Thursday, October 25, 2007

"There will be help ..."

"... for the people of California," said President Bush, as quoted on CNN today.

That's what you said about New Orleans, Mr. Bush. Call FEMA for help, you said.

Yeah, right.


  1. Anonymous7:43 AM

    We saw FEMA in action out in the Western Pacific when typhoons had ravaged islands. Guam or a tiny outer island in the Marshalls, FEMA was the proverbal Johnny-on-the spot. They were on scene as soon as it was possible to get there, once the closest airport had reopened. They were easily accessable and had people to help folks fill out forms. The checks arrived promptly to allow people to rebuild. They even instituted requirements to ensure new stuctures were typhoon proof, which appeared to challenge the weather gods to even greater efforts the next time round. Still FEMA did try. Equally important, FEMA succeeded the majority of the time.

    I was in the USA for Katrina, and I was shocked at FEMA's ineptitude. It will be interesting to see how well they do this time round in California, considering there are folks on the East Coast who still haven't been helped.

  2. Once upon a time, FEMA was a cabinet level post staffed by people with actual experience in disaster recovery, and not a subordinate division of the Department of Homeland Insecurity staffed by political cronies. We're rid of the horse show arranger, but it isn't clear that his replacements are any better, as witness the fake news conference the other day. Even Chertoff couldn't stomach that.

    I don't think the government can win here. If they fail to support Southern California after the fires, they piss off everybody, including a lot of Republican voters. If they do support Southern California as a disaster agency should, they confirm everyone's suspicion that federal disaster assistance is only available to the rich and white. A lot of people already think that.

  3. This illustrates a point about the spoils system in American politics, and the public's common misconception about how politics influences, even dominates Federal agencies, a trend that has been moving upward in recent decades.

    People tend to associate Federal agencies with the mandate they were created to follow, but frequently these agencies become public relations tools in the hands of political strategists. During the Reagan years, James Watt--a corporate lawyer who regarded the EPA as his enemy--was appointed head of that agency--an oxymoronic situation if there ever was one. This kind of appointment has the effect of gutting the agency from the inside out, and the resulting "failure" of the agency is then used to support de-financing PR campaigns, and negative, "anti-government" agendas. Meanwhile, the people who actually do the work in these agencies--the secretaries, research experts, outreach specialists, etc.--have their careers trashed and the efforts undermined, unless they're willing to play ball.

    This has happened in countless Federal agencies and departments over the years. Cheney and company forced the CIA to pretend that Iraq presented a threat, based on fake intelligence and misinterpretation of evidence. Then, when that argument was shown to be phony, Cheney and company blamed the CIA, for doing precisely what they had forced it to do in the first place.

    This takes cronyism to a new level of corruption, in which agencies are actually working against their mandate, in order to "prove" that they're ineffective. Much more deadly than simply criticizing their mandate. "See? It doesn't work = so don't do it."

  4. Anonymous3:30 AM

    hedera, I hope you're OK after you felt the earth moving last night - and, no, don't tell us it was your husband that made it happen again.

  5. Believe it or not, cooper, I didn't even feel it. I was in a Thai restaurant with a bunch of the girls from the water aerobics class, and someone said, "That was an earthquake!", and I remember saying, "What earthquake?" I would have said it depends on where you are, but the woman who said it was an earthquake was sitting across the table from me! However, I was sitting on a bench built into the wall, and she was sitting on a chair out in the middle of the floor - that's the only reason I can think of why she felt it and I didn't. Next to a solid structural member is where they recommend you stand, hence the standard advice to head for a doorway. Certainly no damage to the house, and thanks for the concern.