View Full Version : Where is FEMA?
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 5:47am
New Orleans collapses into anarchy. People die from lack of basic services. Where is FEMA, the federal agency charged to deliver those services? Find out at http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion//index.php?ntid=525638ntpid=1.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 8:38am
Haven't you played DeusEx? FEMA's preparing to subdue America, hand in hand with the more sinister elements of UNATCO ... :p
Well, more serious an answer gives the Financial Times (http://news.ft.com/cms/s/fa15dc92-1b0c-11da-a117-00000e2511c8.html). It's about preoccupation.
What did the D.C. elites focus on? What is the actual threat to the people?
How many hurricanes does the U.S. experience every year? Many. How many forrest fires? Many. What about floods? Where do many of the first responders come from when an incidents overwhelms local authorities? National guard.
How many acts of terror did the U.S. experience the last year on U.S. soil? Is the average American more likely to be blown up by a Bin Laden or to be affected by the effects of a natural disatser? Does planning reflect these realities?
The FT puts it dryly: For a country that has spent the four years since September 11 preparing for another major terrorist attack, the failure to prevent or mitigate such an enormous natural disaster is likely to set off fresh debate.Already, methinks ... :bigeyes:
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 9:13am
This disaster is a case of Americans against Americans, and just goes to show how divided the nation is.
"For four days there were warnings that (Katrina) was going to make a direct hit, and the king of vacations at his ranch only said 'you must flee.' He did not say how," Chavez said, charging that the United States had no evacuation plans. "It's the rancher mentality." He called Bush "the king of vacations" and noted he had been at his Texas ranch and when the storm hit and didn't provide leadership. "There were many innocent people who left in the direction of the hurricane. No one told them where they should go." Another point I might add, its how the US has contingency plans for Iran, in the case of another 11th September, but not one for a hurricane, and its not like the US has never experienced a hurricane before. Bush should not have been on holiday pretending to be a rancher, like a surgeon will not be on holiday when s/he knows vital work has to be done.
[ September 02, 2005, 11:13: Message edited by: Cúchulainn ]
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 4:39pm
Well now, this has certainly changed quickly into a political thread... Moving...
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 5:12pm
While I am disgusted/dismayed at the overall failing of government in this crisis, laying the blame at the feet of Bush is weak. Should any president be responsible for drawing up disaster plans for every city in the country, then enacting and overseeing them when a disaster occurs? Obviously not. There are plenty of valid issues to pin on Bush, plenty. This is not one of them. You are just piling on.
The city of New Orleans has known for over 30 years that they were at serious risk for this kind of disaster. The local government (city and state) should have done everything that they could to minimize the impact of such an event. They didn't. They did not even have a plan to deal their lack of action. Amazing. Incompetent.
Finally, how are the statements by Chavez evidence that "This disaster is a case of Americans against Americans, and just goes to show how divided the nation is."?
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 5:15pm
I think many people are confused as to what FEMA really is. FEMA does not have rescue personnel. FEMA does not have the supply line to get relief to a disaster. FEMA does not provide medical assistance.
Simply put, the people at FEMA are trained to identify problems and resources necessary to fix those problems. They are trained to liase with state and local authorites, local businesses, and federal agencies to provide the most effective means to provide emergency assistance. In particular, FEMA provide a focal point to ensure there is not duplication of effort on the part of all agencies assisting a disaster. I've seen several FEMA representatives on the news in New Orleans -- they are doing their job. Even if the masses do not know what that job is.
On the political note -- it was NOT Bush's job to handle the preparation for the hurricane. That was the responsibility of the state and local governments. There is a distinct separation between federal and state government that the president does not cross -- states (and their residents) become very upset when the federal government takes over a state operation. Unfortunately, the job of president is to take the blame when the state and local governments perform inadequately to any task.
Does anyone here seriously think the president did not have adequate resources in Texas to handle running the government? He can run the government from AF1 -- the resources are certainly on the ground in Texas.
Edit: JF beat me to the punch while I was (slowly) typing. Well said.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 5:26pm
The division is about the rapes that were happening, not just against women, but against children. People should unite in such a disaster, not satisfy their sick sexual desires. Look at the food aid, it taken 2 days to distribute!
About Chavez - I just thought Hugo said it best about 'the king of vacations'.
