Singing the Bite Me Song

« I'm not allowed to read this, but I think "Find the Brownie" is a great game | Main | OK, so if you start having some of these symptoms... you'll know what it is »

October 02, 2005

How could inept FEMA mismanage TONS of ice?

I have to think hard about this story. Still processing. It seems too bizarre to be just sheer incompetence. It is like there was a method to the mismanagement, you know? Like someone was either trying DELIBERATELY to fuck up massively (why? The political fallout has been devastating for the Bush administration, but the only people who would even THINK of deliberately fucking up something this big are Bushies. Lefty hearts would bleed to death at the suffering in New Orleans before they'd ever entertain a deliberate fiasco for crass political gain, and besides, Lefties don't control anything right now, so how would they pull it off?)

So, should we entertain the notion of deliberate sabotage of the Bush administration from WITHIN the Bush administration? I'm sure there are party-line goose-steppers who remain massively pissed off at the iron fists of the big bosses. But again, how would such a person or group of people ever find themselves in such a key choke point of power? The FEMA incompetents were deep political loyaltists. Sure, Texas may have invented a unique double-double cross, going back to the Kennedy administration, but such an idea seems oddly misplaced here.

So what does that leave? Mere incompetence? That would seem the only explanation, but that's what bugs me about it. It seems too easy for a fuck-up on such a grand scale, like an orchestra of errors, not a mere marching band arrangement.

Which leads me to entertain an idea that is utterly absurd. You have to WORK HARD to fuck up this badly, see? There isn't any logic in sending ice in the WRONG DIRECTION with a straight face, especially not that much of it. And they claimed people didn't need the ice because they'd dispersed, but we all saw people suffering from heat exhaustion, suffering in the heat. Who was the ice being kept for, freezers of meat held by BUSINESSES ONLY? (I get it, perhaps CORPORATIONS are the only "individuals" whose suffering meant anything in the aftermath of Katrina. PEOPLE didn't need ice. All they'd do is melt it trying to get cool. What a waste.)

I keep circling and circling around this idea, the one I don't want to believe, don't even want to consider. What if it wasn't incompetence at all? In this story below, it talks about how a lot of the ice was being held for the next disaster, and ended up in Texas.

Why is it I keep returning to this idea that the FEMA incompetence and withheld aid was higher in districts that voted blue in the elections, while aid was held in reserve and speedily delivered to districts that voted red? I can't prove this, of course. And so long as it looks like sheer incompetence, masquerades as sheer incompetence, no one can prove it. The so-called "fog of war" obscured stories of FEMA turning aid workers and trucks back, of telling people from distant states not to come, that they weren't needed.

What kind of thinking would even consider that there would be political gain from this kind of patronage payoff/punishment system coming home to roost in a humanitarian disaster? Because at the end of the day, my gut belief is that this had less to do with the Katrina victims being African American and poor and more to do with the fact that the place they lived voted the wrong way according to the party in power (of course, a big reason the area may have voted the wrong way may be because they are African American and poor).

If the Bush administration or the Republican Party ever gets another black vote, I will be awfully surprised. That's why I'm so puzzled. The party was making an effort to "court" African American voters in the last election. Or had they given up? Was that just a front, something to throw around for show while old Dixiecrats in pointy white hats were working hard in smoke-filled back rooms with other rich GOP fat cats and power-broker "Pioneers" divvying up real estate for the new GOP feudal aristocracy the GOP planned to permanently put in place by never having another free national election?

Maybe the incompetent fuck-up was a patronage gamble, an ill-informed underestimation of the scale of the humanitarian fallout, as if the plotters of this plan WERE incompetent, but with an incompetence built from the arrogance of power, secure in the idea that no one would ever question the patronage code system with which they wielded it and if anyone did, their manipulative control of the media would bury such an idea before it ever reached "real" public opinion polls.

And instead, they stumbled into the wake of the stunning images and reporting from New Orleans and actually encountered a news event they couldn't manipulate.

So now they ruse is actually an attempt to make it look like an incompetent fuck-up by people who don't know their heads from their asses, as opposed to what it really may be, an deliberate fuck-up to play political games with FEMA aid as was done in Florida, a deliberate fuck-up that collapsed in on itself because the arrogance of the players led them to be too insulated to understand that the event had gotten too big to "manage." That, in itself is incompetence, but not FEMA mismanagement incompetence. That's incompetent political "handling" of the faked FEMA mismanagement incompetence. Two different things, see?

Hey, it's just a theory.

Link: Stumbling Storm-Aid Effort Put Tons of Ice on Trips to Nowhere - New York Times.

October 2, 2005

Stumbling Storm-Aid Effort Put Tons of Ice on Trips to Nowhere


WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 - When the definitive story of the confrontation between Hurricane Katrina and the United States government is finally told, one long and tragicomic chapter will have to be reserved for the odyssey of the ice.

Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes, that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm. It would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it would never be delivered.

The somewhat befuddled heroes of the tale will be truckers like Mark Kostinec, who was dropping a load of beef in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 2 when his dispatcher called with an urgent government job: Pick up 20 tons of ice in Greenville, Pa., and take it to Carthage, Mo., a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Kostinec, 40, a driver for Universe Truck Lines of Omaha, was happy to help with the crisis. But at Carthage, instead of unloading, he was told to take his 2,000 bags of ice on to Montgomery, Ala.

After a day and a half in Montgomery, he was sent to Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. From there, on Sept. 8, he was waved onward to Selma, Ala. And after two days in Selma he was redirected to Emporia, Va., along with scores of other frustrated drivers who had been following similarly circuitous routes.

At Emporia, Mr. Kostinec sat for an entire week, his trailer burning fuel around the clock to keep the ice frozen, as FEMA officials studied whether supplies originally purchased for Hurricane Katrina might be used for Hurricane Ophelia. But in the end only 3 of about 150 ice trucks were sent to North Carolina, he said. So on Sept. 17, Mr. Kostinec headed to Fremont, Neb., where he unloaded his ice into a government-rented storage freezer the next day.

"I dragged that ice around for 4,100 miles, and it never got used," Mr. Kostinec said. A former mortgage broker and Enron computer technician, he had learned to roll with the punches, and he was pleased to earn $4,500 for the trip, double his usual paycheck. He was perplexed, however, by the government's apparent bungling.

"They didn't seem to know how much ice they were buying and how much they were using," he said. "All the truckers said the money was good. But we were upset about not being able to help."


At a hearing on Wednesday, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, expressed astonishment that many truckloads of ice had ended up in storage 1,600 miles from the Hurricane Katrina damage zone in her state, apparently because the storage contractor, AmeriCold Logistics, had run out of space farther south.

"The American taxpayers, and especially the Katrina victims, cannot endure this kind of wasteful spending," Ms. Collins said.

Asked about trips like Mr. Kostinec's, Nicol Andrews, a FEMA spokeswoman, said: "He was put on call for a need and the need was not realized, so he went home. Any reasonable person recognizes the fact that it makes sense to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and place your resources where they may be needed."

Unlike an ordinary hurricane, which may leave a large population in still-habitable housing but without power for days or weeks, Hurricane Katrina destroyed neighborhoods and led to unprecedented evacuation, Ms. Andrews said.

"The population we ordered the ice for had been dispersed," she said, "which is good, because they are out of harm's way."


Not all of the ice delivery trips, by an estimated 4,000 drivers, ended in frustration. Mike Snyder, a truck driver from Berwick, Pa., took an excruciating journey that started in Allentown, Pa., on Sept. 16 and did not end until two weeks later, on Friday morning, when he arrived in Tarkington Prairie, Tex.

The electricity was out in the small community. When Mr. Snyder pulled up in front of a local church and unloaded his ice, residents were overjoyed to see him. "I felt like I did a lot of good," he said.

Truck drivers who pinballed around the country felt differently.

Having almost lost his Florida home to a hurricane last year, Jeff Henderson was eager to help when he heard that FEMA needed truckers to carry ice. He drove at his own expense to Wisconsin to collect a 20-ton load and delivered it to the Carthage staging area.

Then he, too, was sent across the South: Meridian, Miss.; Selma; and finally Memphis, where he waited five days and then delivered his ice to storage.

"I can't understand what happened," Mr. Henderson said. "The government's the only customer that plays around like that."

Mike Hohnstein, a dispatcher in Omaha, sent a truckload out of Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian. From there, the driver was sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, to Columbia, S.C., and finally to Cumberland, Md., where he bought a lawn chair and waited for six days.

Finally, 10 days after he started, the driver was told to take the ice to storage in Bettendorf, Iowa, Mr. Hohnstein said. The truck had traveled 3,282 miles, but not a cube of ice had reached a hurricane victim.

"Well," Mr. Hohnstein said, "the driver got to see the country."


October 2, 2005 at 12:28 AM in Current Affairs, Favorite Links, News to Note, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How could inept FEMA mismanage TONS of ice?:


I recently began working for the PR firm representing a new ice vending company out of North Florida, called Ice House America. The newly patented system of vending ice, devised by its founding president Bob Alligood, solves almost every problem encountered by FEMA in its recent distribution efforts. Two of these machines were donated to the Houston Astrodome for relief support, and plans are currently in the works between FEMA and Ice House America to make the machines available to communities without power or running water in times of disaster, by retrofitting them for hook up to generators and alternative water sources. Check out Ice House America's website:

Posted by: Amy Cummings | Nov 10, 2005 3:26:08 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.