Thursday, September 08, 2005

The skinny on Mr Brown

Hey, kids, here's an interesting tidbit on Mr. Michael Brown, whiz-bang screw-up head of FEMA (via Rhodian Attic):
"Before joining DHS/FEMA, Brown was Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association from 1999-2001, a position from which he resigned under duress after an onslaught of lawsuits over suspensions he dished out to those accused of cheating at horse shows. While IAHA won the lawsuits, they were nonetheless taking a toll on the organization, and some faulted Brown's intransigence and imperious attitude (he was nicknamed "The Czar").

"Brown started his own legal defense fund before resigning, a move he said was necessary to protect his family's assets. However, some IAHA insiders claimed that this was what really led to his ouster. He raised money from breeders for the fund as well as IAHA, creating a conflict of interest. Also, his contract stipulated that IAHA was to pay all his personal legal expenses on top of his $100,000 annual salary, so some wondered why he even needed a personal legal defense fund. IAHA was so financially depleted it had to be merged with another equestrian organizati
on and thus no longer exists. "

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Deconstructing the Katrina response

Robert Scheer in a powerful op-ed in the Los Angeles Times makes an excellent argument when he points out that much of the debacle of the Katrina rescue effort was made possible by people, who, hating big government, have castrated its role of being the only agency capable of responding properly and effectively to truly major disasters.

In their rush to deconstruct Big Government, Republicans, in concert with big business, have will-nilly shredded agencies that require size to be even minimally effective, FEMA being in the forefront of those so targeted.

To add insult to injury, the blogosphere’s right wing has spent no small amount of words castigating people at the bottom tier of those responsible for responding to disasters as well as the disaster victims themselves. Apparently, it’s NO Mayor Fagin’s fault that he didn’t personally shore up the levees against the flooding, Louisiana Governor Blanco is to blame for not filling out the proper paperwork to formally request the assistance of FEMA or call out the National Guard (in reality, she did declare an emergency and she did request FEMA assistance, and she did it early), and the tens of thousands of New Orleans’ poor were solely to blame for being so poor that they couldn’t afford bus fare to leave the city, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.

But, folks, what’s a federal government for, if not to pick up the slack when a municipality or state can’t mobilize enough resources to respond to Nature’s own version of WWIII, especially a dirt poor state like Louisiana?

In point of fact, New Orleans did have a disaster plan in place, which relied on its effectiveness in large part on the integrity of the poorly maintained levees, the maintenance of which is the responsibility of the Corps of Engineers, a federal agency under President Bush’s authoprity. Evacuation is a resort of last measure, but, given the threat of a Force 5 hurricane, Mayor Fagin ordered it and hoped like hell the levees would hold. As for the evac itself, its effectiveness was greatly dependent on the assistance of large numbers of the National Guard, who were not available. Who’s fault is that?

In all deference to Mr. Scheer, this debacle is not the result so much of a downsized government as it is the result of plain incompetence on the part of under qualified government officials who were placed in their offices by the President. Had there been some degree of professionalism in the response to the Mayor’s and Governor’s cry for help, FEMA could have responded much more effectively, even with its mission compromised by its lack of proper funding and personnel. George Bush also has to share a large part of the blame by his seeming indifference to the slow response of the disaster relief efforts, as well as his overseeing the slashing of the budget of the Corps of Engineers and the reduction of FEMA’s role as first responder. As Chief Executive of this country, he should have taken over command when it became apparent to all that speed was of the essence.

In his croynism in appointing a non-professional to the head of FEMA, his lingering over ending his vacation, his seeming indifference to the lethargic response to the disaster, as well as his failure to take decisive action himself, he has shown himself to be incompetent to be President of the United States.

Update:
For a real timeline of the whole schmeer, go to Think Progress (includes links to major government responses).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Death March Continues

While the nation still reels over the shock of the massively incompetent response to the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the BushCo political machine has missed a step in its inexorable march toward the dictatorship of ultra-radical Republicans and their deconstruction of the federal government and civil rights.

Judge John Roberts is nominated to fill the vacant post of Chief Justice upon Justice Rehnquist’s death.

A new tax bill eliminating the so-called “Death Tax” (really an estate tax relieving the ├╝ber-rich of their fair tax share) is about to be slipped under the radar by Trent Lott.

Karl Rove is back on the spin, Swift boating the mayor of New Orleans, Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, the “liberal media” and anybody else they can think of to blame for the Katrina disaster relief mess except the present administration.

ExxonMobile is forecast to achieve their ambition of exploring and drilling in the Alaskan Artic Wildlife Refuge.

And while Dick Cheney may not be dead, he sure is missing in action.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I say let's point some fingers

Pres. Bush views damage from 2004's Hurricane Ivan

With more than enough blame to go around, some editorialists opine, let’s stop the finger pointing and get on with the recovery, let’s make plans for the future, let’s rebuild. Well, that sounds good, Americans are a can-do folk, after all, but may I suggest that as we clean up, as we rebuild, as we pull the bodies out of the rubble, try to find housing for the homeless, jobs for the jobless, and mumble excuses for the absolutely pathetic response on all fronts, we need to take notes as we go and name some names. Because if we don’t, this can and will happen again.

As you view the flooded city, the flattened buildings, the smashed boats and automobiles piled high like the toys of an angered child, note the bewildered looks on the faces of critical government officials and note well their pathetic excuses, their pleas of “we couldn’t foresee … we weren’t told about [insert well-known, well-documented facts here] … what people in what Superdome?

And when you’re done taking the notes, add up the human suffering, the property damage, the unbelievable amount of pain and human beings pushed to the ragged edge of existence, and take some time and dwell on it. Think about this mess. Make a list. And screw those chicken-hearted wimps who say because it’s everybody’s fault it’s nobody’s fault. Ask the hard questions and then let’s cast some blame, because blame is surely due.

And then ask yourself, given the results so far, if some terrorist had planted a bomb on a levee in New Orleans and blown it apart, flooding the city, or a biological weapon, or, god-forbid, a nuclear device, just what fucking kind of response would we have gotten from George Bush’s government?

If we had a parliamentary form of government, these people would be gone tomorrow.