Saturday, September 03, 2005

News that Makes Me Mad

Some of the many upsetting stories coming out of the Hurricane Katrina news reports are linked below. This isn't just about New Orleans or the Gulf Region - most of the population of the US lives somewhere vulnerable to natural disaster. Will FEMA and DHS be ready for the next big earthquake or, God forbid, terrorist attack? (FEMA head Brown seems to be out of the loop - maybe the country could chip in and get him a cable subscription, so he could watch CNN. )

The Big Disconnect in New Orleans
The disaster response: 'Magnificent' or 'embarrassment'?
Brown told CNN's "Paula Zahn Now" Thursday evening that federal officials only found out about the unfolding humanitarian crisis at the convention center earlier in the day -- despite the fact that city officials had been telling people for days to take shelter there.
Homeland Security boss Chertoff just said regarding the slow move-up of military to New Orleans: “We don’t ask them to pack up in 24 hours unless it’s a real emergency.” (I haven't found a MSM news report that says this yet).
Congress Likely to Probe Guard Response
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.
Why did help take so long to arrive?
"At the heart of the failure seems to be a breakdown in the relationship between national and local agencies. The authorities in the Louisiana state capital are increasingly at loggerheads with federal disaster relief officials over what to do with the thousands of people still trapped in New Orleans.

The authorities in Baton Rouge say they have tried to raise such problems with Fema representatives deployed to the city but were told all decisions had to be relayed to Washington. "They sent down Mike Brown [the head of Fema] for television interviews, but everyone else is really low-level," an official said.

Federal officials have defended their response. Michael Chertoff, head of the homeland security department, which has responsibility for Fema, said: "We are extremely pleased with the response of every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, to this terrible tragedy."
Guard Troops Descend on New Orleans
As reports continued of famished and dehydrated people isolated across the Gulf Coast, angry questions were pressed about why the military has not been dropping food packets for them -- as was done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami.

Bill Wattenburg, a consultant for the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one of the designers of the earlier food drop programs, said that he has lobbied the administration and the military to immediately begin something similar. He said he was told that the military was prepared to begin, but that it was awaiting a request from FEMA.
Pentagon to send 10,000 National Guard troops
The problem for Louisiana and Mississippi isn't how many troops are in Iraq, but rather the kind of soldiers who are there, said Dave McGinnis, a military analyst who specializes in National Guard personnel issues.

"It's combat brigades, which are the types of units you need in these situations," he said. Combat brigades — large, self-sustaining units of about 3,000 troops — have the vehicles, communications equipment and structure to cope best with a natural disaster. In Louisiana, communications and mobility are especially critical because most of New Orleans is without water, power and telephone service.
Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans? (because they were told to stay out)
Charity Hospital was not evacuated until late Friday. Now, as water and food are running out (or ran out days ago) many people are still trapped and dying.

• Meanwhile, the President visits the devastated region for a staged photo op.
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu:
“But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government.

(this visit halted delivery of three tons of food to St. Bernard Parish and Algiers Point until after Bush's departure. (scroll down to report by Michelle Krupa)).

(and from this German report, roughly translated: "correspondent Christine Adelhardt, who experienced Bush's visit to Biloxi, was shocked at the extent of the production of his appearance. With the president arrived vehicles for clearing debris and troops for searching for bodies, for which Biloxi had waited for days. They did not work however, where the victims were, but only provided a backdrop in more remote parts of town, she explained." (via metafilter))
Katrina was a test of the Department of Homeland Security, which has taken over responsibility 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" in response to "... a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency...". I don't believe they should receive a passing grade.

(guide to appropriate giving)

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