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« How Much Can We Believe? | Main | The Past Ain't What It Used To Be »

Civics 101

A retired Marine major explains that FEMA is not a first responder.

I'll have more thoughts on this later. But briefly, to the degree that this has been a PR disaster for the administration, it (unlike all of the other things, like Global Warming, and Racism in Amerikkka, and lousy movies out of Hollywood, and French disdain for us, and the hurricane itself) really is Bush's fault.

Why? Because he's not only done nothing to discourage the notion that the federal government should see every sparrow that falls, and immediately call in an air strike of a soft net upon which it can plummet, nurses at the ready, and grief counselors for the potentially bereaved sparrow family, even before it hits the ground, he's actively encouraged it. As such, criticism of him as a "conservative" shows just how meaningless that word has become, a situation to which, for better or worse, he has been a major contributor.

[Update at 9:30 AM PDT]

Hugh Hewitt has related thoughts, and questions for Terry Neal and Brendan Loy:

What is the "police power?"

Where does it reside?

Is there a federal "police power?"

Can the federal government order the evacuation of a city when state and local officials have not done so?

Who has first call on a state's national guard?

Who controls a city's police department?

Can a federal official order a police department to deploy in strength to specific points within a city such as the Supredome or the Convention Center?

Can a federal official commandeer a city's supply of school busses, city busses, and city personnel?

[Update mid afternoon on Tuesday]

Here's another little bit from Bill Whittle's piece from yesterday that's pertinent:

A person of some modest education might have remembered that the worship and adulation fostered after 9/11 was for the NYPD and the FDNY. No one was buying FEMA hats after 9/11, because FEMA is essentially a mop-up agency. It's the first responders, the local governments, that will determine if a city will live or die. The State -- that means, the "governor"-- has the sole authority to mobilize the National Guard, and the governor of the state of Louisana was not only slow to do that, she turned down NG assistance from several OTHER states as well. The President does not have the authority to drop precious egg salad sandwiches from Michael Moore's missing helicopters. We do this ON PURPOSE. We limit the power of the federal government, as those of us fortunate enough to have spent time in Civics, rather than Self Esteem classes, are aware. This is so that we do not develop a central power so strong that eventually we end up with idiot inbred royals, or Presidentes for life, on the face of OUR money.
Posted by Rand Simberg at September 06, 2005 07:40 AM
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We seem to 'relearn' this lesson every time there's some major disaster. And especially over the last four years, I've heard multiple reminders that one needs to be prepared to stand on their own for 3-5 days. All the states have been told, multiple times, that the Federal response time would be 96-120 hours. I just find it outrageous that anyone on the Gulf Coast gets caught unprepared, but it happens every single time there's a storm.

While I agree with what you say, it discounts several things. 1) People just plain don't listen -- recall that shortly after the South Asia tsunami disaster, there was that tsunami warning that happened on the US West Coast, a place that already should be familiar with what to do since its in all the phone books, and a bunch of folk went down to the shore to see it. 2) In our instant gratification society, nobody seems to believe that responding to such massive and widespread destruction takes a certain amount of time and I'm not sure you can ever make them believe. Trying to convince people otherwise seems like simply making excuses, or gets spun as some sort of lost capability (the old 'if we can go to the moon...' fallacy).

Basically, to alter an old phrase, you can lead idiots to wisdom, but you can't make them think.

- Eric.

Posted by Eric S. at September 6, 2005 08:28 AM

All which explains the existance within FEMA of the Urban Search and Rescue Response Team, designed to be deployed in six hours.

It also should be noted that a federal state of emergency was declared two days before landfall - there is no reason why the clock has to start ticking when the hurricane actually hits.

And lastly, if anyone can point to anywhere else where the successful evacuation of more than 300, 000 people in 24 hours (given the simultaneous shut down of Greyhouse, the airlines and Amtrak), has taking place, please, go ahead. Contraflow was an extraordinary success, and LA and NOLA deserve praise for getting that working.

