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"Ineptitude leads to death"

Yesterday, Errol Louis in the NYDN was one of the first of the anti-Michael Brown wave:

...Behind the tears, you could hear that Nagin and Broussard know full well what outsiders are only beginning to understand: They are part of a system of government that is broken at all levels, rife with cronyism and corruption and their inevitable consequence, incompetence.
Federal investigators are probing corruption in the administration of former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. A man named Glenn Haydel, who is Morial's uncle, is currently facing federal embezzlement charges for allegedly steering $550,000 from the New Orleans public transport system, the Regional Transit Authority, to his own management company - and putting $350,000 of that sum into a personal bank account.
Nagin, a political outsider elected as a reformer, has demonstrated significant limitations as a crisis manager. But he needed and deserved a smooth-running, fully funded public transport and it seems likely that chiselers and crooks in government denied it to him.
The rot extends to the federal level, where much of the nationally televised incompetence and confusion in the gulf region can be traced to the disastrous patronage hire of Michael Brown as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown, utterly unqualified for the job, spent the last decade running a trade association of horse breeders...

"Significant limitations" indeed.

PBP: "Start on Katrina relief by firing FEMA's Brown"

The Palm Beach Post joins in:

Before he began working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown spent a decade enforcing rules for the International Arabian Horse Association. And people wonder why FEMA did so poorly last year in Florida and last week on the Gulf Coast. Along with the rebuilding of that region must come the rebuilding of FEMA, and that must begin with the firing of Michael Brown.
How incompetent is Mr. Brown? Last Thursday, he said FEMA hadn't known that people were stranded at the New Orleans convention center, even though CNN had had the story on the air Wednesday. We know Mr. Bush doesn't read newspapers, but can't someone watch TV every now and then? This, though, is what happens when you put an unqualified political appointee into an important job and keep him there.
Mr. Brown got to FEMA not because he knew anything about disaster relief. He was a friend of Joe Allbaugh, who with Karl Rove and Karen Hughes formed the troika that ran President Bush's 2000 campaign...
... Florida's Hurricane Summer should have shown the White House that Mr. Brown is incompetent. FEMA paid victims who weren't victims and has stalled on payments to places where Frances and Jeanne really did strike. Supply drop-offs were scheduled, then canceled without notice. Reimbursement rules were confusing and remain so...

"Bush's Hurricane Response a Disaster"

Michael Hitzlik of the L.A. Times offers a less-than-trustworthy screed dismissing FEMA head Michael Brown, Bush, conservatism, and on and on. While it has some interesting quotes, I hesitate to wonder which of them are taken out of context:

New Orleans is, or should be, the graveyard of the conservative ideology that government is useless. An American city is reduced to Third World desperation as people who own nothing scrounge for necessities in a sea of waste and federal officials offer lame excuses about how their disaster plans would have worked fine had there not been, you know, a disaster. The president, at the head of a global power that can't get its own troops or supplies off their bases to reach the needful, whines, "The private sector needs to do its part."
This deplorable performance has deep roots. Joe M. Allbaugh, a Bush campaign hack without any crisis management experience who was named director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, disparaged federal disaster assistance as "an oversized entitlement program" before Congress in 2001. The public's expectations of government in a disaster situation, he said, "may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level." He advised stricken communities to rely for help on "faith-based organizations … like the Salvation Army and the Mennonite Disaster Service."
If Allbaugh were not an amateur, he would have known that communities, "faith-based organizations" and the private sector become overwhelmed by disasters more modest than this one. In a crisis the federal government should be the first responder, not the last, to take charge, not wait to be asked.
Cynicism on such a scale is self-perpetuating. Determined to portray government as little but an intrusion into people's lives, this gang made it irrelevant to hundreds of thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina - thus giving them, and us, good reason to be cynical after all.
The federal officials assigned to New Orleans have displayed an appalling combination of arrogance and ignorance. Thursday evening on NPR, I heard Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, dismiss reports of thousands of refugees trapped at the New Orleans convention center for days without sustenance. He called the reports, in so many words, "rumors and anecdotes..."

