Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Difference Between "Cheerleading" and "Leading"
Most everyone knows that Dubya used to be the Head Cheerleader at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. I got to thinking yesterday that this is exactly what Dubya does: he cheerleads, not leads. How else does one explain the bizarre "heck of a job Brownie" comment a few weeks ago? Or his out-of-place reference to himself getting drunk in New Orleans when he attempted to link himself to that town? Or his many, many news bites about Iraq that are really just cheerleading exercises?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Why People Are Cynical About the Government
I used to be a public servant years ago, working for various governmental agencies. Like almost any workplace, there were always the fair share of folks who worked hard, and folks who were just watching the clock. I thought that there was definitely something rewarding about serving the public good even though the low pay did drive talented people away. Too often the public sees governmental representatives as no-talent hacks who are awarded jobs based on favors. The most recent FEMA boss is a good example:

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a gentleman by the name of Michael DeWayne Brown, and he is the man who, next to the president, is responsible for managing the multi-agency response on the ground. He had two qualifications for the important job he now holds. He was a college roommate of the former director and — I swear I am not making this up — a commissioner of the Arabian Horse Association. That’s it. (Even better, he was gently eased out of his horsey-job because his decisions prompted a number of lawsuits against the association.) He is also, by most accounts, a nice man. According to one friend, he wanted a Washington job, “not for glory and not for power, but because he wanted to make things better for people.” In the previous events that he has overseen, he has been on the actual scene, presumably in an attempt to be a hands-on manager. He tries very, very hard. But, in the reality-based community that hurricanes inhabit, a man with character is as useless as a fish with a bicycle. This is a man who was so out of his depth, he was unaware of ten thousand refugees stranded in the New Orleans Convention Center several hours after it was reported on CNN. The president’s response? In New Orleans, last week, he threw his arm over the FEMA man’s shoulder and declared, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

This is what makes many folks roll their eyes when someone says they are a public servant. It's almost expected that if you work for the government, you either cannot be trusted or you're blatently incompetent. If Dubya were the true "CEO President" he claims he is, he would've hired the best and the brightest (if nothing else, hiring smart people makes you look good), but instead he follows the same tired pattern of appointing unqualified people for important positions.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"Blame" or "Accountability?"
When a wildfire or prescribed fire injures or kills a firefighter, an inquiry is launched to investigate the incident. It is not a "blame game" as is the current idiotic speaking point, but an honest look into everyone's decisions, the cascade of events which led to death or injury and the timeline of the incident. Everyone involved in the fire knows this beforehand; that if something goes wrong, everything (including radio conversations) is open to scrutiny. This is how you fix the process, and responsible adults should know this. Two days after Pearl Harbor, the first of nine investigations into what happened were launched. This wasn't the "blame game" or pointing fingers, it was how the hell did this happen, a call for responsibility.

Guess who felt the same way back in January 20, 2001?

And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.

America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.

Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options, but in commitments. And we find that children and community are the commitments that set us free.

Our public interest depends on private character, on civic duty and family bonds and basic fairness, on uncounted, unhonored acts of decency which give direction to our freedom.

Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with great love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone.

I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well.

That was Dubya's inauguration address, so many years ago.....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Reading Is Fundamental
Remember that little bit from the 70's? That program was geared to reinforce the idea that reading is one of the great skills we must cultivate in order to learn from the past and educate yourself in order to make sound decisions today....look what you can learn by reading the
October 2004 issue of the National Geographic:

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however--the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level--more than eight feet below in places--so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't--yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City.

And look what happens when you don't read:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did appreciate a serious storm but these levees got breached and as a result much of New Orleans is flooded and now we're having to deal with it and will," President Bush said.

Everyone understood that New Orleans is at the bottom of a bowl, and that a levee breach was inevitable, never mind the reports of billions of dollars of levee improvement money being siphoned off for Iraq last year, but what I can't understand is why there aren't fleets of helicopters (mosquito control, etc.) airlifting bundles of water and food to the parking areas around the Superdome. If CNN can get in, why can't water and food be dropped in constantly?

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