« FEMA Rocks! | Main | Brown: Worse And Worse... »

September 08, 2005

Comments

"That someone so unqualified was confirmed by the Senate for such an important job also says a lot about the state of congressional oversight of the executive branch at present, and none o what it tells us is good."

I don't know - I'm not qualified to be a disaster manager, but it must pay well, and I'm going to need a new job in the not-too-distant future, so this sounds good to me.

rilkefan: I just put an update on the firefighters handing out phone numbers story. It's a point I totally missed, that puts the icing of absurdity on the cake of incompetence. So to speak.

Sorry, rilkefan---I don't think there's going to be an opening at FEMA.

> Normally, an attorney practicing law in a state for ten years would have left a record of his experience in public documents.

Just to nitpick the quoted post but I find this statement a bit ridiculous.

That post's html thinks it's entitled "by hilzoy from". Somebody's qualified for a job as the FEMA website admin.

Actually I've heard there's still cell-phone access in at least parts of the city. Probably there's web access too, so really the FEMA url would be good to hand out too.

I hope this isn't true, but according to an article from PETA on the MyDD website, animals are not being evacuated. People aren't allowed to take their animals with them when resuers show up. I'm so angry about this I'm almost in tears. I know I would not leave my dog. They would have to drag me away in handcuffs. Charlie died this spring but I can imagine how I would feel if I was expected to leave him behind. I hope this isn't true.

I left the "c" out of rescue. Oops.

You never know - after all, there's a supreme court space opening up, and I'm sure Brownie could do a terrific job there.

hilzoy -
Maybe not so absurd. I've gotten a bunch of cell phone calls from N.O. and Jeff Parish, and power and phone service has been restored to lots of places, both in Louisiana (Houma, for example) and stretches of the gulf coast. Moreover, it's not all that likely that anyone would be sent to hand out flyers in New Orleans itself, as they are still trying to empty that city. The article doesn't say the firefighters were going to N.O., but the "Gulf Coast."

Also, it isn't as if handing out flyers is the ONLY thing FEMA is doing right now. Whatever may be said about its initial response (and much can and should be said), there are clearly a crapload of FEMA people working all over the affected region by now.

Finally, distributing the number is, in fact, a good and useful thing. Love FEMA or hate it, people down there need a point of contact as they try to access services, get information about insurance, food aid, and the rest of it. FEMA is it for the time being.

So, I don't really think the distribution of the number is itself absurd. The true absurdity is the one you pointed out originally - the waste of trained rescue personnel to give Bush a backdrop reminiscent of 9/11 for his stroll, and to distribute literature, a job that any of the thousands of nonprofessional volunteers could handle. THAT is the absurdity.

Posted at 12:44 p.m. Rocky Moutain Time.

Yes, but I posted it at 12:43 RMT.

"I hope this isn't true."

This is a disaster. Lots of people have died, probably over ten thousand. Rescues continue this minute, and will continue for days. Boats and helicopters are small. They can take more people, or they can take pets and let people die.

Your choice. There isn't a third.

Incidentally, good for MyDD. I assume they've covered this, this, this, this, this, this, and the other pet-related items I've pointed out.

Typical liberal elitist BS. If a man has a good heart and a strong character, that's all the qualificatin' he needs.

Holy Bernie Kerik, Hilzoy!

To the ObWiMobile!

The KittenSignal!

George W. Bush ran for re-election on the premise that he would keep us safe. That he appointed someone like Michael Brown to be Director of FEMA tells us exactly how seriously he took that mission, and exactly how competently he carried it out.

As SCMT points out, the fact that Brown was appointed head of FEMA does not necessarily mean that GWB was not serious about keeping us safe, just that his choice in this matter was likely counterproductive, leaving me to conclude that we cannot rule out the possibility that GWB could be serious, but incompetent on this matter.

Businesses abound with sincere, but incompetent managers, and GWB's business record supports this pattern. It is no surprise to find that he surrounds himself with others like himself. It's called unified vision or -- alternatively, and ironically -- a confederation of dunces.

