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Monday, November 19, 2012


What would we do without experts in leadership and disaster response

The Associated Press just gave a big, fat, sloppy, tongue down your throat kiss to the three officials that screwed up the rescue effort before and after Superstorm Sandy.
It begins:
Experts in leadership and disaster response interviewed by The Associated Press gave all three chief executives high marks for their performance so far in Superstorm Sandy, a disaster that left more than 100 people dead and presented perhaps the biggest crisis-management test yet for three Northeastern politicians who have all been rumored to hold presidential ambitions.

How do you get to be an “expert in leadership and disaster response” for the Associated Press? To start, you have to be a professor with no personal experience whatever in emergency response. For example Syracuse University political science professor Robert McClure who holds nothing back:
"Throughout the country, what the American people seek is a kind of authenticity in their public leaders, and these three guys have demonstrated that authenticity throughout this crisis,"
Competence? Foresight? Pre-planning? Making sure that emergency power was available for gas stations? Having enough bottled water pre-positioned? Making sure that power lines would not get torn down by falling trees? Apparently according to “expert in leadership and disaster response” Robert McClure what counts is being able to fake sincerity.

Chris Christie was the best, being seen photographed with Obama, hugging kids for the cameras telling them "Don't be scared."   (Good advice from an expert) Taking time out from his busy schedule of press availabilities to appear on "Saturday Night Live."

It’s a wonder that the storm had any effect at all, what with the preparations beforehand.

All three men took firm command before Sandy arrived. Cuomo closed New York City's subways and tunnels hours before there was a threat of flooding and strategically "pre-positioned resources" days before, a move the federal transportation secretary later praised. Christie struck a get-tough note in ordering people to clear out along the coast, barking, "Don't be stupid" on Twitter. Bloomberg calmly ordered an evacuation of the city's low-lying areas.
The AP is in love. Note the adjectives: "firm command,"  Coumo “pre-positions” unspecified resources, the transportation secretary "praises" ("heck of a job Brownie"), Christie “barks” and Bloomberg is “calm.” Central Casting could not have done a better job.

Some of the other lovers of authenticity and “experts in leadership and disaster response” include Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, Doug Muzzio, political science professor at New York City's Baruch College, and Princeton University politics professor Brandice Canes-Wrone. Brinkley summarized it all for these experts
"Here, all three showed stellar leadership."

Meanwhile off campus and away from the Associated Press, a few people who are actual victims of the storm are not feeling the love.

'I have three kids and we have no power, no heat, for 13 days now'...
Sandy a super test for BloombergChristieCuomo...

They're just party poopers. 'This Is Our Katrina': Coney Island Reels From Hurricane Sandy's Wrath.

The pre-planning apparently didn't include parking trains in areas that would not flood. 
NJ Transit investigating its preparations for Hurricane Sandy after numerous trains damaged in storm

DERAILED: NJ Transit’s Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny is flooded two days after Sandy.
And what about the new and improved FEMA?  FEMA's head defends the agency's post-hurricane response by saying that emergency relief is not its job. 

Really?  After Hurricane Katrina you got the impression that emergency relief IS FEMA's job.  Or maybe that's only when a Republican is president.  Because the AP couldn't bother with this while smooching CuomoChristieBloomberg.

It didn't set up its first relief center until four days after Sandy hit -- only to run out of drinking water on the same day. It couldn't put sufficient boots on the ground to protect Queens residents from roving looters. The Red Cross -- on whom FEMA depends for delivering basic goods -- left Staten Island stranded for nearly a week, prompting borough President Jim Molinaro to fume that America was not a Third World country. But FEMA's most egregious gaffe was that it arranged for 24 million gallons of free gas for Sandy's victims, but most of them couldn't lay their hands on it.

But if you think FEMA's inability to provide rapid relief subverts the core reason for its existence, think again. A few days after the Times' valentine, FEMA head W. Craig Fugate told the newspaper that the agency's rapid response role is really a fallacy. "The general public assumes we are part of the response team that will be there the first couple of days," he said. But it is really designed to deal with disasters several days after the fact.

How does FEMA do that? By indiscriminately writing checks -- a task at which it evidently excels.
Experts in leadership and disaster response were not asked to respond.

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