-I have no idea what he was doing on his ranch, but this disaster was expected, and he was still on holidays. Military personnel should have been on standby, as should have helicopters dropping off food aid - its no good, organising this after disaster strikes. There was enough time for this. As President, its should be Bush's job to look after his people.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 5:32pm
Fed gov't has alot to say about how state money is spent, especially on large projects. I've written a longer response on the AoDA thread, which I won't repeat here, but I sincerely hope that public attention is directed to the public funding of disaster preparation, levees, wetland preservation, etc over the next few months. Follow the money as they say...
So if FEMA is powerless, and only in an advisory control, what exactly are we spending trillions on the DHS for then? To fingerprint Brazillians at airports?
Edit: so, while I often find dailykos shrill and painful, I really appreciate this roundup of the situation currently on the front page. And yes, there are links to everything:
Just in case you missed the amazing performance of the Republican leadership yesterday...
President George W. Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." Well, no one except the entire world and even Mr. Bill.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went shoe shopping on Fifth Avenue, but not before she played tennis and yukked it up at Spamalot.
The Viceroy in charge of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff said "We're much better prepared than we've ever been." I'm not sure if that was before or after he reminded us that September is National Preparedness Month, so be sure to stock up on duct tape.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown leapt into action, mustering all the emergency disaster management skills he learned as a lawyer for the International Arabian Horse Association Legal Department (from which he was fired). His money quote: "Paula, the federal government did not even know about the Convention Center people until today."
The Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert said, eh, maybe we should just forget all about rebuilding New Orleans. Because it might cost money and stuff.
The Pentagon, headed by Donald Rumsfeld, reassured America that, yes, the Country music hoedown with Clint Black on September 11th is still on, pard'ner! And maybe we'll even break the record for the longest line dance.
The head of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, sent out an email stressing that now---for God's sake, people---NOW is the time when we must repeal that which is causing our country to go down the tubes: the estate tax.
And Vice President Dick Cheney was still on vacation.
Lookie lookie, Planet Earth, at the leadership of the United States of America. What amazing feats will they dazzle us with today??
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 6:00pm
So now we're yet degenerating from a discussion about FEMA to political attacks. Bion, that article was just plain silly (wow, I've used that word twice today) and clearly biased -- I especially like the way a few of the comments are taken out of context.
Your sarcastic question about DHS and FEMA is simply unworthy of reply -- especially since I believe you know the answer better than most here.
Cuchulainn, your comments are quite applicable, but unfortunately the preparations for the disaster were the responsibility of the Governor of Louisianna -- had he simply asked for assistance (and put his own National Guard on alert) things would have happened sooner. I don't see what the military could have done if alerted. There is no place to operate helecopters from for a massive operation. The helicopters do not have the range to come from a hundred mile away and operate for hours in NO -- where are they going to refuel? The only platform that can do the job are Naval platforms -- do you think THEY are going to be at sea in the path of a CAT5 hurricane? I've been at sea in a CAT4 hurricane -- it's not fun. We were running as fast away from it as possible and it caught us. Damn scary.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 6:33pm
The article that was supposed to lead this thread seems to have dropped off the screen, which shows how unreliable these progressive newspapers can be. It was a long article by Eric Holdeman detailing the dismantling of FEMA by the Bush administration, a fact that events have certainly made obvious enough. I hope the newspaper can get the article back on line, but here's a single sentence from it:
"FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission."
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 7:42pm
@T2Bruno: Sure I was being sarcastic, and the dailykos stuff was a bit over the top. But that doesn't make it unjustified.
I don't agree with you at all that state gov'ts bear all responsibility for natural disasters; in fact that has never been the case. Think 9/11, or Hurricane Andrew. Sure, LA and MS have been known to squander public funds, and they could have been much more prepared, but a disaster of this scale by definition requires a federal response.
As for FEMA and the DHS, please tell me exactly what it is that they *do* do, if not to plan for situations like these. And no, they are not merely "advisory" groups, as though we needed to fund some kind of multi-trillion dollar think tank, that by the way still doesn't seem to have the answers people need...
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 8:26pm
The point of the matter is that our entire federal government has fallen far short here. That hurricane sat out in the Gulf for 2 days, stalled at a Cat 5 status. Why, in god's name, they didn't mobilize air units and have the cruisers on standby near the Florida coast, waiting -- is beyond me. The lack of preparedness is unconscionable. They KNEW in advance that this disaster was immenent and did nothing. The HOPE ship was just deployed from Norfolk LAST NIGHT, probably as a second thought. We have a very serious problem in this country -- namely, our leadership.
