Saturday, September 10, 2005

When things should work, but don't work

Indecision by decree

from the NYT comes a description of the weirdest FEMA mistake yet.
Hundreds of firefighters, who responded to a nationwide call for help in the disaster, were held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent on to the devastated area. The delay, some volunteers complained, meant lives were being lost in New Orleans.
They block! They block! They block!

Who insisted on community relations and sexual harassment training? What were they thinking? Were they Bush political appointees saying "the most important thing is that this looks good for the press. We don't want these yahoo firemen saying anything embarrassing"?

They walk, but never for the distance

Looks that way:
Ms. Rule, the FEMA spokeswoman, said there was no urgency for the firefighters to arrive because they were primarily going to do community relations work, not rescue.
When things should work but don't work, that's the work of all these governors

Ian and Amy wrote that song in 2004 specifically about government officials who, for ideological reasons sabotage government programs to help the needy. I assume the governors that they were thinking about then were former govenors of California and Texas. It seems prescient, but it isn't foresight to complain about a problem already there. The only thing that is new is the scale.

So we won't wait. We won't wait for all these governors.

The Evens end by calling for the governed to support themselves. A revolutionary call for mutual aid. But you can't build a levee without a lot of resources, and if the people marshalling those resources are to be publicly accountable, they must wind up working in a structure that looks like a civil government. The question is, do we want one that works?

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