I am of the opinion that FEMA now stands for "Firmly Enveloping My Arse." Like the National Weather Service, like NASA, the disaster agency has become completely politicized. I’ve felt for a long time that the Bush administration has been turning nonpartisan agencies of the government into political arms for itself, since with them, there is no such thing as science or objective fact; everything must be tailored to be part of the neocon agenda.
I’m skeptical about the motivation of FEMA’s recent emphasis on the New Madrid Fault and the potential for a horrific disaster there, a disaster that would make Katrina look like a peashooter. The fault is a rift in the middle of the North American continent, just outside of New Madrid, Missouri. In the early 1800s, it produced a series of extremely powerful earthquakes, the greatest of which is believed to have been at least a magnitude 8 and could very well have been well above a magnitude 9. These ‘quakes didn’t have a high death toll because the area was not very populated at the time. A comparable quake today — no pulling punches here — would likely wreck Memphis, St. Louis, and cause very severe damage to much of the Midwest, because of the geography and geology of the land. (Wikipedia article on the fault.)
Hotlinking is of Satan, so here’s an image showing the area that would receive structural damage from a magnitude-6.8 earthquake: The entire Ohio valley, pretty much.
This earthquake is also not a matter of "if." It will happen, and since this fault has shown itself capable of producing 9.0+ earthquakes, that will eventually happen too. Scientists think that there will be a magnitude-6.0 earthquake within 35 years, and since they’ve pegged the probability of it at 90% for this time period, they must be pretty confident in their data. It’s nothing to scoff at.
But you know…. Firmly Enveloping My Arse. Can’t ignore that. Can’t ignore that this is the agency that just got lambasted for its pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina. Can’t ignore that the Bush people politicize every agency of government to suit their agenda. Can’t ignore that they have used terror alerts and fear tactics in the past during election years… and this is 2006, with their party in the dumps, electorally, although you wouldn’t know it from the way they act.
Like the terror alerts, the danger is real, but the timing smells funny. Not to mention, if FEMA really wanted to do what it was supposed to do, why be so public about it? Why proclaim, "We are focused on preventing an epic human catastrophe from this particular disaster!" No, it doesn’t smell right. With 2006 predicted to be a bad hurricane season as well, both in number of storms and landfalls, why shouldn’t FEMA focus on that and proclaim that they’re going to do better this year?
Hmm… maybe because they won’t?
Maybe because they don’t have the time, the funding, or the motivation? I mean really, this is the administration whose head was in California schmoozing at fundraiser dinners and pretending to play the guitar with country musicians while New Orleans drowned and the Gulf Coast floated away into the sea. He doesn’t give a damn about anyone unless he can use them for a photo-op, and he’s been packing government agencies with his cronies. There’s no motivation for FEMA to do anything in time for hurricane season. And if they went on the offensive, proclaiming that they’d learned from Katrina and would do better this hurricane season, then as soon as the hurricanes started to hit, that would be proven false.
One myth about hurricane season of 2004 is that FEMA did a decent job. No, they didn’t. Florida was given the back of their hand then, as it was when Hurricane Wilma slammed into it last year; it was just less publicized than Katrina because the death toll was so low in comparison. FEMA has been giving hurricane victims the screw ever since 2003, when Hurricane Isabel messed up the East Coast, and they don’t intend to stop now. If they did, and the hurricanes began to hit, it’d be right before election time. August to October. People don’t forget that kind of incompetence when they go to the polls, especially if it’s happened before and they promised to do better.
So FEMA and the Bush administration apparently intend to minimize the hurricane season by whipping up a Category 5 fear storm about the New Madrid Fault, a disaster that will happen someday, but we don’t know when — unlike hurricanes, which come every year and are predicted to continue to landfall regularly for several decades at the very least.
Bring on the fear. Let’s not worry about doing anything about it, since this disaster might not happen for another 35 years. That’s somebody else’s problem.