Monday, September 05, 2005

Washington Not Linked to Reality

I really liked Bob Schieffer's commentary yesterday morning on Face the Nation:

Finally, a personal thought. We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America’s history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens. Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.

As the floodwaters rose, local officials in New Orleans ordered the city evacuated. They might as well have told their citizens to fly to the moon. How do you evacuate when you don’t have a car? No hint of intelligent design in any of this. This was just survival of the richest.

By midweek a parade of Washington officials rushed before the cameras to urge patience. What good is patience to a mother who can’t find food and water for a dehydrated child? Washington was coming out of an August vacation stupor and seemed unable to refocus on business or even think straight. Why else would Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert question aloud whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt? And when he was unable to get to Washington in time to vote on emergency aid funds, Hastert had an excuse only Washington could understand: He had to attend a fund-raiser back home.

Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over.


Tony Arnold said...

I hope everyone is waking up to the fact that our government is spending our money like it was for penny candy, but is failing miserably to meet the needs of the nation. I do not believe government is responsible for everything or fixing every problem. But I do demand they use the resources given them to the best of their ability, wisely, and in good stewardship.

I stand in line at the airport for more security. I cannot get a boarding pass because my name has been put on the government watch list for some reason. You cannot be removed, and if you call the Federal government about this homeland security question you will wait on the phone for an hour on more to talk with someone who is not a citizen. The first time I called, after 45 minutes on hold, I got someone that spoke such poor english and understood it so little we had to terminate the call. My national security was in her hands?

Does this relate to the blog. Yes. We have spent billions on these sham systems to make the nation safer. But the same administration that put this system into place could not get its own citizens drinkable water for 5 days after a disaster they saw coming. Are we safer? Are we more Christian and moral Mr. Bush under your flag waving, God-wrapped rhetoric?

We are spending $200 billion a year to kill people in Iraq, but we cannot rescue our own citizens from a storm that should have had a plan in place for at least the last 25 years. In addition, the soldiers we send to kill are being killed because we don't supply them either. During WWII, the Truman Commission was prosecuting such action.

I could go on and on.

This is criminal. President Bush could easily be indicted by the Congress and Senate for derelicition of duty in serving the country. He swore an oath to serve, protect, defend.

I am sorry if this sounds like a rant. It is not meant to be. It is just that this white, middle-aged, middle-class, southern Protestant Christian who voted for President Bush twice is angry that he allowed himself to be duped. I now demand some truth, accountability, and responsible action.

I have only myself to blame I guess. I got the government I deserved--or at least voted for. To my fellow citizens, I apologize.


I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because 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? -- Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker, Republican. Sept. 2, 2005.

Jana said...

"How do you evacuate when you don't have a car?"

Thank you, Mr. Schieffer, for asking that question. How the heck do you evacuate when you don't have the means?

JMG said...

Don't hold back there, Tony. Tell us how you really feel.


Tony Arnold said...

Sorry. I do tend to hold back too much. I was too harsh with the statement of of criminal and dereliction of duty. I am ascribing to criminal negligence what could easily be ascribe to incompotence.

But I do still have the question: is self-serving greed involved in the Presidents policies, decisions, and appointments to the extent that suffering of the people he swore to serve is increased?


JMG said...

It would appear so, Tony. Google the terms "Bush cronies" and see all the articles that detail the extraordinary amounto of money that his friends are making off of the war effort.

Feel free to rant here any time.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG, check out this link and read one soldier's reality Will's Reflections.

This young man goes to my church, his father is an elder.

Pretty sobering, especially some of the pictures.

In keeping with the purpose of this post, a key reason the response to Katrina was poor from a Federal standpoint, is that a large portion of the personnel and resources that would normally be used have been deployed to Iraq. Specifically trained national guard personnel and national guard equipment.


JMG said...

True. I think several state officials from the Gulf area mentioned the fact that most of the guard was away in Iraq. How can the states' governors make use of their states' guard units in an emergency if they are all overseas?

Tony Arnold said...

Excerpts from NY Times Column "Magic Marker Strategy" by John Tierney, Sept. 6, 2005

We can learn more by listening to men like Jim Judkins, particularly when he explains the Magic Marker method of disaster preparedness.

Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.

Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.

"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.

What the city needed most was coldly effective local leaders, not a president in Washington who could feel their pain. It's the same lesson we should have learned from Sept. 11 and other disasters, yet both liberals and conservatives keep ignoring it.

The liberals bewailing the insensitivity and racism of Republicans in Washington sound like a bad rerun of the 1960's, when urban riots were blamed on everyone but the rioters and the police. Yes, the White House did a terrible job of responding to Katrina, but Democratic leaders in New Orleans and Louisiana didn't even fulfill their basic duties.

In coastal Virginia - which, by the way, has a large black population and plenty of Republican politicians - Mr. Judkins and his colleagues assume that it's their job to evacuate people, maintain order and stockpile supplies to last for 72 hours, until federal help arrives. In New Orleans, the mayor seemed to assume all that was beyond his control.

They said their cities couldn't survive without help from Washington, which proceeded to shower inner cities with money and programs that did more damage than the riots. Cities didn't recover until some mayors, especially Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, tried self-reliance.

Mr. Giuliani was called heartless and racist for cutting the welfare rolls and focusing on crime reduction, but black neighborhoods were the greatest beneficiaries of his policies. He was criticized for ignoring social services as he concentrated on reorganizing the Police and Fire Departments, but his cold effectiveness made the city a more livable place and kept it calm after Sept. 11.

Yet Mr. Bush, with approval from conservatives who should have known better, reacted to Sept. 11 by centralizing disaster planning in Washington. He created the byzantine Homeland Security Department, with predictable results last week.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, often criticized for ineptitude, became even less efficient after it was swallowed by a bureaucracy consumed with terrorism. The department has spent billions on new federal airport screeners - with no discernible public benefit - while giving short shrift to natural disasters.

The federal officials who had been laboring on a one-size-fits-all strategy were unprepared for the peculiarities of New Orleans, like the high percentage of people without cars. The local officials who knew about that problem didn't do anything about it - and then were furious when Mr. Bush didn't solve it for them. Why didn't the man on the mound come through for them?

It's a fair question as they go door to door looking for bodies. But so is this: Why didn't they go door to door last week with Magic Markers?


JMG said...

Good article. We have placed too much confidence in a federal government who is supposed to take care of us, but then again, they seem to perpetuate that thought in us.

In the comments from my previous post "Dumb Questions," Kevin has just brought out some interesting info that references back to what we were saying earlier about the "self-serving greed involved in the Presidents policies, decisions, and appointments." Apparently, a subsidiary of Halliburton is going to be doing the cleanup of military bases in the Gulf coast region.

JMG said...

Apparently I'm right about the federal government perpetuating the idea that they will take care of us in a natural disaster. The Department of Homeland Security says that it will assume primary responsibility...for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation.

Tony Arnold said...

I guess the DHS does not understand the word primary. Because if they assumed primary responsibility for Katrina, they are not owning up to their complete failure.

If that is primary responsible action, then God help us all.


Tony Arnold said...

The Halliburton nes is just another nail in the coffin. Is there no shame?


Ayatollah Mugsy said...

As a canine who occasionally watches the tube, I am offended by this comparison in Mr. Schieffer's commentary:

"Official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality."

JMG said...

Actually, one of my Jack Russells took offense as well.