The Big Lesson of Katrina
A friend of mine has as the signature to his emails, "the only small governments are in third world countries," and it seems equally sanguine here, because the main thing that the governments of third world countries and our current government seem to have in common right now is the placing of people in important jobs not because they're qualified or because they give a shit about the job, but because they're buddy-buddy with the head honcho.
Today's a-number-one example is Mike Brown, FEMA chief--an incompetent who was fired from his last job as head of the International Arabian Horses Association, who was described as an "unmitigated, total fucking disaster" by a member of the IAHA, and who was forced to resign (read fired) in the face of mounting litigation and financial disarray. Oh, and despite the fact that every news channel on television and most news radio stations were reporting it, he claimed he didn't know that people were starving and dehydrated outside the New Orleans Convention Center until today.
Lots of people over at Kos are claiming that this fuckup spells the doom of the modern conservative movement, that this is the Depression and WWII all rolled into one. I have serious doubts about that, considering the right wing's ability to change the subject, blame the victim, and generally act like all those poor black people had it coming because they dared to be black, poor, and vote for Democrats.
That's the other thing our current government has in common with the governments of third world countries--if you're not rich, connected, and enriching the ruling class, it doesn't matter if you live or die. Our government is not small--right-wing rhetoric aside, it is a complex and wide-ranging bureaucracy, and if this country has been limping along for the last five years with some faint facade that it works reasonably well, it's due to the entrenched bureaucrats who do their jobs every day with whatever tools they're provided by our Republican administration. The difference is that for the last five years, that bureaucracy has been co-opted, has been trained on one singular goal, and that goal is the enrichment of Bush's political cronies at the expense of everyone else, and as a result, our country, while capable of responding to emergencies, has not done so. What has happened in New Orleans is a disgrace on a national level, and it's a perfect example of what happens when a government is turned to the task of enriching a few at the expense of the many.