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Friday, September 02, 2005
 
Where are the Guardsmen?

A great piece on this topic by James Robbins - here.


Comments:
Interesting piece. They should make Mr. Robbins a general or something because he seems to know more than the actual Generals in charge of the military.

General James Helmly seems to believe that that the National Guard and Reserve are spread so thin that they are in danger of becoming a "broken force".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4150749.stm
http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/01/06/reservists/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51687-2005Jan5.html

If there is no shortage of troops then why has the governor of LA asked for 40,000 troops and the National Guard has promised only 11,000, and so far delivered far fewer? Is is because they think that 11,000 is enough? Or do they simply not have them?

And which is worse, having enough troops and not sending them? or not having the troops at all? Either way the job is not getting done.

And by the way Louisiana National guard is asking to have their equipment brought back from Iraq. They say they need it to respond to emergencies. Apparently they don't have the vehicles they need:

http://abc26.trb.com/news/natguard08012005,0,4504131.story?coll=wgno-news-1

This NRO article is nothing new. I mean this is the same group who can see democracy blooming in Iraq, and who saw clear evidence of WMD's there, and thought that we would be greeted with candy and
flowers there.

So its not surprising that they think the current response is adequate, and that there are no problems, and that things are going just fine. Meanwhile back here in reality, 60,000 people are stranded in downtown New Orleans, dying for lack of a bus ride out of the city.
 
When there is a complete breakdown of social order in a major american city it is totally acceptable to question the president of the United States and wonder why our vice-president is still on vacation and be outraged that while our fellow citizens are dying of thirst, the secretary of state is taking in a broadway show. Should the south have been better prepared? Of course, but I believe most of the problems began when the levees broke and the Federal Government cannot escape culpability for that. Everyone and there brother saw the PBS special on how a better levy needed to be built. So why did they take funding and send the money to Iraq?How could a responsible citizen not question that. Do you really think how the bush administration has responded is actually acceptable? I can't even fathom what would happen if a terrorist attack happened in LA and rest assured there will be no weeks notice it would happen.
 
How could we spend money on Iraq when we know that a major natural disaster could take place in New Orleans?

How could we spend money on Africa when we know that a major natural disaster could take place in New Orleans?

How could we spend money on Africa when we know that a major terrorist attack could take place in New Orleans?

How could we spend money on Africa when we know that a major terrorist attack could take place in New York?


See how that works?


It must be comforting though to have such a singular target for all your hatred and venom. It must be reassuring to have such clarity of reasoning as to the cause of every strife that befalls the planet. If not for Bush we would all live in Eden. If not for Bush there would be no hunger, no war, no terrorism, no violence of any kind. If not for Bush the sun would always shine, the skies would all be blue, we would all love one another, Jerry Garcia would still be alive and we could all quit are jobs and just pontificate about fair trade coffee and the best opium dens in Amsterdam. Must be a real treat – I’m kinda jealous.
 
Jason,

Those voices in your head are a sign that its time to call the doctor and have your meds adjusted.
 
jason,
Your walls are crumbling. Oh , thats just the Kool-Aid man.
 
Jason, your hyperbolic analogy is so profoundly myopic and distorted it should be considered a human rights violation. The logic you practice is of another species altogether, perhaps comprehensible to Klingons and Ewoks but not human beings. You truly occupy a different time-space continuum than everyone else on this planet.

Just take a moment to ponder the staggering failures which we have watched take place on every level of government in the last few days, especially the Commander-in-chief's astounding lack of leadership and poise in the face of a catastrophe that could've been mitigated on so many levels:

1) Securing the apropriate infrastructure (repairing levees, protecting wetlands and barrier islands from developers, etc.)

2) retaining enough national guardsmen in the deep South (at least enough to pitch a tent) to do the job they're trained to do

3) instituting a modus operandi (a kind of emegency stategery, if you will) for national emergencies of this magnitude with coherent, well-organized guidelines in place and maybe even a casual correspondence between agencies like FEMA and DHS

4) responding to the disaster at even a fraction of the pitiful speed of the impotent Bush administration.

I'm sure if Jesus were alive today, he would cut his vacation short and fly over the disaster area nearly a week after the shit hit the fan--on Jesus 1, of course-- just to get a first-hand look at things. In fact, Jesus, not unlike President Bush, was a hands-on kind of guy. The carpentry thing and all that. He even liked to stay in shape, except he prefered walking on water to cycling and jogging.

