Five years after the September 11th terrorist attacks and it seems all too easy to despair. We are at war, which has been grossly misguided and ill-justified at best, and isolated ourselves as a nation on the world stage. And not only is our foreign policy a nightmare, as the events of Hurricane Katrina and Rita displayed, so is our domestic policy. Five years ago, I was in my home town of New York — business as usual — when 2 planes hit the towers. During the first few hours and even the first few days, there seemed a glimmer of hope, of opportunity that perhaps we could turn this tragedy into something better, something stronger, and something positive. The world supported us, there was an unprecedented unity. The series of events that would take place took us in the opposite direction and seemingly far away from any unity. In fact, we are more alone and less secure now.
Looking back now, five years later, and I am deeply saddened at the direction our country has gone in, with a few exceptions, one being a conference I helped to co-organize with the Brookings Institution and Americans for Informed Democracy and held at George Washington University. The conference was aptly titled: 9-11 Plus Five: Hope Not Hate Summit. The Hope Not Hate Summit was a three-day conference in Washington, D.C. that brought together young leaders from around the world to commemorate the fifth anniversary of September 11th and to discuss ways to improve U.S.-Islamic world relations over the next five years. Seeing all those young people so engaged, look for accountability and responsibility, challenging notions and paradigms, and searching for ways to improve our relation with Muslims in America and around the world was incredibly heartening. With young people like those who attended, we may yet be able to change the course we have been taking and pull this country (and those we have damaged) out of a desperate situation: To quote Gandalf, “There is always hope.” And that hope is in our young. We must be careful to nurture and encourage them. Oh, yes, and to be role models (remember “role models,” it seems like a long time since we had real ones). Sorry to cut this short, and sorry for, well, not writing anything too prolific, but it’s been a long day in disaster human services and emergency management. Nice to be back writing….more tomorrow.
By Cooked Goose (Jenny Mincin)
A friend and colleague in emergency management, Zach Goldfarb, just wrote an article in the Washington Post.com today reporting on how one 20-year old college intern challenged information on the US Department of Homeland Security’s preparedness website, Ready.gov. It’s a little funny and a little scary at the same time.
Apparently, there’s quite a bit of misinformation on the Ready.gov website (can’t say I spend too much time there myself, I use other sources). So much so, that the Federation of American Scientists, at the behest of summer intern Emily Hesaltine (a sophmore college student), created their own, “correct” version of the preparedness website, Reallyready.org.
I’ll have to do a little comparison myself and report back my findings. For what it’s worth, it is raising some eyebrows in the emergency management community and has the potential to lessen civilian confidence in the federal government’s ability to provide accurate preparedness information (that is if it’s actually possible to lessen public confidence in the government right now). As usual, the administration’s response was defensive, notifying the public they could get confused with the new site that has the supposed corrections. I’ll check it out and give my take.
I have much to update you on including the Drum Major Institute’s Gala (6/22), Salman Ahmed’s performance (6/26) and a conference I was at last week in DC on emergency management and special needs issues (timely considering we are in hurricane season and I’m not sure what our government has done to prepare for it).
Drum Major Institute Award Gala
I attended the Drum Major Institute’s (DMI) award dinner on June 22 and got to hear Wynton Marsalis give one of the best speeches I have heard in quite some time. I have often lamented to friends and family that we have no leaders left to inspire and move us, but I was proven wrong at the award dinner. Wynton spoke of coming together rather than dividing, of the importance of solving the problem of poverty and race this country faces, and changing the discourse. What I loved and respected the most about his speech was that he did not read from anything, it came from his brilliant mind and shinning heart, and he was unabashedly honest – so powerful, instilling hope.
After the gala, a group of bloggers came together to celebrate Markos’ award and to talk about the underground Internet revolution. It’s been some time since I really felt like I was in my tribe, but indeed I found my fellow bees. It was refreshing and exciting to be sitting in a room of fellow bloggers, innovators, writers, and those truly dedicated to challenging the current state of affairs – let’s not be so isolated and afraid to speak out and know that the more we do the more chance we have of changing the direction we are headed in. I have to admit that it sort of felt like the underground of some sci-fi movie; god forbid we openly admit we are progressives, speaking up about poverty, race, and the miserable Iraq war, lest we be seen as “Un-American” (or commie-bastards as the term once was). We sat, ate, discussed in a basement of the now chic Lotus on 14th street (an area that was once full of prostitutes and drug addicts, now full of Steve McQueen and Stella McCarthy designer boutiques – hey, when did that happen?).
I must give props to my professor, Micah Sifry, who introduced (or more accurately forced me) into blogging for my Writing Politics class and pushed me into “finding my voice,” something I thought I lost for a while. It was great seeing him at the gala and the bloggers committee meeting. So glad he forced me and indeed I have found my voice. Thanks Micah!
When you’ve been beat-down and marginalized, it’s nice to meet people who value what you have to say. Let’s keep the dialogue going for Christ’s sake! There’s too much at stake.
Salman Ahmed at Joe’s Pub
If Rumi were alive and a musician, he might sound like Salman Ahmed (from Junoon) did on June 24th at Joe’s Pub. Seeing Salman perform was everything I anticipated it would be and more. You experience Salman, you don’t just listen to him; his music moves your soul. Conscientious without being preachy, Salman balances his message of peace and unity with fierce and masterful guitar rifts and vocals that sounded like a hundred Mosques at call to prayer. A diverse and friendly crowd, we had a blast. I even pretended to be able to sing in Urdu (thank god the music was loud enough that no one heard!).
Salman ended his set with a version of John Lennon’s Imagine, who Salman proclaimed was a modern day Sufi. A fitting ending given the times we live in. Let’s remember to be moved by the music, the message, and take action to do the right thing. Thanks Salman.
Well, there has been a lot going in DC including the Supreme Court’s scolding of the administration on Guantanamo, but here’s a quick report on my corner of the world. I attended an invitation-only conference, Working Conference on Emergency Management and Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly, which was sponsored by US Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and run by EAD & Associates. The purpose was:
“[T]o bring together Governor-appointed State teams to connect State emergency management officials with key disability and aging experts to work toward integration of efforts within their jurisdiction’s emergency management framework; to facilitate cooperative planning with senior officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency regions; and to identify and institute measurable outcomes and systems for tracking results.”
It was actually an intense and highly productive conference because it was outcomes-driven rather than the usual gathering of talking heads who get to massage each other’s egos and spend their per diem. We had a lot of work to accomplish in a short period of time and especially in light of last year’s disaster. Most important to note is that this conference specifically looked at the most vulnerable populations in the US: people with disabilities, the elderly, and otherwise disenfranchised (immigrant, non-English speaking, low income). Although advocates have been screaming for years for these issues to be dealt with, we finally got our forum. Unfortunately it comes off the heels of last year’s debauchery, Hurricane Katrina. As experts, we have the answers and know how to better manage human services issues and needs during and after a disaster and to take care of our vulnerable populations. This conference was completely forward-looking and provided the opportunity for us to push the issues and create solutions. Each state delegate developed key issues and recommendations to bring back to their respective agencies and governors, and each region collectively established consensus, or commonalities, of issues they continue to deal with and need support from the federal government on. An “after action report” (in emergency management lingo) will be written and hopefully fed up the federal food chain. The question then becomes who will listen?
Once the conference website has gone public and the report finalized, I will post both. The findings and recommendations should be interesting.
Hey folks, Happy 4th of July. On a somber note on America’s day, check out Steve Clemon’s blog today on the GI rape and murder case by clicking here. Below is a blog my mother wrote on the same issue.
By Mickey Mincin Op-Ed
The soldiers who committed the atrocities, raping an Iraqi woman and killing her and three members of her family, my guess, never should have been accepted into the military. I have great respect for the military, but I am beginning to wonder if the best and brightest are no longer joining. A lack of numbers has allowed the entrance of men who lack the moral integrity to represent this country in combat. I ask a provocative question: is the military attracting a less desirable membership more suited to mercenaries and less suited to soldiers and warriors. Would a draft cut the number of men and women committing acts of violence against innocent people and open the military to a new pool from which to choose? What about the men and women who choose not to fight? Why not create a military that allows these men and women to serve at our boarders, serve during disasters such as Katrina, and become involved in Habitat for Humanity or any other endeavor that would benefit this country and the world. What a military this would create. It is the responsibility of military leadership to recruit soldiers worthy of the uniform no matter the division of the armed forces. We not only lack the individual responsibility in these instances of violence, but the military lacks the responsibility to reject those with personality “disorders” (Cloud & Semple, New York Times, 7/4/06). Let’s not forget those soldiers who do not commit acts of terrorism and serve with distinction. The few bad apples reflect poorly on everyone: our country, our military, and the world. Perhaps it is the eagerness of recruiters not being prudent, but focusing on getting enough men and women to sign up without discretion. After all, military enrollment is low, support of the war is waning, and we have a Defense Department run by a layman who has never seen battle.
Just got this e-flyer from NARAL New York. If you happen to be in the area, try to check this out. Otherwise read about on NARAL’s site by clicking here.
We’re still not awake……
Issues That Matter
The Attack On Abortion
Dear Friends of NARAL Pro-Choice New York,
You're invited to Issues That Matter – The Attack On Abortion.
As Louisiana follows in South Dakota's footsteps by passing an abortion ban and Ohio considers its own ban, NARAL Pro-Choice New York brings you July's Issues That Matter Forum: The Attack on Abortion.
NARAL Pro-Choice New York welcomes Vivien Labaton from the Center for Reproductive Rights to help shed light on what this means for reproductive rights in this country.
Issues That Matter is a forum for discussions with guest speakers exploring how we can protect a woman's right to choose.
The Attack On Abortion
Vivien Labaton, Blackmun Fellow for the Center for Reproductive Rights
Ms. Labaton will speak about the implications of the South Dakota abortion ban and how it relates to Gonzales v. Carhart – the upcoming challenge to the first-ever federal abortion ban on abortion that will be heard by the newly reconstituted Supreme Court in October.
Wednesday, July 12
From 6:30 until 8:00 pm
45 Howard Street, 3rd floor.
Located 1 block north of Canal at Broadway.
Join us as we learn about The Federal Abortion Ban and how the newly stacked Supreme Court can change the face of abortion in this country. To learn more about the Federal Abortion Ban and Carhart v. Gonzales, click here.
This will be a very popular event and space is limited. RSVP is required. Please RSVP by clicking here.
If you would like additional information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 212-343-0114 x19. I look forward to your reply and, hopefully, to seeing you on July 12!
My friend, and Junoon singer and guitarist, Salman Ahmed will be playing to shows at Joe’s Pub Saturday, June 24 at 7:30 and 9:30. Seeing Salman play live is like having a divine, spiritual experience. He is not only an amazing musician; Salman is inspired by Sufism, a beautiful and “mystical” path of Islam, and incorporates it into his music. Junoon has sold over 25 million albums worldwide.
Born in Pakistan, Salman and his wife, Samina, are humanitarians and work tirelessly to promote better understanding between the western and Muslim world, end the spread of AIDS, and work towards peace. Salman is a UN Ambassador for HIV/AIDS.
I’ll report more after the show. For tickets, log onto Joe’s Pub here.
The Drum Major Institute (DMI) will be honoring The Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas with the Justice Award during its gala event on June 22, 2006 in New York City. Also being honored are Anna Burger (Change to Win Labor Federation), Wynton Marsalis (renowned jazz musician and activist), and Katrina van den Heuvel (The Nation).
Cheers to all the DMI award winners, but special kudos to Kos because the Internet and blogsphere are changing and reshaping how we get and think about the news, interpret policy, and take our mainstream media and politicians to task.
There is still the seemingly impenetrable air that we can’t change the way things are – but of course we can. Somehow we ended up in this sad state of affairs, which means we can change the direction we are going in. To quote Marsalis (from DMI Blog):
“Look around the room… and I want you all to understand that there are forces all around you who wish to exploit division, rob you of your freedom, and tell you what to think. They are afraid of change… some of these forces are even within you. But I'm here to tell you, when young folks are motivated to action, when they act with insight, soul and fire, they can rekindle the weary spirit of a slumbering nation. It's time somebody woke us up.”
We need these leaders and more. I’m glad to be back blogging, to be a part of the movement, and to attend the event and join my fellow bloggers and activists to make change. To check out the DMI benefit event, click here.
The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to challenging the tired orthodoxies of both the right and the left. The goal: progressive public policy for social and economic fairness. DMI's approach is unwavering: We do not issue reports to see our name in print or hold forums for the sake of mere talk. We seek to change policy by conducting research into overlooked, but important social and economic issues, by leveraging our strategic relationships to engage policymakers and opinion leaders in our work, and by offering platforms to amplify the ideas of those who are working for social and economic fairness.
I am slowly re-surfacing from a long week of finals. With so much going on in the news, and so many great blogs this past week, I'll be happy to return. Almost there.
I am right smack in the middle of finishing the semester and am a bit bogged down with final papers, et al. I have every intention of continuing Cooked Goose, but will perhaps disappear for a few days. Won't be long….
(Posted on May 10, 2006) Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) was on C-Span this morning discussing ways in which FEMA should be dealt with moving forward. Rep. Davis chairs the Government Reform Committee and sits on the Homeland Security Committee. His ideas are sound, intelligent and on-target. Finally, a politician who seems to understand how FEMA should function and ways in which the current problems can be addressed effectively.
Davis’ primary recommendation is to move FEMA out of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and into the Executive Office of the White House so that FEMA leadership will have direct access to the president and resume its place as a cabinet-level position and agency. I really think this makes sense because during a disaster, leadership must have direct access to the president and have the capability to commandeer whatever assets and resources are needed to address both the response and recovery needs. Under DHS, FEMA does not have that capability and precious hours, if not days, are wasted trying to navigate the bureaucratic system; this much to the detriment of the response efforts and people’s lives.
I still agree with Homeland Security Watch and others in my field, however. Moving FEMA out of DHS as a sole answer will not fix some of the internal, systemic problems. Proper and appropriate leadership, robust and continued financial and political support, reinvigorated work-force, and strengthened planning, response and recovery systems with more integration is also needed.
I appreciate Davis’ frank assessment of FEMA and his courage to cut through some of the DC politics to put forth reasonable solutions. He did mention that unfortunately, Congressional committees have their own politics and territory issues that may make implementing comprehensive, holistic, and reasonable solutions for FEMA all the more difficult. This is where politics and ego must be put aside so that an agency whose primary focus is to save and rebuild lives during a critical period is placed at the forefront.
Davis is leading the charge regarding legislation that would make FEMA an independent agency again. The proposed legislation, RESPOND Act: Restoring Emergency Services To Protect Our Nation From Disasters Act, will not only make FEMA independent, it will strengthen its planning and response capabilities. Davis correctly pointed out that once FEMA was placed under DHS, it not only lost authority and critical access to the Commander-in-Chief, it lost significant funding and key personnel. This must be restored along with better leadership, plans, technology and response systems.
You can view Rep. Davis’ interview on C-Span’s Washington Journal here. If you have a few moments, I encourage you to listen to the interview. It is one of the more sound views on the FEMA situation.
- Five Years Later….And There’s Hope
- Ready.gov Not Quite Ready
- DMI, Salman Ahmed (if Rumi were a musician), and What’s Happening in DC
- An Observation of Responsibility and Accountability in the Military
- NARAL Meeting July 12
- Junoon Front Man Salman Ahmed to Play at Joe’s Pub
- Drum Major Institute to Honor Kos, Marsalis, Burger, Heuvel
- Slowly Surfacing
- I May Disappear For A Few Days
- Saving FEMA
- Could There Be Common Sense in Our Government?
- Wake Up Part II
- Micah Sifry
- The Washington Note
- Bush v. Choice
- Taqrir – US -Muslim Weekly News
- EAD & Associates
- The Sunlight Foundation
- National Organization on Disability
- Cyber Chocolate
- David Kos
- Ridor Live
- MS Friends
- Feminist Bloghers Network
- Culture Kitchen
- Homeland Security Watch
- Drum Major Institute Blog
- Capitol Hill Blog
- Non-profit/DC Watch
- The Agonist
- Huffington Post