Friday, April 14, 2006

"United 93" - Why We're Not Ready

"United 93" opens next week. But even before the critics got to see it, the first reviews were in. "Too soon," came the cry, literally, from the audience watching the trailers. "We're not ready," said the headlines.

Too soon. We're not ready.

These aren't complaints about the movie. It wasn't, "Too graphic!" Or, "You're insensitive!" The complaints about the movie were statements about us. It's too soon for us. We're not ready.

It's the same lament I used to have when I had failed to prepare for a test. I hadn't done my homework. I hadn't mastered the lessons. I hadn't read the books. It was too soon. I wasn't ready.

That wasn't the case after Pearl Harbor. "Remember Pearl Harbor" opened on May 18, 1942. That was less than six months after Japanese fighter planes had swarmed over American soil, killing almost 2500 people and destroying 12 American warships and 188 American planes. Well before the war even ended, it was the subject of countless films. America wasn't just ready for those films, they were hungering for them.

Sixty years later, aren't we supposed to be more inured to violence? Aren't we more sophisticated about our art, our visual media? What happened to that ironic distance we hide behind? If any audience should be able to stomach an intense account of an attack on our nation, shouldn't it be the media-savvy sophisticates of 2006, rather than the rubes of 1942? What's the difference between then and now?

The difference is pretty simple, actually. In the 1940s, America, government and populace alike, responded with terrible and awesome resolve, united in a purpose that assumed primary importance in everyone's lives. Four years after Pearl Harbor, America and its allies had defeated the enemy by taking the fight to them. On the home front, civilians bought war bonds. They planted Victory Gardens (which eventually would supply an astounding 40% of domestically consumed vegetables for the purpose of allowing the military to purchase canned vegetables cheaper). They rationed everything: Paper, rubber, food. They rationed food, ferchrissakes.

What have we done? How have we earned the sacrifice of United flight 93?

We have rationed nothing. Not even the oil that pays the terrorists' bills.

When our military had the killers of September 11th cornered at Tora Bora, our government backed off, and allowed them to escape. But we scoffed at the men who told us that, and re-elected that government anyway.

For years since, we have allowed the killers of September 11th safe harbor in Pakistan, because our government does not want to upset the political balance there. But out of ignorance or apathy, we go along with our government's fiction that Pakistan is an ally. And we re-elected that government anyway.

Our government exploited our fear and grief to sell us on a military goal they had cherished since well before September 11th. And when a few men and women dared to tell us the truth, to object to this craven desecration of flight 93's sacrifice, our leaders belittled them or questioned the one thing that obligated them to speak up: Their patriotism.

Instead of rejecting use of the weapon responsible for September 11th, religious fundamentalism, our government exalted and embraced it, claiming it as a basis for government policy.

Instead of admitting laxity and culpability in the days before September 11th, our government tried to cover up the truths. And even after those truths were revealed in documents such as the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, we re-elected that government.

Instead of demanding that our media return to its original intended function of keeping us informed about the world in which we were now supposed to be fighting a deadly struggle, within a few months we embraced the pap that was so much easier to produce.

And our media embraced and sold the conceit that they were refraining from showing the awful toll of war -- bodies falling from skyscrapers, carnage on the ground -- in order to protect our delicate sensibilities. In fact, they acted out of fear that we would judge them not as responsible journalists -- showing us painful but important images -- but as the entertainers they had become, focused on trivia and prurience and therefore suspect in their motives for showing us anything shocking or horrific. And, in fact, serving witness to the awful fate of our fellow Americans would have been the least we could have done and, at best, might actually have motivated sufficient anger and passion to guarantee an effective, sustained, meaningful response to the attack. Thankful for not having to bear the burden of those awful images, we congratulated our media for protecting our fragile eyes.

And that made it easier to return to watching pap. Why shouldn't we, when we never had to confront the specific realities of what had happened to 3,000 Americans?

