Despite the fact that we’re really not very metrosexualish – we haven’t worn a tuxedo since the blue crushed velvet number to the junior prom – we have a subscription to Esquire magazine. As we perused the pages of the March 2006 issue, we ran into a curious full-page ad sandwiched between the Dolce & Gabbana and Ravazzolo ads that caught our eye.
It was a public service ad co-sponsored by the Ad Council and the Department of Homeland Insecurity. It features a dramatic black and white picture of a flooded town. The buildings are a little old and shop worn. There is a half sunken boat (or car, it’s hard to tell) in the background. The ad features the following copy in a faux handwriting font:
Every business should have a plan.
“At that point two of our buildings were already gone. The third was under water. We couldn’t salvage much, including the press.
Fortunately backup systems were in place and everything was relocated. Because we were prepared. We never missed a day of publication.”At first glance, it looked like a thousand other ads soliciting help for Katrina victims or exhorting people to have a disaster plan in place. But the kicker to this particular ad was the signature under the copy above – Mike Jacobs, Publisher and Editor of the Grand Forks Herald Tribune in Grand Forks, ND.
That’s right, the ad features a flood that happened in 1997. In the wake of the largest natural disaster the country has ever seen, DHS couldn’t find a more timely example of being well-prepared for natural disasters than a flood that was handled by FEMA more than eight years ago during the Clinton administration!
The following copy appears at the bottom of the ad:
“Whether it’s a flood, terrorist attack or other disaster, every business needs an emergency plan. A plan can save lives, company assets and your entire business – at little or no cost to your company. You can’t control what happens. But you can be prepared. Visit www.ready.gov for practical steps you can take now to give your company a better chance of survival.”
That statement is rich. First, it mentions the ever present watch word “terrorist”, a must for any Bush endeavor. Forget that the terrorists had nothing to do with the flood in Grand Forks or Katrina, but plenty to do with why the DHS response was so hosed.
The copy then goes on to talk about saving lives at “little or no cost to your company”. Apparently DHS and FEMA took this advice a little too literally and didn’t produce a disaster viable plan before Katrina in part, because it cost too much. Hopefully, businesses won’t also find that a suitable excuse for their of lack of a plan. It could, as we can see, be a very expensive mistake.
The ad then chirps, “You can’t control what happens (boy, you can say that again eh, Brownie). But you can be prepared,” apparently a concept Brownie was a little unfamiliar with.
But they save the biggest and best joke for last. “Visit www.ready.gov for practical steps you can take now…”
Well, we went to the site and here are some of the nuggets DHS suggests on this ironically entitled site:
- Keep at least a three day supply of food and water. Great advice since it will take more than three days for FEMA to get anything to you. They did anticipate this glitch by recommending you also pack some “comfort/stress” foods, apparently to keep you calm as you starve.
- Under clean air – a section in which they refer to terrorist-launched biological and chemical agents as “junk” – they advise using, well, a rag over your nose and mouth to protect yourself because, “something over your nose and mouth in an emergency is better than nothing.” Although probably not by much. And by the way, they’re still recommending the universal fix-all for biological and chemical attacks of all kinds – duct tape and plastic sheeting.
- Under the first aid section it recommends a “tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant”, something we’re sure actual victims will need in great supply if you catch our drift.
The list goes on, but that’s only part of the point. The real point was that FEMA, and by extension DHS, were woefully unprepared for Katrina. They tacitly acknowledge this by choosing a disaster scenario for the ad that wasn’t taken from the Katrina playbook and happened long before cronyism and incompetence ran the once-responsive FEMA into the mud-soaked ground of the Gulf Coast.
It’s a tragicomedy for another reason too. The point to the ad is to be prepared, something DHS is avoiding at all costs. It makes a great deal about victims getting themselves prepared – which is a correct and admirable thing – but the ad and the website never explain exactly what help you can expect from FEMA or any other government agency.
We have a question. If the administration truly believes that everyone is on their own in an emergency, then why do we have a FEMA or a DHS? If they can’t protect us, and can’t improve their abysmal record for providing help, then where is the money supporting this ad and the website and Chertoff’s salary and Brownie’s consulting fees going?
Oh yeah. It must go to paying all the lawyers who have to defend these crapweasels in front of the literally dozens of ongoing investigations into their malfeasance.
We fell better already, don’t you? As they say in New Orleans, “laissez bon temp rouler – let the good times roll.”