Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday Reading

  • The New York Times leads off with a massive analysis of what went wrong between the state and local officials and the federal government in the wake of the hurricane.

    The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

    Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency officials expected the state and city to direct their own efforts and ask for help as needed. Leaders in Louisiana and New Orleans, though, were so overwhelmed by the scale of the storm that they were not only unable to manage the crisis, but they were not always exactly sure what they needed. While local officials assumed that Washington would provide rapid and considerable aid, federal officials, weighing legalities and logistics, proceeded at a deliberate pace.

    Read the rest of it here. It is dispassionate, detailed, and makes it apparent that FEMA, once a proactive and efficient agency under the Clinton administration, has been turned into a second-rate bureaucracy run by left-overs from the Bush-Cheney campaign; state and local officials were hampered by miscommunication and the small detail that the infrastructure they were relying on to execute their emergency plan was under eight feet of water; National Guard troops and equipment that were intended to be in place to help with the rescue and recovery were otherwise occupied — in Iraq; and the much-vaunted National Recovery Plan put forth by the Department of Homeland Security last winter wasn’t worth the PDF it was printed on.

  • Michael Moore sends an open letter to those who voted for Mr. Bush.

    On this, the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I’m just curious, how does it feel?

    How does it feel to know that the man you elected to lead us after we were attacked went ahead and put a guy in charge of FEMA whose main qualification was that he ran horse shows?

    That’s right. Horse shows.

    I really want to know — and I ask you this in all sincerity and with all due respect — how do you feel about the utter contempt Mr. Bush has shown for your safety? C’mon, give me just a moment of honesty. Don’t start ranting on about how this disaster in New Orleans was the fault of one of the poorest cities in America. Put aside your hatred of Democrats and liberals and anyone with the last name of Clinton. Just look me in the eye and tell me our President did the right thing after 9/11 by naming a horse show runner as the top man to protect us in case of an emergency or catastrophe.

    I want you to put aside your self-affixed label of Republican/conservative/born-again/capitalist/ditto-head/right-winger and just talk to me as an American, on the common ground we both call America.

    Are we safer now than before 9/11? When you learn that behind the horse show runner, the #2 and #3 men in charge of emergency preparedness have zero experience in emergency preparedness, do you think we are safer?

    When you look at Michael Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, a man with little experience in national security, do you feel secure?

    When men who never served in the military and have never seen young men die in battle send our young people off to war, do you think they know how to conduct a war? Do they know what it means to have your legs blown off for a threat that was never there?

    Do you really believe that turning over important government services to private corporations has resulted in better services for the people?

    Why do you hate our federal government so much? You have voted for politicians for the past 25 years whose main goal has been to de-fund the federal government. Do you think that cutting federal programs like FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers has been good or bad for America? GOOD OR BAD?

    With the nation’s debt at an all-time high, do you think tax cuts for the rich are still a good idea? Will you give yours back so hundreds of thousands of homeless in New Orleans can have a home?

    Do you believe in Jesus? Really? Didn’t he say that we would be judged by how we treat the least among us? Hurricane Katrina came in and blew off the facade that we were a nation with liberty and justice for all. The wind howled and the water rose and what was revealed was that the poor in America shall be left to suffer and die while the President of the United States fiddles and tells them to eat cake.

    That’s not a joke. The day the hurricane hit and the levees broke, Mr. Bush, John McCain and their rich pals were stuffing themselves with cake. A full day after the levees broke (the same levees whose repair funding he had cut), Mr. Bush was playing a guitar some country singer gave him. All this while New Orleans sank under water.

    It would take ANOTHER day before the President would do a flyover in his jumbo jet, peeking out the widow at the misery 2500 feet below him as he flew back to his second home in DC. It would then be TWO MORE DAYS before a trickle of federal aid and troops would arrive. This was no seven minutes in a sitting trance while children read “My Pet Goat” to him. This was FOUR DAYS of doing nothing other than saying “Brownie (FEMA director Michael Brown), you’re doing a heck of a job!”

    My Republican friends, does it bother you that we are the laughing stock of the world?

    And on this sacred day of remembrance, do you think we honor or shame those who died on 9/11/01? If we learned nothing and find ourselves today every bit as vulnerable and unprepared as we were on that bright sunny morning, then did the 3,000 die in vain?

    Our vulnerability is not just about dealing with terrorists or natural disasters. We are vulnerable and unsafe because we allow one in eight Americans to live in horrible poverty. We accept an education system where one in six children never graduate and most of those who do can’t string a coherent sentence together. The middle class can’t pay the mortgage or the hospital bills and 45 million have no health coverage whatsoever.

    Are we safe? Do you really feel safe? You can only move so far out and build so many gated communities before the fruit of what you’ve sown will be crashing through your walls and demanding retribution. Do you really want to wait until that happens? Or is it your hope that if they are left alone long enough to soil themselves and shoot themselves and drown in the filth that fills the street that maybe the problem will somehow go away?

    I know you know better. You gave the country and the world a man who wasn’t up for the job and all he does is hire people who aren’t up for the job. You did this to us, to the world, to the people of New Orleans. Please fix it. Bush is yours. And you know, for our peace and safety and security, this has to be fixed. What do you propose?

    I have an idea, and it isn’t a horse show.

    Michael Moore

  • Finally, if you’re suffering from Katrina overload, take a look behind the scenes at one of the new TV shows this fall and how the writers worked to make it something new.

    CBS may have been the most-watched broadcast network during last year’s prime-time season, but it never scored a decisive victory among viewers between ages 18 and 49. And this time around, its prospects for that elusive prize are riding, in no small measure, on the shoulders of two writers producing their first television show.

    Each got his primary training during four years spent drafting witty retorts and goofy skits for David Letterman’s viewer mail segments. And each marked his 30th birthday only last month, six days apart.

    But those who might expect the pair – Carter Bays and Craig Thomas – to have emerged from Mr. Letterman’s “Late Show” writing room with a sitcom that is arch and cynical will be surprised to discover that theirs is a romantic comedy aspiring to be as uplifting as it is screwball. Titled “How I Met Your Mother,” it is a show about destiny, namely the quest of its main character, a 27-year-old architect named Ted, who is scouring New York City in search of his soulmate.

    It’s nice to see writers earning a little respect — and publicity — in television. (Sorry, Old Professor; more writing on writers…)

  • The Dolphins kick off their season today against the Denver Broncos. Tough call for me to decide who to root for; I spent eight years in Colorado during the Elway era and I have a soft spot for them. But I’m also hoping that the new coach of the Dolphins, Nick Saban, can have a better fortune with my adopted hometown team than the worst-ever 4-12 record of last year. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions take on Green Bay. The line is the Lions by 3. Yeah, right.