Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Stranger Than Fiction

If you aren't upset enough already, go read Laura Rozen. Unthinkably unbelievable. Some lowlights:

"Firefighters endure a day of FEMA training, which included a course on sexual harassment. Some firefighters say their skills are being wasted." (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency. [emphasis added]
And how, pray tell, did Michael "Too Incompetent For The Arabian Horse Club" Brown's FEMA respond to this dissent from firefighters who want to do more than FEMA's PR work? Can't you guess by now:

Federal officials are unapologetic.

"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.
Commitment to FEMA? Community-relations officers? They have recruited a mass of highly trained rescue workers and firefighters (with the municipalities that sent them footing the expensive bill) and Bush thinks they should be committed to helping not the citizens of New Orleans but FEMA! As community-relations officers! While people are dying. Outrageous.

But wait. It gets worse.

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas. [emph. added]
So, using the Bush Administration's warped calculus, highly trained and motivated firefighters and relief workers sent at local taxpayers' expense should serve the following functions - listed in terms of priority:

1. Photo Op prop escorts for Bush to buoy sagging poll numbers.
2. Community-relations PR workers for FEMA because FEMA really really needs rescuing.
3. If anyone is left over from numbers 1 and 2 above, maybe send them to help the suffering people of New Orleans whose lives and property continue to be ravaged by the flood and raging fires. Maybe. Later. If there are enough firefighters to go around. Priorities people.

In the meantime, let them eat cake.

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