There Is No Plan

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As Tom Tommorow points out, if Katrina makes anything clear, the federal government—Homeland Security, FEMA, the DoD, whatever—has no plan to deal with a major disaster, terrorist or otherwise. Think about it: after an catastrophic event—and this one, at least, was entirely predictable—we’ve got a major city degenerating into lawlessness, with conditions that make bringing medical attention and other forms of relief very difficult.

That’s an accurate description of what’s going on in New Orleans now. But it could also describe what might happen in the aftermath of say, a dirty bomb or a biological, chemical, or nuclear attack. Of course there are some differences. But think of the similarities in what would look like an adequate response. Where is the fleet of helicopters? Where are the plans to press gang every bus in a 500-mile radius? Where are the airlift-ready hospitals, water sanitation plants, and tents? Where are the air drops of non-perishable food?

These things are costly. But considering all the talk we’ve heard over the last four years about the imminence of such a terrorist attack, the constant jiggering of threat level indicators, and the billions supposedly spent on homeland security, you’d think we’d have a plan. But there’s only one conclusion:

There is no plan.

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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