In Paul Krugman's column today, he writes about the administration's "general hostility to the role of government as a force for good. And Americans living along the Gulf Coast have now reaped the consequences of that hostility." A strong and capable FEMA, as we see clearly now, is vital to America's security and safety. The man in charge of FEMA, Michael ("Brownie") Brown, was appointed director after his college roommate left the post. That roommate, Joseph Allbaugh, was himself a political confidant of George Bush rather than a seasoned emergency-management professional. That's right: Brownie is a crony of a crony.
Krugman mentions a Chicago Tribune article I saw yesterday morning: The U.S.S. Bataan is a Navy hospital ship sitting off the Gulf Coast, where it rode out the hurricane en route from Panama to Norfolk. The ship remained in place for days but, to my knowledge, still has not been mobilized to help Katrina's victims. On board that ship are 1,200 good folks in the Navy, ready and willing to help out, and 600 empty hospital beds. Gee, doesn't that sound mighty convenient? And yet while hospital patients grew sicker and died, that hospital ship was never called into service. I don't like to see my tax dollars blown on foolishness like the missile defense pipe dream, or on the prosecution of a war I don't believe should have been started. And here's a way to make use of those defense dollars to help save American lives, and instead the administration dawdled and bungled and blamed the victims.
The Bush administration and I have a core difference in our beliefs about the purpose of the federal government. Silly optimist me, I thought one of the government's roles was to keep the citizenry safe. The politicians and ideologues allied with Bush want to "starve the beast" of federal government; in so doing, we see, some citizens may end up starved as well, drowning or dying of thirst. It's every man, woman, and child for themselves, and if they didn't happen to be born with privilege, the government sure isn't going to help them get it.
One thing that gives me hope for the future is the lack of outspoken support for Bush and FEMA. Republicans and Democrats alike have called for full investigation of the many deadly failures of the past week. I hope more Americans now understand that those Republicans who want to starve the beast threaten every American's safety net—and will quit voting them into office.
As Bob Herbert concludes in his column, "this is not about politics. It's about competence. And when the president is so obviously clueless about matters so obviously important, it means that the rest of us, like the people left stranded in New Orleans, are in deep, deep trouble."
From the NYT's news section rather than Op-Ed comes this article, "After Failures, Officials Play Blame Game." Fucking FEMA officials obstructed relief efforts in a multitude of ways. Rather than asking businesses to help out, FEMA turned back three Wal-Mart trucks filled with bottled water. The Coast Guard wasn't allowed to deliver 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. They turned down the City of Chicago's offer of personnel and equipment (FEMA agreed to accept a single tanker truck from Chicago). Michael Chertoff, the director of homeland security, naturally enough blames the flood-damaged local government for the delays. The local authorities, of course, have example after example of requests that sat unanswered by FEMA, promises made but not kept.
The lead paragraph of this article says it all: "Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina." Does it seem a little early for that? Like maybe they could have the respect to wait until the bodies have been counted and finally accorded a mote of dignity?
On another subject, John Roberts is now up for Rehnquist's spot rather than O'Connor's. What? Oh, I guess it makes perfect sense for a man with a couple years of experience as a judge to be Chief Justice. (Boy, I'll bet Scalia is pissed.)