I vaguely remember something in the Bible about Jesus dedicating his life to serving the poor...oh yeah, he didn't mean black people, did he?
 
jason,
I don't understand your logic. Didn't FEMA conclude in a 2001 report that a break in the levee at New Orleans was one of the worst disasters waiting to happen to the US. It seems odd for you to somehow say that the federal goverment choosing not to fund that project was not a poor choice. I guess, silly me, that if I were taking the taxpayers money and prioritizing projects that somehow the levee in New Orleans would have been towards the top of the list. Let's be very clear that the size and scope of the disaster in New Orleans was due more to mismanagement rather than to the hurricane itself. But hey, stuff happens. For instance over 1800 US soldiers have died for Iraq to become a theocracy. Now that is a good use of american resources. After this week I can't tell you how safe I feel. You must be sleeping like a baby.
 
I think there is a valid point to be made that the levees should have been able to withstand a category 5 hurricane. Why didn't the federal government and/or the state of Lousiana make that investment? Because a succession of legislators of both parties chose other priorities -- be they Republican highway projects, another building in West Virginia named after Sen. Byrd, corporate or individual welfare. I'm sure there are 1000 other dam/levee projects that are equally underfunded to pay for all the garbage the government "invests" billions in. I have no quarrell with anyone who says it was a mistake not to build the levees stronger. But, I can't point to all that many people who were asking that their programs be cut to pay for it either.

I have some experience in emergency management, having worked as part of the emergency management communications team for two county administrations here in Upstate New York. My role was minor, but you pick up on a few things. Among the first lessons we are taught as part of the emergency operations team -- you are on your own for the first 2-3 days of an emergency. That's just how it is. The first responders in an emergency are primarily local. The state help comes next, but it is not immediate. The federal help after that. I think it is very clear that the emergency responders in New Orleans were completely overwhelmed. That may or may not be due to mismanagement. It may simply be a function of the overwhelming scope of this disaster.

The state and federal help was also delayed. My guess is that it has little to do with a lack of resources, and more to do with the fact that trucks, vehicles and men could not get into the city because the roads were under water and there was tremendous damage to bridges and other infrastructure. I don't think anyone really grasps the scope of this disaster. In the case of past hurricanes in Florida, for instance -- the state wasn't under water. So it was much easier to get trucks, food, etc... to the people who needed it.

It isn't a matter of just sending troops and dropping them into New Orleans. You don't drop troops in there without some way to provide them with supplies and equipment to do the job. Otherwise, you may end up having to rescue them, too.

The one mistake that seems pretty obvious is that the Superdome was a terrible idea. They should have bussed the people out of the state. There were 250 busses less than a mile from the superdome that would have done just fine. The emergency planning -- no food or water or backup bathrooms, for the 20,000 people you plan on sheltering? -- was terrible. These are all issues that should have been worked out a long, long time ago. That's what emergency planning officials get paid to do.
 
I see you have all gotten your talking points. Blame the local and state authorities. The only problem I see with this strategy is that what we have all witnessed this week is why the federal government should be handling these matters to start with as opposed to leaving it in the hands of local and state officials who don't have the resources or expertise to deal with such matters. I think the country now can see the value of a strong federal government as opposed to what we have now, which is shall we say, less than strong. I don't think we will be hearing starve the beast anytime soon. I am baffled that the vice-president is still on vacation and yet none of you seem to be bothered by it. I am mortified that the president is giving speeches about trent lott's house instead of handing out food. It might make you sleep well at night to think that everything was so flooded that you just couldn't help anybody but since nbc news crews drove in with camera crews, I think somehow the national guard could have made it.
 
FIRST THINGS

1. I'm not sure the point about Cheney being on vacation. I don't know if it is accurate, and even if it is, my guess is that Dick Cheney does more work on vacation than any of us do during a regular work day. That said, so what? People aren't asking - well, that's all well and good, but where is the vice president. Besides, I thought you guys said he was really in charge of things. This should put your mind at ease.

2. I think it is likely that the states have MORE police, fire, medical and EMS resources at their disposal than the federal government. The national guard units are, first and foremost, state units, and are primarily under the authority of the governor.

3. I think it is a gross exaggeration to say that it was so flooded they couldn't help "anybody." Lots of anybodies were being helped. Your problem seems to be that they couldn't help "everybody." That's a whole different matter. I don't think that anyone should be surprised that, in a disaster area the size of great britain, the media could find lots of people who needed help and hadn't yet received it.

4. I would volunteer that the President's public pronouncements on this have been less than steller. So I guess you can hang your had on that: George Bush isn't a great public speaker (stop the presses!)

GIVING OUR EMERGENCY RESPONDERS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

I think it is unfortunate that our legion of left wing fans (does 2 or 3 count for legion?) have been unable to resist the urge to attempt to score political points off what may well be the largest natural disaster in the entire history of the United States. At a time when we should be coming together in support and prayer for the people of the Gulf States, the left wing has, once again chosen to go on the attack. As Jason pointed out, this isn’t surprising given their “patriotic” efforts to undermine the military in general and the war in Iraq specifically.

As I noted above, it seems clear that the first responders were completely overwhelmed by the disaster. This has been taken as a criticism of state and local officials. It should not necessarily be taken that way:

First, the scope of this disaster is unprecedented.

This undoubtedly stretched first responders past the breaking point. In any disaster situation, you look to communities around you to help pick up the slack. But you have to go pretty far from the coastlines to find a community that was not devastated by this hurricane. In the hardest hit areas, there wasn’t anyone available to pick up the slack because (a) they were trying to help people in their own localities and (b) they would have had a difficult time getting there over miles and miles of impassible roads and bridges. Anyone traveling in to help would find plenty of people who needed medical attention and food long before they made it to the “hardest hit” areas.

Second, most of New Orleans was under water. This creates two problems for the first responders. First, the obvious problem of roads, bridges and inability to get your resources to the people who need them. Second, the flooding undoubtedly cost the first responders many of the vehicles, equipment and facilities that they would ordinarily use in a crisis. They had very little ability to maneuver in the first place, and whatever equipment they had would be in short supply. Thus, after they used up the resources (food, water, bandages, etc…) at their immediate disposal, they would be unable to rapidly replace them, either because those resources were destroyed/under water or because the distribution network was slowed by the state of the infrastructure. These are always problems in hurricanes, but they were compounded by the water. Downed trees and power lines are an obstacle to be overcome. 12 feet of water is an insurmountable barrier to first responders on the ground.

I think it is premature to rant and rave and say that anybody failed the people of the gulf. I have some questions about different aspects of the "plan" (the previously mentioned superdome) but there undoubtedly will be areas where all levels of government could have done better. Besides, the plan might have been fine in theory but fell apart due to circumstances that were unforeseen. That's to be expected.

For NOW, I think it is premature to criticize any of the emergency responders for not being in one place or another by a certain time.

I can understand asking the question: why did it take so long? But that’s a different matter than what I am hearing on television and the radio, which seems to be finger pointing and political gamesmanship.

We don’t know the situation on the ground. If the Guard or FEMA or anyone else has failed to fulfill its mission, we will find out about it. But, let’s face it, getting a camera crew into the area is NOT the same thing as getting thousands of soldiers, and tons of equipment into that area so that it could be put to good use. Getting small groups of people into the disaster area isn’t the problem – it is figuring out a way to get 80 or 90 thousand people out of a flooded area as quickly and safely as possible. Indeed, I am sure that FEMA and the army corps had people on the ground rather quickly, but they were advance teams -- the men and women who make it possible for the good things that are happening now to take place.

Could we have flown in helicopters to take the tens of thousands of people out of the convention center/superdome? Sure. But that might have meant leaving a smaller number of people who were clinging to boats and sitting on rooftops who were in far greater danger.

On Friday, the national guard picked 4,000 people off of rooftops in New Orleans. Think about the average amount of time per person (you’ve seen it done)… the time spent looking for people on roofs and preparing, fueling, etc… and consider that most helicopters do not have an unlimited range of flight (how many airfields are close enough?), and I think it is clear that authorities at all levels had to make very difficult choices about which groups would get priority -- people on rooftops? People trapped in their homes? People in the superdome? Did they make all the right choices? I doubt it. I just think now isn't the time to go on the political attack.

FEDERALIZING EMERGENCIES?
I think we should dismiss the notion that we should have the federal government take charge of disasters from start to finish. First, that would require either a) the federalization of all national guardsmen, police, fire, and emergency services personnel across the country or b) the creation of a stand-by FEMA team of 10,000-plus personnel who could perform the duties of firemen, police, doctors and EMS crews.

A) The federalization of our local police, fire and emergency response agencies is a non-starter. It isn’t going to happen and I think liberals would be the first out of the gate opposing the idea.

B) The creation of the stand-by FEMA team would be extremely wasteful and probably do little to improve upon the current system. Would we expect them to travel around the country and wait for possible disasters? The Carolinas during hurricane season – except when one forms off Louisiana? How about the Midwest and tornados? Which northeastern city do they travel to during the winter?

