Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 09.09.05


No horses lost

The BBC World News has reported that 25,000 body bags have been shipped to New Orleans. The mayor thinks that as many as 10,000 bodies may be waiting in the flooded neighborhoods of his city. The tragedy of Katrina represents the greatest loss of life through by hurricane since Galveston Texas lost over 8000 residents in 1900.

The government seems to be trying to make up for its woeful lack of preparation by making sure that there are plenty of body bags to go around.

The stories of government indifference and incompetence are absolutely stunning. It isn't brilliant hindsight that has people asking why pallets of food and water couldn't have been helicoptered into the parking lot of the convention center where 10,000 refugees were awaiting assistance. Babes in arms perished for lack of formula that no government official thought to provide.

When appraised of this situation, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said he had no idea they were there. Brown, a Bush appointee, prepared for the top job in dealing with disaster by his tenure as head of the Arabian Horse Association from 1991 - 2000. Although he was fired from this position it must be noted that not a single Arabian horse was lost in the aftermath of Katrina.

It is true that appointing a crony to a high government position is not peculiar to the Bush administration but having a man with no credentials in charge of emergency response is cynical beyond belief.

Four years, almost to the day, after the terror attacks on 9/11 we appear to be more inadequately prepared to save ourselves than ever. The 9/11 commission concluded that our communications between agencies was non-existent. We then spent billions on homeland security and beefing up emergency response from coast to coast. Early reports are now showing that FEMA was unable to communicate with local and state governments.

Officials like Brown, got his information from reporters on the scene. "On the scene"? How did those reporters manage to get there when relief convoys sat idle and FEMA employees turned trucks full of water and food back?

Katrina gave everyone two or three days warning as she moved in from the Atlantic to the Gulf and headed for the coast. What was our zillion-dollar Homeland Security division doing while this storm was getting ready to ravage the gulf coast? Were they patting down old ladies at the airport or checking up on Al Quaeda library records?

When these agencies cannot come up with an adequate response given days of warning how do you think they will do when terrorists attack with biological weaponry or a dirty bomb?

Months ago I recall a FEMA representative talking about emergency preparedness in case of a natural outbreak like avian flu or a terrorist biological attack. He claimed that the government had mobile hospital units ready to be transported by Hercules aircraft anywhere in the country "within fourteen hours.". I was waiting to hear about these marvelous mobile hospitals being deployed but not a word.

We should have had a clue about our state of preparedness when we found ourselves without flu vaccine last flu season. Old people and the chronically ill were lined up outside of Costco and Wal-Mart hoping to get the vaccine that too often ran out.

US pharmaceutical companies don't make the vaccines anymore you see, so they are whipped up overseas. Apparently, the oversight in Jerkistan or where ever we are getting the stuff was manufactured in a converted meth lab because it was all contaminated.

Already there are calls for a commission to examine this colossal failure on the part of our government. Bush, in a classic "get in front of the problem" ruse says he will personally lead the commission. I would sooner trust an Ebola virus to try and get at the truth.

This horror show should remove any doubt about this government.

For two days after Katrina hit our President remained on vacation in Crawford, Texas, with nothing to do but ignore Cindy Sheehan. While he was mountain biking the people of the Gulf Coast were dying. His government's corruption and incompetence has set a standard by which all future tin pot political slimeballs will be measured.