Bye-bye now

FEMA chief Michael Brown is being relieved of his duties overseeing Katrina relief, says MSNBC. He’s being replaced by an admiral. Oddly, it doesn’t seem he’s being relieved of his job. That’s as decisive as the White House is these days: half-acts.

: Sploid’s favorite Chertoff quote: “Brown has done everything he possibly could … ” Well, apparently so.

: I was waiting for Andrew Sullivan to dance a victory jig. I’m dancing, too.

But Brown is still in charge of keeping the rest of us safe. And that doesn’t make me feel safe at all.

  • http://www.geise.com/index.php/GD-Linksville/Items/ PXLated

    It’s a start, be happy with that.

  • Mike G

    Okay, now the administration has taken a hit.

    How long, do you suppose, before the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana takes a similar hit?

    Till Hell floods over, I’d bet.

  • KB

    I feel so secure knowing Brown is now headed back to Washington to oversee our response to potential disasters like, say, a dirty bomb in a major US city. Holy Christ, this administration has lost it’s very reason for being.

  • Angelos

    Brown for SUpreme Court! And a Medal of Freedom.

    Funny, before the announcement was even made, he had scheudled an appearance on Fox. If these people worked at their job as much as they worked at their images…

  • Victoria Balfour

    The mayor should resign and they should recall the Governor.

    In my opionion, the mayor’s behavior has been embarrassing, and most ungracious. He reminds me of a four year old — blaming everyone else while taking no responsibility for his own behavior.

  • Lorenzo

    Mike G is, unfortunately, absolutely right. FEMA’s response was less than perfect, but only because it was being counted on to make up for the criminal negligence of the mayor of NO, the governor of LA and the city and state emergency preparedness directors. That gang of four shoud be indicted, but it’ll never happen.

  • KB

    Simply put, we’re no safer today then we were on 9/11. The public is starting to get it. We’re in a post-Katrina world. There won’t be any voter tolerance for pre-Katrina mind-sets.

  • Maureen

    Jeff–When will we see you calling for the governor & mayor to be removed? Which they should be. You’re normally pretty good about media coverage across the board (including the dreaded Fox). How about highlighting Powerline’s (or Instapundit’s or other blogs) coverage of the Fox report the other night where the governor BLOCKED the Red Cross from bringing in supplies to the Superdome? Interestingly, no other MSM outlet has seen fit to cover that. (Maybe if she hadn’t blocked the Red Cross supplies, Randall Robinson wouldn’t have been so convinced that people were eating each other. Until he decided they weren’t, anyway.)

    Don’t get me wrong–I’m no fan of bureacracy, & FEMA certainly is one. Having worked in DC for 13 years now, including for a while (unfortunately) for one of the Federal agencies, I can attest to their inefficiency. But let’s, again, try to take some of the politics out of it. A lot of Democrats, along with Republicans, voted to put FEMA under Homeland Security. That was a mistake. Let’s also remember that last year, when two hurricanes hit Florida within a period of a few weeks, FEMA was lauded for its response. This time around, they got hit with a flood & hurricane at the same time, & yes, they were unprepared. You know what? That’s why it’s called a “disaster.” Much as we humans may not want to admit it, we simply can not control everything, nor can we be 100% prepared for everything. And I seriously question whether FEMA under a Democratic president would have been any more effective than it has been under a Republican president.

    I wonder, too, whether the MSM will take a look at the Democrats who backed Sierra Club efforts repeatedly (including RFK Jr.) to BLOCK the reinforcement of the levees because it endangered wetland. Or Sen. Landrieu’s own diverting of monies into boondoggles that have now harmed her own constituents (the lock, in particular–one blog has the story of a prime opponent of that lock whose house is now under water from where the levee near that lock broke). Quick thought–do you suppose the Sen. will threaten to punch that constituent? Should we look at the millions of $$ Sen. Byrd has diverted into his state for boondoggles named after him? Maybe he’ll now allow some money to go towards rebuilding the levees–assuming they name one after him?

    We need to learn from this overall & try to, hopefully, take those lessons to heart for next time. We have a governor who stubbornly refused both federal & private efforts to help, multiple times. Perhaps in the future, a major disaster means that a state’s rights can & should be ignored, & a governor overruled, if the President (of whatever party) thinks the situation warrants. That does leave the potential for abuse, tho. There’s the battle between environmentalists (who tried to block the levees) & protecting humans from their own foolishness. There’s the situation of the mayor, who could/should have ordered the school buses into action sooner–but had he done so, & the hurricane then swerved, he would have been heavily criticized. What do officials do in the future? Order mandatory evacuations before they fully know where a storm will go, & realizing that people will get frustrated from repeated false alarms, or wait until a storm path is known for sure–by which time it’s going to be too late for a lot of people?

