Sunday, September 04, 2005

FEMA And Such

Last year, when I first moved to town, I dated a man who works for FEMA. Our relationship didn't work out in part because of the instability of his life; he moves every six months, setting up command centers for wherever the disaster du jour is.

I wish we were still on speaking terms. I'd love to see what's going on with him, if he's down south, and get his take on what the hell went on with the FEMA breakdown, and what his take is on the current spin by Republicans that any failure on FEMA and the federal government's part is that of the locals, who didn't micromanage them and tell them what to do every step of the way.


I have a feeling he'd respond (if he responded honestly, and not with pre-ordained spin to cover his and his organization's butts) that they were simply overwhelmed.


I remember him describing to me that his job followed pretty much the same path with every disaster. A disaster would hit, a state of emergency would be declared, he'd be given his marching orders, and then he'd have a week to set up the command center. And THEN relief would start being provided to the victims of the disaster.


Katrina, quite simply, didn't allow for that kind of leisurely pace this time.


But the Bush defenders keep spinning their inadaquate response as the fault of Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, who, they say, didn't issue appropriate marching orders.


I'm in the midst of a debate on Ann Althouse's blog on this point. A law professor closely followed by legal eagles across the country, she posted the Washington Post article containing the Bush administration's lies about Governor Blanco not ordering a state of emergency. I created this blog (having lost the password and name to my old one) for the express purpose of responding to her post and the conservatives who were quickly repeating the lie, and posted a link in her comment space to the governor's state of emergency declaration, trying to undo the damage of the original Bush administration lie (that no such declaration existed) being posted.


Now, the conservatives are spinning, it's the local governments fault for not telling the National Guard that they SHOULD drop food and water to dying people.


Since when is the National Guard impotent to make food drops for dying people if the Governor hasn't ordered them specifically, step-by-step, to do so, telling them how to do their job and effectively micromanaging them? Is that *really* her job? I want to see evidence of that. I've asked for any source to their claim that once the National Guard was on the ground (at the governor's request), they only had the power to just sit there, and not do air drops, until the governor told them to. (and I'm not convinced the governor did not ask for that either... Mayor Nagin certainly did).


No sources or support for that piece of spin have been provided.


It's not about a blame game. It's about a city that was just wiped out, a death toll that will far exceed that of 9/11, and that fact that if THIS is how our government responds to disasters... WE ARE ALL FUCKED. This could happen to ANY city, ANY day. The next time, it could be a middle-class white suburb left to die a slow death while the federal government sits bureaucratically by, not rescuing people from a biological attack or who knows what else, and then blaming local authorities for their own inaction.


Even most conservatives seem to concede that there is SOME point to federal taxes -- the basic protection of human lives from our government through basic national defense, infrastructure support, and response to national disasters. Are those who are so busy defending the Bush administration right now so blinded by their partisanship that they are willing to redefine our government in such a way that our federal tax dollars shouldn't go to the most basic protections of our citizens' lives anymore? Do they REALLY believe what they're saying here?


If so, we should all be very very frightened (in addition to angry and in mourning, which many people still don't seem to be, whether it's out of denial, callousness, or just having better mental health survival instincts than I).


I think Democrats and Republicans can probably agree at this point that the bumbling bureaucracy of federal agencies is out of hand and life-threatening. Republicans have been saying it all along, and Democrats are now joining in the chorus after Katrina.


We don't have the luxury of time anymore to sit around and convene task forces and restructure agencies and come up with master plans that FOUR YEARS AFTER 9/11 are still being drafted (see this disturbing article about a Homeland Security Memo that was going through their office's emails with a DRAFT PLAN for disaster reponse... a draft that they were just starting to finalize after four years of work... a draft that was circulated even as Katrina's destruction was in full force... why did it take four years to churn out a DRAFT? Why is there no real plan or structure in place NOW? How could the Bush administration effectively dismantle FEMA without the new backup structure already in place? Do we think natural disasters and terrorists are just going to sit around and WAIT for us to get our shit together and finalize our bureaucratic plans of response before hitting us?)


Not good.

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