Saturday, September 03, 2005

derring don't

If nothing else emerges from the federal reluctance to deal with Katrina, the voice of N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin has the potential to redefine political officialese. The man talks, and people listen, and next to what he says, the tedious nostrums of Bush, Brown, and Chertoff wilt.

He's worth rereading - good on Jeneane for preserving that. People might hear Nagin and think they've not heard anyone talk like that in a while. While Mr. Kerry compassionates, Nagin reminds us what adequate democratic speech is like.

And Sheila Lennon points to this analysis of FEMA, where, among other things, we learn that
Before Michael Brown, the current head, joined the agency as its legal counsel, he headed the International Arabian Horse Association.
The Bush Brigade's response to Florida last year was no less lame. In the days after "Hurricane Charley" struck, it became clear that there was an intense desire on the part of all kinds of volunteer agencies to offer what services and relief they could. I remember speaking with the heads of a few of these agencies, who told me that their offers of coordination, information, space, workers, etc. were met with complete apathy by FEMA officials.

The FEMA people had no sense of the lay of the land, of who needed help, of where the biggest needs were, because they had no local knowledge. The local charitable organizations knew their own people's needs. They were being given money, furniture, blankets, which they wanted to share. Eventually several of the charitable groups formed an umbrella group to reach out on their own, but that came later. There at the beginning, at the point where the agency with funds and resources needed local intelligence most desperately, it blew off every offer, every opportunity.

The federal response - the dead, vacant, career-vampire inertia - was what there was. Only now, it's writ larger.

I first encountered FEMAfolk on the day they opened their first emergency center after "Charley." It was more like a tableau vivant storyboard for a film then in production than anything resembling community. They never made eye contact with any actual person, and spoke only to each other. Blue shirts. The thing in their eyes was fear. Fear of violence, fear of bad press, fear of having to actually do something, fear of our noticing that they hadn't any idea that they were on a mission, or what its purpose was. It was Capt. Kirk beaming down to a dying planet, equipped with his ignorance and arrogance, but without his derring-do.
P.S.: A friend notes that FEMA lists Pat Robertson's boodle, "Operation Blessing," as the #3 site for hurricane help.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/03/2005 8:28 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Jon, the FEMA list drew comment and notice on NPR and elsewhere. It looks like their solution, instead of perhaps filling out their list with other sources, was to link to someone else's list, which happens not to include Operation Covert Activities.

9/04/2005 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a deep avoidance here, a trait common amongst the FEMA-types. Eye contact, empathy, might just destroy the delusional wall of starchiness and self-import, the insularity neccessary in maintaining a sense of false competence and, in the order of things, superiority, common amongst these cheats.

Spock had more heart.

Also, referecning 60's TV, in the words of one Sgt Schultz: I know nothing.

9/05/2005 7:16 AM  

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