Saturday, September 3, 2005

Did we witness a military coup yesterday?

New Orleans waited for four days for the executive branch and FEMA to get off their butts and start helping them. Things got worse and worse. Then yesterday, the Army showed up and suddenly relief started getting through, the streets started calming down, and evacuees started moving out. Coincidence? Hardly. It almost looks like the military shoved the executive aside to start getting things done and saving American lives.

For the past four years, it has been implied that any criticism of the administration or its policies "hurts our troops." Yesterday, we saw the troops take action while the administration dithered. In addition to all the other stark lessons we're relearning from New Orleans, it should be clear to everyone that "support our troops" no longer equals "be nice to Bush." That was shattered at the steps of the convention center yesterday, as the troops pushed Bush aside to get help to Americans.


Jon said...

It's so cute how you look for anti-government conspiracies where there are none. It's like Rush Limbaugh in reverse!

You need a big panda hug!

The problem isn't the federal government here - state and local fucked this up. Not sure why they're not being held accountable here.

Joshua Trupin said...

Of course, Louisiana requested help from FEMA last SUNDAY. New Mexico offered National Guard help last SUNDAY. The federal paperwork held it up until Thursday. FEMA had no clue that there were 15,000 refugees in the convention center. All flights were suspended while Bush was in the region. FEMA is being run by someone with zero disaster relief experience. Louisiana had to bring in Clinton's FEMA director to help.

Everyone knows that the buck stops at Bush here. Even the National Review, Washington Times, and Fox News are turning on Bush. Finally, after five years, people are waking up to the fact that he's really a shit leader.

Peter Taylor said...



Jon said...

Was it FEMA that failed to request National Guard troops deploy? Was it FEMA that failed to force an evacuation of New Orleans? Was it FEMA that failed to push through budget over the past 40 years to expand and increase levee protection?

On the first part - you sorta have to ask for troops to get them.

What has the mayor done besides wail and hold his head in his hands? Not a whole lot, really. He's been begging for Guliani to run the local relief efforts because local government is incompetent.

If you can admit that all levels of government had issues here, I'll be impressed. I don't expect it, but I'd be impressed.

But Hurricane Katrina has raised a lot of questions that we as a nation need to answer. For example, why can't poor people swim?

Jon said...

Oh, and no doubt Bush is a shit leader. Pity the other side couldn't field a good enough candidate to make a dent in the red states. Good luck with that next time!

Joshua Trupin said...

Jon, you were just asking about FEMA and evacuations. What do you suggest the city do to evacuate everyone? Go house to house with guns? New Orleans is a stunningly poor city. Many, many people have no means of travel other than buses. Tourists were stuck there too - their flights were cancelled on Saturday, and the rental cars were all gone.

As for FEMA, they have made vast mistakes here, which is not surprising considering they're run by an incompetent. In addition to all the other stuff (like not knowing there were thousands of people at the convention center), Sen. Landrieu points out some interesting facts:

The U.S. Forest Service has water-tanker aircraft available to fight the riverfront fires. FEMA hasn't accepted.

Amtrak offered evacuation trains. FEMA hasn't accepted.

Medicine, comm equipment, and other items are being offered, and FEMA isn't acting on them.

But the most shocking thing of all was her statement that levee repair work has been STAGED for a Bush photo op. She was there with him yesterday, and there was a lot of activity at the breached levee. She went back today, and all the machinery was gone:

"Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment."

Oh, and the director of FEMA said on Monday that the evacuation had gone very well. See?

And why didn't the governor ask for assistance earlier? She did, last Sunday BEFORE the storm even hit. (PDF here.) She asks for "direct Federal assistance for work and services to save lives and protect property." How long did they diddle around before providing this?

Jon said...

Actually, as draconian as it sounds, you do take a level of forced evacuation to extract people from what is surely to be a complete and utter fiasco. You leverage your police, local and state, and you start moving people as much out of the direct path as you possibly can. Or you make it a choice and say, "You can come with us, or choose to stay. If you choose to stay you're more than likely die." Those who stay...well...that's the nice thing about choice, right?