Though we knew New Orleans was vulnerable and we knew a storm was coming, that doesn’t mean the disaster was predictable. How many hurricane disaster warnings have you heard about in the past two years that didn’t pan out? There are what, 10-12 hurricanes a year? This was a once in a hundred-year storm. It was a rare, though not unprecedented event. As of the evening of the event, forecasters were declaring that New Orleans had weathered the storm just fine. So much for forecasting.

Part of the problem with empowering the federal government to do everything and anything is that you expect that they will have the ability to actually deliver. Experience says that individuals, families and neighbors are largely on their own in the early part of a disaster. Prepare for a week in the case of a natural disaster (ice storm, blizzard, tornado, whatever). If you are lucky, food and water and other assistance will reach you in 2-3 days. If you are unlucky -- or the disaster is large -- you will be pleased that you planned for a week.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The left’s response seems to be (a) The federal government failed us and (b) Let’s give more power to the federal government. I think there is a disconnect there – although it seems to be a general line of thinking on a host of issues from health care to social welfare.

Finally, let me implore you to save your strength for 2006. You have gone to the well so many times with (a) it’s Bush’s fault and (b) blaming everything on global warming and (c) playing up the race card, that Americans have become immune to it. You have lost credibility. Take a break. Come back in the summer of 2006 when people haven't heard the same thing over and over from you.

The fact is, people are discounting what those in the media have to say... And they’ve long since stopped listening to the race hustlers.

Seriously, do you really think that news about people looting on the streets and shooting at emergency services personnel is going to be good news for Democrats?

Do you really think that the Democrat local and state officials performed extremely well but all the screw-ups are George Bush’s fault?

I think we need to give the people who are putting their lives on the line – at the local, state and federal level – the benefit of the doubt. Let them do their jobs and the finger pointing can commence afterward.

Do us all a favor by saving the political posturing until after the dead bodies have been collected.
 
TJ,
I don't even know where to begin. Maybe your right, I should just pray to a fictitious being and not hold anyone accountable for the fact that the size and scope of the deaths was PREVENTABLE. I'll forget the fact that this was predicted 4 years ago and write it off as unimaginable. It's funny that none of my post's have mentioned democrats or the left vs right but all of yours have and yet it's me who is posturing. I am just an INDEPENDENT american looking for some humanity and responsibility in our officials. I'll complain about the Democrats if that will make you feel better. Where the hell are they. If I was the opposition party I would have called for impeachment and imprisonment of everyone from the mayor to the president for sheer neglect and incompetance regardless of their party affiliation. I guess nobody should be held accountable for anything because as you know, when god closes a door he opens a window. You guys are totally heartless and hopeless. You know you can freeze Kool-aid in Ice trays and eat them as a good summer snack.
 
The new republican pattern:

1. screw things up so badly that lots of people get killed
2. When people complain about your criminal incompetence tell them the STFU out of respect for the dead.

Perfect.
 
Forget about the Republican/Democrat thing. The point is that we expect more out of a leader than what we got. Not just Bush, but everybody that was involved--federal, state, and local.

It's not about Bush being a bad speaker. It's about Bush being a bad leader, a passive, indifferent, uninterested leader. A leader that consistently demonstates paralysis in the face of crisis.

It's not about knowing if the disaster was predictable which TJ mentioned; it's about being prepared for the unpredictable (a hurricane in the Gulf probably didn't catch anybody by surprise) which was what we were supposed to be doing all along since 9/11.

Everyone knows that hurricanes our common in the Gulf, and we should've been prepared. Our leaders knew that the levees needed to be fixed.

The presisdent should go above and beyond. That's what a great leader does. The apparent lack of gravity and urgency in his tone and demeanor is simply disrespectful and sad, his delayed reaction to Katrina even worse.

It's absurd to accept the premise that in the event of a natural disaster, everybody is on their own for 2-3 days or longer. That's unacceptable, especially in a country with the resources and know-how to make amazing things happen fast.

Blaming the emergency responders is unfair, but blaming the leadership behind all of these agencies is necessary and acceptable.

What we do know is that the current system doesn't work and it needs to be changed. We need to figure it out and hold our leaders accountable for letting us down.
 