While New Orleans might be the graveyard of Bush's "compassionate conservatism", otherwise known as corruption, pandering, corporatism, and patronage, it should also be the graveyard of something else: "liberalism", otherwise known as racial divisiveness and the horrific idea that you help people by making them dependent on the State.

Michael Brown: scapegoat?

Whether FEMA did their job as well or nearly as well as could be expected will no doubt take months to find out. However, long before that point their current head, Michael D. Brown, might be on his way out. If so, it would be tragic indeed if he's the only one.
From "FEMA Director Singled Out by Response Critics":

...The Times-Picayune, Louisiana's largest newspaper, published an open letter on Sunday to President Bush, calling for every FEMA official to be fired, "Director Michael Brown especially," joining critics in the state and Congress.
"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry," the editorial said. "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame. . . . No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced."
Brown's defenders say he is the scapegoat of a cataclysmic storm and failure of New Orleans's levee system that, in the words of President Bush and Chertoff, could not be foreseen.
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Bush said Friday during a tour of the state, a day before Chertoff voiced his confidence.
"It's easy to play the blame game, find a scapegoat, but no one person could be responsible for the challenges we face and the lives lost," said W. Craig Fugate, emergency management director for Florida, where Bush's brother is governor, who worked with FEMA through four hurricanes in 2004. He said state and local authorities share responsibility for the death toll likely to emerge in coming days.
Joe M. Allbaugh -- a college friend, former Bush campaign manager and past FEMA director who hired Brown as FEMA general counsel in 2001 -- offered a qualified defense.
Allbaugh called the government's overall performance "unacceptable" but added: "Blaming one agency, you cannot do that." Still, he acknowledged that FEMA had lost independence and clout with the White House. "I had a unique relationship with the president, having been his chief of staff," Allbaugh said. "If you don't have that kind of relationship, it just makes things tougher."
If anything, Brown's political background has become a liability, leading to charges that he was given his job as patronage. He got his start in politics as an Oklahoma native with Allbaugh but ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988, winning 27 percent of the vote. He has chaired the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority and served as a City Council member, examiner for the Oklahoma and Colorado supreme courts, and assistant city manager.
Allbaugh hired Brown after an acrimonious end to a nine-year stint as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. Former officials say he was forced out; a friend and lawyer of Brown's said he negotiated a settlement after withstanding numerous lawsuits against his enforcement of rules for judges and stewards.
Defending his qualifications, Brown said he has overseen responses to 164 presidential declared emergencies and disasters as FEMA counsel and general counsel, including the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster and the California wildfires in 2003. "I have been through a few disasters," he said at a news conference yesterday...

The NYT's "Michael DeWayne Brown: Facing Blame in a Disaster" has a little more, but nothing of particular interest over and above the WaPo article.

"FEMA chief waited until after storm hit"


The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region - and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents.
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.
Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged Tuesday the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged...
...Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said Brown had positioned front-line rescue teams and Coast Guard helicopters before the storm. Brown's memo on Aug. 29 aimed to assemble the necessary federal work force to support the rescues, establish communications and coordinate with victims and community groups, Knocke said.
Instead of rescuing people or recovering bodies, these employees would focus on helping victims find the help they needed, he said...
...Brown's memo told employees that among their duties, they would be expected to "convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public."
"FEMA response and recovery operations are a top priority of the department and as we know, one of yours," Brown wrote Chertoff. He proposed sending 1,000 Homeland Security Department employees within 48 hours and 2,000 within seven days.
Knocke said the 48-hour period suggested for the Homeland employees was to ensure they had adequate training. "They were training to help the life-savers," Knocke said.
Employees required a supervisor's approval and at least 24 hours of disaster training in Maryland, Florida or Georgia. "You must be physically able to work in a disaster area without refrigeration for medications and have the ability to work in the outdoors all day," Brown wrote.
The same day Brown wrote Chertoff, Brown also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments. Brown said it was vital to coordinate fire and rescue efforts.
Meanwhile, the airline industry said the government's request for help evacuating storm victims didn't come until late Thursday afternoon. The president of the Air Transport Association, James May, said the Homeland Security Department called then to ask if the group could participate in an airlift for refugees.

In addition to all the complaints about the numbers and dates, shouldn't they have been trained well in advance?


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