Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Perfect Storm...

Cutting off vacations early- some thoughts and experiences:

We've all had to do it at some point or another. Few things suck more than cutting off a vacation and returning home, usually because of an emergency. It's happened to me (death in the family), and it's happened to friends & family members (medical emergencies, etc).

You know where I'm going with this one. President Bush cut his vacation short to return to Washington and deal with the emergency spawned by Hurricane Katrina.

In a way, it's a noble enough thing to do. U.S. citizens have died as a result of this tragedy. They need their leader to be decisive and call for quick action. They need a clear, cohesive plan that will accomplish the task at hand as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Wait a minute...U.S. citizens dying...Those in danger need a clear cohesive plan...Decisive leadership...a plan for what happens next...This is sounding way too familiar.

My mother always said that even the president needs a vacation. If he wants it to be at Camp David where it's secluded, or at a ranch or on Martha's Vineyard surrounded by press, or on a golf course with 73 secret service agents, whatever. He's got a tough job and needs his rest like everyone else.

Five weeks vacation. There's a war going on. There's an oil crisis. And he cuts it short- two days. What a man of honor!

He's so honorable in fact, that his administration makes it incredibly difficult to assist those in need. Consider this fact, first run in the Baltimore City Paper last September:

But since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA’s Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars. ...In addition, the White House has pushed for privatization of essential government services, including disaster management, and merged FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security, where natural disaster programs are often sidelined by counterterrorism programs. Along the way, morale at FEMA has plummeted, and many of the agency’s most experienced personnel have left for work in other government agencies or private corporations. In June, Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union, wrote members of Congress to warn of the agency’s decay. “Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded,” he wrote. “Our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.” (9/9/2004)

Feel safe? It is impossible to tell how many people that died in Mississippi would have been saved by better funding and preparation. But hey, the people of Iraq are experiencing democracy for the first time!

My family and friends who lived in New York on 9/11 pretty much all have the same view- the outpouring of support from the rest of the country was wonderful, but they still will never understand how those of us in New York or DC felt. They do not know the sheer terror of having to think, even for a split second, that their loved ones have just been killed. They didn't know what it was like to see smoke still coming out of the Pentagon three days later. The same applies here- many of us are not from areas where hurricanes are an annual experience. As a result, we really can't conceptualize what necessary preparations must be made before hand, when it is known the hurricane will hit. Keep reading, there's a connection here.

When people who survived or witnessed the attacks of 9/11 needed counseling, when those who lost loved ones needed care, what did the experts base their models on? One of the biggest natural disaster to ever hit this country, Hurricane Andrew.

Hundreds were killed. Billions of dollars worth of property was destroyed. The results were not all that different from a terrorist attack. Granted, there were no politics or hatred behind the deaths caused by Hurricane Andrew, but the lowest common denominator is the same: death, destruction, the need for care, the need for rebuilding.

Yet because of the budget cuts, the move of FEMA to DHS, and a fairly poor sense of how much preparation pays off rather than reacting after an event already occurs, this Administration has not only made it more difficult for hurricane victims to avoid harm and receive aid. They have also denied themselves the opportunity to learn. If preparation for a hurricane turns out to be successful, does not logic dictate that similar preparation, when adjusted for the situation, may save lives and property when terrorism strikes us again? It is not automatic, but there are certainly possibilities to be explored.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

No dollars for hurricane prep = the chance that more lives will be lost.

Lesser knowledge of how to deal with disaster = more pain and grief.

More knowledge of how to deal with disaster = less pain and grief.

Cutting vacation short = diddly squat.

Actions speak louder than photo ops, Mr. President.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Before you continue, I should warn you: There must be something else you can be doing other than reading the rants and musings of someone who is always right, without exception. Something constructive, maybe?


Then lay on, Macduff! And damned be he who cries first, "Hold! Enough!"

Welcome to the blog where the New York Times is the Bible, the sport of baseball is above reproach, James Carville is worshiped like a deity, "The Godfather" is deemed the greatest creation in the history of electronic media, "The Simpsons" is used to illustrate all of society's ills, President and Senator Clinton are considered two of the greatest patriots on the planet, Phil Mickelson is revered, and, most importantly, the First Amendment reigns supreme.

Since I'm new to the whole blog thing, that's it for this world premiere post. I'll be back soon, doing my best to annoy anyone and everyone. Until then I leave you with the words of a great American, Josiah Bartlett:

"We are here to raise the lowest common denominator, not appeal to it."