There are so many errors here, one runs out of fingers with which to point blame (though one in particular does come to mind). We have a President who, with that stupid smirk, stands in his pristine little office and hides. He made one pass over the area a few days ago -- but that was IT. He's afraid to get his pants dirty -- when visible, strong leadership is what the people need right now -- no, needed 3 DAYS ago. He's so missed the boat, it's not even funny. But when this is all said and done, he'll have to answer to us. His administration will go down in the history books as being partly responsible for this tragic loss of human lives and he won't be able to change that. His pants might be dirty then, but from a very different source.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 8:52pm
What cruisers are you talking about? Navy cruisers have virtually no rescue capability. And why, in God's name would you EVER put a ship in the projected path of a CAT5 hurricane? Remember the hurricane could have turned at any time almost any direction. Navy ships simply do not venture within 500 miles of a hurricane (1000 miles is better). Even at 25 knots (which is a damned fast sustained speed in rough water) it will take 40 hours to cross from a relatively unsafe location (off the coast of Florida) to point of impact. When a hurricane approaches the gulf coast, the only safe place is Norfolk or the middle of the Atlantic -- they turn too often. A CAT5 hurricane is dangerous for even an aircraft carrier. The HOPE was just deployed -- it would NOT HAVE SURVIVED Katrina. The seas are brutal FOR DAYS after a hurricane. You do not put rescue equipment and personnel in the path of the hurricane -- they become casualties and are useless. Even the coast of Florida was unsafe -- the waters were quite dangerous everywhere in the Gulf.
As far as shore based rescue personnel -- just where would you put them? How precise are hurricane predictions? The closest place to safely set the rescue personnel is Oklahoma or Tennessee -- perhaps Ft Hood in Texas would be okay. That's still 500-800 miles away. The roads are out and the Army trucks aren't very quick.
Go back in time -- just what supplies are going to needed and where along the 1000 miles of coastline Katrina may hit? Isn't that a little dependant on where it hits? Or do we just put every supply we can think of at every possible place? And when the hurricane turns and hits Mexico as a tropical storm what do you tell the taxpayers who just had a billion dollars spent?
It's so easy to be Monday morning quarterbacks.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 9:01pm
Cruisers (http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/12528233.htm), you say?
In 2004, the Corps essentially stopped major work on the now-breached levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years, the Times-Picayune reported.
"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay," Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri told the newspaper. "Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
The Army Corps' New Orleans office, facing a $71 million cut, also eliminated funds to pay for a study on how to protect the Crescent City from a Category 5 storm, New Orleans City Business reported in June.
Being prepared for a disaster is basic emergency management, disaster experts say.
For example, in the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and have hospital ships nearby, said James Lee Witt, who was FEMA director under President Clinton.
Federal officials said a hospital ship would leave from Baltimore on Friday.
"These things need to be planned and prepared for; it just doesn't look like it was," said Witt, a former Arkansas disaster chief who won bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill during his tenure. Yup, plans on the shelf for hospital ships and ships to pump water. Guess those plans got lost somehow. Could it have been funding? A handy timeline of FEMA under Bush, courtesy Kevin Drum (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/) (all these stories are linked at the site):
January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.
April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."
2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."
December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy, Michael Brown, who, like Allbaugh, has no previous experience in disaster management.
March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.
2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.
Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."
June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."
June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.
August 2005: While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.So, no, I don't think complaints about preparedness constitute unfair "monday morning quarterbacking." Sorry to keep harping on this, but this whole situation really pisses me off.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 9:10pm
T2Bruno -- Hurricanes in the Gulf do NOT turn back on themselves and go back into the Caribbean. I watched the Weather Channel for days prior to the hurricane coming ashore -- they knew quite accurately in what direction that storm was moving and when and where landfall would be. I don't believe there has EVER been a hurricane that has gone in reverse and moved back into the Caribbean, where it was spawned.
When I said "cruisers", I meant some sort of military rescue craft. Pardon me if I'm not so astute as to know the names of all the military ships. Regardless, rescue craft or even the HOPE ship should have been off the coast of Florida, perhaps the Miami area or St. Augustine -- within a days ride of NO. They would have been well out of harm's way, yet close enough to get there shortly after the hit. To deploy them as late as yesterday, was using no forethought whatsoever.
