Friday, September 02, 2005

which star do you pick?

More on the debacle in Louisiana and Mississippi...

"which star do you pick?"
I came across a quote today that haunts me. Coast Guard rescuer Dustin Skarra described flying over New Orleans at night, looking for stranded people:
Everyone is shining their flashlights, so as you're flying over, it's kind of like you see a sky full of sparkling stars. So which star do you pick?
"an embarrassment"
Massachusetts Governor and Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney described the Federal government's response as "an embarrassment." Newt Gingrich observes, “If we can’t respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the gulf for days, then why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?” Florida Congressman Mark Foley urges de facto President Bush to bring home the National Guard from Iraq. They are all Republicans, so this isn't partisanship.

This is unacceptable. Part of the problem has been the all-terror, all-the-time focus of Bush since 9/11. According to MSNBC, a July 2004 government document listed 222 various exercises to deal with national emergencies. Only TWO mentioned hurricanes, and both of THOSE were focused on how to deal with a terrorist attack that coincided with a hurricane! In this same story, a Louisiana expert said FEMA officials giggled as he described all too accurately the difficulties New Orleans could face if hit by a major hurricane like Katrina. Giggles?

Back in 2001 commentators in the so-called liberal media talked about how the Bush-Cheney junta I mean administration was full of "competent" people, and said it would be a government of mature adults capable of doing the job. Well, four years later, after long vacations clearing brush while counterterror experts tried to get the President's attention about upcoming attacks, after volumes of intelligence misinterpreted through either stupidity or cupidity, after economic policies that have raised poverty levels, after energy policies that have failed to improve energy efficiency, after revelations of un-American torture condoned at the highest levels, and now after the utter failure to respond to an admittedly very difficult national emergency, I think the air of "competence" the vulcans try to project should be finally, definitively dispelled.

Paul Krugman is not quite right when he calls this a can't do government. The Bushies CAN do the things they think important. You know, like cutting taxes for the rich, opening federal lands to oil exploration and logging, conning people into believing lies about Saddam and Al Qaeda, destroying whistleblowers and slandering those who dare speak the truth, and did I mention cutting taxes for the rich? It's amazing that Bush can with a straight face lie about not knowing the risks New Orleans faced -- back in early 2001 (before 9/11) FEMA, which had been nurtured and given a high profile in the just-ended Clinton Administration, very accurately described the three worst risks we face: a terrorist attack in New York, an earthquake in San Francisco, and a major hurricane in New Orleans -- with the Big Easy scenario being perhaps the most dangerous to American lives. In 2002 the Times-Picayune ran a series detailing what to expect if New Orleans were hit by a major hurricane. Guess Andrew Card didn't read that article, because clearly Bush nor FEMA ever gave it any notice. Probably because New Orleans is full of Democratic voters.

In this article at Slate.com, the writer asks
How is it possible that with the fourth anniversary of 9/11 almost upon us, the federal government doesn't have in hand the capability to prepare for and then manage a large urban disaster, natural or man-made?
George W. Bush, the MBA President, the guy who ran businesses (they all failed except the Texas Rangers, who just sucked but profitably) and made decisions, the hands-on manager who said he would bring corporate-style rationality to decisions in government, allowed the Clinton-era FEMA to deteriorate to the point where they can't even get water to some poor bastards in the middle of New Orleans, choosing instead to play war in Iraq. I wonder if any of the five Supremes who voted for Bush in December 2000 ever regret their partisan decision?

Can you blame New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and others for their increasing anger at the Bushies' feckless response? People are dying while FEMA Director Michael Brown TODAY, FIVE DAYS AFTER KATRINA HIT, says, "What we're doing, we're ramping up." Wow. Maybe FEMA'll be sufficiently ramped up when it's time to bury all those people still waiting for food and water. As Mayor Nagin said, FEMA and the Feds should "get off their asses."

Bush-Clinton Relief Efforts
One thing Bush has done is appoint his dad and Bill Clinton to lead another relief effort. It's all well and good to encourage private assistance, and I'm heartened and NOT surprised at the generosity of people in helping, especially folks in places like Houston that are close and unscathed. But we shouldn't have to rely on private money to deal with such disasters. The most fundamental duty of a government is to protect its citizens.

This government has clearly failed that test in Louisiana and Mississippi, and honestly I don't think they give a shit, except to the extent that they worry about political blowback. But the White House is per normal practice evading legitimate questions like a champion dodgeball player and no doubt preparing hapless DHS Secretary Chertoff to be the sacrificial goat. Don't you think that at a press conference when the largest national disaster in our country's history is under way that Scott McClellan could take a fucking question?

How often have we heard a quote like this from the Admin: "This is not a time for finger-pointing or playing politics," McClellan said here. This time it was about the decision to cut the budget for flood control around New Orleans, but it could have been about ANYTHING the Administration wants to stonewall since 9/11 -- Iraq, Afghanistan, rising poverty levels, Rove's outing of CIA agent Victoria Plame, anything. The only time for fingerpointing and playing politics is when the Administration feels like it, on their terms. Otherwise, you are Aiding the Enemy -- Al Katrina in this case, I guess.

I wonder how many people in Louisiana and Mississippi are regretting their votes in 2000 and 2004 now?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Rebel In Westchester said...

Great post!! I have been surfing the blogs tonight and been angered by the same old conservative rhetoric that excludes accountability by this administration. Posts that say we are blaming Bush for the hurricane. Please! And they say liberals spin the news....LMAO!!

10:57 PM  
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8:50 AM  

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