Sep 5, 2005

Competence Is Scarce, Once Again, In the Bush Administration

Some People Never Learn. How about the rest of us?
It's been more than a week since Katrina started its destructive path in the Gulf Coast. Its effects will be felt for years to come. We've had several days to assess the damage and the response of our government. The American people, like after September 11, 2001, have leapt into action with generous donations of all kinds to the victims of Katrina. But, those hard-hit people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were also victims of their government's incompetence, which may result in more deaths than any terrorist attack on US soil. If there were anyone who doubted that this government is incompetent [and the Iraq debacle hadn't convinced them already], then this is proof beyond any reasonable doubt.

By now we know a great deal about the events. Katrina was a hurricane 5 (very deadly & destructive), days before in hit the Gulf Coast states. The evacuation of New Orleans was given on Sunday, but the buses stopped running on Saturday. No National Guard troops mobilized, no provisions to evacuate the poor souls who couldn't leave the city, and no plans to deal with the impending disaster. While Katrina was destroying structures and lives, Bush was still on vacation; he found the time to strum the guitar with music stars, attend Senator McCain's birthday party, and didn't get back to DC until two days after Katrina was done. Meanwhile, Condie was shoe shopping in Manhattan, and Dick was hidden as usual. The Bush White House was paralyzed by debates on who should be in charge! Ah, how about FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and its no-emergency-experience appointed director? Well, he didn't learn about the levee break until two days later. Surely, the Homeland Security was more informed you may say. Wrong! Chertoff, its director, learned about the levee break 36 hours later too. Funny, the rest of us were better informed just be watching our television sets and listening to the radio!

What a lack of sense and sensibility by those in our government. I couldn't help but use some expletives against those officials who got in front of the tv, interview after interview, to congratulate each other on their response to this tragedy! [ including Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA]

In the first 48 critical hours, I saw only Coast Guard helicopters evacuating people from their rooftops. No National Guard present. No coordinated rescue efforts by the federal government, which must step in to help Americans during a catastrophe. We witnessed the worst abandonment of so many Americans by their government in such dire circumstances. We saw images of a Third World underdeveloped country being played in our backyard. We witnessed a country where its class & race situation revealed something ugly about America. Indifference can indeed be a weapon of mass destruction!

Our government failed us miserably. Of course we have a right to be angry and demand punishment of those responsible--though, some punishing we have to do ourselves via the ballot box next year and beyond. It is utterly unacceptable that incompetence may have cost more lives than the terrorists managed to kill in their World Trade attacks. Where is the so-called "culture of life"? Isn't our elected government responsible of safeguarding us? But, politics, again, is the determinant factor. Elections have consequences and people have to learn this. Voting for someone is not only a right but a responsibility too. The higher the office the more careful the voter must be. We can't vote for a president of these United States like we order a cheeseburger, or, for the person whose company we'd prefer over a couple pints of beer. There are important decisions to be made, decisions that affect us all!


Those who say a natural disaster shouldn't be used for a political gains, I say, why not? Some serious change should occur. We're talking about grave responsibilities here, not cheap shots. If the Republicans, the neo-cons, or whatever the hell those people are, argue for a limited and powerless government, and are the ones who gutted FEMA (and semi-privatized it), by slashing its budget and appointing a person with a ..fundraising experience, then why not? Why, if the same people take much of the National Guard equipment and manpower to Iraq, is it not appropriate to point the finger at those Grover Norquists who want the government "so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub"? How money is spent is dictated by the ideology, alliances, obligations of those in charge. If the people don't keep a short leash and a keen eye on their representatives, bad things happen. The role of the government is not a casual topic of discussion. Government is us, and it should act for the maximum benefit of the maximum number of people--at the very least!
Bush's decisions and priorities played a role in this disaster.

It's politics alright. It's a matter of priorities, and national emergencies have a way of revealing the priorities on the agenda of those in charge. Do you know what the Congressional Republicans discussed in a memo a couple days ago? To repeal the estate tax--or, in other words, how to preserve Paris Hilton's huge inheritance! Yeah! And, just as an icing on the cake, the new bankruptcy law is due to take effect, making harder for the average person to get a fresh start. The amendment to have some discretion in filling for bankruptcy because of loss due to a natural disaster was voted down (when this abomination of a law passed earlier this year and signed by Bush) along party lines!

This flyover presidency has been a disaster all along, especially after the ill-thought, planned & executed Iraq venture. But, even in the absence of such a wasteful and injurious effort overseas, those people in charge had already shown that they were incompetent. They had paid no attention to the warning of the previous administration and their own people about Al Queda. Those minions who've exhibited loyalty to Caesar above everything else were rewarded with medals and promotions, and fat corporate contracts. The philosophy and politics of the conservatives are bankrupting the country while putting our lives at a greater risk. OK, I'll admit, not all of us, because some of us have more means and may have no need for public services or federal assistance. Well, even this isn't totally true: those with the most want more, and want the government to give them more tax cuts, and give more rights to a corporation than an individual. You see, the looting had begun long before the breakdown of order in New Orleans!

A final thought, and a challenge to the ditto heads: How would this government protect us in case of a major terrorist attack, when it showed such an incompetence in the face of a natural threat known to us with a precise time & place several days in advance?