    There’s also the cold hard reality that we have to take some responsibility for our own actions. Do those who choose to live in areas where hurricanes/floods can hit have the right to expect the government & taxpayers to bail them out every time something goes wrong–& keep them 100% safe? (And I speak as someone who has a parent who lives right at the ocean’s edge.) It’s been known since the 1920s what would happen to New Orleans if a large hurricane hit–yet the local government continued to allow people to build all throughout a dangerously vulnerable area. A government entity may not be able to prevent people from living where they want, but does it then become the government’s responsibility to fix it when their foolishness costs them? It took until the late 1990s for the feds to finally tell people they would no longer be compensated if they chose to live on the Mississippi floodplain & got flooded out–after years & years & years & years of people being flooded out & then promptly rebuilding right back in the same area. And what happens when environmental concerns clash with population growth–as in Louisiana, where reinforcing levees meant environmental destruction? What do you say to the MoveOn.org protestors who were trotted out yesterday to bash the President–but who were people who chose to stay in their homes thru the storm, even tho they had the opportunity to leave? Or do we start giving governments the authority to bodily remove people from potential harm’s way before a storm strikes?

    There are no easy answers. It’s easy to scream at FEMA & point fingers. But there were/are a lot of hard questions & scenarios that do need calm thinking (which, sadly, won’t happen in the normal political idiocy of DC–we’ll see far too many politicians & celebrities posturing instead).

    I’ve got a proposal for you, Jeff. You had a great suggestion in asking the blogosphere to look at what could be done in future disasters to help with communication. I’d like to propose a blog symposium on the Katrina situation & its implications for the future in emergency preparedness & reaction. NOT a political bashing, but a (relatively) calm laying out of what happened, where mistakes occurred, what potentially could have been done instead, & what implications REALISTIC scenarios could/should have for future similar disasters. There are major major cities & populations near the water (Miami/FLL, the Carolinas, Baltimore/DC, NYC/Long Island/Staten Island, New England), all long overdue for a Category 5 hurricane & its aftermath. I would really like to see the blogosphere discuss–without name calling or finger-pointing–what some reasonable preparations should be. How far ahead of time do evacuations start, particularly given horrendous traffic situations, knowing that hurricane predictions are still spotty at best? What about the most vulnerable populations–do you evacuate elderly & sick patients, knowing the stress could kill some of them, or wait until a storm’s path is set but by then it could be too late to get them out? If large population bases are evacuated, where do they go? How much responsibility do various government & law enforcement agencies have for those who can evacuate but don’t? How many times do you put evacuations into effect–every time there could potentially be a problem (knowing that false alarms are going to make people jaded) or, again, when it could be too late to get everyone out? Think of last year’s hurricanes–most of the state of Florida was under evacuation orders, but the storms ultimately missed southern Florida. Was the governor being premature, or in light of current events was he being sensible? (Altho there are now a lot of people in that area–or at least were–who are more reluctant to evacuate because of the misses.)

    How about, say, a day-long blog symposium, inviting people from around the blogosphere to log on & discuss, laying out groundrules that would eliminate bashing & name-calling. Invite respectful (you can disagree with one another without name-calling) discussion from people across the political spectrum.

  • KB

    Maureen, I admire your call for cool heads and balance, but the GOP has seen fit to milk 9/11 and the war on terror politically for so long. They’ve used “security” to bludgeon Democrats everywhere. The basic claim the GOP and Bush/Cheney have been running on since that day is to cast the difference between feeling safe and feeling unsafe as the difference between voting for them or Democrats. Their answer for domestic security: Michael Brown. The tables have now been turned, and what goes around comes around.

  • John T

    I agree with Maureen.

    Ah KB, the infamous “but”.

  • Angelos

    Hell, when even the National Review realizes what the hell is going on…

    THE COST OF CRONYISM [Rod Dreher]
    It would be very wrong, I believe, to let the ignominious Michael Brown be the scapegoat for FEMA’s sins. Check out this front-pager from the WaPo. Turns out that a raft of FEMA’s top leaders have little or no emergency management experience, but are instead politically well connected to the GOP and the White House. This is a scandal, a real scandal. How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize? The main reason I’ve been a Bush supporter all along is I trusted him (note past tense) on national security — which, in the age of mass terrorism, means homeland security too. Call me naive, but it’s a real blow to learn that political hacks have been running FEMA, of all agencies of the federal government! What if al-Qaeda had blown the New Orleans levees? How much worse would the crony-led FEMA’s response have been? Would conservatives stand for any of this for one second if a Democrat were president? If this is what Republican government means, God help the poor GOP Congressmen up for re-election in 2006.

  • Janine

    It would be interesting to know how many of us acutally have a disaster kit prepared in our own homes and/or automobiles if there ever was a need for a quick evacuation. [For the love of God] I don’t want to come off sounding like Bill O’Reilly but, I’ll admit that over the course of the past week (or so) I’ve found myself a little more hesitant to be finger pointing the problems of our government over this disaster and their response when right now I couldn’t even tell you where a simple flashlight is in my home. But, I can tell you that the batteries are dead and won’t be any good if I need it—assuming I can find it.
    All I seem to be able to really put together in my head right now about this disaster, the governement response, and my own level of preparedness is: ‘What a wake-up call’.

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    His replacement gets the really great job of forcibly evacuating the remaining NO occupants. Something tells me he’s the one we should be sorry for.

  • klarkin

    It is really getting stupid around here. And it is really costing the evacuees.

    Jeff, an east coast native, blames FEMA for not responding fast enough. Residents of Louisiana (me included) feel the majority of the blame belongs with the mayor and governor (and NOLA citizens).

    Regardless, it is now back to hate-filled politics as usual (at least around here) which doesn’t really further the conversation. And it makes me think twice about contributing any more to those affected. This place spends half its time posturing when it really could be used for helping the victims.

    Me? I don’t care very much anymore. Really. I did, but the blame game is very tiring. I would have gotten the hell out of NOLA the minute I saw the sattelite photos. I would have been fine.

    I’ve contributed to the ARC and I’ve provided 3/4 of my linen closet to a local shelter. I really feel for the displaced families, but I’m hereby tuning out the NOLA coverage for the time being. I decided not to open my home to a displaced family.

    Why? Y’all have turned this into Bush v Gore, Bush v Kerry, Red state v Blue state, and I can’t take it any more. Soooo much anger that I’m washing my hands of it all. Just look at KB’s post. Completely lame.

    Y’all really have no idea about Louisiana demographics and politics, do you. Or do you, Jeff? I’d actually be interested in your familiarity with the state. Here’s a hint. We aren’t NY or NJ.

  • wendy

    In a disturbing way Brown has done all he can to further one item of rightwing faith. While this event will hurt Bush, it also further the belief that government is useless. Most of us want a reduction in waste and oncrease in efficiency and many have voted Republican because we thought they would further it.

    Yet under rightwing presidents Reagon and Bush we”ve had large increases in size aand massive cronyism and corruption. Faith is lost and debt becomes so overwhelming that the desire seems to be to collapse the system. This is “revolution” in the ugly sense, disturbingly close to violence.

    Brown has furthered this scheme.

    Sadly much of the left is engaged in a similar program, support for all kinds of stupid expences and regulations. If one were a Marxist one would look at the class of the 2 sides and think they are engaged in a plot to collapse the country into feudalism while pretending to differ. Class interests.

    It is interesting that both the Hollywood left and the far right support schemes that would allow copyright holders to examine the contents of computers and destroy those computers if inappropiate material was found.

  • http://flamingflivvers.blogspot.com/ Carson Fire

    Angelos: thanks for posting those paragraphs from National Review.

    They are reasoned and critical, something which the left has *not* been. The left has been loud, opportunistic, and chaotic. I would probably be happy with the dismissal of Brown, but not because the 13 percenters are crying for his head. It also probably makes sense not to be excessively dramatic at this moment and throw bad situations into further chaos. A “half-measure” is appropriate.

    Reasoned self-analysis on the right has been one of the things that have pulled me more right than left in past years, and the contrast to a Democratic party that feels it can do no wrong is one big reason why the Democratic party, IMHO, is headed towards obsolescence (barring a dramatic turnaround). Democrats anxiously await a split in the Republican party — it will come, but not to the benefit of Dems. It will come naturally in order to fill the vacuum left by a once-great party that has become nothing more than a haven for angry fringers and finger-pointers.

  • http://flamingflivvers.blogspot.com/ Carson Fire

    Wendy: Yet under rightwing presidents Reagon and Bush weՉ۪ve had large increases in size aand massive cronyism and corruption

    To be able to say that with a straight face, you have to ignore the massive cronyism and corruption under Democratic administrations.

    But I guess you don’t consider Clinton cronies “cronies” because there’s no such thing as a non-Republican “crony”.

  • http://flamingflivvers.blogspot.com/ Carson Fire

    BTW, regarding FEMA: our mayor of Dallas (a Democrat and former fourth-estater) this morning in a press conference blasted FEMA for not having a more massive presence right now in *Dallas*.

    I’m sure FEMA is smaller than it should be, but to have a massive presence in every city throughout the south all at the same time? Surely FEMA should be an organizational outfit, not a massive army unto itself. Otherwise, the outfit needs far more changes than the cosmetic shoving around it got from the 9/11 commission. I must be missing something here.

    Mayor Reporter also said that the city is going to step up and “do what the government couldn’t do”, a couple days after kicking out the volunteers who were already doing it, and after the refugees at the shelters have already decreased by a full quarter thanks to quick hiring and housing.

  • Old Grouch

    Just want to throw out a few points to add to the discussion.Brown didn’t get hired into the position of FEMA Director, he was already with FEMA (general counsel, IIRC) and was promoted, at the recommendation of his predecessor.The position of FEMA Director is subject to confirmation by the Senate. