September 2005 Archives

Dateline: Home Study

Well events of today make it clear that Mayor Ray Nagin is a complete and total idiot incapable of running even the smallest of dog shelters. He was oh so quick to criticize the federal government for not stepping I nearly enough to do his job and save lives in New Orleans and now that he has federal help, he thinks he is too good to take it. Yep, after all of his whining, crying, and complaining like a little spoiled kid, the federal government sends in Vice Admiral Thad Allen. The Coastie takes charge and along with Lt. Gen. Honore kicks a little butt and takes back control of the city the Mayor lost.

Now Nagin wants to appear Mayoral and trick his followers that he is in charge and to do this he wants to bring people back into the city. Okay, I suspect there are two reasons for this: 1) Nagin is just plain stupid and has no idea what in the hell he is doing, and; 2) he is desperate to get some tax money back in the city (I think more of #1 than of #2). Well there are a couple of problems with the plan, namely there is no reliable 911 service, electricity is spotty, water is uncertain, the levees are still only patched and not fully repaired, and there is another storm coming.

Most people, people with half a brain that is, could see that these were problems. Idiot-Nagin sees no such thing so Vice Admiral Allen tells him the idea is hosed from the git-go. Nagin wants to prove his are bigger than Allen’s so he pushes forward and refers to Admiral Allen as "the new crowned federal mayor of New Orleans". Admittedly Allen is probably a little self-serving here too, namely he has already pulled Nagin’s dumbass out of the flood waters once and he doesn’t want to have to do it again.

Fortunately by the end of day idiot-Nagin had backed off his plan. At least we, the federal taxpayers, will not have to pay pull his royal idiot Nagin’s butt out of the waters again. If Nagin had any courage at all he would resign his post now and cite the reason as incompetence. Of course people that damn dumb are too dumb to know they are dumb. I feel for the citizens of New Orleans…but then again they are the ones who elected such an idiot as mayor.

Dateline: Home Study

Article from the Clarion Ledger entitled Most University Presidents don't Serve on Boards. Wonder why? What could corporate America possibly be looking for that we do not want to have in academia? Must be that "L" word thing again. Perhaps corporate America knows something academia doesn't?

Dateline: Home Study

Vice Admiral Cotton said he gives the federal government an A+ for their response to Katrina according to this news story. I'm a big admirer of the good Admiral. His speeches are invigorating andmake you want to go do something. He also exhibits the core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

His announcement in this story merely shows the courage he has. It is oh so easy ot blame everyone and give grades of F to everyone involved in the response. No one argues about that, you simply become one of the many. But to say the government did a good job, and not just a good job but an A+ job, ahh, that takes courage.

Admiral Cotton.jpg

I'm not going to argue the A+ grade because that would be just plain dumb. Admiral Cotton sits in a office in the Pentagon, I don't. He obviously has a better picture of what was done and what was not. I must admit however, I do tend to lean more towards his grade of A+ than the pundits' grades of F.

T S KUHN AND THOMAS PM BARNETT

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Dateline: Home Study

Years ago, many years ago, I studied Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions in a Philosophy of Science class. Imagine my delight when I studied it again, this past week, in a PhD Public Policy class. A lot has changed since I first read Kuhn; I’ve grown older, I have a broader vision, and I can see some connections that I could never have seen twenty-four years ago. For example, I could never have seen a connection between Kuhn, this book, and social sciences.

But now I’m wondering. Does Kuhn help explain some recent changes? Is the DoD transformation a Kuhnian paradigm shift? Do we still need a paradigm shift to handle homeland security, especially Katrina-like events?

Class made it clear, once again, that the profession of Public Policy is searching for a home. We discussed in “Scope” class some two years ago and I’m not sure much has changed. First there is the problem of home: political science or business? Or should the program be housed in some institute? Who knows? Then are those with differences in what the degree should do. The MA program is, for the most part, strictly practitioner oriented, as it probably should be, then there is the more theoretical, research oriented doctoral program. And within that program there are those who are more interested in the “administration” part and those more interested in the “policy” part of Public Policy and Administration (I’m one of the policy people).

I also began thinking of how Kuhn could apply to Thomas P M Barnett’s new rule set. Is his leviathan and sysadmin model a paradigm shift or just another theory? Is the core and non-integrating gap explanation of the world a Kuhnian paradigm shift or simply “normal” science at work? Hard to tell and I’m nit sure we will be able to tell anytime soon. The thing about paradigm shifts is that I don’t think you ever see them coming or see them happening; you can only look back and say “there it was”.

TYPICAL REACTION: UNDO SOMETHING

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Dateline: Home Study

The calls have been pouring in for the last few days over Katrina, Homeland Security, and FEMA. The very politicians who put FEMA under the new DHS now are calling for removal from that organization because it "should report directly to the President." The reaction is hardly unexpected for poor leaders often want to "do something" when they don't know what else to do. And many times the easiest thing to do is to undo what you just did--especially if you have to have to appear to your constituents that you did something.

There are times that decisions should be reversed, namely when they were wrong, but other times they should be left alone. Placing FEMA under the DHS was not necessarily a bad decision and it should not be undone just for the sake of having something to undo. Things may be broken but all that means is that they need to be fixed, not scrapped.

Lest we forget the lessons of 11 September 2001, what has been missing is coordination--coordination between local, state, and federal agencies, not to mention between local and agencies themselves. It is still important, after all, for the police department to talk to the fire department in an emergency. Could they in New Orleans?

But the cries now are that FEMA needed the ear of the President. Why? If FEMA had a cabinet position, what would have changed? Would help have arrived sooner? Would more help have arrived? Is having the ear of the Chief Executive the requirement for quick action? If so, then why did the Louisiana National Guard not react quicker? They were under the direct control of the so-called governor Kathleen Blanco.

Bureaucracy is slow and troublesome at times, but it also serves a purpose. The bureaucracy is the structure by which things get done in government, and when the bureaucracy gets in the way, then ways need to be found around it and that can not be legislated. What got things going in New Orleans? Simple: Lt. Gen. Honore. He got things going because he summed up the problem, developed a solution, and took action; all qualities of a leader, and all qualities lacking in the government of Louisiana.

There is a model in existence already that should be considered and that is Goldwater-Nichols. There are similarities here and lessons to be learned if we only had leaders with memories longer the last election. Goldwater-Nichols created the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff who serves as the principal military adviser to the President. Instead of having the President get hit with requests and comments individually by the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force, he has a single point of contact, the Chairman, JCS. And if through that process he does not understand what the Navy or the Army needs, then he needs to look for a new Chairman, not the elimination of the process.

We also have a Secretary of Homeland Defense who does (should) have the ear of the President. If the President didn't know what was going on and if was needed but not given, then we should look to the Secretary to see what went wrong, not simply give a place at the table to FEMA. If we give FEMA a direct connection today, what do we do for the next emergency where perhaps the National Guard, or the Navy, or even the state Fish and Game Commission need help? Should they all have a direct link to the President?

And let's lay of the President and others, especially Chertoff, for not having a complete picture of the situation. I've heard all the television news programs ask how they could not have known what was going on with all the coverage it was getting. Well, simple, the media is not perfect; sometimes it is not even good. For the first few days after the hurricane the major news broadcasters had you believing that only New Orleans was impacted. Mississippi and Alabama were all but ignored on television and had the government acted on that information, they would have mobilized too few resources.

It must also be remembered that journalists are just that. They have no special insight, no real strategic thinking skills, and often no real understanding the big picture. If they did they would be part of the action and not simply observing it: they would be doers, not reporters. The media do not know what the priorities should be, or even what they are.

Are there lessons to be learned? Yes. Will they be learned? Yes. Will mistakes be made during the next disaster situation? Yes. Why? Because we are all fallible humans and no matter how hard we try, we never seem to be able to get it quite perfect. We will get better, but there will always be something else to learn.

The biggest lesson to be learned from all of this is that the American people must learn to elect leaders at all levels of government. Voting based on promises of money, new programs, or shared beliefs on a few issues is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme. What is important is leadership, leadership to get a city, a state, a nation through the tough times that are unexpected. On 11 September 2001 the comment was frequently made that it was good Bush instead of Gore were in office. I still felt that way with Katrina. I felt bad for Nagin and Blanco. Without a doubt things could have been better, but they also could have been worse. Imagine Blanco or Nagin in the White House…makes me go brrrrrrrrr…

WILL THE FEDS TAKE OVER

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Dateline: Home Study

Recent arguments have been that the federal government was too slow to repsond to Katrina. This ignores the fact that 1) the federal governemnt did prepare to repsond but it takes time, and 2) the local and state governments are the first responders and should have made better plans.

So what next? Amid all the calls for the federal government to take a more active role, will they be allowed to? Are the local mayors and state governors willing to sacrifice their power and be told what they need to do by the federal government? I think not, but that be what's coming. It will be interesting to hear the charges then, after Katrina has faded from memory some. And yes, katrina will soon be forgotten for crying out loud! Remember Camille? If you do then apparently you do not live in New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf Coast because there were a lot people who wanted to "ride out Katrina". The results were much the same...death.

Heritage has a interesting article that points out that the current block grants are not working. Much of the federal money given to New Orleans used to buy equipment now sits under water at the fire stations. How would the now indignant Mayor Nagin of New Orleans have responded if the feds had tried to tell him what equipment he could buy and further, where he could put it?

As the song says, "you better careful what you ask for, becasue you just might get it." Take heed local and state leaders. Before you complain too loudly make sure you are willing to live with the solution.

WE WANT YOUR HELP BUT...

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Dateline: Home Study

It seems the Dems in LA want the Feds help with Katrina but only on their terms. According to MSNBC the Bush Administration tried to get Louisiana governor Blanco, to turn over the evacuation of New Orleans to them. She didn't want to.

According to MSNBC's article entitled White House shifts blame for Katrina response

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration had sought control over National Guard units, normally under control of the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request, noting that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. State authorities suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who is an adviser and does not have the authority to speak publicly.

Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.

Apparently she can't do it on her own but she wants to stay in control. Wouldn't be bad if she were a leader but...she's not.

Dateline: Home Study

The Good Captain has done an admirable job of summing up my thoguhts on the problems in New Orleans in his post. This was a local and state failure. They had no plan, they took no action, they had (have?) no leadership.

Leadership is more about talks and about appearances. The older I get and the more I see the more I realize that many people in leadership ositions are far from leaders. Disasters such as Katrina drive this point home.

Dateline: Home Study

I've been asked several times or heard comments several times, over the last day or two, asking why the military did not respond faster to the hurricane. The answer is really quite simple--Title X of the US Code. To make it plain and simple: this is the United States of America, not Iraq. We have civilians who control civil law, not military.

Compound the problem further by the New Orleans Police Department officers who resigned. They certainly have no honor, no courage, no commitment. If the Mayor and Governor have any leadership qualities, they will pass a law forbidding those cowards from ever holding a public job again.

The National Guard can essentially be deputized by their respective governors and can then enforce laws, but the active duty can not.

Why didn't they get there sooner to provide humanitarian relief? Again, you have to first ask and then it takes time. From what I've seen the Navy actually began executing a plan before the storm hit but it takes times. If you put troops close, they become casualties. If you put ships in the Gulf of Mexico, they sink.

There was also a lot of damage. When the storm moved on and the winds died down there was very little infrastructure left. Roads were blocked, bridges washed away. I heard last night that some National Guard trucks were stranded in Meridian, Mississippi because they didn't have fuel. Why? It was a combination of the lack of electricity to pump fuel and the freaking idiots in the state (and now surrounding states) who panicked and made a run on gas.

Will it be better in the near future? Certainly. Will we have fuel here soon? I hope. Of course all the fans who came to town to see a football game that should have been canceled have surely consumed what little there was available earlier today. I wonder, is "I can't get gas" an excuse to miss work? I would not be surprised if we did not hear that reason in the next few days, particularly for those who commute to work from out of town.

Dateline: Home Study

My wife just got back from running a few errands and had a 30 minute wait in line at a gas station. Compared to what is happening in other places perhaps that is not that long of a wait. Compared to the people on the Coast who can't even get gas, or don't have cars to put it in, it is nothing. But the question I have is, why are we playing a football game, encouraging people to come to town in their SUVs, when there obviously is not enough gas for the residents? Where is the University leadership and why could they not call off the game?

As Gregg Ellis said in his article yesterday, there are reasons to have the game but there seem to be many more reasons to not have the game. I think this is yet another decision that will come back to bite some people.

KATRINA

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Dateline: Home Study

Katrina has come and gone, leaving death and destruction in her path. We suffered relatively little here. We lost electricity for a little over two days—nothing compared to how long it will be out in the southern parts of the state. Katrina certainly made us all aware of the power of Mother Nature and the relative powerlessness of man, especially man without electricity.

Without electrons I had no computer and pretty much everything I need is on the computer. I’ll move more of it on to my laptop but what I really need are removable hard drives. We use them in the military when working on the “high side” so that they can be locked up in the safe, but wouldn’t it be nice to have them at home for emergencies? In the event of an evacuation you could simply pull the hard drive and take it with you. Would that not be better than trying to pull paper files with insurance information?

It was also hot, especially at night. There have been editorials written about how we used to survive in the olden days without air conditioning. Yep, we sure did. I was a teenager before I lived in a house with air conditioning…in the southeastern United States! But you know, we always had a fan or two. At least at night, when the wind died down outside, we could have breeze blowing through the house. And those days were before the energy crisis of the 1970’s after which houses were super-insulated and sealed. In other words, in the olden days, houses were designed to function without air conditioning, today they are not. I wish the editorialists could remember that.

The other thing we are learning is that there are disasters and there are DISASTERS. Most of what we deal with throughout the year are isolated incidents such as a tornado. The damage is localized and relatively few people are affected. We can then send in huge assets to a small area and really work the problem. September 11, as tragic as it was, fell into this category. The Pentagon in DC and World Trade Center in New York were local sites. Panic spread and cities were affected but even then it was still localized and the infrastructure, for the most part, was functioning. Katrina is just the opposite—A large area was affected, infrastructure was not just damaged but is missing, and we can send in huge resources but they are spread over a large area. It will take a while to recover.

I also learned how stupid some people can be. Yes, stupid. True, some of the people in Katrina’s path couldn’t evacuate but many could. You can see them every night on the news now, especially in New Orleans, screaming for the government to bail them out of the mess they got themselves into. Yes, there are arguments that they didn’t have cars. Well look past the people and tell me what you see underwater. I see lots of cars and SUV’s. No, some people were stupid enough to ride it out and now they are paying the price. Unfortunately it cost some of them their lives. And it is not like this was unheard of. When you mention Camille in this state people immediately think of the 1969 hurricane, not some girl they met last week.

The people of New Orleans are an embarrassment to the entire South. It irritates me to see their complaints. Most of them should have left and then those who couldn’t have left would have been able to be rescued. Those who are suffering now are suffering, to a great extent, because of those who could have left but didn’t. Yes, they should feel guilty.

