Thoughts for Independence Day

Why Coronavirus Is an ‘Existential Crisis’ for American Democracy. Danielle Allen has a 2,500-year view of democracies, wrote Harvard’s pandemic resilience road map and thinks American government is like a Ferrari we haven’t learned to drive. But she’s not totally pessimistic: We can take hope, she says, from New Orleans.

This is a good time to reflect on governance issues raised by the response to Covid-19

Ongoing Confusion re Federal Leadership

From CNN: ‘No one really knows who’s in charge’: States navigate federal agencies amid crisis

The wide range of officials and entities involved in the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has fueled confusion over who exactly is in charge of fulfilling the dire needs of hospitals nationwide — and how supplies in high demand will ultimately be distributed.

Nearly three weeks since taking over the federal operations response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has enlisted help across agencies and industries to respond to an emergency of unprecedented magnitude. The vast scope of the response, as well as the involvement of the White House, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the Pentagon, has at times perplexed governors and lawmakers desperate for equipment for their states to treat coronavirus patients.

“FEMA is tasked with figuring out what areas need different resources. Is it FEMA? Is it the White House? Is it HHS?” a congressional aide told CNN. “No one really knows who’s in charge… who’s making decisions.”

Effects of Shutdown

Federal Shutdown Fears: Loss of Scientific Data, Research Delays. National Hurricane Center staff would normally be working on forecast improvements: ‘We can’t do any research and development for the next hurricane season.’

Even though the ideology of President Donald Trump’s administration has been to deny climate science, communities across the country and institutions around the world have continued to rely on the U.S. government to grapple with the climate crisis. Whether it’s dealing with the devastating impacts of global warming, or supporting research efforts to better understand it, the government shutdown has abruptly stymied that work.

Update: Scientists despair as US government shutdown drags on. Space missions can continue to collect data, but thousands of federal researchers are forced to stay at home without pay. 

Thanks to Chris Jones for this citation.

DHS’s Science and Technology Unit to Help With PR Recovery Planning

From Homeland Preparedness News: DHS Sci. and Tech Directorate Collaborating With FEMA on Puerto Rico Recovery Plan. This is a new approach to recovery plan preparation that I do not think has been used before.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in drafting a report assessing hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and outlining a plan to rebuild that is due to Congress by Aug. 8.

DHS S&T has provided FEMA with access to the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), to help complete the report. Scott Randels, director of DHS S&T’s FFRDC Program Management Office, visited San Juan in February to begin collaboration on the report.

“To ensure transparency and multiple opportunities for feedback, HSOAC is using agile management methods and plans to release multiple drafts building toward the final products,” Cynthia Cook, the HSOAC project lead for the Puerto Rico recovery plan, said.

“Dismantle the Dept. of Homeland Security”

From the New Republic: Dismantle the Department of Homeland Security. “The case for abolishing the wasteful, incompetent, and abusive mega-agency has become especially urgent under Trump.”

What I find interesting is that both liberal and conservative critics are cited in the article. [The Diva is amazed that no readers comments on this article. ]
see this posting by fellow blogger Eric Holdeman:

High Level Science and Technology Posts Are Vacant

Trump Leaves Science Jobs Vacant, Troubling Critics.

On the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the staff of the White House chief technology officer has been virtually deleted, down from 24 members before the election to, by Friday, only one.

Scores of departures by scientists and Silicon Valley technology experts who advised Mr. Trump’s predecessor have all but wiped out the larger White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

New GAO Report on the Cost of Disaster Assistance

This the second important report to be issued on Sept. 22. See: Federal Disaster Assistance: Federal Departments and Agencies Obligated at Least $277.6 Billion during Fiscal Years 2005 through 2014

There is a one-page of Highlights, and the full report is 185 pages long.

NOTE: The Diva has not yet read through the full report. She welcomes comments from readers.

Excellent New Article – in Environment Magazine

Since Michelin ranks restaurants with stars, the Diva has decided to award stars to documents re recovery. Here is the first one I would give 4 stars to:

Making America More Resilience toward Natural Disasters: A Call For Action, by Howard Kunreuther, Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Mark Pauly. From Environment Magazine, July/August 2013.  The title does not really do justice to the wide array of useful content here, so I suggest you download the full article and decide for yourself how you would categorize it.

Some excerpts:

Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $65 billion in economic losses to residences, business owners, and infrastructure owners. It is the second most costly natural disaster in recent years in the United States, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it is not an outlier; economic and insured losses from devastating natural catastrophes in the United States and worldwide are climbing.

According to Munich Re,2 real-dollar economic losses from natural catastrophes alone have increased from $528 billion (1981–1990), to $1,197 billion (1991–2000), to $1,23 billion (2001–2010). During the past 10 years, the losses were principally due to hurricanes and resulting storm surge occurring in 2004, 2005, and 2008. Figure 1 depicts the evolution of the direct economic losses and the insured portion from great natural disasters over the period 1980–2012.2

There is a wealth of useful information in this article, which makes it hard to summarize. It is thoughtful and clearly writtten. I consider this an essential document, one that I think will be a classic in time.