Someone sufficiently geeky to assign Batman characters to posters/commenters here?

nous_athanatos, I suppose you are right. Only Ignatius J Reilly could have caused more havoc than Michael Brown and George Bush have managed.

Could part of the problem be "Upsidedownland?"

Astonishing.

a confederation of dunces
Don't mean to be nitpicky, but it is 'confederacy', which I always imagined to be a very subtle anti-Southern jibe.

The NYT says, "The president said that Sept. 16, next Friday, would be designated a national day of prayer and remembrance."

Glad he's doing something useful.

Empire Burlesque is also worth a read in "Blame Game, Set, Match."

Here's a sample:

"On Saturday, August 27, 2005 -- two days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall -- President George W. Bush assumed responsibility for the coordination of "all disaster relief efforts" in the State of Louisiana. This is the specific, undisputed language of Bush's declaration of a State of Emergency, issued that day by the White House, and still available for viewing on the White House website. The responsibility for coordinating all disaster relief efforts in New Orleans clearly rested with the White House. Despite all the post-disaster spin by the Bush Faction and its sycophants, despite all the earnest media analyses, the lines of authority are clear and indisputable. Here is the voice of George W. Bush himself, in the proclamation issued in his name, over his signature on Saturday, August 27, 2005:

"The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing. The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures"

Bush goes on to say: "Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."

There is really nothing more to be said about "lines of authority" and "who was responsible" for managing the relief effort. Two days before the hurricane struck Louisiana, the President of the United States assumed the responsibility for coordinating ALL disaster relief efforts. He then specifically designated FEMA as the lead agency in charge of this effort, giving it presidential authorization to mobilize any and all resources necessary to "alleviate the impacts of the emergency." What's more, FEMA was given specific, direct, presidential authority to act at its discretion -- it did not have to wait for approval from elsewhere in the federal government or from state or local authorities."

I should also say, before I am corrected and put in stocks, that the original quote is from Swift, who obviously wasn't thinking about the confederacy.

A second thought, if the Dems aren't going to participate in the potemkin review that Frist and Hastert have set up, they should set up public hearings, going to each city where a large number of evacuees were sent and have people tell their stories.

LJ--it is 'confederacy'

Quite so, thanks. I think my fingers may have been reading Barker's "The Body Politic" behind my back. I blame them for the substitution.

To be fair, OCU's law school is considered one of the best in the state, for what that is worth. It is a private school that pumps money into its art department, divinity department (it is associated with the United Methodist Church) and its law school. Now, I know that over the last decade it slid from grace for a while, but I also know that before that it was fairly well reagrded and its law school is still well thought of by most people in the state and area.

[puts away stocks, ruefully.]

I agree with lily. Maybe it makes me a bastard, but my pets' survival is not negotiable. Of course, I have a preparedness plan and collapsible soft carriers into which they can be shoved at a moment's notice.

Our rats would likely have no problems surviving. They're hardy that way.

[puts away stocks, ruefully.]

[wipes beads of cold sweat from forehead, thinking of the last time Hilzoy slapped on the rhetorical stocks]

"As SCMT points out, the fact that Brown was appointed head of FEMA does not necessarily mean that GWB was not serious about keeping us safe, just that his choice in this matter was likely counterproductive, leaving me to conclude that we cannot rule out the possibility that GWB could be serious, but incompetent on this matter."

This is precisely why it is common for those in my circle of friends to proclaim the quote: "Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice."

aw, lj: it takes both effort and special skillz to make me do that.

Our rats would likely have no problems surviving.

Our rats escape their cage and play with the cats. They wouldn't last a second in the real world. The cats aren't too bright either, apparently.

And I love our pets, but would give up their space in a bus or helicopter for children and most other people.

"There is really nothing more to be said about 'lines of authority' and 'who was responsible' for managing the relief effort."

Whatever my prejudices, I have to note that these quotes leave endless numbers of things to be so said, and don't in the least prove what is asserted. This is a childish way to understand the law. I don't know what the legal situation was, but this clarifies nothing other than the author's personal opinion.

"Now, I know that over the last decade it slid from grace for a while, but I also know that before that it was fairly well reagrded and its law school is still well thought of by most people in the state and area."

So was it not an accredited law school before 2003, or not? If it wasn't, what was the "regard" based upon?

"This is precisely why it is common for those in my circle of friends to proclaim the quote...."

A tradition that goes back years, I'm sure, he said dryly.

Still, Gary, Chris makes a pretty compelling argument, no?

And I didn't read it to be so much about "the law" per se as about effective action (or the lack thereof) by the Federal Government... which, as we know, GWB helms.

"Still, Gary, Chris makes a pretty compelling argument, no?"

Not to my eyes, I'm afraid. He may be right or may be wrong, but he's using quotes to argue that the law says something that the quotes do not, in fact, demonstrate.

If his argument isn't about who had legal authority and responsibility and control, I don't know what he's trying to say.

This is why I didn't link to it when I first read it yesterday. Basically, there's no content there other than personal opinion that is clearly in error (what the relevant law is, which is not determined by proclamations), and many repetitions of variations of saying that he's obviously right and it's all inarguable. Which is utterly wrong. Reduce it all down to a valid point, and one winds up with the following:

Only Ignatius J Reilly...

been thinking about that book for the past week. oddly, the thing that keeps popping into my head is the way he called everything an "abortion". "this rain is an abortion!"

hope they do the movie justice, someday.

That is, what you can read between here:

And here. That's the valid reducible content I see. Sorry.

Okay, I've never tried using extra spacing at ObWings, and the software objects to it and edits it out. A tad arrogant of it, if you ask me, but no one did. Oh, well.

I don't know, Gary. Maybe from a legal standpoint there is a substantive difference between Presidential authorization to do something (as in: "The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts") and his specific instruction/direction that it be done.

Then again, I guess the bodies floating in the streets of NOLA don't much care how finely we split the hairs at this point.

Great post by Mark Schmitt.

Gary:"So was it not an accredited law school before 2003, or not? If it wasn't, what was the "regard" based upon?"

I would assume that it was a tendency to produce good lawyers. The kind that do the things you need lawyers to do pretty well.

I am no expert on where the best law schools are, and wasn't reying to proclaim myself such. I just know that it had a reputation as a solid law school at least through a lot of the 80s. Enough so that they had no problem attracting students even given their relatively high cost (for the area, very high). And enough so that I had heard about it into the mid nineties. I am not saying that it is at the top of the law school eschelon, just that it isn't some hack school in a tin shed by the side of the road. It DOES have a decent reputation and being from there doesn't necessarily say anything about Brown's abilites.

"Businesses abound with sincere, but incompetent managers, and GWB's business record supports this pattern."

This is a joke,right? GWB's record in the oil industry shows great industriousness and the ambition to make the companies succeed? He was an assertive and watchful board member?

Call GWB "sincere" and you will never bruise him.

Marshall

"Fully $50 billion of those recovery and reconstruction funds passed by Congress today are going to FEMA. FEMA is going to administer those funds. That is just friggin' crazy."

Marshall calls this "misguided". FEMA under Bush is about corruption and pork and bribes, and Brown is exactly the man Bush wants for the job. There is absolutely no incompetence here.

Its always funny to contrast what I see and hear in 'bloglife' about presidential power, and what I see in my professional life. I spent a couple of hours today at the DC Circuit watching the argument in Al Odah/Boumediene, and the government was making assertions of presidential power, unreviewable at that, that even Judge Randolph seemed have trouble believing. He and Judge Sentelle had already tortured our side with hypotheticals which showed their own very expansive views. (Judge Randolph even brought out the suicide pact quote). So the guy who claims he can use his inherent Article II powers (that is, independent of the force resolution Congress passed) to send the army to apprehend anyone anywhere in the world, on suspicion of impending (although not exigent!) terrorism, and hold them without review for as long as he wants, can't have a pallet of Evian delivered to the New Orleans convention center without permission?