If our government was failing to inspect more than 1 in 20 of the cargo containers entering America's ports, we didn't mind. We didn't even care enough to know about it.

If it took another planeload of civilians -- rather than aviation security -- to stop Richard Reid even after September 11, could we be bothered to hold a single agency accountable? To demand even one firing, let alone a transfer? Apparently not.

And when another terrorist struck on American soil, targeting not just civilians but citadels of our government with anthrax, were we able to stop our attackers or even identify them? Did we demand accountability among those charged with defending us?

And after such vulnerabilities were exposed, what did we do to prepare? Four years later, a simple thing like preparation of mobile hospitals goes unfinished.

And if we can't be bothered to remain informed about our enemy, or our own efforts or lack thereof to thwart the enemy, how do honor the heroes of September 11th?

Pat Tillman sacrificed fame and fortune and fun in professional sports to serve his country in its response to September 11th. But our government sent him to Iraq. And when he finally got to Afghanistan, his death by friendly fire was covered up by the military. And covered up again. And again.

And though Pat Tillman questioned both religion and the existence of a god, our media continued to spoonfeed us one of our favorite slurs -- no atheists in foxholes -- slandering Pat Tillman as he lay in the dirt unable to defend himself against the very people he died defending.

And to this day, the people he died defending consider him -- and anyone who dares reject their god -- as morally inferior even to those followers of the same faith that motivated September 11th.

New York City Detective James Zadroga gave his life for the city, succumbing this year to the effects of serving for hundreds of hours at Ground Zero. But even while our government was reaping political capital from New York's agonies, its leaders were lying to James and to the stricken city about the aid they would give us and about the very safety of that site. Their lies literally added to the death toll.

And what about the heroes of flight 93 themselves? They died to defend a free society. And yet, their sacrifice was invoked as somehow justifying measure after measure designed to restrict our freedoms. And because we lacked the bravery that arose on board flight 93, we shrank from the prospect of choosing freedom over security.

And then there's Mark Bingham. He was a rugby player on board flight 93. He assisted in rebelling against the hijackers. He gave his life to defend America's lawmakers, the targets of those hijackers. So how did they repay him? They condemned him. They said that Bingham didn't love the right way. They said that Bingham, were he alive today, would have no right, should have no right, to marry whomever he wanted. They used the gift he had died to give them -- their very lives -- to slander him for his love. And we re-elected them.

We spat on Pat Tillman's grave. We killed James Zadroga. We defamed Mark Bingham's love. Of course some of us aren't ready to experience the sacrifice of flight 93. We have squandered that sacrifice. Our cowardice made it a vain one. At every opportunity we have had to act nobly, to choose freedom, to honor the ideals of self-sacrifice and dedication to a cause, we have chosen the path of scared, lazy, callow children.

I know I haven't done all I could. And I've known a huge and awful shame at America's failure to prove worthy of the sacrifices of September 11th. I don't know whether I'll watch this movie. But if I don't, it won't be because they were wrong to make it. It will be because I and my country haven't done what we should have by now. Of course it's too soon. Of course we're not ready. We will never be ready, until we've earned it.


Monday, April 10, 2006


Drudge Report is reporting that Ann Coulter's new book is entitled, "Godless." It's meant, of course, as a slur. And the problem with Democrats is that that's how they'll take it. They'll respond defensively. Because they haven't learned a thing from the last two elections.

President Bush won by not apologizing for what he was. But Democrats will sputter and insist, "We're not godless! We love God! Almost as much as you do!"

Which, of course, is precisely the wrong way for them to reply. What they should say is, "Yes, some of us are godless. Some of us aren't sure about God. Some of us believe in God with all their hearts. Our politics don't impose anyone's god on anyone else. Our politics are true to the Constitution of the United States, not someone's personal idea of what god wants. If our politics are godless, if our party is godless, it's because our party has room for everyone's idea of god, whatever it might be."

