Ed.: 092917 – Words: 1837 – Audio: N/A
..and we have to rely on Congress to fix it.
In previous posts many months back I alluded to the fact that in many instances our Constitution needs some updating. Now I realize right wing conservatives think that as some form of heresy given they have a tendency to worship the Founding Fathers and all they penned in ink as the same as being carved in granite to last all eternity. I contend the Founding Fathers created a dynamic document given they included the rules for making those changes, and establishing the system of checks & balances to oversee that process. There are many things the FF guys understood they could not cover when they created the document simply because no human can predict the future. In fact, since the 1700’s even our language grammar has shifted and some terms and even punctuation has evolved into other meanings… which lends to greater interpretation debate. What I am getting at here is that the FF’s would never have been able to dream of the need for certain exceptions for national emergencies. Over the years the Congress’s of the past have made changes to things like declaring war and engaging in conflicts that don’t really qualify as war. But Congress has been lagging in providing for rapid response exceptions for nature-related national emergencies to save lives, primarily because natural disasters are becoming more common (whether you believe in global warming or assume the liberal deep state government is creating all this).
Here’s a typical example. Our national response to the current disaster in Puerto Rico is not only appalling but it’s an international embarrassment given we are the greatest power on the globe. These are American citizens yet because it’s not a state but a territory (and on the verge of economic collapse, to boot), somewhere along the line emergency response is sluggish at best and people are suffering. FEMA.. a great concept, has in many cases fallen way short in responding quickly to save lives in one storm after another. They seem to be more adept in bringing in recovery people to write the checks and push the loans. So.. if FEMA isn’t doing what we had hoped then that leaves only the experts at quick deployment.. the military.
Now.. here’s where the Constitution and our laws create a murky aspect to using the military. Our Founding Fathers were so concerned (as they should have been) about possible excesses in the use of the military against civilians that they built in those familiar Constitutional safeguards. Yet, it’s those safeguards that keep America from saving its own citizens in disasters quickly. The Posse Comitatus Act prevents the President from using the active military for domestic use unless a governor requests it; and even at that, the use cannot be to police the citizenry. A governor can call up the state’s National Guard for policing the public. In Katrina this caused a bit of confusion with the public because they saw a uniform and assumed everyone was the same, when in actuality the Regular Army had to find a guardsman if there was an enforcement issue. The Army was there to handle logistics and search & rescue.
To make further legal confusion, the president can federalize a state’s National Guard in certain emergencies. But even before all this FEMA has to have certain legal “triggers” before it can take action.. and in turn, they provide a trigger to the governor of a state as to when the Guard might need to be called up. In the midst of all this, the president decides when to introduce the military into a disaster.. but once the military responds to the disaster zone the state governor calls the shots to the military in the disaster zone. The Pentagon is free to position assets in anticipation of being ordered in.. like positioning troops at military installations or positioning rescue ships at sea in advance. But interjection of the military into a disaster has to have approval from the president and the state governor.
But wait.. we are not done yet. There’s the Jones Act. This thing was some protectionist effort to favor the American shipping industry. Wiki says…
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, is a United States federal statute that provides for the promotion and maintenance of the American merchant marine. Among other purposes, the law regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27 of the Jones Act deals with cabotage and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. The act was introduced by Senator Wesley Jones.
This means that relief shipments from foreign ships are unable to dock in Puerto Rico to render aid.
This is why we are at day 8 of the Puerto Rico fiasco and little has been done. We also have a president who gives the impression that other things are more important.. like playing golf, encouraging national divisiveness by picking fights with the NFL, sending irrelevant tweets, and vacillating about temporarily lifting the Jones Act restraints like he did for Texas and Florida, because of some concern for the shipping industry. The president is supposed to set the national tone for saving American lives and this guy just wanders around in his own world.
Use The Damn Military
All we’ve been hearing is how devastated the island is, the infrastructure is gone, logistics are impossible because of road conditions, communications is non-existent, the airfield is a mess, and no electricity. Our nation has the best equipped, best trained, rapid deployment force in the world… the U.S. military. Conditions like this is what our military is trained for; advance troops would have taken control of the airfield.. and repaired it. We have portable air traffic controller equipment; we have ready to deploy, heavy equipment can be dropped in.. bulldozers for clearing critical roads, runways… these guys know this stuff.
Those rural communities no one can get to? Drop a few of these guys by chopper to clear a drop zone at select communities for bringing in chopper relief shipments of food and water and establish some basic satellite communication. This isn’t brain surgery, folks.
If there’s not enough drivers to move those 8,000 shipping containers off the docks then put the National Guard to work as drivers. Get heavy choppers to lift the containers and deliver them or transport them to a central distribution area to make room on the docks.
The hospitals? Get drop teams or road teams at all those 69 hospitals with fuel for the generators. Clear off helipads for relief flights.
Now I don’t pretend one bit that the relief situation there is not difficult and I do not know everything about disaster relief… and, yes, I am bitching about it from the comfort and safety of my own living room and I am not there to know first hand what the government is doing. But I do know that lives need to be saved.. and I do have an idea of the capability of our military to meet these situations. We moved a military of 500,000 troops and carved bases out of the desert sand for Desert Storm, damn it. Why are we at day 8 and Americans are dying because the relief effort is wrapped up in laws every agency along the way is afraid to challenge… or a president is benign and distracted with pettiness?
My Personal Effort
Well, as much as I really want to expect Congress to fix all this given they themselves are pretty much an impotent body these days.. they are, in fact, the only guys to fix this. That is why in the last couple years I have been doing my own grass roots “thing” in promoting Americans to take more charge of their own survival during these disasters given the government is falling short. One avenue I am exploring is the starting of an ecommerce site to sell a particular affordable urban go-bag, bug-out bag; actually all those names suggest the crazy prepper zombie apocalypse ridiculousness. I will be developing an “evac bag” for urban use; with the emphasis on the idea that disaster victims, when evacuated or rescued, are mostly taken to places of “comparative” or “relative” safety; they are not taken to places with supplies of food, water, and a place to sleep and pick your nose in private. If you want to survive you cannot wait for the government to bail you out.
You think you are immune from disaster?
While hurricanes are the disasters on point these days, there is literally an entire world of maladies that can befall any of us, and the list is NOT out of science fiction. Consider this…. these four elements I call the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. These are the bottom line components of ANY natural or man-made disaster. Any of these by themselves will cause disaster and death, and they all interact upon each other.
- Loss of electricity
- Loss of drinking water
- Loss of the Internet
- Loss (breakdown) of social order
These elements interact within each other, against each other, and by themselves. You lose electricity, down goes water distribution and the Internet. You loose water, people don’t drink, can’t work, down go the other elements. You loose the Internet you will ultimately loose electric, then water. Of course, all of these lead to a loss of social order, and if the economy takes a tumble due to a political or financial upheaval then the loss of social order initiates the loss of the other elements.
The single variable of all these that determines temporary gloom or permanent doom is… time. At one time or another we’ve all experienced at least 5 minutes with the first three of these elements. The lights go back on when a circuit breaker is reset, the water company fixes the leak, the cable company repairs the Internet box… and our lives quickly return to normal. Now imagine days or weeks (or months) in place of our 5 minutes… then we experience the forth element. Yes, it can happen anywhere.
Can We Ever Be Proud Of America Again?
It’s been quite a year in feeling like our country has lost something. It’s one thing the politics seemingly to be going to hell… and the imposition of social ridiculousness from everyone wanting attention for their cause… but to not even being able to rescue our own in a disaster seems to be a new low.