in the US mainland, it was a cat. 5 hurricane and now super disaster there, the effects are felt from the gas pump to what people pay for their food, goods, services and how they will heat their homes in the coming winter, etc.

Yes, I know they'll say "states rights" but there are two words that counter that Republican argument, "Terry Schiavo." (Notice I said Republican and not conservative). Republicans have already demonstrated that they can and will ignore states rights when it suits their purposes. Why was a life of one person more important than the thousands in New Orleans or the ports, etc? The President’s base, which he courted so during Terry's last weeks (remember is was so important he even fly home to sign legislation) is even more adversely and immediately affected (especially the middle class and poor, that do support him on religious, etc. grounds) throughout the country, than whatever the outcome of Terry Schiavo was.

As for the Brown/Chertoff line of needing a "request" from state authorities following a chain of command, I'm sure the state and local governments of small states, like Rhode Island, feel terribly comforted by this. In case of a WMD attack, it is conceivable that the entire chain of command could be wiped out. How many days will the surviving citizenry wait and suffer while the feds wait for the chain of command and a request for help to be activated?

Help themselves? Do you know what to do in a cholera outbreak, small pox exposure, or radiation sickness? Do you have the resources?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Orleans worse than Love Canal?

I have a lot of posts I'm working on about Katrina. I have many questions that I hope someone in government (local, state, national) and maybe even everyday citizens can answer. But right now they are all in "draft" form.

For the moment I just want to post a link to WBUR's program "On Point" where Hugh Kaufman, Senior Policy Analyst for the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, does say that New Orleans is now worse than Love Canal.

I guess he didn't get the administration memo about not bashing oil companies or government "cooperation" with oil companies.

It is refreshing, and he'll probably get his hands slapped over it.

But then there is what Barbara Bush "said" at the Astrodome. I have the word "said" in quotes because if it's not on unedited tape/video it can rightly be contested. On video or tape one can get the correct words, phrasing and the total context. In this case someone like, oh, Pat Robertson and his assassination remark is then reported correctly without spin and in context. I do know sometimes reporters don't always jot down direct quotes but sometime get the "gist" of what someone is saying and report it as a quote. I know this because it's happened to me. (One "quote" had me using words and phrases I don't use.)

Barbara Bush: Relocation 'working very well' for poor

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality," she said during a radio interview with the American Public Media program "Marketplace." "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

Now I have always like Barbara, she reminds me a lot of my mother and grandmother, so to criticize her is rather hard but . . . For some reason that statement just strikes me as not only very odd and very out of touch, but also very privileged, and really condescending and annoying.

Added: You gotta love Ann Telnaes

right column dump

I've created this post (from one that had never been written, just taking space in perpoetual draft form) to upload images for my banners in the right hand column

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why "Clytemnestra?"

Other than for an interest in history, ancient stories, and a desire to encourage this interest in others, the only reason I chose "Clytemnestra" is because I like the sound of the name.