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Wildfires, Bureaucrats, and Media Hype
JR Dieckmann - Editor

As I sit here and look out toward the Santa Monica Mountains, I can barely see the tall buildings 2 miles away in Westwood which are now mostly obscured by smoke. My West Los Angeles area has been mostly clear of any smoke until the wind direction began to change two days ago. Until then, most all of the smoke from the Southern California wildfires was being blown out over the ocean by the offshore Santa Anna winds coming off the desert. Now the smoke seems to be backing up against the hills that surround Los Angeles.

With the mountains between me and the San Fernando Valley where most of the L.A. fires are in near proximity, it appears that the valley is full of smoke and it’s flowing over the edge into the L.A. basin. I’m lucky to be here in this area where the air quality is likely better than most anywhere else in the L.A. area. It’s surely better here than in our neighboring city to the south, San Diego where the ground is covered in soot and the ash was falling like snow the size of cereal flakes. A friend I have there reports that she had to stay locked inside her house with the windows closed for days to prevent a half inch of ash outside on the driveway from getting inside the house.

Guess who came to dinner this week. Remember the crying man from Katrina, Aaron Broussard, who cried about a woman in a rest home that no one (including himself) would rescue? He popped up at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Wednesday with his beard grown out more fully now but his crying routine was the same, I recognized him instantly. Appearing in a 5 second clip on KCAL-9, a Los Angeles local TV station owned by CBS, Broussard, whimpering and crying complained about these poor evacuees living in these deplorable conditions without help from the federal government. I just can't figure out if he is now a staffer for Reid, Pelosi, or Clinton.

But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history,” Broussard said in a 2005 interview with Tim Russert. “Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now.”

Broussard failed to concede to the failures of his own city and state officials and that the bureaucracy he was complaining about was created by Congress, not the person at the "top of the totem pole."

In spite of Broussard’s alligator tears in San Diego, a local aid volunteer named Teresa, working at the evacuation center had this to say in an email forwarded to me by my San Diego friend:

“This is nothing like when Katrina hit New Orleans. These people are very organized, and they have everything they need. Some people say they feel like Kids the way they are being treated. Qualcomm Stadium had turned into a little city of its own. They have booths for food, for blankets and pillows, they have activities for the kids, (including a school where teachers are teaching). They have a medical attention area and Tv's are all on so they get the information that is on the news, they have booths where you can call friends and relatives to let them know you are ok, they have areas for your animals and the list goes on and on. It is simply amazing how this city has pulled together. The federal and state government has all applauded the way this city is handling this. Definitely nothing like we saw after Katrina.”

Thank you for your service and for telling it like it is, Teresa.

No one in the California disaster area was calling for federal assistance. Here in California we manage for ourselves pretty well. We are not New Orleans, we are not victims in need of federal bureaucracy to save us. Unlike New Orleans, we evacuated people in time. San Diego is a "red" city and is perfectly able to take care of itself. Los Angeles is certainly not a "red" city but was just as prepared as San Diego, and just as capable of taking care of our people.

The Malibu fire broke out before dawn Sunday morning and by Monday, evacuation centers were set up in communities neighboring Malibu. Later on Sunday, fires broke out in San Diego and the next day, the evacuation center at Qualcomm Stadium was ready to receive evacuees. No one waited for the federal government to step in and rescue them. When neighborhoods were evacuated the people had a place to go. The cities and the people acted on their own initiative without the need of federal assistance or FEMA to tell them what to do, just as they should have.

I personally find it insulting for politicians and the media to be comparing Los Angeles and San Diego to New Orleans. Unlike the “victims” of Katrina, no one in California expected the federal government to be first responders. The city is the first responder, the state is second, and the U.S. government is third, if still needed. That's how we do it here in California and that is how it should have been done in New Orleans. There is simply no comparison between the two other than the fact that people were forced to evacuate from their homes.

Politicians reacted to this crisis in high contrast to one another. Some used the event to promote their own political agenda while others responded responsibly to assist the citizens of Southern California. Leading the charge to help was Duncan Hunter along with Darryl Issa and Brian Bilbray, all from the San Diego area.

When “Cal Fires”, the state forestry service firefighters union refused to allow military help to assist in water drops, Hunter stepped in with some head banging.

Congressman Duncan Hunter said there are four Marine helicopters on the ground at MCAS Miramar equipped with buckets that are ready to help fight the San Diego County wildfires but they are waiting on Cal Fire officials who say the choppers cannot fly without a Cal Fire crew member called a spotter on board. Hunter asked how many spotters the Cal Fire union has available. The response was zero, no one has been trained for that duty.

At 3 p.m., a visibly upset Hunter said as he entered the center that state fire officials were refusing to OK the use of National Guard C-130 air tankers that were sitting on tarmac ready to go -- loaded with thousands of gallons of fire retardant. Clearly, the Cal Fires Union had no intention of sharing either the glory or the money to fight these fires at the expense of hundreds of homes and acres of forest land.

After some serious negotiations, Hunter was able to get the state union to agree to allow military aircraft into the air without union spotters onboard.

Asked what Congress could do in Southern California, Darryl Issa said Congress has two tools, money and regulation, before adding that, “We can’t make it rain.”

But other politicians had other takes, and other agendas on the fires. At a press conference, Harry Reid stated: “One reason that we have the fires burning in Southern California is global warming. One reason the Colorado basin is going dry is because of global warming.”

Not three minutes later when confronted with his statement, Reid responded with: “No. Here's -- here's what.. I didn't say the reason the fires were burning in Southern California is global warming.” Oh, excuse me, I thought that was exactly what you said, Harry.

California Democrat Barbara Boxer complained that the state's National Guard cannot effectively help during disasters such as the fires because Bush has sent too many men and too much equipment overseas.

"Right now, we are down 50% in terms of our National Guard equipment," Boxer said during a Senate hearing, "because they're all in Iraq, the equipment, half of the equipment." A charge that the California National Guard disputes emphatically.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale said "unequivocally" that the war in Iraq has had "no negative effect at all with regard to our ability to provide sufficient forces to assist civilian authorities in fighting the wildfires." Of more than 17,000 National Guardsmen currently available to fight fires in California, the Pentagon says, only 1,500 been called to active duty, according to the Washington Post.

Democrat Sen. Christopher Dodd weighed in with this: "As you know, Governor Schwarzenegger has had to ask other states for help because so many of California's National Guard, who provide critical support to the citizens while you are fighting the fires, were deployed to Iraq. In a Dodd Administration, never again will our houses be on fire because our troops are taking fire in Iraq. Never again will our first responders be left without the support they need because our President failed to do what it took to keep our communities safe.”

Senator Dodd forgets that the National Guard is equipped for fighting wars, not fires. Gov. Schwarzenegger requested fire fighting equipment and ariel tankers from other states partly because Cal Fires, the state Forestry Firefighters union wouldn’t agree to military help with the fires. They wanted only union firefighters on the fire lines.

Then out of the woodwork comes New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman with these words of wisdom: "We are wasting trillions of dollars overseas while at the same time compromising our nation's own ability to respond to crises right here in the United States. We shouldn't be sending National Guard troops to Iraq; we should be sending them to California where wildfires have displaced nearly a million of our fellow American citizens… The fires in California are out of control and Bush's spending in Iraq is out of control.”

I think it’s more likely that Watson’s mouth is out of control. Not only are there plenty of National Guard troops here in California to meet any needs, but the Cal Fires union doesn’t want them involved. It’s interesting that these people who get much of their campaign support from the unions, don’t mention that it’s the union that is keeping the National Guard off the fire lines, not Bush or Iraq.

But perhaps California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, another Democrat, took the prize with his comments in anticipation of President Bush coming to San Diego to assess the damage.

During a TV interview, Garamendi told Chris Matthews: “Well, they're doing a lot, and we appreciate what they have done thus far. I got some doubt about the value of President Bush coming out here. How many times did he go to New York -- to New Orleans -- and still made promises, but hasn't delivered? Okay, President Bush comes out, we'll be polite, but, frankly, that's not the solution. How about sending our National Guard back from Iraq so that we have those people available here to help us?”

Duncan Hunter had a quick response to Garamendi: “This is a big stretch, and I can tell you, I've been chairman of the Armed Services Committee for the last four years. We've got two-and-a-half-million people under arms. We've got less than 8% of those people in the war-fighting theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan. You've got a 60-mile-an-hour wind hitting tinder-dry sagebrush. You could put the entire US Army in front of it, and you're not going to stop it, and the proof of that is this. We've got thousands of US Marines right now at Camp Pendleton available to fight fires where we can use them here in San Diego County, but you simply don't throw a wall of bodies up against an incoming wall of flame that's coming with high winds behind it.”

As expected, the news media again mixed news with politics and opinion to advance the left agenda.

ABC's Claire Shipman cornered Governor Schwarzenegger at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego with this: "You say everybody's working together, but you've heard that there's been some complaints from officials, for example, in Orange County who say if we'd only had more resources earlier -- more planes, more firefighting resources -- we might have been able to head off those fires that are ravaging Orange County right now."

Arnold wasn‘t buying it one bit and responded with: “Everyone complaining about the planes just wants to complain, because it's a bunch of nonsense. The fact is that we have all the planes in the world. We have 90 aircraft here, and they can't fly because of the wind situation.”

Shipman didn‘t quit with that: “The point he was making you have to be ready to fly.”

