Monday, September 12, 2005

The Myth of the Local First Responders

The latest lie being pushed by the right, is that when it comes to hurricanes and such, local authorities are first responders, state authorities are second responders and the federal government is a distant third, welcome in only by the invitation of the state and local authorities.

First of all, this is simply bullshit. The practical demonstration of that is the response by the federal government to the hurricanes in Florida over the course of 2004 a presidential election year, which I am sure had nothing to do with it. Federal officials were on the ground immediately after the hurricanes handing out money to swing voters, I mean hurricane victims, like cash was candy. In case you doubt my word, please visit and read:
  • St. Petersburg Times: Unlike Andrew, aid's right on Charley's heels
  • FEMA Press Release On Charley
  • FEMA Press Release September 4th, 2004: Massive Federal Response Underway For Hurricane Frances
  • White House Press Release from September 6th, 2004: Responding to Hurricanes Charley and Frances
    If one were not careful, one might get the impression that the only time Bush and his administration gives a shit is when their political ass is in the crack.

    The real evidence to disprove this claim by conservatives that the federal government's hands were tied comes from the August 27th letter to President Bush by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. The meat of the document is the first sentance: Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. With that one sentance, Governor Blanco has invoked the act that gives the Federal Government authority to operate in Louisiana. Bush responded to this request by declaring Louisiana to be in a Federal State of Emergency on August 27th. Look at the text of Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana and remember this was written before the President had decided to blame the Democrats:
    The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing.

    The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of (list of parishes edited out)...

    Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
    There you go. President Bush himself has ordered DHS and FEMA to get their asses in gear and save lives.

    Once the Stafford Act was invoked by Governor Blanco then the authority for recovery and relief efforts reverts to the federal government, specifically the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency. You can read this for yourself in the National Response Plan that was created just for such emergencies. Figure 11 on page 93 really lays it out in graphical form and one thing is clear: once the President declares a state of emergency, the ball is in the feds court.

    Don't believe the lies being told by the administration's spinmiesters. Whatever Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco screwed up, this wasn't it. They did everything they were supposed to in order to get federal aid. The failure to get federal aid stems from the fact that President Bush was on vacation, the FEMA and DHS heads were incompetent and the men and women trained to respond in our military were never given orders to act.

    That is failure of leadership by our President and nobody else.

    Worst. President. Ever.
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