Well, back from the long weekend - glad to see nothing has changed. Let me say at the outset that I've never been more disgusted at the level to which some Americans will stoop for political posturing.
Ray, I take from the fact that you're posting about Klingons and Ewoks on a Friday night that you don't get out much. So I'll try and help you through a few of the more difficult concepts:

1. The "wetlands" have been developed under state authority for about 100 years - please explain how the President is responsible for that? For nearly 50 years the State and local governments have been diverting funds intended for levee improvement to the "general fund." Again, explain the Presidents responsibility in this area - and don't give me any crap about the 42 million they didn't get LAST YEAR - that would not have had any impact on this disaster.

2. The State retained over 2/3 of their guardsmen, and another 4000 guardsmen under piss-poor state leadership clearly would have had little impact on the recovery efforts. Mobilizing just shy of a third of one states guardsmen seems entirely appropriate to me at a time of war.

3. THE STATE HAS TO CONTACT FEMA! Again, FEMA offices were already set up in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida days before Louisiana even made the call. The President had to call the Governor and the Mayor directly on Saturday and demand an evacuation order - the Mayor waited until Sunday afternoon to do that - that's about 15 hours to conduct a 72 hour evacuation plan. How is that the President's responsibility? By the way - on Sunday afternoon the Superdome still wasn't open for evacuees, and the mayor said - "bring your own food water, because none will be provided." Now that’s quality leadership.

4. The levees broke late Monday night - well after the hurricane left New Orleans, and after the early word from the city government was that they "dodged another bullet" and missed the direct hit that they feared. The President flew over New Orleans on Wednesday - that's a day and half kid, not "nearly a week." The full force of the Federal government moved in to take over the situation early Friday morning - that's three and a half days later - you want to argue it should have happened a day earlier? I'll at least entertain that argument. Maybe the President should have realized just how inept the local and state governments were and moved in a day earlier. There certainly was no Rudy Giuliani down there taking control of the situation, so maybe the President needed to replace these bozos a few hours earlier - I'm sure he would have if they were white, right?

md, what in the world does Iraq have to do with a hurricane - this is the worst natural disaster ever to hit this country - it has nothing to do with Iraq, and you're an ass for trying to score political points on the misery of the hurricane's victims.

D.B., you're pretty much arguing for eliminating state and local governments right? No longer should we be a federation of states, but just one massive central bureaucracy? That will somehow make things better? No thanks. Maybe voters will start to realize that they are electing LEADERS, not populists that claim they'll implement the largest entitlements, but people with the ability to actually lead when it matters - that clearly was not the case in NOLA.

braveheart, do you not think there will be about fifty bloody panels, commissions and lynch mobs chartered to find out "what went wrong" and how best to blame the President? My only point from the beginning was how repulsive you all are for starting that process 36 hours after the worst natural disaster in the history of the country. It didn’t matter then, it doesn't matter right now, and it's not HELPING anyone. Any time, any single minute, that any government official has to spend thinking about what to say to meatheads like you criticizing them or their actions is one moment to many. Couldn't you wait a stinking week or two to start trying score political points and screaming hysterically about Iraq?
 
"The responsibility of ministers for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact the prime object for which governments come into existence.”
WINSTON CHURCHILL
GOVERNMENT, BOTH LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL FAILED, AND BECAUSE OF THIS FAILURE, THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE DEAD, CLOSE TO A MILLION UNEMPLOYED AND DISLOCATED, AND LOCAL AND STATE ECONOMIES IN RUIN. BUSH IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF IT, ALTHOUGH HIS FEMA PERSON SEEMS TO BE INEPT AND IMPOTENT WHEN IT COMES TO HIS JOB. THE NATIONAL GUARD RESPONDED BEHIND THE STORM, FEDERAL TROOPS WERE ORDERED OUT, AND THINGS ARE GETTING ON THE RIGHT TRACK. THE DISEASE WON'T HIT FOR ANOTHER SIX WEEKS OR SO, AND THEN PART TWO OF THE CRISIS. HOPEFULLY NOT TO MUCH OF IT WILL TRANSFER PERSON TO PERSON, BECAUSE WE HAVE RELOCATED SO MANY, THAT COULD SUCK FOR THE WHOLE COUNTRY. IF I LEARNED ONE THING FROM THE STORM, IT IS THAT FOX NEWS IS FULL OF DRAMA QUEEN HACKS, NOT THAT I SHOULDN'T HAVE KNOW THAT ALREADY. ALL IN ALL THE SITUATION IS IN FULL RELIEF FORMAT, AND THOSE THAT CONTINUE TO PICK AT BUSH ARE MOTIVATED BY NOTHING OTHER THEN POLITICS.
 
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