Dover Bitch

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rudy's no hero

Atrios caught this sentence in today's speech by John McCain:

McCain Takes it to Rudy

His speech today:

They won't accept that firemen and policemen are unable to communicate with each other in an emergency because they don't have the same radio frequency.

Heckuva job, Rudy.

Free lifetime subscription to Eschaton for the first mainstream media person who picks up on that.

I just saw McCain deliver that line on MSNBC, for what that's worth.

But I link to this because this subject is one that is personal to DB. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that DB wrote furiously on the topic (here, here, here, here, here and here) when there was time for Congress to rectify the problem back in 2005, which still would have been close to two decades too late.

I won't be real happy if John McCain is president (and I was delighted to see Jon Stewart shoot down all his talking points last night), but I would be dishonest if I didn't give him high marks on this particular issue.

You see, 18 days ago, April 7, 2007, would have been the deadline for all the frequencies our first responders need to become available to them. At least it would have if Sen. Ted Stevens' Commerce Committee hadn't defeated McCain's amendment (5-17) back on Oct. 20, 2005. He also introduced an amendment to the entire Senate two weeks later and that, too, was defeated, 60-39.

McCain isn't just taking pot shots at Rudy. He's got the credentials on this issue. He kept fighting for it in the wake of Katrina:

"Let’s remember that Congress provided additional spectrum for first responders in the Telecommunications Act of 1996," said McCain. "So, after spending millions of dollars in funding and additional spectrum for our nation’s first responders why aren't we better off than we were on 9/11 when it comes to interoperable communications? Because the spectrum Congress provided to first responders in 1996 is being held hostage by television broadcasters even though broadcasters have been given new spectrum."

But nothing prevented the City of New York from working on its own to solve the problems they encountered at the first World Trade Center bombing. When I first started to write about this travesty, I began it with this quote:

No responsibility is more fundamental and reflective of the nation's values than that of its Public Safety agencies. The citizens' legitimate expectation is that when their life or property is endangered, their government will respond. Vast federal, state, and local resources are committed to ensure this obligation is met. The effectiveness of police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, and other Public Safety officials is inextricably tied to communications capability. Today's communications environment, however, impedes meeting this responsibility. Rescuing victims of the World Trade Center bombing, who were caught between floors, was hindered when police officers could not communicate with fire fighters on the very next floor. Similarly, the inability to communicate among the agencies that had rushed to the Oklahoma City bombing site required resorting to runners to relay messages. The lack of sufficient, quality radio spectrum suitable for Public Safety use deters technological innovation, diminishes the responsiveness and effectiveness of Public Safety, and ultimately compromises the safety of the responding officers and of the very individuals seeking their help.

That is from Sept. 11 -- 1996. It is the introduction to the Final Report Of The Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PDF). Five years later, our first responders were in the exact same predicament. Rudy was Mayor from Jan. 1, 1994 - Dec. 31, 2001.

So when Rudy walks around boasting about his heroism on 9/11, remember this:

A NYPD helicopter pilot reported early, before the fall of the South Tower, that the North Tower was going to fall, but the fire chiefs did not hear of this. When the pilot saw that the South Tower was falling his announcement to police command was instant, and police command issued a forceful and robust order to evacuate the remaining building and to move all department vehicles to safety. Notwithstanding that this was a successful communication that resulted in the saving of many lives, the fire chiefs did not hear this order.

The command of the North Tower was covered with debris when the South Tower fell, and Chief Joseph Pfeifer, in complete darkness, gave the order, "All units in Tower One evacuate the building."

Just how many firefighters escaped in the twenty-nine minutes from Chief Pfeiffer's order is not certain, but we do know that one police officer, at least five Port Authority police officers, and 121 firefighters were killed when the second tower collapsed. Others were killed on the street, including four ESU 5 officers and a number of other firefighters who had successfully evacuated the building. -- 9/11 testimony of Dennis Smith, June 19, 2004

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