Posted by Steven Hayward
I love it: FEMA to the non-rescue, again. But no media outcry, of course.
Hmmmm... 42 people dead (spread out over 9 states) versus 1,800 (largely in and around one city). I don't see how reasonable people will be able to draw much of a comparison, thus far. But I see that the blog you linked to in turn linked to the Associated Press - I think that they qualify as the media - for an article that quoted someone critical of FEMA. I read of power outages and people warming up in school gyms. Good luck getting the vast majority of Americans to see this as a serious screw-up of the Obama presidency! Powerline and Limbaugh and NLT have their work cut out for them.
Missing the point again, as usual. What makes you think FEMA can actually work (under any president)? Ponder that, and re-read.
"What makes you think FEMA can actually work (under any president)? Ponder that, and re-read." You're right, Steve, disaster management is a pipe dream. The best response to disasters is to run, screaming, with your hands in the air.
MIssed the point again. Why was it that the Red Cross and WalMart (yes, WalMart) were better prepared and faster on the scene to Katrina than FEMA, and then were blocked by the Feds from proceeding with their own private efforts for the first 72 hours? Hint: The Post Office in my town out in California won't deliver my mail right now because my streetside mailbox is six inches below proper regulation height; meanwhile, FedEx and UPS both walk down my very steep driveway to my front door, usually with a friendly smile on their face, to deliver packages (sometimes heavy packages).
"Why was it that the Red Cross and WalMart (yes, WalMart) were better prepared and faster on the scene to Katrina than FEMA, and then were blocked by the Feds from proceeding with their own private efforts for the first 72 hours?" I'd say the answer to that comes in one word, Brownie.
Hmm, I didn't realize Brownie was still running FEMA this week. Try again, Stu. That answer flunks.
I was responding to the part of the post that I had quoted, Stevie. That's what, you know, the quotation marks were for. As the first commenter pointed out, the situation here in the midwest, where I'm currently living, is hardly comparable to Katrina. Maybe the administration could have handled the situation better, I don't know (though from where I'm sitting, in the middle of the storm area, I see no major problems) but it's simply not comparable to the absolute failure during Katrina.
Steven, I appreciate your principled skepticism about FEMA as an agency. Are you equally skeptical of any and all government agencies which have as broad, or even broader missions (DHS comes to mind)? Would you recommend a company like, say, Blackwater replace FEMA? (haha)
For those less inclined to demonstrate that such an agency can't work by rooting for it to (metaphorically/literally?) drown, Norquist-style, via incompetence and negligence, there does seem to be some evidence that it hasn't always been doing such a "heckuva job" - in other words it has been effective during certain...ahem...periods. See here and here for starters. It's questionable praise coming from George W., but even he had kind words for Witt and FEMA during his first debate with Gore in 2000.
From the one article:
"How FEMA transformed itself from what many considered to be the worst federal agency (no small distinction) to among the best is the most dramatic success story of the federal government in recent years..."
"At a Congressional hearing in October 1993 to appraise FEMA's performance, congressmen and state disaster officials who testified praised FEMA's efforts and marveled at the turnaround Witt had engineered. Missouri State Emergency Management Director Jerry Uhlmann said that, "this flood showcased FEMA's new commitment and successful efforts in disaster response to catastrophic events." And, as disasters are bipartisan, the response to FEMA's success has been as well. "I haven't spent a lot of time complimenting the President [Clinton] on his appointments," said Oklahoma Republican Daniel Inhofe, "but I sure did on this one.""
"The true judge of FEMA's success lies not in the praise of Congress, though, but in the minds of the victims of natural disasters. Last year, FEMA sent 5,000 surveys to victims to ask them about the agency's performance. More than 80 percent of the respondents approved of the way the agency was doing its job--a percentage that would have been unthinkable in the dark days following Hurricane Andrew just one year before."
I also think you're perpetuating a myth about Wal-Mart vs. FEMA, as well - from conservative blog RedState:
"UPDATE: 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."
More evidence that FEMA can work.
But still, it is just hard to envision a big role for FEMA (even at its most effective) in this latest winter storm mess. It's spread out, not very intensely, over such a wide area. If FEMA IS failing here, hopefully President Obama and co. will address that. He's been in office less than 2 weeks. If the agency is actually failing at say, around the 9-month mark (let's mark Sept. 12 or so on the calendar), when there's actually been some time to institute changes, then I'll condemn him for not whipping the agency (back) into shape, an objective which seems entirely realistic.
Darn you Scanlon! You would post a (relatively) snark-free substantive comment on the very week where I'm up against the deadline to deliver the copy-edited manuscript of AR2 to the publisher (last step before galleys--woo-hoo!), teach an extra class at Georgetown to make up for an absence, and do three panel discussions and a speech in Baltimore in the space two days (none yet written) and direct a short video for a PBS competition.
I'll answer on the weekend if I'm still standing.
Needless to say, not much blogging the rest of this week.
A single death is a tragedy; 42 deaths is a statistic.
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