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Dissent on the Right,
in this case from Stephen Bainbridge.
random (mail):
He's right.

It's about time, "The Party of Responsibility"(TM) took responsibility.
9.10.2005 6:27pm
eng:
"The head of the National Guard has acknowledged that the deployment of his personnel to Iraq delayed the response to Katrina by at least a day"
This is counterfactual speculation.

"Senior Bush administration personnel told the NYT that politics delayed their response"
You mean because of deference to the states? We should be proud, and the saddened that the Federal government had to act.

"Bush's choice to head FEMA has been relieved"
So now Bush is being criticized for doing the right thing--removing someone from responsibility who has clearly shown himself unable to lead? As you should be aware, people are always promoted to leadership positions in which it is _LATER_ discovered they cannot handle when the pressure comes.
Nor is the complaint that these people were not "professional" disaster relief staff justified per se. As we know, many companies select CEOs and other top officers from other industries. Always there is speculation about whether their lack of experience in their new setting is good or bad, but to act as if this situation is obviously wrong, is disingenous.

"Conservative pundit/NRO Corner blogger Rod Dreher observes that "a raft of FEMA's top leaders have little or no emergency management experience, but are instead politically well connected to the GOP and the White House. This is a scandal, a real scandal. How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize?"
Um, since when has FEMA been viewed as a critical homeland security institution? It has always been and remains a kneejerk bureaucatic creation with no real purpose for being an independent agency, or usefulness other than providing cover to politicians who want to claim they are doing something.
The lession of Katrina is that we need to dissolve FEMA. The tooth to tail ration of FEMA is horrendous.

Quite frankly, the blame for mismanagement should be placed entirely with the governor. To argue that the Feds in this situation are responsible is to beg the question. After all, do we really agree that they should been responsible?
9.10.2005 6:29pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
There are some disasters that are just too large and overwhelming to be handled solely by state and local officials.
9.10.2005 6:35pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Very true... but I would disagree with the argument that such a disaster (usually not identified until afterward) puts FEMA on notice that it is now a first responder instead of a paper-shuffler and money-distributor.

Katrina was a disaster, the aftermath was a disaster, and various officials all over acted irresponsibly. Using hindsight to say "in this situation, Louisiana was overwhelmed and the Feds should have stepped in and taken over immediately" is just Monday morning quarterbacking.

I just have one question... do we WANT a "Department of Homeland Emergency Management" with enough money and power over states to act as a first responder in any emergency? I sure don't.
9.10.2005 7:18pm
John Jenkins (mail):
First: dissent from what? Did someone tell me that I was supposed to support the Bush administration in everything they do when I wasn't listening?

Second: Mahan Atma, we'll never know whether Katrina was one such disaster because of the ineptitude of the state and local response. Follow that with a healthy helping of federal bureaucracy and inefficency and the obligitory jurisdictional pissing contest and you get what he had here: a debacle.

Of course, statists will argue that this means we should have greater centralization and more government power, which is something like sitting on your couch eating MORE ice cream expecting to lose weight, because if you just have enough energy you'll finally exercise.
9.10.2005 7:24pm
Steevo (mail):
I almost feel simple-minded saying this but I don't mind if Bush is held accountable to what he is directly responsible for. But... perceptions count because we only get results from political representatives. If the Professor (and the MSM) wants to balance his criticism focusing at the state level, where from what I've seen most of the problems centered, I'll give him his due for telling the truth.
9.10.2005 8:15pm
eng:
"I just have one question... do we WANT a "Department of Homeland Emergency Management" with enough money and power over states to act as a first responder in any emergency? I sure don't."

Agreed.

Not to mention that there was already enough concentration of power that genuine relief efforts were turned away--such as the trucks sent by walmart carrying water.

Its easy to want central control because of the amazing things it can make possible, but it is the benevolent dictator problem.

Elected government is a marked improvement, but as the government grows, becomes more distant, etc, it also begins to behave in a less and less responsive fashion.
9.10.2005 8:24pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Since eng has quoted Prof. B's points, here is my take posted on his site:

I have to disagree a bit with the tenor of Prof B's post and most of the comments on it.

Please be clear. I was appalled as anyone about the suffering of the large number of human beings who were subjected to the horrendous conditions of the NO Superdome, Convention Centers, and surrounding freeways. But for me, the evidence is insufficient to make the sweeping conclusions I see here less than two weeks after the event. Here's why:

1) FEMA, as reorganized after the 9/11 commissions recommendations, has had plenty of work in the past few years and this year before Katrina. The disasters handled were pretty typical of disasters which occurred during prior administrations. I am aware of no reports that FEMA's work was inadequate in any material way in these situations.

