Note From a Madman
Thursday, September 22, 2005
UNPREPARED FOR DISASTER
It's a thought most Americans have had since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans: *What would happen if a natural disaster or terrorist attack hit my town?*
If the response from the Bush Administration to the Gulf Coast both before and after Katrina struck is any indication, any disaster in the U.S. would, under the current structure, meet with the same delayed, ineffective and ill-prepared response. Government would once again fail to meet the needs of the populace. In all probability that failure would come from all levels of government: local, state and most alarmingly, federal.
When President Bush spoke to the nation about the Gulf Coast tragedy on September 15th, he talked mainly about the rebuilding effort. He did not formalize a plan for fixing what went wrong with federal disaster response. Nor did he suggest a new plan for a disaster of different proportions in a different place under different circumstances.
What's more, on September 16th, at the national prayer service being held for the victims of Katrina, Bush lay blame for the tragedy not on himself, the Office of Homeland Security or FEMA nor even on Louisiana officials as he had tried to do previously (until it was revealed they did everything to the letter of the law he instituted). Instead Bush blamed God, both for the hurricane itself and for the fact that the poor were most traumatized by the destruction.
In 2005"acts of God" can no longer be invoked when something disastrous happens. While we cannot control the weather, we can track it and prepare for the exigencies caused by it. Since 9/11 most Americans thought the federal government was doing just that: preparing for major–and imminent–disaster. However, most of us thought it would come in the form of terrorism, not in the form of a hurricane.
Yet if the government is unprepared to respond to a crisis it *knows* is imminent, knowing exactly where and when it will strike, what exactly will happen if there *is* a terrorist attack? How can that eventuality possibly be addressed? Will the unfortunate citizens of wherever that attack occurs simply be on their own as were the citizens of New Orleans for five days until the federal government finally responded to their plight?
The President didn't say.
In his September 15th speech, Bush ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review emergency response and evacuation plans for the nation's 50 largest cities. But mayors of those cities said their plans are already on file with the Department and are updated annually as a condition of receiving millions of dollars in grants. New Orleans had such a plan and so does Philadelphia. But will the plans actually work in the event of a crisis? We all know New Orleans's plan–reliant as most city plans are on federal response–did not work
The Department of Homeland Security awarded $829 million this fiscal year in Urban Area Security Initiative grants, which require cities to outline emergency capabilities, challenges and preparedness goals on their funding applications. Since 2002 FEMA has requested that cities regularly update their emergency operation plans. However, critics note that the department has focused on helping local and state authorities improve response measures without focusing on the federal government's role, which as New Orleans indicated, is vast and essential.
In his September 17th address, Philadelphia Mayor John Street discussed the preparedness of the fifth-largest city in the U.S. and second-largest port on the East Coast. He was regretful but unequivocal: It would be unlikely the city could evacuate hundreds of thousands of people in the event of an incipient disaster like the hurricane and even less likely in response to a terrorist attack.
Is that regret outlined in the plans filed with the Department of Homeland Security?
Street's acknowledgment and the concomitant concerns of City Council, are, after New Orleans, not surprising. Yet they are unnerving. What exactly could and should Philadelphians do in an emergency? Where would millions of us go if asked to evacuate? Consider what the Schuylkill Expressway, I-95 and Rt. 202 are like during normal rush hour traffic when only ten percent of our population is driving. What would happen here, or in another metropolis like New York or Los Angeles, if we were all asked to evacuate? In many densely populated urban areas like Philadelphia, New York and Chicago the majority of people don't have cars. How would those without vehicles leave the city?
For those who could not evacuate, the problems are manifold. Philadelphia, like many port and coastal cities, is built from the water out. If Philadelphians were sent to the various sports arenas in the city all but the open-air stadium at the University of Pennsylvania and the Liacoras Center at Temple University lie at the mouth of the Delaware River. What's more, except for those two campus sports' complexes, the stadiums are very far from where most people in the city live; it would take an hour or more for people in Germantown, Mount Airy, Kensington, Frankford, West Philly and the Northeast to even get down to South Philadelphia. And that would be if public transit was running.
