Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Slow walking the bad news
As for FEMA: It's mentioned in the paper issue of Mother Jones that it took less than a day for the first trainload of relief supplies to arrive in San Francisco in the aftermath of the earthquake. And as anyone knows who's actually read the National Response Plan -- the document that all US governmental bodies, from the local level on up, are supposed to follow -- the word "proactive" and its variants show up repeatedly in that document.
For your information, Drownie, "proactive" does not mean "sit on my ass and exchange e-mails talking about my shirt collars while black people drown in the Ninth Ward".
It means "loading up trucks and C-130 cargo planes with supplies and having them ready the second you know that a Cat 4 is going to hit a major American city".
But that would, y'know, upset Grover Norquist, because it would prove that government, when not run corruptly, can do wonderful things.
And we can't have that, can we?
Frontline gave Brown an amazingly sympathetic hearing to explain his actions... and he still nnded up looking like a liar and an idiot. Overall, however, the effect pf Frontline was to blame "bureaucracy," specifically the incorporation of FEMA into Homeland Security for failing New Orleans.
Anyone who has seen a merger in action knows that you (a) try to never do it under crisis, (b) expect to *add* labor in the short term, so no one drops the balls they are juggling as you adjust the jugglers, (c) certain things you just leave alone.
The logical reorganization for FEMA would have been to add one person to work with larger departments on what to do if there is a radiological, chemical, or biological problem. Chemical and biological problems are completely predictable in natural disasters--look at New Orleans--but the nation has already seen radiological crises at Hanford and at Rocky Flats, so it should be pretty obvious that an earthquake near a nuclear plant or a waste storage site is just as great a risk as Al Qaida. Instead of merging boxes in a reorganization, what you should do is add pipelines between boxes to bring in new information, while leaving all the people doing the work alone.
The only good aspect of Frontline was that it showed that specific requests were made by the New Orleans National Guard that were not acted upon. Otherwise, they portrayed Governor Blanco and Ray Nagin as fools. They may be that, but the fact is that they did about all that anyone should expect from a mayor or governor. The fact that the National Guard made the necessary requests should convince any reasonable person that the fault lies in Washington DC. In other words, no minds will be changed.
But assigning responsibility for the destruction of New Orleans will be difficult. As I commented elsewhere, presidents are responsible for everything that happens on their watch. Except for George W. Bush. He's not responsible for anything. Just ask any Republican.
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