Posted by Duncan Young at September 6, 2005 09:22 AM

What sickens me is that there are several people on the left that are starting to say, "Finally the media has grown a pair and they are starting to show the anger towards the gov't that it deserves." This statement drives me nuts. If anything its the media's fault why we are in this situation to begin with. Every hurricane up until now has been the storm of the century leaving behind a wake of destruction. Yet, people evacuate, leave their house, leave their jobs, deplete their savings, only to come back and find most everything exactly as it was.

In this situation the hurricane was literally a wake of destruction. In past situations it has been primarily a civilian effort to rescue, cleanup, and recover. Once it became apparent that the Local and State Gov't lacked the capability to deal with the situation then the federal gov't had to step in. The military and the federal gov't are such large entities that it is going to take a few days for their resources to be realigned, given clear objectives, and mobilized in a unified structure.

What I also find deplorable is the fact that the black leaders are taking this oppurtunity to play the race card in this situation. They were awfully quick to note that if this had happened to a white area of New Hampshire then they would have gotten immediate relief from the Country. I think a much more valuable message for the black leaders would be not to direct their anger to rich white men but instead to direct that anger to the poor black people that stayed and say, "See this is why you need to care, this is why you need a job, and an education. So, that we it comes down to a do or die situation like this that you are capable of saving yourself, saving your children, and putting them out of harms way. But Noooo, because you all didn't want to be sell outs, and were too lazy to do anything for yourself, you've been reduced to being stranded in the middle of a flooded city, begging and pleading to the cameras of the media by holding your starving crying children up to the cameras."

You see I believe that if there is to be any train of blame to be laid down after this then it has to start with the parents of these children that were put in such a horrible position. After all, isn't it ultimately your responsibility as a parent to see to the welfare, safety, and security of your children? Those people hold those babies up the camera in defiant manner, acting like we failed, like the gov't failed, like we didn't care. When in actuality it was their lack of caring and concern that got them in this situation to begin with.

Posted by Josh Reiter at September 6, 2005 10:14 AM

What sickens me is that there are several people on the left that are starting to say, "Finally the media has grown a pair and they are starting to show the anger towards the gov't that it deserves."

If that's true, it's pretty amusing, since usually the left's position is that we're supposed to love the government. I guess that only applies when the government isn't run by bible-thumping, Republican nazis.

Posted by Rand Simberg at September 6, 2005 10:38 AM

Josh,

Good god.

Most of those people had jobs and worked damn hard. They were waiters and janitors and bartenders. They were musicians and cooks and nursing home workers.
Have you never heard of the working poor? The service economy?
For that matter, have you ever eaten at a restaurant? Contemplated the economics of a cheeseburger?
I dont know what Ayn Rand fastasy land you live in, but this is what your real live economy looks like.

Most of the rest were disabled or elderly. A lot of Alzhemers. A lot of Parkinson. With family staying to take care of them.

I guess that only applies when the government isn't run by bible-thumping, Republican nazis.

It definitely applies when dealing with incompetent bible-thumping, Republican nazis.

A god-damn failed horse judge was supposed to be running the relief operation. Who was somehow unaware of people dying of thirst on live TV for days on end.
No wonder the right is having to fall back on the Chewbacca defence.

Posted by Duncan Young at September 6, 2005 11:34 AM

A god-damn failed horse judge was supposed to be running the relief operation. Who was somehow unaware of people dying of thirst on live TV for days on end.

Fine, fire him. I won't complain. I wish that Bush would fire a lot more people. Of course, I also wish that he'd cut back the federal government to doing the things that the Constitution intended, and at which it's compentent, which is not supplying water to individuals in the first hours after a disaster when the local government is incompetent and corrupt.

No wonder the right is having to fall back on the Chewbacca defence.

Not that I'm part of "the right," but I have no idea what this means. I probably don't care, either.

Lord knows I don't object to criticism of the federal government per se in the performance of its legitimate responsibilities, but I do object to the simultaneous aversion of eyes from what killed a lot more people--the local and state governments.

Posted by Rand Simberg at September 6, 2005 11:44 AM

Not that I'm part of "the right," but I have no idea what this means. I probably don't care, either.

Its a reference to a South Park parody of Johnnie Cochran, throwing up non-sequiturs as a defence strategy and was not aimed specifically at you.

The fact is that the pre-storm evacuation of New Orleans, run by the locals, was one of the most successful exercises of its kind in US history. It was a huge improvement on Ivan, which only got 60% out and left hundreds stranded on the highways. Hundreds of thousands of people got out of town, thousands more got to relative safety at the Superdome. People go on about the school buses, but a) who was going to drive them (the bus drivers were packing themselves up) and b) because of contraflow, they could only be used once to get people out of town, and would probably have snarled up traffic. At max, the might have gotten 10,000 out. Instead the city bus lines were used to get people far more efficiently to the Superdome.

The main complaint against the feds is the catatropic failure to get relief in a timely manner. Hyatt Hotels and Harry Connick Jr were able to get supplies in by Wednesday; FEMA was actively obstructing government and NGO convoys; and the President failed to given NORTHCOM permission to act, despite plenty of notice, and legal precedent.

And these are the guys you trust to reshape the Middle East by the ultimate application of big government.

Posted by Duncan Young at September 6, 2005 12:57 PM

> who was going to drive them (the bus drivers were packing themselves up)

Since a high school student managed the feat, it's pretty clear that there wasn't actually a shortage of drivers.

Moreover, the "official" drivers were available. It's called doing your job. (Yes, that takes precedence over personal bug-outs. It's one of the consequences of public service.)

There are at least 700 buses under water. At 4-50 people per bus....

Posted by Andy Freeman at September 6, 2005 02:54 PM

Since a high school student managed the feat, it's pretty clear that there wasn't actually a shortage of drivers.

700 school buses, driven by untrained drivers, first unleashed on the narrow streets of New Orleans, and then into contraflow traffic.

No-one would have escaped alive...

Moreover, the "official" drivers were available. It's called doing your job. (Yes, that takes precedence over personal bug-outs. It's one of the consequences of public service.)

Does the same rule apply to the president?

School bus drivers are contracted for weekday mornings and afternoons-plus field trips with advanced notice. It's one of the consequences of public unions.

Posted by Duncan Young at September 6, 2005 04:38 PM

Duncan, it is amazing how you get everything wrong.

Contraflow did NOT work, because it wasn't extended far enough. They only ran it for 12 miles, so it just moved the traffic jam.

Of course the clock starts when the storm hits. The pre-deployed Federal assets have to be kept far enough back that they're not destroyed themselves. After the storm, the Federal assets are NOT ALLOWED to do anything (it's called the Constitution) unless and until state officials request it. In fact, FEMA *DID* show up and was turned away by the LA state gov't. That idiot governor was also the one stopping the Red Cross.

The so-called evacuation of NO was a dismal failure. 700 buses at 60 people each with a 24 hour or so break for the actual hurricane itself, would've moved essentially all those who spent 4 days of hell, abandoned by the city and state authorities until finally relieved by the massive Federal response. Oh, and 300,000 in 24 hours is certainly good, but you said the Feds had TWO days warning. Which is it? And if it had been two days of evacuation, how many more could've gotten out?

Finally, don't forget that NO did *NOT* bear the full brunt of Katrina -- the Miss. coast did! Examine carefully how MS handled their response and prompt invite to the Federal assets. I suspect that if you could plot an animated map of response, it started out focussed on the MS coast and then the levees broke in NO.

If you want to argue that communications and bureaucracy need to be tremendously more streamlined to shorten the timeline for response, I'll wholeheartedly agree. If you want to blame the Feds for the current length of the timeline, I don't think you've got much to go on.

- Eric.

Posted by Eric S. at September 6, 2005 05:45 PM

> 700 school buses, driven by untrained drivers, first unleashed on the narrow streets of New Orleans, and then into contraflow traffic.

Who says that they have to go on the narrow streets?

"Contraflow traffic" is freeway traffic. There's nothing magical about driving in a set of lanes that happens to be on the left. (North of Los Angeles, they even have a freeway where the north and southbound lanes repeatedly cross over one another like a grapevine, hence the name. Ordinary folk have driven it every day for years.)

Of course, there is also the fact that a high school student did what Young asserts is impossible. I'm pretty sure that there were more qualified drivers available (big rig folks are used to the size), but he was good enough.

In short, there were drivers. What there wasn't was a competent local govt, and Young seems to think that that's Bush's fault.

