Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Emergency Government 101

For many years I thought it was an interesting notion that domestic turkeys would drown if allowed to stay outdoors during a rainstorm. The story goes that they stare up at the sky and inhale water, thereby drowning.

This is probably urban legend, and a quick visit to Snopes.com, while not the be-all, end-all of definitive sources, says it's a legend. Regardless, it would appear that certain populations of Homo Sapiens have acquired this deadly trait. Worse yet, those fortunate few individuals of that sub-population who do survive the water inhalation trick have learned an even more impressive one: Blaming the Federal Government, including the POTUS, for their woes while at the same time demanding immediate and massive relief within seconds of the deluge.

Here's an example of the skyward-gazing turkey:

Discussion thread at TFL forum, note "Eghad's" confusion

This may reflect a problem in our high schools with respect to the Goverment class, or maybe our particular gobbler just wasn't paying attention. Regardless, I propose to drown-proof that turkey, here goes:

1. Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, drafted up the Constitution. It was pretty darned good, considering all the bickering that went into getting it signed, and has survived with relatively few changes, which are called Amendments. Amendments 1-10 are called the Bill of Rights. Amendments 11-27 were added between 1794 and 1992. Some of these Amendments were real jewels, like the 2nd Amendment, while others were, well, does anybody remember Prohibition? All was good, even a benevolent entity like the Flying Spaghetti Monster would approve.

2. Fast-forward a few years. One really neat ingredient of the Constitution and it's Amendments (particularly the Tenth Amendment) is something called States' Rights. Click on the term if you want an in-depth explanation, but the Cliff Notes version says it protects the States from an overbearing and intrusive Federal Government, thereby preventing a misuse of Federal Authority.

3. How does this factor into the drowning turkey scenario? That same part of the Constitution that prevents the Federal Goverment from abusing it's authority and trampling the rights of the individual states also prevents the Federal Government from arbitrarily taking charge of matters delegated to city and state governments, without their express consent. Let's look at this scenario:

A. A hurricane, perhaps Category 5, let's call her Katrina, is heading towards a population center called New Orleans. As it approaches New Orleans, the President decides to declare Louisiana and Mississippi Federal Disaster Areas, before the storm hits the coast. Why? So that agencies like FEMA can free up assets and personnel in plenty of time for action when needed. However, and this is a big however, due to the Constitution and laws derived from it, neither the President nor FEMA can just "take charge" of the situation in New Orleans, because that's the domain of the governments of New Orleans (as figureheaded by Mayor Ray Nagin) and Louisiana (as figureheaded by Governor Blanco). By law, the city and state governments have to request the Federal Assistance before FEMA can move in. And that's where it appears a gaggle of drowning turkeys first met their demise.

B. The City of New Orleans has emergency procedures clearly spelled out, a checklist for city government officials to follow for emergencies just like Katrina. On page 13 of that checklist, instructions are given to use public transportation to evacuate city residents to safety before a hurricane hits. This was probably the first example of bad judgement in the New Orleans administration - instead of moving 30,000 people out of the low-lying areas of New Orleans and off to safety, Mayor Nagin focused on sending folks to the Superdome for shelter. Nor was there preparation inside the Superdome to convert it to a shelter, it was just an assembly point, nothing more. In the meantime, 500+ city and parish school buses sat unused in their parking lots, garnering the name, post-storm, of the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool.

C. The story of the drowning turkeys continue. It appears at least one young New Orleans resident with a self-preservation instinct commandeered one of the abandoned buses, loaded it with refugees, and headed to the Houston Astrodome, stopping only for diesel. Well done, Mr. Jabbar Gibson! Personally, I'd nominate him as the next Mayor of New Orleans, because he at least had some initiative.

D. The storm continues to approach, and finally, it thwacks New Orleans. As Mayor Nagin hunkers down at his designated shelter location, it appears New Orleans was spared the full measure of Katrina's wrath, because the levees held! Or rather, the levees held for several hours before rupturing due to the pressure exerted by Katrina's storm surge. New Orleans starts to flood. Here's where the clue bird should have struck. See Ray dial FEMA. Dial, Ray Dial! Hear Kathleen call George W. Call, Kathleeen, Call! Nope. Matter of fact, we hear later that Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco were still trying to figure out which way was "up". And that's precisely what the New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor were doing - an interview with Mayor Nagin states that while on board Air Force One with President Bush, Governor Blanco asked for an additional 24 hours to decide on whether she would request federal help.

4. And as we all learned in the school class of Emergency Government 101 (above), the Federal Government, including FEMA, cannot move in and respond unless local and state governments request assistance first. (State's Rights and all that Constitutional Stuff...)

5. There, that's the answer for those turkeys gobbling about the President and FEMA not doing enough and soon enough. Go back to your foraging, and watch out for the storms.


Dorothy said...

Hey your are completely awesome!!!!
I was just checking out other peoples blogs when i found yours and you are so right. You gotta go to the investigative hearings in Washington and tell them that! Cool blog keep on Bloggin!

Tam said...

You've got a fellow Air Force troopie who seems to have a difficult time realizing this, and she's making a mess over at my place. Check out the comments in the "Who, Who's, Whose" post.