NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Are you ready?
Today's bloggerThose of you who come to meetings or get me started on a tangent when I'm at a political event with free beer know that a planned redesign of the YDAtl website is several months behind schedule and millions of dollars over-budget (wait a tick -- this ain't costin' you anything). This is a source of much woe and consternation in my life, but reading about our Department of Homeland Security at work makes me feel just a little bit better about our very own "Big Dig" on the information superhighway.

Last week the Federation of American Scientists informed us that they,
launched ReallyReady.org, a comprehensive emergency preparedness website that addresses the inaccuracies and incomplete information on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) preparedness site, Ready.gov. ReallyReady was developed in two months by FAS intern Emily Hesaltine for the price of a domain name. In comparison, it took millions of dollars and over five months to create Ready.gov.

Now I know what you're thinking: "Who is this Emily chick and does she want to be Communications Chair?" But set aside your personal preferences and focus on the big picture instead: "What is DHS doing to prepare people for Total Armageddon?"

The answer: apparently wasting the talent of a number of web designers. The FAS is correct in their assessment that there is a lot of vague advice on the Ready.gov website, among my favorites the 50-50 chance suggestion that in the event of radioactive fallout, "Potassium iodide...may or may not protect your thyroid gland, which is particularly vulnerable, from radioactive iodine exposure." That's good, because if a nuclear warhead goes off, life may or may not suck for some unspecified period of time for people who are or aren't in the general area.

However, as much fun as it is to bash the current administration for claiming to be the only saviors of freedom and democracy in a world frought with peril, I don't want to be unnecessarily critical of the general administrative underlings that work hard every day to cover our asses for a pretty modest salary. (I got to meet with several doctors of science and engineering in Washington, D.C., who work in various departments of the government to keep us all safe from fire and brimstone on salaries that can fetch them a cozy studio or perhaps a modest 1BR apartment in the city even after nine hundred years of higher education. It really makes me wonder what the hell Republicans are complaining about when they talk about "wasteful government spending," considering their hairdressers probably make better money than the brainiacs keeping the nukes off their front lawn.)

Besides, it's not like the FAS performed the most rigorous analysis in the world, either. For instance, once again on the Nuclear Threat page, FAS nit-pickingly complains that "An individual likely won't have sufficient time to" heed the Ready.gov advice, in the event there's some advance warning, to "take cover immediately, as far below ground as possible, though any shield or shelter will help protect you from the immediate effects of the blast and the pressure wave." So, what, just because this might be a rush-job, the government ought not bother telling people to take cover? What the FAS should have pointed out is that "any shield or shelter will help" is pretty bum advice. Some of those shelters will offer the extremely helpful protection of collapsing in a big defensive pile on top of your head, and in some cases promptly catching on fire. If I lived in one of those built-in-a-week MDF-board and drywall McMansions a mile and a half from ground zero, I think I'd rather dive into the stone fountain in the front yard than be buried underneath 3000 square feet of sheetrock.

The FAS parody also complains that, in the event of a surprise nuclear attack,
The first piece of advice given in the Ready.gov guidelines instructs “quickly assess the situation,” which could be replaced by a more useful recommendation, since an individual who sees a mile or more of their downtown disappear will automatically assess their surroundings.

Actually, most individuals who see a mile of their downtown disappear are quickly incinerated and pulverized, as shown by this handy "You are here  are smeared  were here  are screwed" escape route map (don't worry, most nuclear blasts are confined to a single city block). Of course, the superfluous "quickly assess the situation" bullet wastes all of 800 pixels and 0.4 seconds of the average literate person's time, a true crime of bad website design, whereas the FAS lets Ready.gov get off scot-free for suggesting that once in our bomb shelters we should "watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news as it becomes available." A whole Federation full of Scientists couldn't point out that the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast renders that piece of digital-age advice about as useful as "duck and cover?"

I could go on and on, but there's real work to be done, so let me get to the point: apparently, neither DHS nor the FAS can ultimately save you from dying of bird flu while putting on your N95 dust mask and injecting yourself with atropine underneath a fiery mushroom cloud that blocks your view of the oncoming mega-hurricane that's just tossed Al Gore's Learjet aside like so many signing-statement-neutralized pieces of legislation, so pay your taxes, find Jesus, and remember that the nearest exit may be behind you.

Listening to me, however, may or may not help.
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posted by Aerodad at 8/09/2006 04:00:00 PM


Anonymous Jase said...

Vaccine? Vaccine? Oh, heaven's no, dearie. But here, have a pamphlet on the bird flu and think about how many tax dollars were saved!

8/13/2006 05:53:00 PM  

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