We are also getting a good sight of the lack of leadership in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Mayor Ray Nagin (D) had no plan for his city. Today he escorted visitors to the front of the line to get a bus out of town…in front of those who have been waiting for days. I’m sure he will not be re-elected. Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) had no plan for her state. Amidst the screams of where is the federal government I must ask, where is the state and local government and where is there request for help. No one expects the mayor, the governor, or even the entire state to handle this alone but why were they not doing more? Why did they not ask for help? This is a republic where we value the rights of individual states. I think we generally oppose have the federal government step in until they are asked. Bottom line, more could have been done and it could have been done sooner, but the problem is not at the federal level.

I have also been embarrassed by the people of my state and my town. We now have a gas shortage because of complete idiots ran to the gas pumps in fear of a shortage and filled up their SUVs and 55 gallon drums with gas. There is not and never was a shortage but there is now because of outright stupid people making a mess of things because they are not capable of engaging their brains! There really are some outright stupid people wandering around. The rumors I heard about refineries shutting down were downright silly and I’m sad that more people did not see them for what they were—rumors.

A similar thing happened following 11 September. Fortunately I was in Norfolk (with reasonable people) while an idiotic elected official in our area actually told people to go get gas because it was going to run out. Now how could he have said that? Idiocy!

Tomorrow we play our first football game of the season. I’ll probably not be there because I think it is ridiculous that we are even playing. This state is asking for federal aid but we are not going to let it interfere with football! A few days ago the prospect that hotels would be turning out those who sought shelter from the hurricane to make room for fans coming in for the game. Some actually contacting those with reservations and they all said “cancel my reservation”. So there are some good, reasonable people out there.

Of course last night on the news the university “leadership” was trying to work out something and doing a little hand wringing. They asked fans to consider canceling their reservations. Hmmm. All it would have taken from the “leadership” was a declaration that the game was postponed, and that problem would have gone away.

Strong leaders are hard find. It takes strength to make decisions quickly and to make the tough calls. Being a leader is more than being boss, and is more than surrounding yourself in the trappings of leadership. While I’m disappointed with “leaders” at many levels, Haley Barbour (R) is coming through as a champ. I think he showing the nation what a leader is, just a Rudy Giuliani (R) did on September 11. Is it just me or is they a definite (D) and (R) thing going on here? Effective leaders, (R); ineffective leaders (D).

Another sign of good leadership is the ability to stay calm under stress. Anyone who watched the news can attest to the fact the Ray Nagin (D) and the NOPD Chief have been anything but calm. They must settle down, lower the tones of their voices, and instill confidence in the citizens of their city. Their current actions are leading to more problems. Fortunately communications within the city are limited so most within the city are not able to hear their ranting.

And a final lesson is that communications must be improved, especially in times of disaster or problems. Four County EPA was unwilling to even give estimates of when power would be restored. They said they had learned that estimates were always wrong and they wouldn’t make them. Well, two words of advice. First, find out how to make better estimates so that they are not always wrong. Second, your customers would like to have estimates so they could plan. Will be a few hours in which case we will wait it out or will it be days/weeks in which we may wish to go spend some time with friends and family? I really don’t think that is asking too much. When I talked to people who can not even give me an estimate my immediate assumption is that they do not have a plan.

One of the most frequently heard comments from the people in New Orleans is “tell us what to do”. They need information and no one is able to give them any. Why, because they do not have a plan. That is a sad state of affairs and, in my opinion, indicates what a true lack of leadership they have. With the military stepping in now, there will be a plan and things will get must better, much faster.

I’ve exercised with the military, government, and civilian organizations in the past. Things are going to get better because those exercises showed me that the military and FEMA are the best organized institutions I’ve ever seen. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is on the scene now and is obviously taking charge.

PARENTS ARE SAFE

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Heard from my parents neighbor that they are safe and all is well. They live south of me and I knew they would have felt the effects of Katrina more than we did. They are not so far that an evacuation was in order for dafety but they do live in a very rural area and I wish they had evacuated simply to avoid the inevitable communications gap that would result from falling trees.

They have water but no electricity nor phone. Cell phone? Did I say rural? They have one but reception out there is limited under the best of conditions and I suspect some cell towers in the area are down or without power.

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