Yes, indeed it IS easy to be Monday morning quarterbacks -- for EVERYBODY. :rolleyes:
[ September 02, 2005, 21:27: Message edited by: Spellbound ]
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 10:03pm
I agree with you Bion -- the whole situation should piss everyone off. I'm just not willing to point at one or two people and say it's all their fault. There was a whole host of people who fell down here. A couple of the plans you listed in the articles were certainly not viable and I can see why they would not be done -- however, an alternative was also not identified (yet another failure).
The work on the levees would have taken years to be done right (at least to survive a hurricane like this). They were identified as a weak spot during the last Mississippi flood and should have been fixed. By who is a meaningless question now, but the responsibility should be shared by all levels of government.
Spellbound, you missed my point. First of all the spawning point was the middle of the Atlantic -- several hundred miles east of Cuba. And hurricanes do not follow a precise path. Predictions come with a probability. You are right, there was an extremely low probably of it heading to Mexico. However, Katrina could easily have turned further east and impacted Florida -- it has happened before. A CAT5 is a monster. The USS WISCONSIN had it's entire bow ripped off during a CAT4. A aircraft carrier lost part of her bow during a another CAT4. Navy ships simply do not venture into a CAT5 -- they don't intentionally go in any possible path of a CAT5 which is often referred to as the dangerous semi-circle (which in this case would include all of the gulf coast through the keys). The seas around a hurricane are absolutely brutal for hundreds of miles. After three or four days in such seas the entire crew is exhausted -- you can't sleep, eating is difficult. Imagine trying to walk around and work on a rollercoaster -- that's life in a hurricane (I lived in one for several days on a really big ship).
There was no safe place for a ship to go. Jacksonville may have been okay, but Miami would still have been very rough and certainly not the place for the HOPE. The ships most capable of providing help are amphibious task force ships -- these ships are designed take Marines to the beach. They have shallow drafts to facilitate going in shallow water. They do not handle storms well at all. The HOPE and the amphibs can only maintain 18 knots in fairly calm seas -- it's slower in the rough seas of a hurricane (and for a few days after). That means it takes two and a half days to go 1000 miles -- and I certainly would not deploy them any closer than 1000 miles from the edge of the hurricane (which can be a hundred miles across). Miami is about 750 nautical miles from NO -- which would still take 42 hours minimum. You're asking for something that is simply unrealistic. Although I do agree, the HOPE should have put to sea immediately after landfall, she would at least be going around the keys now.
Fri, 2nd Sep '05, 10:41pm
T2Bruno -- You need to check your facts about the spawning place of Hurricane Katrina. You are wrong -- it spawned in the Caribbean:
Katrina Birth and Path (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4197346.stm)
Katrina's Path (http://hurricane.accuweather.com/hurricane/storms.asp?ocean=atlantic&storm=Katrina) (Hardly out in the middle of the Atlantic.)
As as for famiarity with hurricanes -- I lived in Florida for 15 years -- I know a good bit about them as well -- and have lived through 3 major evacuations. I'm full well aware of what a Category 5 hurricane is and the damage it can cause. I also am extremely aware of the forecasting capabilities of the Hurricane Center in Miami -- and the fact that they're usually right on the money. Ships placed in the Caribbean or southern Florida would have been SAFE -- Hurricane Katrina just came through that part of the state -- they do not back up and go backwards.
[ September 02, 2005, 23:02: Message edited by: Spellbound ]
Sat, 3rd Sep '05, 4:09am
The New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune, ran an investigative series in 2002, pointing out that the levees were at risk, and required repair and upgrading. Nothing was done. Scientists have said on NPR that what has happened matched exactly their models of what would happen if a hurricane of this force struck. For reasons I do not understand FEMA was a particular bugbear of the neo-cons, and Bush began to downgrade it immediately upon taking office. At the moment Katrina struck they were actually forbidden to involve themselves in disaster preparedness, with consequences that are on every network right now. (Clinton, by contrast, appointed a professional emergency manager, James Lee Witt, to the post upon taking office and kept him there for eight years.) Homeland Security supposedly took over their functions, but they seem to have dropped the ball somewhere downfield. How would these fumblers handle a terrorist attack, if this is how they deal with a natural disaster for which plenty of warning was given?
The Race Card: As any of you watching TV have noticed, the overwhelming majority of those stranded in New Orleans are black. Would the rescue effort have been so sluggish if they were white? Just asking.
T2Bruno says he doesn't want to point at one or two people in this bloody fiasco. But it's really not that difficult. There's the director of FEMA. There's the Director of Homeland Security. And there's the President of the United States.
[ September 03, 2005, 05:01: Message edited by: Cernak ]
Sat, 3rd Sep '05, 4:40am
Much as I would enjoy laying all the blame squarely on the President and his minions that isn't fair. Yes, he downgraded and pretty much eliminated one disaster agency but state and local authorities must take responsibility too. Obviously there was no disaster plan. It just seems to me that everyone just turned a blind eye. "Oh it won't be that bad. Maybe it will veer off to Mexico."
It wasn't just NO that was hit but a very large area. We concentrate on NO because the news does. Seeing a whole city destroyed is greater news than all those people living in the boondocks. This whole thing is horrible and I am very sad.
May we learn from this that it may never happen again.
Sat, 3rd Sep '05, 5:30am
Sorry, Nakia, but I can't agree. When you downgrade your disaster agency to the point where it can no longer deal with disaster, you are responsible for what you have done. When you, or the people you have entrusted with the task, fail to prepare for trouble when clear and timely warning of its approach has been given, you are responsible. When, after trouble strikes, you continue your vacation until someone shakes you and tells you to look presidential, you are responsible.
It is part of the job to be aware of--or have people you trust be aware of--these things before they happen, is so far as they are predictable. The extent to which you have not done this is the extent to which you have failed in your job. The extent to which you remain comatose when the worst has happened is the measure of your inadequacy.
Sat, 3rd Sep '05, 3:34pm
I just watched the news this morning, showing live rescues from attics and roofs, STILL occurring 6 DAYS after this event. After rescuing one group of people, the aid worker, who was in the boat with the rescue squad, heard a noise and looked across the way -- some man was knocking on a window, trapped on the top floor of his house with water up to his chest, begging and pleading with them not to leave...he's screaming that he has 6 children inside and one small baby and that they can't hold on any longer. The aid worker broke down trying to tell this story... for they had no more room in the boat and had to leave them.
How many more hundreds of people are trapped in houses that people don't even know about? 6 days??? All levels of government should and will be held accountable for this nightmare. One day of visitation, complete with shaking hands and patting heads doesn't even begin to make up for the insensitivity and incompetence displayed here.
Sat, 3rd Sep '05, 6:36pm
@Cernak, prehaps I didn't word my post properly. I did not say that Bush was not responsible for what he did or did not do but State and Local governments share in the blame.
All levels of government should and will be held accountable for this nightmare. One day of visitation, complete with shaking hands and patting heads doesn't even begin to make up for the insensitivity and incompetence displayed here. Good statement from Spellbound.
Sun, 4th Sep '05, 1:04am
Although I WAS wrong about the starting point of Katrina (most hurricanes start in the Atlantic), that does not the path would follow like a map along the path it did. You may want to look at the paths of a few hurricanes:
historic hurricanes (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml)
These are really just a small fraction of hurricanes which have hit the gulf -- Ivan (near the bottom of the page) is particularly interesting.
State and local governments share responsibility for emergency assistance. The city should provide immediate assistance, the state within 48 hours, and the federal government within one week. The only entity that responded reasonable WAS the federal government -- NO and LA failed miserably.
The levees were a known problem WHEN THEY WERE BUILT. They were designed for a CAT3, the state did not want to spend the extra money to upgrade them. Sorry, but poor planning on the states part does not make it the federal governments fault. As I've said before many states put millions of dollars into their levees, but not LA. Replacement of the CAT3 levees to CAT5 would have taken at least ten years -- it certainly would not have been done by now even if the illustrious Mr Clinton would have authorized the funds (which he did not).
One additional item, FEMA is a training and advisory organization. Fine, blame the teachers when the students fail -- we do it all the time in America.
Sun, 4th Sep '05, 7:02am
Where the hurricane came from is quite irrelevant at this point, although Katrina will no doubt hold an honored place in any future list of historic hurricanes.
I like your timeline for emergency assistance. By your reckoning the federal government arrived a day early. They were actually ahead of schedule. Another reason to be proud of our leaders, as I'm sure the many dead in New Orleans would be, were they still capable of emotional response. This sort of papering over of tragedy is both callous and repulsive.
To expect New Orleans to respond in any meaningful way is naive since the city, for all practical purposes, had ceased to exist. Louisiana is a poor state, with limited resources, and the greater part of the state National Guard, which might have helped maintain order and vital services, has been shipped to Iraq by order of the President. In fact I doubt if there is any state in this Union that could deal adequately with the total obliteration of its largest city. Consider for instance that much of the infrastructure to deal with such events would be located in that city. Only the Federal government has the means to deal with disaster on this scale. To seriously argue that the Federal government didn't have to respond for seven days because it says so on a piece of paper, and is therefore in no way culpable, is putting cosmetics on a corpse.
The question--the only question--is whether the federal government's response was timely and effective. It was not. Only on the fourth day, Thursday, when it had become obvious to the entire world this this was indeed a very great disaster, and also when--perhaps more to the point--criticisms of the lack of response began to appear, did the administration finally begin to move.
FEMA did not do what it is supposed to do, which is to respond to large scale disasters; exculpatory excuses about it being only a "training and advisory organization" notwithstanding. They neither advised nor co-ordinated. They did nothing. If you prefer to argue that FEMA's functions have been taken over by the Department of Homeland Security, then THEY did nothing, although their charge is to deal with sudden and unexpected emergency and disaster. Even with notice that disaster was coming, they failed; and they failed totally.
The levees: As I noted above, the Times-Picayune pointed out in series in 2002 that the levees were at risk, and required upgrading and repair. It's true that nothing was done by either the city of New Orleans or the state of Louisiana to deal with this, and for this they must bear responsibility. It's also true, however, that projects of this nature are usually undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The appointment today of James Lee Witt, Clinton's director of FEMA, to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, can hardly be seen as anything other than this administration's admission of failure.
EDIT: My apologies. This last paragraph is apparently incorrect. I can find nothing on the news stating that Witt has been appointed to anything, although I was told this had happened. However, a number of high ranking officials will be making appearances in the stricken regions. I'm sure that will help.
[ September 05, 2005, 07:31: Message edited by: Cernak ]
Mon, 5th Sep '05, 7:24pm
I think many do not realize what FEMA's role is. FEMA can do nothing without being asked to do it by the Governor of the state.
There are legal issues involved here, so FEMA cannot just go in and do what it thinks is the right thing to do. The Governor must ask FEMA for help and the Governor has complete control over what FEMA is allowed to do in the state.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is a national organization, not at the beck and call of Louisiana. They take care of infrastructure that is of national, not local interest. Now it's debatable whether the innundation of New Orleans etc. is of national interest, but the levees were really (and should have been) a local matter, not national.
Mon, 5th Sep '05, 8:27pm
Way to plug White House Talking Points (or at this stage, Damage Control). The strategy is:
Blame State and Local governments. Show Gov Blanco, Senator Landreau, and Mayor Nagin on TV all the time to make people think that LA is run by Democrats. Hope that people forget that LA is a red state, with one out of two Senators and five out of seven Representatives being Republican. Switch attention over to Gov Barbour of MS, a Republican busy atm kissing Bush admin @ss, and try to say how much better prepared MS (with its Repub gov) is than LA (with its Demo gov), say they were hit more directly by the hurricane, but don't bring up the relative sizes of say Biloxi and NO, and don't point out that in general MS, also a red state, is in even worse shape that LA in terms of education, poverty, etc. Again, try to make it purely a Demo governor vs a Repub governor, avoiding mentioning that it's an own goal anyways as both states are red states. Think about arguing that all the looters are Democrats, but decide that would be even too far for you.
Avoid avoid avoid mentioning deals with developers that destroyed wetlands, *federal* budget cuts to levee repairs (yes, I'm afraid that money for the levees does come from the fed), and especially that some of this money in the past year went to Iraq. Pretending that the gov't had nothing to do with pulling money from programs monitoring int'l terrorism right before 9/11 worked; the American people have a short enough attention span it should work again.
Also, pretend that the Port of New Orleans, and the vast refinery network in the gulf, were completely state interests.
Argue that the fed takes a week to act, even tho its budget, with $41 billion for the DHS alone, dwarfes state budgets. Make sure people don't ask the obvious question: imagine the uproar if it had taken a week for the feds to react to 9/11.
This is not to say the state and local gov'ts don't share the blame. It just seems absurd and grasping to me to argue that the feds are blameless here, and that federal budgeting and organizational issues have nothing to do with the depth of this tragedy.
Fri, 16th Sep '05, 5:59am
Where was FEMA? The Hattiesburg (Mississippi) American has an answer,of sorts:
Fri, 16th Sep '05, 6:25am
I am disgusted. That is really all I can say since anything else is unprintable.