BTW, I sat in on an argument earlier in the morning in the other courtroom, a sexual harassment case, with Judges Ginsburg, Tatel, and Brown. Chief Judge Ginsburg is one sharp feller, with what seems a wicked sense of humor, and I think we're all the poorer for his nomination to the USSC having failed. JRB -- and this might have been her first case -- was very tentative, which is probably a good way to go. All the other judges just have their last names on their nameplates, but Judge Brown has first middle and last.

Bob--This is a joke,right? GWB's record in the oil industry shows great industriousness and the ambition to make the companies succeed? He was an assertive and watchful board member?

No, it's not a joke, and you are overstating what I meant to imply here. All I was saying is that GWB did not go into any of those endeavors intending for them to fail. He intended to succeed. His lack of industry and oversight may have been a factor in the failure, but those are measures of competence, not of the desire to succeed.

Call GWB "sincere" and you will never bruise him.

And calling him a baby killer will reach the swing voters? Those who are defensively supporting him (and, more importantly defending their own support of him) will be convinced he made a mistake long before they will be convinced that he is evil. They would rather believe that they supported someone who tried, but failed than believe that they were duped by the antichrist. The Big Lie only works when it tells people what they want to hear or what their paradigms support.

I'm going to pick up the converation about animals again. Gary, I don't think it is a choice of taking a person or taking a pet, but not both. The rescues are being done on a triage basis. If rescuers in a boat that can carry six find a family of eight they make a decision about who to take now and who to get later, for example. They leave supplies and come back. It is ok with me if people with pets are the last to get help. I'm not going to waste time arguing for the inherent value of the lives of animals. Instead think of it this way: people who have lost everything else are now being told that they must also abandon the family dog to die of thirst or starvation in hellish circumstances. What is that going to do to the chidren in the family? And what about elderly people, who often have a dearly beloved companion animal?
The rescuers seem to have time to argue with people who don't want to leave. I think they could drop some survival supplies for people with pets and come back for them later.

Just Different Clues

"She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

''He said 'Why would I do that?''' Pelosi said.

'''I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?''"

"And calling him a baby killer will reach the swing voters?"

Yes. A)Because he is a baby killer. B) Because I don't care about reaching his base in any way, C) Because he does not win on competence, and will not lose on incompetence. Not that he is up for
re-election. But his party is.

Why the hell do Democrats keep thinking they will win as technocrats, as more competent than Republicans? When they win, they win on compassion and character. And in order to do so, you have to like actually say you are more compassionate than the other guy.

Now on this board I guess it is forbidden to say so, no matter how firm the evidence, but it is not only on this board, it seems to be universal to the left blogosphere and the Democratic establishment.

Jesus, even the liberals on this board seem to be unwilling to say that the poor, the unfortunate, minorities, would be better off under Democrats. And if you say that, you have to say why it is true, and what it says about the other party. But that would be mean.

I am? We are? For the record: I think that Democrats, and liberals generally, obviously have a much better record with respect to the poor than Republicans. Moreover, a lot of our policy proposals, starting with health care, directly benefit the poor; and moreover, we are the ones who fight cuts to medicaid and public housing, cuts which are almost uniformly proposed by Republicans.

As you may have gathered, I hate the proposed repeal of the Estate Tax, but I especially hate it in the context of cuts in, say, Medicaid, which helps people who are poor and sick. If we can't afford to do that, I fail to see how one can possibly justify changing existing tax laws to let people like Paris Hilton and, um, me get more money we did not earn from our parents' estates.

It's morally appalling. And I see no problem with saying this.

Bob, I don't disagree with you atall atall when you say the poor, the unfortunate, etc., are better off under Democrats. That's so self-evident it doesn't need to be said.

