The Federal Emergency Management Agency was created in 1979 in response to criticism about Washington’s uncoordinated reactions to a series of disasters, including Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Mississippi coast 10 years earlier.
As a result of 9/11, the agency lost its Cabinet-level status and was folded into the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA was no longer an independent agency with a mission.
DHS chief honcho is Secretary Michael Chertoff, the contours of whose face reminds me of my ex-wife’s attorney Emily Edelman. Mr. Chertoff conceded in interviews yesterday that Washington was insufficiently prepared for the hurricane that laid waste New Orleans and surrounding areas.
But he argued that the primary responsibility for handling emergencies rested with state and local, not federal, officials.
Under the law, he added, state and local officials must direct initial emergency operations. “The federal government comes in and supports those officials.”
I smiled when I read this, because I was reminded of the time divide that separates local, state and federal levels of responsibility, and the similarity of the experience in the halls of justice.
In a lawsuit, if you wish to appeal from the local level, you will do so in the state Court of Appeal, and you will wait months, but they will consider. If not satisfied there, you will appeal to the Supreme Court of your state, and in less time, you will receive a 95% chance of not being considered ever again. And if you then go to the Supreme Court of the United States, you will receive a 99.9% chance in 2 words of being told to go away.
Yes, the United States is an 800 lb gorilla, and sometimes exhibits the lumbering brains of such a creature.
The public’s expectation of having its cries heard, whether in a Super Convention room, or in a Court room, is huge, and the time sensitive result is almost always a terrible let-down.
Little wonder that some members of the public take the law into their own hands, even at the risk of annihilation by the enforcers. No doubt looters and crazed litigants are easier to control.
There was a post 9/11 Commission of Inquiry, to find out where the government let us down, despite warning clues. There should be a post 10/29 commission formed for the exact same purpose.