The way to beat the Christian Right is to marginalize it, to claim everyone (you know: The MAJORITY OF AMERICA) who doesn't self-identify as Christian Right. Making a blatantly disingenuous play for Christian votes is the one thing guaranteed to fail.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Libby's Secret Target: It Wasn't Just Wilson

Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, wasn't just out to sink the credibility of Joseph Wilson when he met with New York Times Reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003. He had another target, too.

We've known for a while that Miller agreed to falsely attribute the information Libby fed her to a "former Hill staffer." But the new filing by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, as revealed by the New York Sun, makes clear not only that Libby specifically requested to be identified as a "former Hill staffer," but, according to Fitzgerald:

In fact, on July 8, defendant spoke with Miller about Mr. Wilson after requesting that attribution of his remarks be changed to “former Hill staffer.”
Changed. Intriguingly, Fitzgerald never identifies what attibution Libby previously requested. Was it "White House insider"? "Senior White House official"? "A knowledgeable source in the executive branch"?

Why a "former Hill staffer"? Why not a former Defense Dept. staffer? Or a former State Dept. staffer? He's worked for both. If Libby wanted the intelligence on Iraq to be seen as credible, why not attribute it to one of them, either of which would be closer to the source of the information than the Hill?

It's true, Libby's work as a "former Hill staffer" was more recent. But let's look at a chronology of his work history to see whether that's really sufficient to make it an appropriate way to attribute intelligence about Iraq:
  • 2001-2005 - Assistant to the President, chief of staff to the Vice President and national security affairs adviser to the Vice President
  • 2000 - Adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney in the 2000 presidential campaign
  • 1995-2001 - Dechert, Price & Rhoads, Attorney
  • 1992-1995 - U.S. Department of Defense, deputy under secretary-policy
  • 1989-1992 - U.S. Department of Defense, deputy undersecretary-strategy and resources
  • 1985-1989 - Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, attorney
  • 1982-1985 - US Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, special projects director
  • 1981-1982 - US Department of State, policy planning staff, member
Libby's congressional staff position doesn't even rate a mention. Is it possible that he lied to Miller, or that he and Miller agreed to publish a blatant falsehood by referring to him as a "former Hill staffer"? Not exactly.

The official appendix of the Cox Committee confirms that Libby served as a "legal advisor." But the committee's appendix also specifically says that it was in operation for a "limited time...(effectively from July 1998 to the end of December 1998)..." Six months. And not only was it just six months, but those six months came while he had a day job as an attorney. So it could hardly have been a full-time effort.

And what was the Cox Committee investigating, anyway? Iraq? Proliferation of WMDs? After all, that would explain why Libby's work with them would be relevant to his citation as a source for Iraq intelligence. Here's how the committee report itself explains its mission (starting with its official title):
The Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China (the Select Committee) was established pursuant to House Resolution 463, adopted on June 18, 1998 (included at Appendix C). The Resolution authorized the Select Committee to investigate a broad range of issues relating to the transfer of U.S. technology to the People's Republic of China.
Not Iraq. Not the Middle East. The People's Republic of China.

So, six months of work, on a part-time basis, with no relevance to Iraq, eight years ago. How and why would Libby choose this particular part of his life for Miller to use in identifying to the world the source of classified information about Iraq?

The answer is not just to insulate the White House. He could have done that in ways that would have given the Iraq intelligence more credibility. It's not that he views his Hill position as particularly important work. On the site where he's trying to drum up support and cash, his time at the House of Representatives is listed last.

He chose Congress because the White House has consistently tried to undermine legislative oversight of the executive branch by trying to make Americans think members of Congress can not be trusted with classified information, that Congress might even leak classified information, for political purposes. President Bush has tried to push this notion in order to win support for his attempts to escape congressional oversight.

President Bush limited what his staff are allowed to tell Congress (see the memo here). He disputed legal requirements on executive-branch disclosures to Congress (here). (The Federation of American Scientists has a great set of links here.)

Here are some of Bush's public comments disparaging openly, or by implication, the trustworthiness and patriotism of politicians other than himself and his staff.