Posted by Andy Freeman at September 7, 2005 07:13 AM

quote from Rand: "If that's true, it's pretty amusing, since usually the left's position is that we're supposed to love the government. I guess that only applies when the government isn't run by bible-thumping, Republican nazis."

Yeap, on Friday Bill Maher had Anderson Cooper on as a guest and Bill credited him as well as the media in general for finally showing the anger toward the President and his administration that it deserves. To which everyone in the audience applauded loudly. Anderson replied, ""All these politicians all this week are saying, 'Well, you know what? This is not the time to point fingers; this is not the time to, you know, quibble about things.' Well, you know what? When is the time, because I'm happy to write it down in my engagement book. And make an appointment, because, to me, the time is now, when the world is watching." Anderson Cooper

Yes I understand that there are sick people and they need to be tended to in a special way. However, I speak in anger and without pulling punches to those that have always been and continue to just sit there and keep asking, "when you gonna do something for me already? When am I gonna get my handout already? Is it time to start looting televisions and shoot at people yet?" I hope that Anderson makes an appointment with those people as well cause to me those are the ones that are making us look bad to the rest of the world.

Posted by Josh Reiter at September 7, 2005 08:46 AM

The media is showing anger? How about my anger that they're not doing there job (which is to inform the public.) Perhaps they could inform the public of what a piss poor job the LA government did (in relation to other states?)

My first thought when I saw the mayor and the governor on the tube the night before Katrina made landfall was that the people of LA are in trouble if they have these imbeciles to rely on.

Posted by ken anthony at September 8, 2005 04:44 AM

"700 school buses, driven by untrained drivers, first unleashed on the narrow streets of New Orleans, and then into contraflow traffic.

"No-one would have escaped alive..."

So the NO disaster plan which called for the use of those buses was ipso facto worthless, and the officials who devised and/or approved of that plan were corrupt and/or ignorant?

You do support indicting them, yes?

Posted by John "Akatsukami" Braue at September 10, 2005 10:32 AM

What is the "police power?"

- The power to enforce law, to use force in this manner,
and to bring entities to court to face charges. While no
doubt one can find some obscure 19th century court ruling
that claims the federal government ahs no police power
anyone who has ever had an item of dispute with a DEA
agent, a FBI agent or a secret service agent will find that
in the 21s't century fascist state we live in that there
is police power at many levels.
Where does it reside?
at the relevant authority having jurisdiction.

Is there a federal "police power?"
damn straight nowadays. The feds have the ability to
enforce civil rights violations, if nothing else.

Can the federal government order the evacuation of a city when state and local officials have not done so?

Sure, they can use the insurrection act.

Who has first call on a state's national guard?

The adjutant general of any state, assuming that the
National guard is in state, and not in Iraq.

Who controls a city's police department?

that depends, most cops are out of control

Can a federal official order a police department to deploy in strength to specific points within a city such as the Supredome or the Convention Center?

Sure, they may not be listened to. This is a non-sequitur,
though. The new orleans municipal functions collapsed
during the hurricane. comms failed, equipment failed,
they were operating with minimal capacity.

Can a federal official commandeer a city's supply of school busses, city busses, and city personnel?

Sure, under a declaration of martial law, the army can.
I suspect under the homeland security act, the feds
can do what they want.

Of course all these questions are non-starters. This
is the sophistry of radical libertarians, posse comitatus members
and the freak shows of the bush machine.

These are better questions to ask.

Would Louisiana and Mississippi handle this emergency better
if they did not have major portions of the National Guard in
Iraq?

How many trucks, radios, emergency generators, tents,
field kitchens of these forces were in iraq during the hurricane?

How many key emergency workers were removed from louisiana
by this military action?

What law prevents the US Military from lending aid, comfort and
humanitarian assistance to disaster victims?

How many carriers were in Norfolk the day of the hurricane?

How many people can a carrier rescue if it is so ordered?

What federal property is in New Orleans?

What prevents federal forces from entering those, fixing these
up, using them as feeding stations and creating secure zones?

Where should the president be during a natural disaster? On vacation, In washington or near the disaster zone?

Posted by mathguy at September 12, 2005 06:34 AM


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