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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Setting The Record Straight

Michael Brown, the former - and disgraced - head of FEMA appeared before a congressional committee yesterday and began the process of untelling the story told by the mainstream media.
Brown blames Gov. Blanco
By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times

Michael D. Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told Congress yesterday that Bush administration officials hurt hurricane relief efforts by rejecting his requests for more money, but his worst problem was a "dysfunctional" response from Louisiana officials.

He said he warned Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco days before Hurricane Katrina struck that she should order a mandatory evacuation, and he said it is not the job of the federal government or the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be a police or fire department or to provide food and gasoline to people in the hours and days after a disaster.

"FEMA doesn't evacuate communities. FEMA does not do law enforcement. FEMA does not do communications," Mr. Brown told the House select bipartisan committee investigating the response to Katrina [my emphasis]. (link)
Brown is going to continue to be pilloried in the press anyway, but he said yesterday what I was thinking as the hurricane was subsiding and "reporters" were making wild accusations about FEMA not being there for this, and FEMA not preparing for that.

In my lifetime, I don't remember FEMA ever being expected to rescue people after a natural disaster. Or to drive through a hail of gunfire to provide transportation for a stranded group of citizens who, seemingly, couldn't walk their way out of town. Even in the Bill Clinton days, spoken of so fondly by the media, FEMA was expected to bring in relief supplies and provide low-cost rebuilding loans. That was it.

But somehow, with Katrina - and George W Bush - FEMA was to be the cavalry, the New Orleans police, and Greyhound.

Look for more truth-telling as time passes.

What a Great Idea

Otis White, writing in the New York Times, thinks we should have funded passenger train systems for the cities of New Orleans and Houston. Had we done so, we could have evacuated the cities quickly before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck.
The Little Engine That Could

WE'VE learned a lot about evacuating cities in recent days, much of it deeply troubling. But if the failures of New Orleans and the gridlock of Houston show anything, it's that we urgently need a third way out of cities, something other than flying or driving. Fortunately, there is such a way: passenger rail.

If local and federal authorities had worked with Amtrak to make better use of its trains in New Orleans, thousands could have been evacuated before the worst of Katrina hit. And if Houston had gone ahead with earlier proposals to develop high-speed rail links, the same might have been true there. (link)
Now there's a project Congress can sink a few billion dollars into - having (more) poorly utilized mass-transit systems that will collect dust, except for the once-in-sixty-years catastrophic event that will make them useful.

I hope the members of Congress aren't reading Otis's article this morning.