Nothing FEMA could have done would have saved New Orleans. Nature decided N.O.'s fate for it. FEMA should be managing the aftermath and repair, and, as slow as it seems for a government agency it sure could have been a lot worse. What I don't understand (and you can help me better understand this) is why it seems that everyone - victims, state government, politicians, Jesse Jackson - has been pretty quick to point fingers upward without taking a hard look at the responsibilities and failure points at all the other levels.

Personally, I'd rather see people quit looking for the failure point and focus on the tactical resolutions to the problems.

How many families can you host in Montauk?

Jessica Trupin said...

So Jon, Josh and Peter (is he here?) - not to totally geek out, but this is called the hollow state - accountability, outsourcing, 'exploiting efficiencies' - something you've seen the horrific, extreme end results of in NO. Bush and that asshole of the universe, Norquist, have been on a mission to gut all government agencies, starting at the top, though it's actually been going on since the eighties. They've been shifting the burden to the states, which then have to decide whether or not to shift it to the municipalities. In NO, which is profoundly, notoriously (blue) corrupt, nothing trickles down. I'm guessing that virtually all social services are provided by churches and nonprofits.

So Josh, hate to say it, but I'm with Jon here. And Jon, I'm with Josh. As we said in Public Administration school, the answer to everything is: it depends. The policies of the federal government frame the house but the local government made the bed. If the evacuation really was mandatory, yes, they should've gone house to house and demanded that people go on the bus. But that would've taken some level of devotion to poor people and some level of competence to have the buses waiting.

And after hearing that horrible exchange on NPR with Michael Brown refusing to deal in "rumor", he needs to resign. He's a fucking embarrassment (as is my spelling). And I point directly at Bush because he failed at the one thing a leader needs to do in a crisis - be present. Instead of inhabiting the symbolic role that he inherited, we get his smirking 'everything's gonna be all right' as people are STILL sitting on their roofs, watching their loved ones die. It's been like a slow-motion train wreck, or one of those moments when you spill something, but see it happening. Shit. I could've done better, in a heartbeat, than that idiot at the head of FEMA. I mean that.

We can argue dates and facts all we like, but this is a majestic fuckup on all levels, local, state and federal.

Joshua Trupin said...

Just a couple of points here though. We're talking about New Orleans, and that's where the major focus is, but this was a disaster that hit four states. That's a federal issue, requiring federal coordination.

As much as the local and state goverments should've done, they did move out huge numbers of people. Of course, we have half a million homeless former residents of NOLA now, and that's something that the local NOLA government can't handle itself. Statewise, Blanco has often been a blubbering idiot over the past week, but even THAT'S better than what the feds have provided. And she hadn't specifically decimated the state's ability to respond the way Bush did to the feds' ability.

No matter what the local and state authorities have done or not here, the Department of Homeland Security still claims primary responsibility for the response to events like this. It's on their Web site:

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation.

Yes, local officials were overwhelmed. But let's not forget that the problem was not just in NOLA. They're getting all the coverage because we've never seen a major American city wiped off the map like this. But as of Monday, we have had to deal with what we were dealt - the shelters of last resort, and the hospitals, had serious, urgent needs and were abandoned. The Feds keep refusing offers of help. FEMA is keeping the Red Cross out. The National Guard is letting tourists and their luggage cut to the front of the evacuation lines. Rescue efforts are suspended while Bush is in town. Levees are being "repaired" as a photo op while Bush is there, then virtually abandoned again once he leaves.

As corrupt as the NOLA PD is, at least it's not going to be in charge when the disaster hits my home town. FEMA and DHS will be, and Bush has spent billions in setting up yet another Potemkin Village of an agency, claiming power over everything but having absolutely no basic competence. As a country, we are less safe now than we were five years ago, and that's directly at Bush's feet. Bush didn't fail here; you can't fail if you don't try.

Andrew Parsons said...

>Nothing FEMA could have done would have saved New Orleans. Nature decided N.O.'s fate for it.

Actually Jon, Nature decided the fate of the other areas in the four states affected by the hurricane.

Man decided the fate of N.O. when they decided to build a bathtub.