In discussing the Plame leak itself:
This is a town of -- where a lot of people leak. And I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information...
In discussing his clampdown (see above) on releasing information to Congress:
We had some security briefings take place up on Capitol Hill that were a discussion about classified information and some of that information was shared with the press...

These are extraordinary times. Our nation has put our troops at risk. And therefore, I felt it was important to send a clear signal to Congress that classified information must be held dear, that there's a responsibility that if you receive a briefing of classified information, you have a responsibility. And some members did not accept that responsibility, somebody didn't. So I took it upon myself to notify the leadership of the Congress that I intend to protect our troops.

And that's why I sent the letter I sent. It's a serious matter, Dave, it's very serious that people in positions of responsibility understand, that they have a responsibility to people who are being put in harm's way. I'm having breakfast tomorrow with members of Congress. I will be glad to bring up this subject.

I understand there may be some heartburn on Capitol Hill. But I suggest if they want to relieve that heartburn, that they take their positions very seriously, and that they take any information they've been given by our government very seriously. Because this is serious business we're talking about...
Pres. Bush has had a lot of success demonizing Congress. The right wing has picked up on the idea that America is endangered if Bush shares information with Congress (see one representative rant here).

Libby chose to have Miller lie to the world and claim that classified information about America's enemy, Iraq, was leaked not from the White House (which claims it had legal authority to do so, and therefore should have had no motive to shield its identity as the source) and not from State or DOD (which would have reduced suspicions of political motivation while also boosting empirical credibility), but from Capitol Hill. It wasn't an honest attempt to characterize Libby as something other than a White House staffer. And it wasn't just a passing slur on the nation's legislative branch. It was part of a consistent White House message -- still in effect -- that Congress shouldn't have oversight of the White House because Congress can't be trusted.

Thanks to Fitzgerald, its a lot clearer now who can't be trusted, and who needs oversight now more than ever.


Double Standards

When this religious fanatic kills people for God, Americans vote that insanity is at work.

When this one does it, not so much.


Friday, April 07, 2006


When I was at CNN, I worked with both Keith Olbermann and, on a different show, with Brian Unger (a former Daily Show correspondent). I'm a fan of both guys, and it turns out that Brian is filling in for Keith Olbermann tonight on his MSNBC show, Countdown. I don't normally tout Keith's show because, frankly, everyone's already talking about it.

But I want to put everyone on notice that Brian is smart, sharp, really funny and, although I have no clue what he's got in mind for tonight, I can certainly vouch that it's worth checking out. Let me know how you think he does.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

How Bush Will Finesse the Libby Leak

The media went nuts today over the Sun's report that Bush authorized Libby to leak information to the New York Times. How will Bush parry this? Very easily.

Bush will admit it. He did nothing illegal. It’s within his right to declassify information however he wants. So what?

Remember that Tom Clancy/Harrison Ford movie (I'm thinking it was "Clear and Present Danger") where the White House wrestles with how to explain the president’s friendship with a man killed in a drug war? The president’s aides suggest downplaying the friendship, saying the two men had met, but weren’t friends.

Harrison Ford says, no, “If they ask you whether you were friends, say, ‘No, we weren’t friends. We were good friends.’ Give them nowhere to go.” That’s what this administration does, and very well. They give the media nowhere to go, because the media are going for the gotcha, rather than the meaning of the gotcha. If the gotcha moment is undercut from the media, they don’t know how to proceed to the meaning of the gotcha, because they view that as “subjective” territory.

And once the media have to deal with something that can be construed as subjective, whether it is or not, they're lost.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Air America Saved?

According to Radio Equalizer, Danny Goldberg's days are over at Air America Radio. I had a feeling that, after killing Morning Sedition, Goldberg's stock had gone down with the board.

Whether Goldberg's departure comes in time to save Air America, I have no idea. A lot of it will depend on whether the board is smart enough to bring in someone who knows what they're doing and is willing to work closely with the people -- those who are still left -- who made Air America a success, rather than continue to be bamboozled by the people who excell at claiming to have made Air America a success.


Maybe We Should Invade?

Iraq's leader defies U.S., U.K. and the international community!

We can't wait for the U.N. to dither and delay while Ibrahim Jaafari continues to consolidate his power and thumb his nose at the world. We must take action now!


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

AP, Fuck the Facts, Fuck the Future, Fuck America is headlining an Associated Press story this way:

Officer: 'Miracle' that everyone survived.

Plane size, position of fuel may have helped

Here are the top two grafs:

DOVER, Delaware (AP) -- A huge military cargo plane faltered after takeoff and belly-landed short of the Dover Air Force Base runway Monday, breaking apart and drenching some of the 17 people aboard with fuel but causing no fire or life-threatening injuries.

"It is a miracle. Absolutely a miracle," said Lt. Col. Mark Ruse, commander of the base's 436th Air Wing Civil Engineering squadron.
Not until the ninth paragraph is there a suggestion that forces other than magic were at work:
Pilots familiar with the plane say its sheer size -- roughly that of a football field -- likely contributed to the fact that there were no deaths.
"Contributed," meaning, I suppose, made it easier for The Lord?

Only by the 11th and 12th paragraphs do we find out that actual people -- employing actual knowledge and actual skills acquired during lifetimes of actual education and training -- played some role:

The fact that the fuel is stored in the wings, which unlike many other planes are mounted atop the fuselage, may explain the absence of fire, said Larsen [no relation], director of the Institute for Homeland Security, a think tank in Arlington, Virginia.

Larsen also said that if the crew was able maintain some control of the aircraft, it was not surprising that they survived.

The headline and article itself represent an obvious violation of the Ten Commandments of Covering Religion, of course. In this case, it results from a few unfortunate tendencies in journalism (opposition to which is usually pooh-poohed as fuddy-duddyism): Lack of training and familiarity with matters of math, engineering and science;Easy sensationalism; the mindless feel-good-ism wrongly associated with supernatural intervention.

Ironically, in the American past so longed-for by the Christian right, journalists would have played this story very differently. Back in the Eisenhower era, especially after Sputnick, some smart journalist -- hell, some smart agency flack -- would have tracked down the engineer responsible for the fuel-tank placement and made a hero out of them. We would hear all about the exacting training and top-notch skills of the pilot, co-pilot and their team.

And some kid seeing that story -- and, yes, covetous of the glory -- would aspire to design planes, or build them. In short, once upon a time we recognized rational, adult modes of causality (investment in and prioritization of design, training and education yields superior planes and superior crews and American technical and military superiority) and that led us to make investments wisely and to vote for politicians who valued those causes and to raise children who idolized the people and systems devoted to those causes.

We no longer have that. Now we have a brain drain. CNN and the Associated Press are contributing to this culture that denigrates hard work, intelligence, skill and rationality, and exalts juvenile, simple-minded superstitions. I wish I could say the consequences are so far off that our kids will pay the price. They will, but we already are.


DeLay: This Is the Day

In his interview with Time, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay rationalizes why he's a whining little quitter who knows he'd get his ass kicked in November if he didn't drop out of the race.

Here's the money quote, (which Time's Mike Allen would have challenged, had he not chosen to violate the Ten Commandments of Covering Religion):

My main point was that this country was built on morals and religion. Our greatest leaders were very strong believers. There is a connection between religion and politics, and religion and government. There has to be for this country to have accomplished all it's accomplished and for its future. How many times have the great leaders—Ronald Reagan, Roosevelt, Lincoln, George Washington—have said there is a connection between morals and religion. And there has to be. The people that go to church understand that a country has to be based on some sort of religion and fear of God because they understand that.

Any member of Congress so ignorant of or willing to distort the beliefs of the general who fought the Revolutionary War and then led the country as its first president, doesn't deserve to be in Congress. Here are some of Washington's actual thoughts about religion and morals:

There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.

