Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Competent Person Appointed FEMA Deputy Administrator

Why is this news? Shouldn’t that be the norm?

Well, remember “Heck of a job Brownie” and the failed levees flooding most of New Orleans? (See photo at right to refresh your memory.) FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Administrator Michael D. Brown’s “qualifications” included judging Arabian horses. No real understanding of the work of first responders or what emergency preparedness means. FEMA’s response was slow as thousands were left homeless.

Contrast that with Richard Serino, now the Deputy Administrator of FEMA whose background includes 36 years with Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS), much of the time as the EMS chief. Here’s someone who has an intimate knowledge of the work of first responders. Someone who knows what it takes to be prepared for any type of emergency, even when one least expects it.

So, what about that Pres. Obama, appointing competent professionals to important government posts!

I’m an engineer, and in my profession, you can’t make if you’re incompetent. Engineers can quickly tell who knows what they’re doing and who doesn’t. Unlike politics and business, where a smile, a strong personality and always having something to say can make up for competence, in engineering, you can’t fool the laws of nature! So, I have a problem with any politician who appoints incompetent cronies.

So, I’m delighted to see competent individuals, like Richard Serino, appointed to important posts.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Award! (But Why?)

So President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. But the first reaction of many is to ask “Why?”

While I appreciate their consideration of our new president, I think the popular response in America is “He hasn’t done anything yet!”

Supporters and opponents of the president alike are equally surprised and a bid dumfounded.

But this award shows the dichotomy of perception of Obama here in America vs. abroad. In Europe and elsewhere, Obama’s election as president was seen as a welcome change, a new dawn, a sea change in America’s attitude and policy on the international stage. Thus, it is no surprise that in Europe this award is highly lauded.

Still, in the US, even those who support Obama think it’s premature. Others note that the war is ongoing in Iraq and there is not troupe reduction there. And in Afghanistan, many point to the irony of a peace award given to a leader pondering a troupe build-up. In addition, Guantanamo still holds unindicted prisoners and Obama supports renewing key provisions of the Patriot Act.

An interesting sidebar: Republicans and the Taliban are equally critical of awarding the prize to Obama.

So why did Obama win? To me, the award is based on a perception abroad that Obama’s election represents a major sea change in American attitude and policy on international affairs. And, in some circles, international diplomacy being one, perception is reality. For many, it’s not the facts, it’s the attitude or the words.

But still, wouldn’t you feel better if it was someone or a group, maybe not well known to the rest of the world, working for years to bring justice and peace in their land?