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September 16, 2005

Cryin' won't help you, FEMA won't do you no good

Posted by Phil on September 16, 2005 10:10 AM

You know, far be it from me to defend Bar's remarks, and I do think she meant them in the obtuse and unfeeling way we think she meant them. But I've read and seen enough comments from displaced residents to allow that, although they surely don't prefer the Astrodome to their own homes, many of them are indeed grateful for the ticket out. They didn't have good lives, and simply putting together bus fare to start over someplace else wasn't possible before. They're staying, and not just because they'd be scared of hurricanes now.

That doesn't excuse a society that couldn't give enough of a begrudging damn to keep being wiped out by a hurricane from feeling like a lucky break. Just sayin'. Bar was so wrong, she was right.

So, how's her boy doing? I caught only a few opening moments of Bush's speech last night, but I think I've gotten the gist from analysis this morning. Bush nominally accepted responsibility, avoided sweeping rhetoric, and outlined vague rebuilding plans without saying where the money will come from or where it will go.

It's an outrage that Bush has already ensured that his friends who've been awarded no-bid contracts will be permitted to pay rock-bottom wages to the needful people who'll actually do the work. Presumably, as Republicans always assure themselves, "they'll be glad just to have a job." Just as this administration was absolutely the wrong one to take on nation-building in Iraq, it is the wrong one to take on the massive social and civil engineering projects that lay ahead in New Orleans and Mississippi. Taxpayer money will be spent and deficits will be run up, billions will line the pockets of Republican cronies and political supporters, and working people will have to satisfy themselves (as many have for years) with their leaders' superior morals and patriotism.

So, OK, that's outrageous. But this morning when I heard Bush say he was going to find out what went wrong with the federal government's disaster response and fix it, I blew up. This is not some political skullduggery of which he can feign ignorance and pretend to seek the truth. This is not a problem or a dysfunctional agency that he inherited. His administration fucked up FEMA: When he took office, it was a model of efficiency (at least relative to its history), and he fucked it up. And protecting us from and responding to disasters is the one thing his administration has staked its legitimacy on. When you consider that, and compare the response to Katrina with the foresight, efficiency, and generosity of FEMA's work through four hurricanes in Florida last year, it's enough to...

To make you wonder whether they draw any distinction at all between "crisis" and "opportunity," and how much of the former they'll allow (or calculate they can allow) in order to capitalize on the latter. Because they have an amazing knack for creating or countenancing disaster, and then cashing in like gangsters--financially, politically, and political-financially.

Again, the question is, are they epically incompetent and yet somehow blessed with a historically forgiving American electorate, or are they awesomely ambitious, Machiavellian geniuses?

Or, you know, just beneficiaries--half by design, half by luck--of a weird series of events and sociopolitical currents? Katrina, high gas prices, and our declining (if not already bottomed-out) prospects in Iraq have brought the Bush administration to its lowest ebb. Its only proactive agenda items, further tax cuts and Social Security reform, are floating face-down in the muck. After all this, will the neo-cons have to satisfy themselves with two Supreme Court justices and otherwise live with the wreck of their long-cherished ambitions? Or will Karl Rove, with the numb acquiescence of the public, the press, and a confoundingly hamstrung opposition party, once again pull his boy from the ashes of his own reckless arson?

Are we in the grip of criminal masterminds, or are the past five years just a bunch of stuff that happened?

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Yes, yes, yes, but one of John Kerry's Purple Hearts may have come from a self-inflicted wound.

Posted by: Anonymous at September 16, 2005 1:44 PM

amazing vitriol spewed here... where's the anger at the Mayor and Governor? oh yeah, that's right they're democrats...

doggone it. if'n that evil genius Bush hadn't hid all of them thar bus keys in his kitchen hutch, why I bet ol' Nagin woulda used them to evacuate all the folks in the superdome before they got all flooded out.

Posted by: Anonymous at September 16, 2005 9:29 PM

Nagin is not my mayor, Blanco is not my governor, but Bush is my president. That is why I focus my criticism on him. Definitely, Nagin and Blanco have mistakes to answer for in their preparations over the week/weekend prior to the storm. I, too, would like to know why those school buses were still parked.

But it's documented that, knowing they did not have the resources to handle the storm's aftermath, Blanco made the proper requests for federal assistance well ahead of the storm.

Do you believe there was a satisfactory federal response? Is this the disaster response you expected from the Bush administration, four years after 9/11? Did the Bush administration, individually and collectively, do all they could to save lives after the storm and the flood?

For me, the answer to all three is a loud, firm, "NO."

Posted by: pk at September 17, 2005 5:40 AM

oops, that 2nd comment was me. Not, "anonymous".

No, "Browny" and Bush didn't do all they could do, and FEMA blew it. When it's all said and done though, Nagin and Blanco are going to come off as the major shareholders in this debacle. By being ill-prepared and acting incompetently before and during the crisis they allowed a lot of human suffering to happen.

We can hope that FEMA and others have learned some powerful lessons through this.

Posted by: thp at September 17, 2005 8:28 AM