To give opinions unsupported by reasons might appear dogmatical.

Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.

...I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

...the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. (This in response to the day's DeLay analogues, who whined that the Constitution didn't mention their boyfriend, Jesus).

In discussing how events might unfold, he said of "the great ruler of events":

...we may safely trust the issue to him, without perplexing ourselves to seek for that which is beyond human ken, only taking care to perform the parts assigned to us in a way that reason and our own conscience approve of.
You can find more here. And more here. One of the things DeLay will be packing up from his Washington office is a plaque that eloquently combines mystery and certitude in referring to the magical return of Jesus. "This could be the day," it says. Well, apparently, it didn't come soon enough for Tom. ("Where's your savior, now?")

Instead, he's running away because earthly justice is coming for him and making it impossible for him to remain in office. In his attempt to hijack Washington's clear preference for reason over religion in political matters, DeLay is leaving office as he attained and held it: As a liar.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Wanted: Impotent Scapegoat

The New York Times has a great piece on President Bush's inability to find someone willing to take Michael Brown's old job as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They've done a nice bit of digging to root out several people who've turned down the FEMA job.

But I think they could have done a lot more in explaining why. The Times suggests that the top candidates are "unconvinced" that the administration is serious about "fixing" FEMA. But the reality is, whether the job candidates were being diplomatic or not, the administration has, if anything, been serious about breaking FEMA. I'm talking about Bush's vision for FEMA from before 9/11 and Katrina -- when there was no political motive for concealing his true ideas of what FEMA should and should not be. Here are the specifics on why the job is so undesireable:

President Bush came into office openly praising the job FEMA had done under President Clinton.

But as soon as President Bush took office, he began dismantling FEMA. Project Impact and the ANSS were among the first to feel the pain.

Then, Bush's budget guy, Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, made clear what the administration's view of FEMA was. In April, 2001, he reportedly said: "The general idea--that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided--seems self-evident to me."

The next month, Bush's first FEMA director, Joe Allbaugh -- like his successor, Michael Brown, a political appointee -- made similar remarks before the Senate. I've emphasized language Allbaugh used to signal that, under Bush, FEMA was to assist and encourage LOCAL disaster responses, rather than take the lead in preparing and responding itself, around the nation. Specifically, he said:

During my tenure in this position of public trust, we will...

* Implement pre-disaster mitigation programs that encourage the building of disaster resistant communities;

* Guide the Federal Insurance Administration to implement policies encouraging the purchase of flood insurance and reducing the costs of flood related disasters...

* Pay special attention and strengthen those volunteer and non-governmental organizations responding to disasters...

In recent decades, we have seen Federal emergency management swing from overly prescriptive preparedness programs and a single focus on response and recovery, to a more comprehensive approach that incorporates mitigation, by taking prudent protective measures to reduce losses. At the same time, we have seen soaring disaster relief costs that need to be managed more effectively.

The Administration's budget request for FEMA this year will build on this progress by emphasizing Responsibility and Accountability. This budget request asks individuals, communities, States, and FEMA to take on an appropriate degree of responsibility while empowering them with the tools to accept greater responsibility. Built into this budget request are sound public policy tools to ensure greater accountability to each other and the American taxpayer...
Two things to note here. One is the mindset that the federal government is apart from the people. Most people, I think, consider the federal government a device that the people themselves have created and support in order to do things exactly like respond to disasters. In reality, however, President Bush sees people as individually responsible even for such matters as disaster preparedness and response. And his vision of government denies them the ability to act together, collectively, in ways that not only pool individual resources (i.e. tax dollars), but also allow them to deal from a position of strength. In other words, if individuals are responsible for disaster preparedness, they're stripped of the power collective bargaining would give them in dealing with contractors, suppliers, insurance companies, etc.