ADDENDUM: Since I posted this, I've been watching Bush officials saying absurdities, and the mainstream news media don't know (or bother to learn and challenge the inaccurancies) their stuff and keep repeating the lies of the Bush White House and their ditto heads. I've heard that the reason the federal government didn't intervene in time was because the local/state authorities hadn't asked.....
The facts are these: Louisiana Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency on Friday 26 (three days before Katrina touched LA) and sent a letter to president Bush to federalize the troops. Bush responded the next day saying he had done so. Case closed. FEMA is supposed to plan ahead, be on alert, and act immediately after a disaster--a disaster in the making for several days. Brown, its director, has no such planning experience. He was fired from his last job (as the head of some Arabian horses association), he grossly padded his resume, and his appointment showed the value Bush placed on FEMA. As a matter of fact, FEMA used to be one of the best-run & effective agencies (as shown after the San Francisco earthquake and other natural disasters), but its budget was slashed by the Republicans and incompetent people replaced professionals with experience within the agency. The neo-cons have been pushing for privitization of FEMA and other federal agencies. They hate government when it provides public services but they love it to give huge benefits and protect fat corporations. Halliburton [the same company that's mismanaged US property in Iraq while overcharging the American taxpayers] is being hired for cleanup operation in the Gulf Coast states.

17 comments:

Ammie said...

I've been watching the events of th past week with a real feeling of sadness and empathy for the poor victims of Katrina.

I was shocked and disgusted (as are so many people here) at how Bush showed such a cavalier and inhuman attitude to his own people at their most vulnerable. I simply couldn't believe it.

I simply don't believe that the catastrophe would have had less of an impact had the authorities not pulled their thumbs out of their arses faster and made an effort to send in help. If they could get the media helicopters in - they could have got relief helicopters in.

My thoughts are with all those affected by this.

Anderson said...

What a disaster! I feel shame that we witnessed scenes of an underdeveloped country here in the US! Natural disasters occur, but the true test is how we prepare for them and how we deal with the aftermath....

We failed miserably. Shame, shame!

Hugo Chavez said...

Venezuela (even after Pat Robertson's urge to assassinate its leader) offered cheap gasoline to aleviate the pressure of oil pricing in the US!

Geeshus said...

Excellent point: If we see such a devastation from a known-in-advance natural occurence, how would this government deal with the aftermath of a terrorist attack, like a nuclear or chemical strike?!!!

It's crazy. Heads must roll.

Almost Canadian said...

If this government does't fall next year, Americans will prove that they're stupid beyond belief!

Alanis said...

If anyone doubted that America distributes its wealth quite unevenly, then this disaster should open their eyes!

New Orleans was 2/3 blacks, and very poor. These people couldn't leave to escape Katrina iven if they wanted to.

Andros said...

Their poverty is only surpassed by the poverty of their neighbors next door--in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't you say that the Democratic gov. of Louisiana failed to mobilize its national guard? I don't know what the mayor of New Orleans could have done, but he shares some of the responsibility too.

Anonymous said...

She may share blame too, but we now learn that when she asked for federal help, she didn't do it "properly"... .like on some form or something! Ridiculous!

And, only the president can federalize national guard troops and send them to LA from other states....

Anonymous said...

The fact is that 40% of LA's NG units are overseas, and much of the heavy equipment of all NGs are overseas too

Anne said...

America has abandoned its poor and less priviledged. This is been the case for decades now. I find it amazing that so many "middle class" Americans complain about the poor this & that, while the fat corporations are feeding at the national trough.
WHile only under 1% of Americans have to pay the inheritance tax ("death tax" or, like you said, the Paris Hilton tax), it's a priority for the Republicans and many Americans support the repeal!

We see that public services are more necessary for the poor people. But, in the game of hypocricy and false Christianity, the poor deserve nothing more than our pitty.

Donations to the victims today are good and plenty, but if we don't deal with the underlying factors in class/race America, we aren't doing much anyway. This will happen again....

Andros said...

I'd add that America suffers casualties in the size of the World Trade attacks every 3 months...... it's those Americans who die because they don't have healthcare!

I'm not for a forced equality, but certainly the government has an important role to play in improving the lives of its citizens. Wealth is not created in the vacuum of space, but BECAUSE of certain conditions of the state! Therefore, no one creates everyone entirely on his own....

There has to be some more equitable distribution of our national wealth. Obviously, not everyone has the same skills and motivation, but certain goods should be given to everyone without further requirements, and those goods are: health care and education.

RB, NY said...

I agree it's a matter of politics.... and priorities. The neo-cons, and their conservative christians want to shape a corporatist America, where the "chose ones" rule by divine inspiration..... and when they have their doubts, several treatments in luxurious life are necessary....

Andros said...

I just wanted to clarify about poverty rates in New Orleans. Almost have of the children live below the poverty line (a family of 3 making less than $15,000/year). Their poverty is surpassed by the children of Mississipi. This is very regretable in one of the richest countries in the world.

We liberals are for science, and Darwinian evolution, but NOT for social Darwinism--which, for some people, is acceptable as a social order and the "survival of the fittest" in our society.

Even if the parents are responsible (and who can say this with such a certainty when the rules of the game are stacked against the poor) for the condition of their children--living in poverty that is--where is the so-called "culture of life" we've been hearing about from the Bible-thumbers and the Conservatives?!!

What services our rich country can afford (but doesn't give) to poor children? Healthcare? Education? We have a man-made disaster in this country, and its victims are more than Katrina's toll.

Anonymous said...

Finally, the national press, like the herds they are, can now be critical of the Bush administration.

Anonymous said...

Goodie, Bush put himself in charge of investigating the failures of his government to act (pro-act & react) to Katrina's devastating blow! Now, Dick came out of hiding to see the damage and lay blame. Right! It's disgusting!

Jack in the box said...

Did you see that ghoul of a person, Barbara Bush touring the Astrodome where many displaced people are, and saying something like, "these are already underprivileged people, so this is good for them"....