Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hey-Ho, Let's GO!

I took a day off from blogging to try and calm down. I was furious about Katrina and FEMA's "response" that I was ready to go nuts and just start printing anything and everything bad about it I could find, because I was willing to believe that it was ALL correct. So I took a day, let some dust settle, and saw what came up later.

There are new developments - some of them a little better for FEMA, Homeland Security, and Bush. But most just continue showing the feckless, incompetent group of thumb-fingered Keystone Korps we've come to see the last week.

Let's start with one of the more stunning ones: From The Moderate Voice's great aggregation of FEMA's misstep two-step, we see this allocation of all-important assets:

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

Yes, we may have people dying in New Orleans and a firefighting group working to exhaustion in a natural disaster, but PLEASE people, important stuff first:

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."

However, this fits the most important cry from FEMA during the worst natural disaster of our time, if not in our history:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top U.S. disaster official waited hours after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast before he proposed to his boss sending at least 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers, internal documents show.
Part of the mission, according to the documents obtained by The Associated Press, was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.

'cause, you know, God forbid anyone in the Bush Administration should look negative during this crisis. Then again, maybe we should admire the willingness of the Homeland Security people to take on this Atlas-like task:

Acknowledging that such a move would take two days, Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29.
Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged.

"See, this is the fault of the media and the Democrats. They made such a BIG DEAL when we jumped the gun over WMDs in Iraq and we just KNEW if Katrina turned out to be a nothing of a category 4 or 5 hurricane they'd be all over us again. So we waited to make sure it was a good and proper emergency before we did anything."

Brown's memo to Chertoff described Katrina as "this near catastrophic event" but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, "Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities."

"You know, when you're not too busy or anything like that. It's only near catastrophic event, after all."

The same day Brown wrote Chertoff, Brown also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments. Brown said it was vital to coordinate fire and rescue efforts.

"I mean, who coordinates things better than we do? Come on! 'sides, should things go wrong even with our wonderful and fast response, now we got someone to blame - see, THEY didn't ask for help! I mean, yes, they were ASKING for help, but they didn't fill out the right forms. How can FEMA and Homeland Security be expected to help without proper forms?"

Meanwhile, the airline industry said the government's request for help evacuating storm victims didn't come until late Thursday afternoon. The president of the Air Transport Association, James May, said the Homeland Security Department called then to ask whether the group could participate in an airlift for refugees

"Thursday's plenty fast! I mean, only New Orleans, Louisiana, and anyone watching TV knew what kind of cataclysm this were we supposed to know anything?"

Forget spinning straw into gold, this is spinning sh*t into a twenty-course banquet. The opening course will be explaining how "Brownie" was qualified for head of FEMA after, as The Moderate Voice links to:

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows. And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

What a perfect candidate to be in charge in case of natural disaster or terrorist attack - a person who oversaw horse shows. For now, it's the end product of all those horses being shoveled out as the President frantically attempts to keep his perfect record of never being wrong for anything.

What better way to keep that record intact then by overseeing the probe into FEEBLE - oops, FEMA - himself?

Stung by criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush yesterday promised to investigate his own administration's emergency management, then readied a request for tens of billions of dollars for relief and cleanup

Well, don't we all feel just peachy that Bush will get to the bottom of it? Maybe after all his investigating, Brown will find himself sporting a Medal of Honor, decorated with tiny little gravestones of all the people who died while FEEBLE dithered. Call it the Medal of Honor with the ClusterF*ck Wreath.

Okay, I did promise a few things that made FEMA look better, so let's go to them now. Balloon Juice has a good roundup of some rumors that were not true. The first deals with the levees and Bush cuts, which I also dealt with earlier, so I'll skip that one. Here's the others:

AndrewÂ’s latest gaffe involves the same rush tojudgmentt- a combination of knowing the facts before they are presented, a simple misunderstanding of how certain agencies and departments function, and a gut instinct that President Bush has just done something wrong. Andrew, yesterday:
"The military was prepared to help before Katrina hit, according to NorthComÂ’s Lt Commander. All they needed was a presidential go-ahead. They didnÂ’t get one."
A pretty damning charge- there were assets in place, waiting to rescue people and provide aid, and the President just dithered and did nothing.
Except it is completely false. This allegation comes from a wishful reading of a briefing by Northcom official Lt. Commander Paul Kelly, in which he stated the following:

...I won't post all of it, but there's a rather complete debunking of this one. However, a caveat - it is true that orders were given, but I have seen reports that the USS Bataan is being woefully underused - for example, it hasn't yet been giving out fresh water. So there's still some bad news mixed with the debunking here.

The next one could be more of the same:

Why on earth would FEMA reject a shipment of water to a site ravaged by Hurricane, in desperate need of relief? The answer, it seems, is that they didnÂ’t:
Sharon Weber of Wal-Mart called back. She said that last week, FEMA diverted those water trucks to “another location, which [FEMA] felt was in greater need than where they were headed.” Weber emphasized that Wal-Mart would not override any FEMA decisions made in emergency situations. So Broussard, who claimed that Wal-Mart’s aoutrighturtight rejected, was wrong. Based on Wal-Mart’s information, their trucks were taken where FEMA thought they were needed most. It would appear that the same story occurred with the Coast Guard fuel issue. Broussard said that FEMA wouldn’t release the fuel to Jefferson Parish – but surely that fuel went somewhere else it was needed. Thanks to Wal-Mart’s Sharon Weber for tracking down this information.

I may allow this is moving pieces to where they are better needed, but I'm gonna need a bit more proof, given many of the confirmed errors. However, the first story did have some subtexts missing, and John Cole has done a good job mentioning them.

The final one could be a HUGE one:

There were numerous reports of violence, rape, and murder taking place, and the responsible press has finally decided to investigate these stories and verify what actually transpired. Unfortunately, this sort of undertaking is left to the foreign press, as the American press is busy emoting elsewhere (or, in GeraldoÂ’s case, providing CPR to pets stranded by the flood):
But as time goes on many remain unsubstantiated and may yet prove to be apocryphal.
New Orleans police have been unable to confirm the tale of the raped child, or indeed any of the reports of rapes, in the Superdome and convention centre.
New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass said last night: “We don’t have any substantiated rapes. We will investigate if the individuals come forward.”
And while many claim they happened, no witnesses, survivors or survivorsÂ’ relatives have come forward.

This could be immense, given these cases being used as proof of total breakdown of a supposedly safe place.

So there you go. A couple of stories that make FEMA look a little better, and a lot that makes them look as bad if not worse. I report (from others), you decide.

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