With a big smile and wise to Shipman‘s spin, Arnold firmly took hold of her hand holding the microphone and said: “Look around you - look at all these people. They are happy. Trust me when I tell you: You're looking for a mistake and you won't find it, because it's all good news -- as much as you maybe hate it, but it's good news.” SEE VIDEO

Repeating the interview later on ABC, Shipman said: “When we agreed to move on to another subject, the President's plans to visit California Thursday, the governor remained upbeat.”

The Governor had said to her earlier: “Whenever the president shows interest in our fires, and wants to help, you know, the federal government has a lot of help ready for us. We want to utilize that help.”

In closing, Shipman stated: “So the governor is positive, but practical. He actively encouraged President Bush to come out here as soon as possible. He knows that despite the disruption this presidential visit will cause tomorrow, it will keep the federal government and all of its resources focused on California, ideally hoping to stave off any Katrina-like situations.”

But that wasn’t exactly true. Later Arnold said he didn't call the president and “actively encourage President Bush to come out here as soon as possible,” the president called the governor with the offer. "And he called me, and he told me that he's really concerned about the fires here in California and if anything he can do, anything that we need, we should let him know; that all his entire Cabinet and his whole staff, his team, everyone is available... And then he called me back and says, I'm going to come out because I'm really concerned about the people in California and what they are going through..."

Why is it that liberals think everything has to be done, and all situations have to be resolved by the federal government? If they have no faith or confidence in the local communities and the American people who run them, what does that tell us about what they must feel about themselves? We seem to have the wrong people in public positions trying influencing our perceptions of America.

MSNBC’s Dan Abrams, also trying to tie the war to the wildfires, put the question to Duncan Hunter: “But the fire storms in California’s raising tough questions about what the National Guard is extended too much to handle emergencies at home... The question - is this another unanticipated cost of a prolonged and expensive war effort?”

But it’s not only the war that the liberals in the media are connecting to the fires in California. They can’t resist the temptation to also connect the fires with “global warming.” Who would have thought? I know you saw this one coming.

During “Anderson Cooper 360: In the Line of Fire,” CNN’s Tom Foreman predicts a possible “century of fires, just like what we're seeing now” as a result of global warming. Foreman cautioned viewers that, “greater periods of rain” resulting in “increased vegetation growth” over the next century may provide a “potential link between these fires and global warming.”

The truth is that these massive fires are a result of forest management policy over the past century. Fires have been extinguished immediately instead of allowing them to burn and clean up the underbrush. The result is that the forest floor contains tons of “kindling” to ignite and spread fires. Add to that, pressure from the Sierra Club and other environmentalist groups to “save the forests,” bark beetle infested and other dead trees have not been removed, leaving the forests full of dry wood ready to burn. The slightest spark turns into a massive forest fire. The cause of these fires becoming disasters is environmental groups’ influence on forest management policy.

Brian Williams opened his newscast from the smoldering ruins of home in Orange County with: “This has been the driest season on record, unusually severe, that's leading some people here to wonder: Are these fires somehow a result of climate change? The UN panel on global warming did warn that we would see more wildfires, so is there a real connection?”

To answer Brian in a word, no. Less than one degree in global temperatures does not cause forest fires. These fires were caused by three things. High winds causing downed power lines; arsons; and a third unstated cause suspected of being illegal aliens building campfires in the woods. This third cause is suspected of being behind the Harris fire in San Diego in particular, and possibly others.

NBC's Ann Thompson added: “Wildfires so unusual today may not be in the future. A new study out this week suggests the impact of climate change could be stronger and sooner than expected. And one of the predicted impacts from climate change could be more wildfires.”

But the best take on the wildfires comes from “The man who runs America,” Rush Limbaugh, who uses liberal logic to call off the firefighters:

"I think it's time to bring the firefighters home. I think it's time to bring the firefighters out of there – it's just too dangerous. They're in there on a false premise anyway, that they can put out the fire. We can't win against the fire, folks, just like we can't win in Iraq. So if the liberals want to politicize this, then I ask them to be consistent and admit defeat to the fire, admit we can't beat the fire and get these brave firefighters out of there ... ." "It's just gonna be back next year anyway. We're putting so many brave people at risk here fighting a fire we can't win. Sound familiar, ladies and gentlemen?"

In San Diego, evacuees who still have homes have returned to them. The unfortunate people who lost their homes in the tragedy have been relocated in preparation for the San Diego Chargers football game in Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. It is estimated that 1000 homes in Southern California were lost to the fires. Of the 23 fires so far reported, all but 9 have been contained as of 10/26/07. Life in Los Angeles has pretty much returned to normal for most of us with the exception of those living in the hills where they will continue to be vigilant and on guard.