Sunday, September 04, 2005

Running on Empty

I watched two guys pumping gas today. One was filling up the family mini-van, the other was gassing up the SUV. They leaned against their vehicles and didn't say a word to one another. A sign in front of the station listed two sets of prices: one for gas ($3 plus a gallon), and the other listed the price for a carton of Marlboros ($38.26). My guess is that in health-conscious Northern California, neither of these guys smoked, so they must have been saving money, right?
Some of the notions that have been swirling in my head for the past few hours suggest some kind of resiliency. The second phase of my grief (as well as most subsequent stages) involve some smart-ass response. It occurred to me that the National Guard should make good on the sketchy "commitment" that George W. Bush made back in the 70's and ask him to come on back for a month or two to help out in the Gulf Coast. He's shown how good he is at clearing brush on his extended stays in Crawford; why not put some of that talent to use clearing rubble in Biloxi or New Orleans? I understand that the government will help his employers cover his absence, and if he's gone for an extended period, maybe they could hire someone to replace him.
The other twisted notion was to have Disney buy the whole area, and have them turn it into one big entertainment complex. They could have a chance to rebuild New Orleans Square to scale, and the "cast members" could be hired directly from the pool of applicants waiting in line for food and shelter. At the very least, they could make standing in line a little more tolerable by having Mickey and his crew drop by to sign autographs and take some photos while they wait.
But really - here's what Tim Russert said on "Meet the Press" today:
"Joining us is the man in charge of the federal response to the disaster, the director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.
Mr. Secretary, this is yesterday's Daily News: 'Shame Of A Nation.' And I want to read it to you and our viewers very carefully. It says, 'As for Chertoff, if this is the best his department can do, the homeland is not very secure at all. It is absolutely outrageous that the United States of America could not send help to tens of thousands of forlorn, frightened, sick and hungry human beings at least 24 hours before it did, arguably longer than that. Who is specifically at fault for what is nothing less than a national scandal... It will never be known exactly what a day could have meant to so many unfortunates whose lives came to an end in those hopelessly tortured hours--on scorching roadsides, for lack of a swallow of water, in sweltering hospital bads, for lack of insulin. But what is already more than clear is that the nation's disaster-preparedness mechanisms do not appear to be in the hands of officials who know how to run them.'
Mr. Secretary, are you or anyone who reports to you contemplating resignation?"
To which the Secretary of Homeland Security began to prattle on about his master's talking points. Then he was pressed more directly about the government's lack of preparedness. The wheels started to come off:
"And one last point I'd make is this, Tim. We had actually prestaged a tremendous number of supplies, meals, shelter, water. We had prestaged, even before the hurricane, dozens of Coast Guard helicopters, which were obviously nearby but not in the area. So the difficulty wasn't lack of supplies. The difficulty was that when the levee broke, it was very, very hard to get the supplies to the people. I-10 was submerged. There was only one significant road going all the way the way around. Much of the city was flooded. The only way to get to people and to get supplies was to have airdrops and helicopters. And frankly, it is very--and their first priority was rescuing people from rooftops. So we really had a tremendous strain on the capacity of--to be able to both rescue people and also to be able to get them supplies.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Secretary, you say prestaged. People were sent to the Convention Center. There was no water, no food, no beds, no authorities there. There was no planning."
Come to think of it, maybe I'm not feeling any better about this just yet.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
haywagon said...

Mr. Michael Chertoff
Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Sec. Chertoff,

Given the complete and utter failure of your department to make even a dent in the New Orleans disaster for days after Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast, I need to ask you:

How can you in good conscience keep your job?

As an American I feel that you and the President have completely failed the citizenry of this country. Whatever "planning" you claim to have done was utterly ineffective. Whatever problems you claim to have run into, you failed to heed warnings that were offered and you failed to create workable contingency plans.

If you'd spent half as much effort actually rescuing people as you and your deputies have spent spinning your ridiculous talking points, you might have saved more lives. Instead, the anemic response of your department, and the inter-organization and inter-governmental squabbling has left thousands (if not tens-of-thousands) of deaths directly on your doorstep.

When one considers the shattered lives of the living, not to mention the doubt now cast over America's ability to respond to another natural disaster or a terrorist attack, I ask once again:

Isn't it time for you to resign?

Please take the heads of FEMA with you on the way. Their admitted lack of knowledge of the suffering taking place at the New Orleans Convention Center is, to my mind, criminal.

Once again let me state:

You failed. Your department failed.

Rather than making excuses, as you attempted to do on television this morning, you should feel ashamed. I know that I feel ashamed of my government this week, along with a high level of disgust at watching a bunch of Washington bureaucrats spending time covering their collective rear-ends. Let someone else pick up the pieces and let's see if we can actually provide our homeland some security.

Anonymous said...

Then Aaron Broussard came on the show. I am not feeling good about this situation either. What a rotten mess.

Anonymous said...

No need to resign. The Bush Gang is in the water and the sharks are circling. Mid-term elections are coming and aid is moving. SO, thank enjoy the likes of Russert and company because they've got W on the run. Sometimes the only path is through it and "We're comin' in on Saturday, workin' overtime, workin' hard" to get there. It's more proof that Darwin was right and the intelligent designers are unravelling. Heck, it's almost enough to give the red states the blues!

Anonymous said...

I would like to know what the administrator removed. Did anybody see it? Could the administrator at least tell us why it was removed?

Anonymous said...