The same problems that plagued New Orleans would apply in Philadelphia, with additional concerns. Philadelphia is, according to a report issued right before Katrina struck, one of the top ten poorest cities in the U.S.–ranking seventh on the list. (New Orleans was tenth.) Thus the question of poverty would impact Philadelphia much as it did New Orleans, except Philadelphia has a population five times that of New Orleans. About half the city's population could not afford to leave.
Another issue big cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have to deal with which New Orleans did not is an enormous immigrant and non-English-speaking population. How does information get disseminated to these groups–Italian, Hispanic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Arab, Israeli, African and more? Is there a plan for those who can't just turn on the radio and understand what's going on?
When Hurricane Floyd struck the Philadelphia area in September 1999, it was the second costliest hurricane in American history (bumped to third by Katrina ousting Andrew from first place). It flooded large portions of the city and people had to be evacuated by boat from sections close to rivers, like Manayunk and Southwark. I-5 was shut down near Penn's Landing due to the flooding of Delaware Avenue and Columbus Boulevard. Mudslides hit the Schuylkill and closed down huge sections from City Line Avenue through Conshohocken to Gladwyn.
Floyd, two years before 9/11, should have been a wake-up call for FEMA and for the federal government. It took more than 18 months for many whose homes were condemned from the flooding to get help. And many living in flood-prone areas are still waiting for FEMA buy-outs.
The President's speech did not address the ongoing problems with FEMA and the Office of Homeland Security. Katrina displaced 1.3 million people, the largest number of displaced Americans since the Civil War. Three times that many would be displaced if a disaster hit Philadelphia
Many of those displaced by Katrina are living with relatives. Others have been temporarily relocated to shelters in Texas, Arkansas and other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Some are as far North as Philadelphia, as far West as California. Almost none have the resources to rebuild their lives with any immediacy; for that they are dependant on FEMA grants. But FEMA has yet to truly address the displacement, failing to help hundreds of thousands of survivors, according to local officials, evacuees and top federal relief officials. The federal aid hot line President Bush noted in his address cannot handle the number of calls coming in but no new lines have been set up.
Displaced survivors of Katrina as well as local officials in New Orleans have protested that FEMA's request that they register on line or via phone is nearly impossible. As of September 16th , 310,000 households in Louisiana were still without telephone service and more than 283,000 were still awaiting power–that's nearly 30 percent of the state's households. In addition, only eight of the 40 FEMA sites stipulated have opened in Louisiana.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has said up to 200,000 people can return to New Orleans in the next two weeks to the areas of the city least effected by the storm. But those returning will be living without many basic services–electricity, tap water, phones. Most businesses–including supermarkets and banks–remain closed. The job opportunities in a city that is basically shut down by catastrophe are limited.
FEMA has yet to give local governments in the decimated Gulf Coast region permission to proceed with basic rebuilding efforts to stabilize the infrastructures–water, electricity, gas, phones, medical care. Areas with large numbers of people like the 200,000 returning to New Orleans simply cannot function for long without that infrastructure in place.
Citizens of New Orleans will continue to live under a state of emergency for possibly months to come, which means dawn-to-dusk curfews will be enforced and check-points will be in place throughout the city which will continue to be controlled by law enforcement with orders to shoot to kill.
Thus the issues involved in preparedness go well beyond the disaster itself. Even if Philadelphia or any of the other 49 cities on the President's list were to address all aspects of preparedness for disaster, is anyone–local, state and most essentially, federal government–prepared for what comes after? New Orleans–a small city–indicates such preparedness hasn't even been considered.
Yet the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA were instituted solely to address monumental disasters and their aftermath. Why aren't those departments functional?
More than a third of Americans live in large urban areas–the places most dependent on an unassailable infrastructure. Los Angeles suffered a serious power outage midday last week when workers accidentally severed a power line that impacted the entire business district and more than half the city. L.A. was in virtual chaos for hours as traffic lights were out, people in high rises were trapped in elevators, businesses came to a stand-still, emergency vehicles were gridlocked in traffic. Three hours without electricity in the second largest city in the U.S. that had nothing to do with terrorism or a category 5 hurricane and which occurred in daylight hours paralyzed America's second-largest city. What if disaster struck?
The incident in Los Angeles shows how little it takes to stun a big city and New Orleans is evidence of how massive true catastrophe is. How prepared are we really for disaster, despite all the plans filed with the Department of Homeland Security?
It is incumbent upon the President to address the consequences of the New Orleans disaster in all its manifestations–before, during and after–with alacrity and immediacy. Likewise Congress must set aside partisan squabbling and get down to the business four years in discussion of making this nation safe and secure in the event of catastrophe.
It is the responsibility of local governments to realistically envision the New Orleans scenario in their own towns and plan for that kind of eventuality. No one has the luxury of saying like the President did a few days after Katrina struck that severe disaster is unexpected. After 9/11 and certainly after Katrina every American knows extreme disaster is indeed expected if not imminent. The whole world watched with outrage the pathetic response to Katrina and her victims by our government. When desperately poor developing nations like Bangladesh–often plagued by cyclones and monsoons–look at the U.S. and see themselves, it speaks volumes about how ineffective our government has been in preparing for another 9/11-style catastrophe.
As for the average American–we each need to consider what we would do in the event of a disaster and consider it *now.* Unless the U.S. is prepared from the highest levels of government down to the individual citizen, we are vulnerable to any and all hazards of the 21st century. We must presume we will, like the residents of New Orleans, be on our own, at least for a time, and prepare accordingly. (People were still being rescued from their attics on September 16th–more than two weeks after Katrina hit.)
None of us wants to be a face like one in the terrifying scenes we witnessed out of New Orleans. We must demand of all our elected officials that they ensure such a horror not happen again. Preparedness–governmental and individual–is our only safeguard against disaster.
copyright c 2005 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.
Doing the "Right" Thing
If you were one of the Katrina evacuees that landed in Houston,
wouldn't you feel as if Mother Nature is out to get you? Maybe it's time for
"G"lobal "W"arming Bush to start asking the
rest of the federal government and the "G"reed "O"ver
"P"eople party to find these people some solutions. Wouldn't it be
nice if the near 2,000 children and the great number of missing parents were
reunited. Maybe we could find something more than a football stadium for these
people to live in.
I said it before, why can't the federal government use Eminent Domain to take over some hotels so these people have a place to call home? What is the reason to keep these people so far away from their hometown (New Orleans) when they should be the ones that are hired to rebuild it?
Let's make an analogy (this is when my right-wing friends usually roll their eyes into the back of their heads). Remember way back when, just after the "Coalition of the Willing" took over Iraq? There actually was some good will and feelings toward the US, for a short time. Remember the cheering as the statue of Saddam was taken down? That was a good moment for the US and our relationship to the people of Iraq.
Well, one thing that happened was that we let foreign contractors come in and do the jobs that the people of Iraq could have done. With a 70 percent unemployment rate, giving jobs to Iraqis to fix Iraq might have been better than letting them starve while outsiders were pulling in big bucks for those same jobs that the Iraqis would have done for food money.
Now, take a look at New Orleans. The Bushies have removed the Davis-Bacon act of 1931 (in order to pay less-than-prevailing wages) in order to let their corporate friends make an extra buck or two, or a billion. I haven't heard word one from the likes of Bush or Cheney about just who Halliburton and Bechtel and all the other disaster profiteers are going to hire to rebuild the Big Easy.
And that is the comparison. By not allowing the people of Iraq the ability to rebuild their own country, we, the US, took a tenuous situation and made it horrible in Iraq. Just what do you think is going to happen when the poor people of New Orleans see out-of-town contractors come in to rebuild their town?
The Bush administration took a situation in Iraq that Vice President Dick "Go <F---> Yourself" Cheney expected to be glorious and friendly to American troops and made it into a horror show for American troops instead.
"Like the people of France in the 1940s, the Iraqi people view us as their hoped for liberators."
-Cheney, who also said that the people of Iraq would throw "Roses" at our feet
When we rebuild New Orleans without giving the job to the people of New Orleans, what will be your prediction then, Dick?
The Bush administration does nothing without allowing their "fat-cat corporate allies" the ability to "wet their beaks." New Orleans will be no different.
"We've been looking at all the (no-bid, open-ended) contracts from day one. One concern is whether you are getting the fair market value. The second is whether the people we are giving contracts to are the best qualified."
-Richard Skinner, the Homeland Security Department's inspector general
Another determining factor should be whether the contracts are awarded to companies that will do no harm, and actually do some good.
From the 'front' wherever that is, since 'the war on terrorism' is everywhere. . .hurricane damage will be media played for all it's worth by the Bush administration, to keep those prying reporters out of Iraq, where things are not going at all well. In fact, Iraq is now embroiled in a no-shit civil war.
And, about those hurricanes? I have seen photos of the HAARP installation in Alaska. I've called them and talked to them personally, trying to understand why they need hundreds of thousands of kilovolts from a power company, for what they claim is an oversized antenna assembly?????
Those volts wouldn't be needed unless they were transmitting. Something. It would be frequencies, but what the heck are those? Frequencies are everything. They are the colors we see, the music we hear, and the sound of our voices. They are brainwaves. They are also weather.
The US Navy has been experimenting with frequency since WWII. Extremely low frequencies, or ELF's are of particular interest to the Navy and NASA, and experimentation might be causing the hurricane velocities. Directed EMF's have been tracked by independent (civilian) installations and definite impact on natural weather patterns are observed.
Areas that are targeted by ELF's are dry, while moisture filled clouds accumulate behind the dry places, along the line of the trajectory of the ELF's, begin to build up, unable to move with the prevailing winds, and begin to circle upon themselves. This can be and is seen on radar.
I have a personal anecdote about HAARP. It is possible to order weather, with the right connections. I've done it though a souce in military Intel, who saw no harm in contacting the right people and directing rain for Arizona. Arizona has been in a drought for nine years. I asked for 8 inches, for the year, and so far the region of AZ where I live has had a six inch accumulation, which is extremely rare. It was probably experimental though, or a coincidence. I expect snow, however, soon. Lots of it.
Maybe though, it is God who sends hurricanes to make hundreds of thousands of people, who are his children, suffer. It couldn't possibly be elite globalists (his bad kids) who intend to conquer the world, because no one has ever wanted to conquer the world, well, except, Ghenkis Khan, and Alexander, and Stalin, and Hitler, and Bonaparte, Caesar, and just a few others, so, it couldn't be the handlers of the Bush administration, with $billions in black ops budgets and technology civilians know nothing about, because it just has to be God, who professes to love us. Yeah. That makes sense. HAH!
I would bet a million bucks that if power was cut to all HAARP installations, weather patterns would be back to normal within three seasons. Come to think of it, I would bet a million bucks that if power were cut to the White House, and the Bush Ranch in Texas, and to Camp David and Mt. Weather, and Air Force One, that the United States would return to normal function within three seasons.
Maureen Dowd Agrees
"Mr. Bush made a frownie over Brownie, but didn't learn much. He's once more trying to appoint a nothingburger to a position of real consequence in homeland security. The choice of
Julie Myers, a 36-year-old lawyer with virtually no immigration, customs or law enforcement experience, to head the roiling Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency with its $4 billion budget and 22,000 staffers, has caused some alarm, according to The Washington Post.
"Ms. Myers's main credentials seem to be that she worked briefly for the semidisgraced homeland security director, Michael Chertoff, when he was at the Justice Department. She just married Mr. Chertoff's chief of staff, John Wood, and she's the niece of Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
This Bush administration is incapable of changing it's ways. You would have thought that by now they would be more cautious about who they pick to run these organizations. As Madman already discussed, the appointment of Julie Myers is an outrageous blatant nepotism.
In response to, "Rita will probably make landfall somewhere in the East Texas Gulf Coast region, even possibly directly on Houston, America's fifth largest city," Pat Thompson writes:
GWB's parents George H.W Bush and Barb live in Houston. Let's see how much better attention this city gets from the government.
"The past couple of months have been truly surreal. It is as though the era of Robber Barons has met the era of Viet Nam. So much death. So much inequity. So much cronyism."
-Randi Rhodes, Air America Radio
-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane
And More from Randi Rhodes Website:
From Randi Rhodes web site:
"Brownie, You're doing a heckuva job."
"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."
--"G"lobal "W"arming Bush
"I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep..."
"We just learned of the convention center -- we being the federal government -- today."
-Former FEMA Head Michael Brown
-Laura Bush, from a video
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
-More from Robert
Mr. Bush's Vacation according to nighttime talk-show hosts
"President Bush is going on his annual vacation. The White House says he goes to his Texas Ranch to unwind. I'm thinking, when does he wind?"
"As you know, President Bush is taking 5 weeks off. It's like he's still in the National Guard."
"It turns out President Bush can run again in the next election. Now I know you're only supposed to be allowed two terms, but the Supreme Court said if you count his vacation time, he's barely served one."
"President Bush is on a five-week vacation. How many folks get five weeks off a year? You know, if I want five weeks off I have to have open heart surgery, for God's sake."
"The president jumped on a plane to start a five-week vacation. This will be the longest presidential vacation in 36 years. This means President Bush has now been on vacation for 27% of his presidency. That means the country could be 27% more screwed up than it already is."
"President Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and here's the good news -- he says he will only stay until Crawford is capable of self-rule."
"Bush woke up this morning, saw his shadow and now -- six more weeks of vacation."
"President Bush is vacationing in Crawford, Texas. He will be vacationing for five weeks. That's a long time. I don't think he has an exit strategy for his vacation either."
"Now is a great time for President Bush to go on vacation because Iraq is pretty much under control. But a White House spokesman said Bush is using his vacation to "reconnect with regular people." So you know that means he's drinking again."
"After President Bush signed the new transportation bill, he said it's not just enough to sign the bill -- people have to show up and do the work. Then he went back to his five-week vacation."
"President Bush still having his five-week vacation. Today President Bush announced he is going to leave his ranch in Texas to visit Idaho for two days. However, Bush told his supporters, 'Don't worry, I won't do any work there either.'"
"President Bush is on week three of his marathon five-week vacation. He has been gone on vacation for so long that today in Washington, a judge ruled that a young couple with two children can now legally move into the White House because it appears to have been abandoned by its previous tenants."
"President Bush is on a five-week vacation. From what? President Bush, before he went on vacation, he signed a bill that will extend daylight savings another month. He said it proves we're winning the war on darkness"
"President Bush is now in the second week of his five-week vacation down there in Crawford, Texas. He's been taking a lot of criticism for this long vacation. His aides say he has his laptop with him so he can still play Solitaire and Minesweep, so it's business as usual."
"President Bush is taking his summer vacation. It's a five-week vacation. This is his fiftieth vacation in the last five years -- that's about the national average isn't it? During his five-week
vacation, he will continue to receive national security briefings. He won't be reading them, but he will receive them."
"President Bush talked tough today. He said he's not backing out, he's staying the course for as long as it takes. He's in it for the long haul. Not Iraq -- his 5-week vacation."
"A lot of people are every critical of President Bush for taking the entire month of August off for his vacation. But his staff points out, there's nothing at the White House he can't do at the ranch because the ranch is fully equipped. It's got the treadmill, the weight room, the jogging path, the big screen TV, they get Nickelodeon. It's got everything he would do."
"President Bush is on a three-week vacation down in Crawford, Texas, and it's what they call a working vacation. And staff say it is an important time because it's time for him to kick back. And I'm thinking, when does this guy kick forward?"
"So Congress is on recess and Bush is on vacation -- the town is empty. It's so lonely in D.C. right now the NRA and the oil lobbies are just giving money to each other."
-Forwarded by David
Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org