The problem, as I see it, is that the electorate at large cares about the poor, the unfortunate, etc., only in a Platonic sense that falls considerably short of supporting tax-funded programs to help the poor. Esp. tax-funded programs that never seem to actually reduce the number of poor people, or improve their prospects for supporting themselves and getting off the dole.

Whether the anti-poverty programs actually were ineffectual or not matters not: the "fact" that they were ineffectual is so ingrained in the public mind that nothing will budge it. Republicans have won elections invoking that "fact" over and over; obviously, it works. Attacking Bush on that front is perfectly useless.

But what Bush's policies have also done is endanger the lives, livelihoods and well-being of everyone not in the gilded elite. His Administration is incapable of - and uninterested in - fulfilling the government's one essential, inarguable core function: protecting America, protecting American lives.

9/11; Iraq; Katrina. Over and over again, the Bush Administration seeks refuge in saying "We never saw it coming," when there were any number of people who did "see it coming," did try to do something about it, and were ignored, scorned, and discarded. Over and over again, the Bush Administration has chosen indifference, incompetence, ideology and graft over protecting America, protecting American lives.

That's the point that needs to hammered home to the swing voters.

Bush isn't "only" bad news for the poor, the unfortunate, etc.

He's bad news for everyone.

"Then again, I guess the bodies floating in the streets of NOLA don't much care how finely we split the hairs at this point."

Well, this might possibly not be the best way to end a chain of thought on a point you brought up, perhaps, and it seems rather the sort of rejoinder that could be equally usefully applied to conclude any conversation, on any topic, here or elsewhere, with equal irrefutability, so therefore I must, of course, agree.

"It DOES have a decent reputation and being from there doesn't necessarily say anything about Brown's abilites."

Fair enough. Thanks for your response.

"Chief Judge Ginsburg is one sharp feller, with what seems a wicked sense of humor, and I think we're all the poorer for his nomination to the USSC having failed."

Well, you know, we can't have dope fiends on SCOTUS. He might mug one of the other Justices in his mad and insatiable quest for more "grass."

I'm sure we're all better off this way. What would the children think?

bob
As someone who is deeply sympathetic to what you are saying, please note that one of the reasons that the Republicans succeed is not because they have been able to claim people are 'baby-killers' (or drug users or closet lesbians or crazed from their POW experiences or fathers of African American love children or receiving Purple Hearts for self-inflicted wounds or what have you) but that they have been able to imply those sorts of points and had others carry the water for them. When they start spinning out of control, they sever their mooring ropes and find another. View the Clinton presidency as a testing grounds of what you can suggest. Rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, liberals tend not to be good water carriers, in my totally biased view.

Again, I am deeply sympathetic to what you are saying, but you might want to read (if you haven't already) Vonnegut's _Mother Night_ for a take on the problems with carrying water.

"I'm not going to waste time arguing for the inherent value of the lives of animals."

Well, you certainly don't have to. I think the death of any loved pet is tragic, and I'm not cheering the death of wildlife, either.

"It's morally appalling. And I see no problem with saying this"

But hilzoy, Republicans have their own programs and strategies to help the poor, including stimulating the economy to provide oppotunities, and moving people off dependency into independence and personal responsibility. Isn't this just a difference over which set of policies would be most effective? And so the opposition, or more accurately their policies, might be misguided or mistaken, but "morally appalling"?

Or are they lying about their intentions and goals and priorities?

I will stop. hilzoy was skirting posting rules, and me too. sorry, it was for demonstration purposes.

But the majority of that 50 billion will go to Trent Lott's new mansion, not to the refugees. Which is why it was so easily passed by the conservative congress. The refugees will not be coming back to New Orleans.

And I and the rest of the world saw babies die of thirst on TV. You will never prove Bush "knew". But somebody in that White House was watching Fox, and I need explained why that somebody would not tell Bush.

What would have had Pelosi gone on? "What didn't go right?" is a dare, a challenge.

"Mr President, babies died"

"Are you saying that is my fault, or Chertoff's, or Brown's? Are you ready to go on TV and say that?"