2. Katrina was, in order of magnitude, probably 5 - 6 times larger than any of previous natural or man-made disaster to strike the US. As has been reported in the press, Katrina struck counties in four states with an aggregate geographic area and population about the size of Great Britain.

3. It was not self evident that this newly constructed FEMA could deal with such a anomalous situation, coordinating among four governors and local officials of one major city and four mid-sized cities simultaneously, each with serious and different needs.

4. Although the Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana coasts were seriously damaged by wind and storm surges of 20+ feet, there has been little if any serious criticism of FEMA's performance in these areas.

5. The metropolitan areas of Biloxi and Gulfport, MS, Mobile and Gulf Shores, AL and Pensacola, FL all managed to evacuate their citizenry as their respective disaster plans provided.

6. New Orleans failed to evacuate its citizenry as its disaster plan provided.

7. As contemplated by their contracts with FEMA, the Red Cross and Salvation Army timely had sufficient personnel, equipment and supplies on hand to supply the evacuees who had, pursuant to the instructions of local authorities went for shelter to the Superdome and the Convention Center. Only because of the instructions of Louisiana and NO authorities were they unable to deliver the equipment and supplies.

8. While there was evidence of some looting and other civil disorder in the part of New Orleans that was had been evacuated, the Governor of Louisiana was unwilling to cede control of the national guard to federal control.

9. There was no "insurrection" within the meaning of either the posse comitatus act or the constitution which authorized the President to nationalze the national guard or to use federal troops for law enforcement.

Under these circumstances, I believe serious consideration must be given to legislation clearly allowing the president to take control of the national guard and to use federal troops for law enforcement when a natural disaster (i) impacts or is likely to impact more than one state and (ii)in his/her judgment, state or local authorities lack the resources or ability to maintain order or the safety of the public. [this is conceptual, the precise wording might need work.]
9.10.2005 8:47pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Having spent nearly ten yrs in the federal bureaucracy, i can attest there is no such thing as a federal agency capable of being a first responder in an emergency. By the time you get thru all the layers of command, most of which aren't in their office, the paperwork requirements, the fact that most personnel cannot be fired for much less than homicide (and the one our dept fired for that appealed and it took six months), and the worship of paperwork, it's amazing that an agency can move in days, or weeks. Whether Clinton or Bush is president, it's gonna be the same. Political appointees at the top ... but it doesn't matter much, since mid-level management allows them only the information it wants to and the options they want picked. In my agency, we were given written orders not to answer questions if the Secretary of the department called, because he was not to have raw information, but rather the "position," which was carefully vetted by our branch, then our division, then the front office. (And the Sec. couldn't fire the agency head, because the agency head had been personal attorney to the President).
9.10.2005 9:41pm
Rick Ballard (mail):
Jim,

A minor nit. While the area devastated is equal to the size of the UK the population affected was much smaller. The total population of the four state is only 27.7M and the population of the affected area is less than half of that. The survival rate is still above 99.9% for a Cat 4 hurricane. The French and Italians, with wonderful centralized governmental resources managed to lose 35-40K to a heat wave in '03.

If given a choice, I would prefer to see the Coast Guard, with its peculiar police powers, be the model for any federalization of the NG or use of Regulars. They swore Gen Honore into the LANG in order to give proper color to his authority within LA. Detaching NG or Regular forces to the USCG might be an appropriate method of achieving the same end. A thirty day detachment with extension possible only through Congressional action seems reasonable.
9.10.2005 9:54pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Thanks for the correction, Rick. I will point that out on Prof. B's site and credit you. I think the point magnitude is still overwhelming. I wonder what megatonnage would be required to cause equivalent property destruction?
9.10.2005 10:02pm
A.S.:
Hmmm, out of Bainbridge's 4 bullets, two are seriously misleading.

For the first bullet, Blum said that it was "ARGUABLE" that the deployment to Iraq delayed the Guard response by a day. "ARGUABLE" is not the same as having "ACKNOWLEDGED".

For the second bullet, the Bush folks did NOT say that "politics delayed their response". Rather, they said that politics led them to rely first on the National Guard, rather than active duty military.

As for Bainbridge's last bullet, I agree with Jeff Goldstein's comment: "Me, I just want SOMEBODY to point out FEMA's actual failures instead of using a disputed resume blemishes and a lot of showy handwringing to suggest Brown's failures." (http://www.proteinwisdom.com/index.php/weblog/entry/18988/)

I think Tony Snow's description is apt. Bainbridge's four bullets are EXTREMELY weak: two are misleading and a third is pretty beside the point. If Bainbridge had any ACTUAL EVIDENCE to back up his opinion, it would be worthy of discussion; but he doesn't, so the only conclusion is that the opinion is based solely on emotion and is not rational.
9.10.2005 11:15pm
anonymous coward:
"Whether Clinton or Bush is president, it's gonna be the same. Political appointees at the top ..."
Your point is not unreasonable; however, your example of Clinton is rather ill-chosen.
9.10.2005 11:18pm
Jeremy (mail):
Why are we ignoring the fact that the Senate confirmed Michael Brown with tons of Democratic support? No one, Republican or Democrat, knew Mr. Brown would be an utter failure.

Personally, I think the vast majority of the blame goes to Blanco and Nagin for their deadly incompetence.
9.10.2005 11:34pm
Rick Ballard (mail):
Jeremy,

What do you consider to be the optimal survivability rate for those in the path of a Cat 4 hurricane? I won't argue the fact that Blanco and Nagin are negligent - primarily for not following their own damn plan - but they were working off the same once in two hyndred year probability that the pols used in determining that the levees didn't need to be reinforced to withstand a Cat 4-5 storm.

Tell me what the appropriate rate should be and we can discuss the level of "failure" that occurred.
9.10.2005 11:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Goodness, you would think the commenters here had voted to confirm Michael Brown.

Maybe we should consider this opinion of FEMA's responsibility:
State and local governments are looking to us for leadership. They are looking to FEMA to tell them where are the holes in response plans? Where are the holes in our mutual aid agreements? What incentives can you provide us to fill those holes? I think my role is a very serious one. I think the agency's role is a very serious one, that we should not just wait for someone to petition or request that we evaluate, that those types of plans should be evaluated (plans regarding evacuations) on an ongoing basis. It would be my intent to somehow implement the ongoing evaluation so we do not have to look in hindsight and say, gosh, we wish we had looked at that. We should be looking at that all the time to make sure they (plans) are adequate, and I will pledge to you that we will certainly do that.
That would be, um, Michael Brown, at his confirmation hearing.

Whether FEMA was literally the 1st responder or not, it was supposed to take the lead in planning who would be the 1st responder, etc.

Or you could listen to someone who was at the "Hurricane Pam" exercise in 2004:
There was a certain amount of contention, a few turf wars, some loud talk. None if it consequential, in the end, because of the single greatest emollient: FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised the moon and the stars. They promised to have 1,000,000 bottles of water per day coming into affected areas within 48 hours. They promised massive prestaging with water, ice, medical supplies and generators. Anything that was needed, they would have either in place as the storm hit or ready to move in immediately after. All it would take is a phone call from local officials to the state, who would then call FEMA, and it would be done.
(Both quotes via Andrew Sullivan's blog.)

Advice from a Dem: defending your president, right or wrong, is not a viable tactic in the long run. Eventually, you lose cred with everyone except the True Believers.

Bush made mistakes with his FEMA appointment. And, as has been pointed out, he ran on this in 2004: keeping Americans safe.

That said, everyone makes mistakes. It's how they respond to them that distinguishes the sheep and the goats. If Bush uses this opportunity to create a serious FEMA (which alas we won't know until the next disaster), then more power to him &God bless.
9.11.2005 12:21am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Not to mention that there was already enough concentration of power that genuine relief efforts were turned away--such as the trucks sent by walmart carrying water.


Actually that's not what Wal-mart says:

Sharon Weber of Wal-Mart called back. She said that last week, FEMA diverted those water trucks to "another location, which [FEMA] felt was in greater need than where they were headed." Weber emphasized that Wal-Mart would not override any FEMA decisions made in emergency situations. So Broussard, who claimed that Wal-Mart's aid was ourtight rejected, was wrong. Based on Wal-Mart's information, their trucks were taken where FEMA thought they were needed most.


Source:
http://www.redstate.org/story/2005/9/6/114926/3369
9.11.2005 12:42am
Larry Faria (mail):
Brown and the other political appointees weren't criticized when four hurricanes hit Florida last year. Yes, Katrina was a much bigger storm, but the biggest difference was that Florida has local officials who know how do do evacuations, and a competent governor who knows how to coordinate with the federal response. Jim Rhoads' suggestion that the President be given the power to bypass federalism in multistate emergencies is bypassing the problem. The performance of the Mayor of New Orleans, Governor Blanco and the LA emergency preparedness director bordered on criminal negligence. If they're not held to account, no reorganization of FEMA will matter.
9.11.2005 1:28am
bertram (mail):
Not all people were evacuated out of danger in Mobile AL, "dozens and dozens" called about rising in their homes.
see http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=107161
It can't be the sole responsibility of a mayor of a major metropolitan area to organize an evacuation of his city because there has to be a place for the evacuees to go to. You could claim that local governments should have mutual aid agreements, but when disastor threatens multiple areas a competent national agency to at least keep a registry of the resources available seems logical to me.
The Dutch managed evacuations of 200,000 people. See
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L04726072.htm
9.11.2005 2:09am
eng:
Thorney,

Thanks for that correction. Sadly, it can take a lot of effort to keep track when certain reported facts are later retracted! I certainly had missed that one.
9.11.2005 3:07am
eng:
Interesting note I heard on CBS news tonight:

There are strong suggestions that the death toll will be in the hundreds--rather than the 10,000+ that had been suggested earlier.

That's surely good news.
9.11.2005 3:09am
random (mail):
There are people apportioning blame as if blaming local officials somehow makes federal officials less culpable.

The relationship is the opposite.

The more local officials are to blame the more federal officials are to blame.

Remember, federal officials have supremacy over the states and so their responsibilities are also to monitor and supervise state action.

If the state is absolutely incompetent, this is comething that the feds have the responsibility yo know and to compensate for in their plans.
9.11.2005 11:53am
bertram (mail):

Sharon Weber of Wal-Mart called back. She said that last week, FEMA diverted those water trucks to "another location, which [FEMA] felt was in greater need than where they were headed."


The only places where there could have been greater need are Orleans, St Bearnard, and Plaquemines Parish. You would have to go thourgh Jefferson Parish to get to those places. Where could those trucks have been diverted to?
9.11.2005 12:42pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
There is a difference between trying to get facts straight and apportioning blame. My suggestion is that we stick to getting as accurate a timeline as possible with verifiable facts and let the chips fall where they will. That is far more orderly than assessing blame and trying thmake the facts fit.
9.11.2005 1:08pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Based on Wal-Mart's information, their trucks were taken where FEMA thought they were needed most.

Right, except that "thought" is too generous a word for whatever the heck was going on at FEMA.

Yes, Katrina was a much bigger storm, but the biggest difference was that Florida has local officials who know how do do evacuations, and a competent governor who knows how to coordinate with the federal response.

Um, no. The biggest difference is that the Miss. gulf coast was 90% destroyed, and that New Orleans was UNDER WATER, with TENS OF THOUSANDS OF REFUGEES desperately needing basic sustenance. Or maybe you don't watch TV, read the papers, or look at the Internet?

Whatever the local failures (and I blame the governor more than the mayor), they were grossly exacerbated by FEMA's promising to be the cavalry, without having bothered to plan where to get the horses, etc.

Frankly, this Mississippian can do without any smug Floridians who have no idea what they're talking about when they compare this storm's destruction to that in Florida since Andrew in '92.
9.11.2005 2:52pm
=0=:
Why are we ignoring the fact that the Senate confirmed Michael Brown with tons of Democratic support? No one, Republican or Democrat, knew Mr. Brown would be an utter failure.

So can I reasonably assume that you don't mind the fillibuster now, and are calling on the opposition party to fully vet nominees for important posts?
9.11.2005 4:21pm
Jeremy (mail):
So can I reasonably assume that you don't mind the fillibuster now

The filibuster is unconstitutional. 'Nuf said.

and are calling on the opposition party to fully vet nominees for important posts?

The Senate as a whole has an obvious responsibility to fully vet nominees for all posts.
9.11.2005 7:30pm
=0=:
The Senate as a whole has an obvious responsibility to fully vet nominees for all posts.

...and so the first people to blame are not the ones who sponsored the nominee, but rather the opposition party didn't stop an appointment. Of course.

I'm going to be spending the next few hours getting my tongue out of my cheek - this is a serious issue, and I might need a plastic, whacha call 'em? sugeon. I hear they're cheap in Mexico. Maybe when I come back, the Republicans will once again champion limited government, responsibility, and accountability.

Hey, it could happen.
9.11.2005 8:33pm
Jeremy (mail):
=0=,

Why did you mischaracterized my earlier remarks?

In my original post, I simply suggested that the Democrats in the Senate bear some responsibility for Michael Brown becoming FEMA director. I never said who should be the "first people to blame" or anything along those lines.
9.11.2005 8:47pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Random, the feds do not have supremacy in this area. Period, they just don't. That is why it makes sense to apportion blame to local officals as independent entities, they are independent entities.

Yourr, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
9.11.2005 10:04pm
Larry Faria (mail):
Well, Anderson, I can understand any gulf coast resident not wanting to hear from smug Floridians. Here in California, we get smug suggestions from other states all the time, even from out of state relatives ("What's with the bodybuilder governor? Are you nuts?") But they DO have experience with hurricanes and dealing with FEMA. I can't let local officials off the hook, since they could have done far more before the hurricane hit, when everything was still working. As a Mississippian, you should be proud of the way your governor and emergency personnel handled far worse damage. Check out this site for aerials of the Biloxi area: http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/002772.html
But the response of state and local officials in Mississippi stands in such contrast to that of Louisiana that it's difficult to make a case for the latter.
9.12.2005 12:17am