More from Allbaugh:
Disaster mitigation and prevention activities are inherently grassroots. These activities involve local decision-making about zoning, building codes, and strategy planning to meet a community's unique needs. It is not the role of the Federal Government to tell a community what it needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure.
It's a nice formulation, but it denies the reality that local communities -- such as New Orleans pre-Katrina -- have been trying to tell the federal government what IT needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure. No one has advocated for an imperial federal disaster agency, which is why such an agency is a straw man argument. Advocating for an active, federal lead in disaster response does not automatically mean advocating an authoritarian policy-making federal agency.
The original intent of Federal disaster assistance is to supplement State and local response efforts. Many are concerned that Federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective State and local risk management.
Translation: The Bush administration views your claim that the government protect you from floods and fires and terrorist attacks as an "entitlement," and views local government as failing to view floods and fires and terrorist attacks as sufficient disincentive on their own.
Expectations of when the Federal Government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of State and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, State and local efforts.

Having Federal assistance supplement, not supplant State and local efforts is, most likely, going to be one of the more difficult measures aimed at responsibility and accountability that this Administration will have to work through.
At last, something we can all agree on. But what's really telling about this remark, is that it reveals our current problems with FEMA as not the fault of Michael Brown, or even government "bureaucracy," but as the fault of the fundamental vision Bush has for what FEMA should be. What's truly frustrating, of course, is that by implementing his vision of an impotent, useless FEMA -- and then blaming its failings not on his emasculation of it, but on individual personnel and the mythical "bureaucracy" beast -- he can make the case that it, and government, are not up to the task, rather than the fact that he, and his administration, don't want or believe in the task.

More Allbaugh:
We will pay special attention to volunteers and non-governmental organizations responding to disasters. Disasters hit hardest in communities and neighborhoods, and our solutions to disaster problems rely on local solutions. Faith-based groups at the community level, like the Salvation Army and the Mennonite Disaster Service, play critical roles in disaster relief, as does the American Red Cross...

As the President's Director for emergency management, I am also aware of the expectations of our citizens that their government protect their lives and property when an emergency or disaster occurs, whether it is a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado, or as the result of an act of terrorism.

As we implement criteria empowering State and local governments to assume greater responsibility for people and property, we need to equip them to do this.
One reason the Bush administration wants smaller, decentralized disaster response is that it's easier for the powers that be, whether it's big money, big business or big religion, can more easily influence faith-based organizations, state and local governments, than they can the federal government. Why? Primarily because it's much more difficult to rally significant opposition to that influence. What public accountability is there for faith-based organizations? How much do you know -- and how much do your local media cover -- the ins and outs of your state or even local government?
As President Bush said in his February address to the Joint Session of Congress, "Our new governing vision says government should be active, but limited; engaged, but not overbearing." We think you will see that the budget proposal for FEMA truly reflects the President's goal of restoring a proper balance - moving away from the expectation that the Federal Government is the option of first resort to the option of last resort.
Exactly. Katrina didn't reveal FEMA's shortcomings, it accelerated Bush's goal for FEMA: Does anyone today still have expectations that the federal government is the option of first resort? Mission accomplished.

Even after Katrina, the media continued to miss the telling ways Bush's language revealed his vision for FEMA. I dissected one particularly telling speech here. The reality is, that American cities and towns don't have the money to each develop and maintain standing disaster-response teams on the same level the federal government can muster. It would be silly, redundant and wasteful even if every city and town were capable of it. That leaves only the corporate option -- turning to private contractors for emergency disaster response. That's real end-game here, taking the federal government out of the equation, so that people are forced to turn to Halliburton and friends.

What the New York Times misses, I think, is that no respectable disaster specialist wants this job, because the job doesn't entail disaster response or preparedness any more. Thanks to a concept of the role of federal government that has been consistent from day one and has withstood the onslaughts of 9/11 and Katrina, FEMA and the federal government are, just as Bush wanted, no longer in the disaster business.

Ironically, Bush has so effectively disabled America's ability to respond to a disaster that now FEMA really, finally, actually is an appropriate position for Joe Allbaugh or Michael Brown.

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