Or "Golly, really? Babies died? I didn't know, nobody told me. Well, I promise I will investigate."

Pelosi likely didn't follow thru, and I think I know why.

Dana Milbank in the WaPo

The image of the United States has taken a beating over the past 10 days, as foreign television and newspapers show images of death, chaos and disease in New Orleans. Even lowly Bangladesh (per capita income: $400 a year) was moved to send $1 million in foreign aid.

But Karen Hughes has another view. The Bush confidante, now undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, held a meeting with her staff in Foggy Bottom yesterday and was asked about the international ramifications of the response to the New Orleans flooding. The problem, Hughes replied, was not a failed relief effort but a foreign press that did not appreciate the federal government's good work.

Unfortunately, underlining (I think) my take on things, there is this

Hughes picked up the theme. "We have to offer a positive vision of hope," she began. As if preparing troops for combat, she described her plans for improving world opinion of the United States: a "rapid-response unit," a plan to "forward-deploy regional SWAT teams" and create "a dual-headed DAS for public diplomacy."

One of her underlings rose to ask how this effort squared with the administration's famously tight control over its message. "Recently, we've had tremendous amount of difficulty in some cases getting clearance for our ambassadors to speak," he said.

Hughes replied that ambassadors are free to talk -- if they use the talking points she sends them. "If they make statements based on something I sent them," she said, "they're not going to be called on the carpet."

While Hughes told employees that America's problems could be solved with message discipline, about 10 blocks away, MoveOn was struggling to maintain its message discipline at its protest outside the White House. When the MoveOn organizers arrived, there was already a demonstration underway calling for intervention in Darfur, and the Katrina and Darfur demonstrators intermingled in an eclectic line demanding "Help Hurricane Victims" and "Stop the Genocide."

The only comfort I take from this is Milbank's title

"Hughes Is Varnishing the Nation's Tarnish"

Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

That's pithy, but I don't think it's entirely true. As I pointed out on another forum recently, one simply does not appoint a hack like Mike Brown to head an agency one wants to succeed. At best, this indicates that Bush saw FEMA only as a pork barrel and didn't care at all whether or not it succeeded. At worst, he was deliberately undermining it to "prove" how ineffective it was and provide fodder for arguments to eliminate it (along with other agencies whose missions he considers superfluous or inconvenient). Considering that FEMA's function is basically to save lives, therefore, the difference is between negligent homicide and premeditated murder. That might not make much difference to the victims and it doesn't affect a verdict of guilty vs. not guilty, but it might affect sentencing.

Just a side comment . I have no doubt that Mike Brown seems unqualified for the position of director of FEMA but I dont get the nonsense about his graduation from an unaccredited law school.
Okalhoma City University is the oldest law school in Oklahoma has been and continues to be accredited by the American Bar Association (which is a requirement for taking the bar in almost all states) and although a regional school, is well known in the state and surrounding region. American Association of Law Schools membership of a law school is not an accreditation matter but relates to a voluntary association of law schools nationwide for professional and academic advancement.AALS is not a accrediting agency nor has it ever been. OCU sought and became a full member law school in the AALS a few years back.
Membership was not required nor necessary for accreditation.

I have taught at a AALS law school in Chicago and frankly with almost two hundred law schools nationwide ,have not heard of many of the more regional schools to any great extent including the University of Colorado where the comment about lack of accreditation has arisen. That being said ,it does not imply that these schools, AALS members or not ,are somehow lacking in any manner. Accreditation is from the American Bar Association not the AALS lets get our facts right


I've discussed this in more detail at http://jmbzine.com/wordpress/?p=35, but OCU Law School is the largest law school in Oklahoma and the best for training trial lawyers (at least in the eyes of many). It is also unique in that it is one of the few remaining law schools that has a part-time night school program, that provides a legal education to many who would be unable to do so without the chance to work full-time as well.

Michael Brown definitely has some major problems, but his legal education is not one of them.

i think that i could do the best job ever at that job

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad