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Glare, Grouchy

[Politics] New Orleans

Okay. I haven't posted anything vaguely political in a while, and I'm going to cut part of this, but.

First of all, with the recent Red Cross scandals, there's been a push in some quarters of the the SFWA community to back the Salvation Army. One story in particular in support of them stood out, and I'm reprinting it here with permission.

Anne Bussell's comments on the Salvation Army:

My brother was one of the New Orleans homeless. He was staying at a Salvation Army Shelter. The day BEFORE Katrina hit, the Shelter managers put all the men in the program on a bus to houston.

Now his group is helping cook and distribute food to the other evacuees at the dome. Over the years The Salvation Army has taken care of David, saved him, housed him, put him on planes, been much more understanding than police officers. I trust trust trust them.

There have been other stories, too; basically, what it comes down to is that while the Red Cross is not a bad organization, they are bureaucratic. The Salvation Army has a history of simply going in and doing what needs to be done, without preaching or anything. Many people beyond Anne shared stories like this, or even of when they'd been in a bad spot (homeless or whatever) and had been taken in by TSA and cared for, regardless of religious belief and without preachiness or anything similar.

In addition, many of the housing/relocation groups are now so desperate they're looking for places to put displaced NO residents anywhere in the US.

Now, on to more vehement topics.

First of all, keep in mind that FEMA (the organization in charge of this) is one that Bush and his cronies said several years ago was 'never going to be needed' and was just 'bleeding the government.' (Even Jeb Bush countered that one, as Florida residents got more than a little peeved over the idea of dismantling FEMA.) So instead, we have FEMA headed by Mike Brown... a man who horse-knowledgeable people will recognize as the former head of IAHA (the part-bred Arabian horse registry). The man, in fact, who bankrupted IAHA... driving it into the ground through a combination of mismanagement and greed, until IAHA had to fold and the part-bred registry had to be folded into AHA (the purebred Arabian registry).

Anyone still unclear why FEMA's an impoverished, disorganized mess? Right. Moving on.

People are reporting that in order to speak to FEMA representatives in person, you have to call a 1-800 number and get an appointment. This is evidently causing no small amount of frustration and problems, as people show up to try and speak to FEMA folks and are turned away for not having appointments... because they have no PHONE SERVICE, and thus can't call to make one. (At least two people in the SFF.net groups have personally reported their family members having this experience.)

But it gets still better. Let's quote a little bit here.

There was a striking discrepancy between the CNN International report
on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and
reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged
event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point
Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after
the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others
which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves,
said ZDF.

...for more information (and links to the ZDF articles, for those who can read the original German), check out http://thecommons4change.blogspot.com/2005/09/more-bushco-tragedy-fakery.html

And lastly, though we've all posted it as many places as we can... if anyone's heard news from isik (Randy Barron), please, please let those of us who know him know? Last any of us heard he'd decided to ride out the storm. No one's had word from him since then, and he's not on any of the refugee lists.


Meantime, donating to the Red Cross is likely to have little effect on New Orleans' situation unless Homeland Security changes its position:


(This is not to say that there aren't other reasons for donating to the Red Cross, however, or that the Dept. Homeland Security doesn't have good reasons for barring the Red Cross from entry into the area. Does seem odd, though.)
Just a little FYI - there was a word there that you missed..

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

It might have been better if a stray piece of debris from Katrina had taken out the state government.. Every story that comes out seems to come right back to local authorities.
It might have been better if a stray piece of debris from Katrina had taken out the state government.. Every story that comes out seems to come right back to local authorities.

Bull. Shit.

Sorry, but, seriously. Look back at, oh, say, 2003. You know this little Homeland Security department? 2003 was when the /Federal/ Homeland Security department was explicitly given the mandate to go in and deal with crisis situations 'of national significance' on *solely* the orders of the president or Congress. That went into effect March of 2003. (I'm in Calgary right now, or I'd go dig up a link from my files at home.) It also specifically names FEMA to deal with disaster relief.

Okay. It's 2005 -- well after March, 2003 -- and this happens. Under the very mandate given to the federal Homeland Security department and its subdepartment, FEMA, they should have gone in. Congress or the president should've gone 'whoa, okay, let's get moving.' Instead, they sat around waiting for someone in a state which barely had communications capability left to fill out forms in triplicate asking 'gosh, could we have some food?'

If the federal government had done that, I'd actually feel a little better about giving up my rights to this whole Homeland Security / Patriot Act mess. But instead... we got nothing. This was Homeland Security's chance to prove, gosh, it can do stuff. But instead, all we have is, 'gosh, we didn't know if they wanted food because someone hadn't filled out forms in triplicate.'

Sure, the state government made some mistakes. But they also have a bit of an excuse... a big chunk of their state was in absolute chaos. That doesn't forgive 'em. But if you think that the federal government is blameless and 'every story that comes out' seems to come right back to local authorities... I'm sorry, but I really have to disagree.

(As for the state Homeland Security department? This one, I grant I'm less sure on, but don't they have to follow guidelines and process set down by the federal Homeland Security department? If not, then that's just a bad on LA for the Red Cross thing. But I stand by the belief that the Federal government really, really screwed the pooch on this one.)
Ok, I don't mind disagreements at all. State Homeland Security departments answer to the governor - no state is required to have one, but every state does because of the huge amounts of money poured into that. The federal department has no control over the local one.
Fair enough, then; the Red Cross one is on LA's head, not the federal government. But I still disagree that "every story that comes out seems to come right back to local authorities."

Local authorities may have dropped the ball, but the federal government had a specific mandate to come in and pick this up. They declared it was /their/ responsibility as of two years ago to deal with any crisis of 'national significance.' They dropped the ball on this. And it's really bad because this is /precisely/ what they've been saying for years 'oh, you better believe in us because if bad things happen, the other guys can't protect you. Oh, we're the ones who can fix everything and keep you safe, just surrender a few more of your rights.'

Now along comes a crisis, and they didn't keep anyone safe. So, yes, I'm angry.
Be angry. I'm angry. Department of Homeland security controls the federal response. The state controls the National Guard response. It is called sovereignty. Sometimes it results in incredible cluster fucks like this one. Too many resources were utilized to satisfy television broadcasts, too many chiefs. The governor didn't want to cede command to FEMA (as the point agency for DHS) because doing so would federalize the national guard troops that then couldn't be used for police actions like quelling looters.

(The exception is for drug enforcement, terrorism or anything having to do with nuclear substances. Honestly, to prevent this screwup, I'd say carpet bomb the city with smoke detectors and call it a nuclear attack...)

Hopefully this will be addressed and fixed when Congress examines this. Then again, God willing, we'll hopefully never have need to worry about a disaster the size of fucking England. Ghads, I wish that we would have sent everything we had in there. National guard troops take 72 hours to raise, to give our citizen soldiers the time they need to settle their personal affairs before deployment. Army troops don't have that problem, but can't send federal troops into a state without invitation...unless you declare martial law on a federal level and even then it is questionable without a declaration of war...

You know, I really think that we need to just line up the lawyers.. Ahh, bah.

Oh, and Bush haters may get their wish for impeachment.. The 82nd might not have legally been deployed into New Orleans. Absolute clusterfuckofstupidfuckingcivilwareralawsthatkillpeople.

Actually, here: http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/theme_home2.jsp

That's the (federal) Department of Homeland Security's own website. Let me quote from that page, which went up in 2003. Bold-text emphasis therein is mine.

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

So. Even though the state government has a large share of the blame in this, I'm sorry, but the federal government's slow and lackluster response is inexcusable, since even the DHS' own website says that this is /their/ primary responsibility. Not that of state governments, or any other department of the federal government.
the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility

Valid for .. drug enforcement, terrorist attack or nuclear incident. Plain old natural disasters weren't included in the exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act.

This debate over federal versus state control of the military relief mission was triggered as officials began to realize that Hurricane Katrina exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior homeland security officials, the hurricane proved to them the failure of their plan to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated and unable to act quickly until reinforcements arrive on the scene.


The plan was designed to defend against terrorists, not hurricanes big enough to cover three states. I used local landmarks to put it in my perspective, perhaps this will help... Seattle to Portland, most everything within direct line of sight of the coast was destroyed. The city of Seattle has to be evacuated.. Wait, this scenerio sounds familiar...

Ahh, yes, Mount Rainer, pyroclastic flows endanger Seattle down a valley.. I'm sure you can correct the errors. I'm sure this has been featured on your local news time and time again as being the 'big one' for Seattle. This fits rather well. What is the evacuation plan for your city? Do you know which routes to take? Are there contraflow plans to enable more people to evacuate? How about buses for the poor?

And how many would evacuate out of your city were the USGS to predict that the 'worst case' scenerio was about to happen in 48 hours? 50%?

I live in Los Angeles. We have the San Andreas. An earthquake isn't anywhere near as devastating as a super hurricane or pyroclastic flows. But I'm ready to evacuate (yeah, like we'll get a real warning) or survive for the time it will take for someone to get around to me. And so long as I'm not in immediate danger (not being flooded, not on fire, not being buried in a building) I know I'm low on the list for help. I know that there aren't any huge warehouses of MREs waiting for distribution here. Do you know the conditions up there?

This is a real wakeup call for the nation in confronting the 'doomsday scenerios' that we've all been presented with no matter where we live. This has to be addressed.

My point in all of this is that we haven't addressed this. We addressed terrorism. We've addressed nuclear war in the past. We have never honestly addressed how to evacuate a major city, how to get all the poor or infirmed out. Even evacuating a hospital is a major undertaking and in the event of a big disaster, you don't have one, you have ten or twelve to evacuate at the same time.

This is why I say that this isn't the time to point fingers. This is the time to look, watch, and see where the system is screwed up and then fix it for the next time. Yeah, people are going to die because of this. How many people might have had a better chance of living had the 746 million that was being spent to improve the locks on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans been instead spent on raising the fricking levees? The 17th Street canal had recently been reinforced as part of a bridge project, yet that reinforcement failed. What would it have taken to prevent that?

That's what needs to be looked at. And fine, it's all Bush's fault. He's a one man government. Fine, toss him in jail (always wanted to see what President Cheney might elicit... Or maybe a twofer and we could experience President Frist...) But when the political fallout is done, your city is still at risk. My city is still at risk, and we're screwed if things aren't changed.
My point, which you keep missing, is that the Federal government has been harping *ever since 9/11* that we are at risk from terrorists, disasters and so on, and that *only they* can protect us. That we must give up established rights, in the name of them more effectively and efficiently protecting us.

And now, they sent the National Guard to Iraq. The National Guard are not supposed to be used in overseas wars, they're intended to stay at home and handle things here. The problem was not that the National Guard couldn't be mobilized, the problem was that much of the National Guard is *on the other side of the world at present*. It is not the state of Louisiana which declared war on Iraq, but their National Guard were sent over there.

The state slipped up, yes, but the federal government failed worse. They spent years making us promises and they did not keep them. If they had not made those promises the *focus* of their administration in many ways, it would not be such a spectacular failure. Worse still, the head of FEMA has lied through his teeth; one day, claiming that they had only just learned that people were trapped in an area, then the very next day claiming those same people had been being fed by FEMA the entire time.

I would be happy NOT to point fingers. But we have the federal government going, "It's not time to point fingers. It's not time to point fingers... but hey, look, over there, it's the fault of all the local governments!"

And there's a point at which you have to say, this administration has screwed up repeatedly. Warnings about an imminent terrorist attack went ignored, and then we had 9/11. Okay, they were settling in, we can give them that one. But then they went into Iraq under false pretenses, and did so KNOWINGLY according to the Downing Street memo. Even if they went in *unknowingly*, they went in on sketchy and faulty intelligence... but oh, no, it's not Bush's fault. It's the fault of the intelligence agencies. And now we have a disaster of dumbfounding scope, and people have been left to die... and the federal government is making excuses again. 'Someone didn't sign papers.' 'Oh, there was a failure in communications.' And so on.

Not the time for finger-pointing? It's the time to call for some damn accountability. Saying that things need to change, that plans need to be made better? Yes, in fact, you're right. But that does not, in ANY way, excuse the federal government for their gross incompetence. And they must not be allowed to continue making excuses.
Since we can't control the weather, there was no method to prevent the hurricane from hitting our southern shores after hitting a fair portion of Florida. I'm not about to blame the government for the largest hurricane in fifty years beating the crap out of our southern states.

The issue has been the response, so I'll try to stay focused there.

Issue: Much of our National Guard is overseas at the moment. Yes, 140,000 of 450,000 National Guard units are overseas. For Louisiana, these units consist of linguistic units, combat support units and a heavy mechanized division. (Big heavy tanks, guys who speak arabic, medical support, for those not into milspeak.) It is the entire 256th Infantry division, an organic part of the 2nd Division based out of Fort Polk. 3,700 troops, approximately one third of Louisiana's Army National Guard, and about one fifth of Louisiana's National Guard and Reserve troops. Not deployed overseas is the 61st Troop, 225th Engineer, 204th Air, 199th Leadership and 62nd WMD-CST divisions.

Does this affect things? No. Reporters from every major news outlet has tried to find a connection, but no one can figure out how to make a heavy mechanized division into something useful for deployment in Hurricane Katrina. Most of the bridges left and the semi-sunken roads in the affected regions couldn't stand up to the heavy treads of the tanks and you generally don't send howitizers into civil disturbances or for relief efforts. Alabama's heavy mech division is also in the Gulf, whereas Mississippi's heavy armor remains in their depot, none of the units activated for hurricane relief. Same with Texas and Arkansaw. In fact, no state has activated their heavy mechanized divisions to respond.

The 61st and the 225th along with the 199th have traditionally been the state responders to disasters within the Gulf coast region. These units were activated in response to the hurricane. But what about additional equipment that a heavy mechanized division has at hand - generators, light armored vehicles, transport vehicles? Again, no state has called in their guard units to retrieve this equiptment from their heavy mechanized divisions because such divisions need to maintain their supplies in case they're needed as a mechanized division.

Issue: The National Guard shouldn't be overseas. I guess they shouldn't have been in Haiti, Kosovo, Somolia, Kuwait, etc either, by that argument. However, such decisions are reserved to congress to decide as the constitution vested such decisions with them.

Issue: Louisiana isn't at war with Iraq. What, Louisiana isn't a state anymore? I see their senators and represenatives on television, I heard they voted for president.. The constitution doesn't allow states to declare war; that power is vested in congress, who did declare war against Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Guard can be federalized to fight in wars, the present organizational structure for the military has half active duty, half reserve and National Guard, with active and National Guard units as cohesive units. Feel free to contact your senators and represenative as well as your president to express opinions to change this.

The focus of the administration was homeland security after a devestating terrorist attack. You know, guys with agendas, not mega hurricanes taking out multiple states at the same time. The National Hurricane Center gave a two day warning of the impending doom heading towards the gulf coast and the National Weather Service provided updates every three hours about just how much shit was about to hit the fan. Seems like they fulfilled the idea about giving people proper warning.

The director of FEMA lied about the victims who were waiting at the convention center for what reason, exactly? I'm still trying to puzzle this out. It might be because he was told something different. GIGO.

Oh, nevermind, we're back to the Downing Street Memos. And I counter with Able Danger, and you come up with some equally witty response, and we're back to the same circular political firing squad that we were in before this disaster. Nothing changes, everything is a stupid game of politics, and I'm removing my piece from the board.
I figured that state was understood, given that I supplied the source.
There were a few bits on the local news down here about how last year, Miami-Dade county was given something like $28 million dollars in FEMA aide on claims that FEMA never bothered to check out. The majority of them were false - some listing 'snow/ice' damage. In. Miami. Anyone who has seen a map of FL can see that Miami is pretty south...and one of the least effected areas during the four hurricanes we were hit with last year. So...yeah. The Sun Sentinal still has the article up:

What I can't figure out is what reason FedGov has for, for all I can tell, systematically destroying bits of society... they've all but killed the major airlines, and now they're destroying as much of Southeastern Louisiana as they can.... they're also, come to think of it, systematically destroying the Army.... it makes no sense.
isik reappeared on LJ today. He's alive and well and is doing volunteer work in his area.

One of bluekitsune's posts had him commenting in it.

I also heard he showed up on Firan today, too.

(insert random little *happydance* here)
I sort of understand why the fed government is barring a lot of the relief groups entry into New Orleans: it's dangerous. Although that's what a lot of the volunteers expect.

There's been a lot of groups wanting to go in and help, and there are a lot of people who refuse to leave, in part because of their animals. I've already received an email about that from some people.

Oh, and also, donating to the Red Cross and other groups WILL help the people of New Orleans, but not necessarily the ones in there right now. The Red Cross is running shelters all over the place. They're actually largely in charge of the shelter's here in town. Yes, even the Astrodome and Convention Center. Good news is that here, the donated goods they've received have almost filled them to capacity with all they need, so now the need is money... until the city finds them some warehouses.

The guy in charge of fema? Idiot. I fully expect him to lose his job over this. Homeland Security isn't much better, or any better, really. Let's add that many people who DO have phones also don't have long distance. I talked to one of our guys who works in Lafayette and Houma on Friday. He has a telephone and power. He does not have LD, and he can't dial toll-free numbers.
The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

The feds didn't make this decision, it was made by the state of Louisiana.
I'm confused by this reply? I know that; nowhere did I claim the feds did. But I still think there's been a massive failure at all levels.
And ah, now I see where you're pulling that, rereading. But yes, I KNOW that. It was widely misreported in quite a few papers, though, which accounts for the confusion.