Feverish about FEMA

Let us hear it now for Dennis Byrne in Chi Trib with his “GULF COAST CRISIS: Spreading blame from pillar to post,” in which we read a truly helpful solution:

Abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency and give its job to the media, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other know-it-alls who accused Hurricane Katrina rescuers of incompetence, indifference or racism.

Yes, but putting FEMA down is a serious recommendation by Jacksonville State U. econ teacher Christopher Westley at the Mises Institute site.  “What if there was no such thing as FEMA?” Westley asks, intending to say, I’m sure, what if there WERE no such thing as FEMA, because there is one and the condition is contrary to fact.  He delivers a list of things FEMA did badly or didn’t do well, including the off-again, on-again $2,000 federal donation to survivors, saying its director Mike Brown (who later resigned, as we know) would have gotten a Ken Lay-style indictment to contend with if he were in private business.

If there were no FEMA, no such wealth distribution (to say nothing of the waste) would take place, while much of the currently squelched efforts by private individuals, non-profits, and firms would be flourishing all along the Gulf Coast.

FEMA was being generous with “other people’s money.”  Its concern as a public agency is primarily public relations, not public relief, concerned about

drawing attention away from decades of federal levee management and federal flood insurance programs. This is about not losing the black vote in the city that practically invented vote-buying. Even if relieving human suffering is on FEMA's radar screen, it is far down its list of major priorities.

We can’t be sure if he’s right about particulars in his own indictment, because he relies on MSM, which got fairly hysterical in the last week or two and were commended for it by the lately somewhat worked up Editor & Publisher, the trade gazette whose editor urged news anchors to gin up opposition to the Iraq war.  Objectivity is becoming the hobgoblin of superstitious men, to adapt Emerson, who said it about “a foolish consistency” and probably meant it, such was his peculiar mindset.  But this FEMA-basher makes good Mises-style points about government inefficiency.

On the other hand, consider this about the Katrina relief effort so far from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  “Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge” got it wrong, says Jack Kelly, meaning these MSM’ers I mention above — MainStream Media performers, for you uninitiated.  It was one of the worst ever, said various instant hurricane mavens.  No it wasn’t, says Kelly, it was one of the best responses ever.

“The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."

He’s quoting a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief and ticked off the record this time.

[It] took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

. . . . More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters.

The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.

Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 refugees.

As for newsies beefing about how long it took — instant mavens all or most — consider what’s said by a former Air Force logistics officer with his advice “for us in the Fourth Estate” on his blog, MoltenThought.  "You cannot just snap your fingers and make the military appear somewhere," says the AF man, Jason van Steenwyk.

Guardsmen need to receive mobilization orders; report to their armories; draw equipment; receive orders and convoy to the disaster area. Guardsmen driving down from Pennsylvania or Navy ships sailing from Norfolk can't be on the scene immediately.

Relief efforts must be planned. Other than prepositioning supplies near the area likely to be afflicted (which was done quite efficiently), this cannot be done until the hurricane has struck and a damage assessment can be made. There must be a route reconnaissance to determine if roads are open, and bridges along the way can bear the weight of heavily laden trucks.

And federal troops and Guardsmen from other states cannot be sent to a disaster area until their presence has been requested by the governors of the afflicted states.

Uh-oh.  We know whom he’s talking about, the do-nothing governor of Louisiana.  She dithered, as we know, watching her mayoral counterpart dither too, leaving 200 or so school buses unused.  (Uh-oh the other way: Kelly reports 2,000, which is effectively rebutted at Media Matters but not before being widely and inaccurately reported, mostly by conservative outlets but also by George Stephanopoulos at ABC News.)

No comments: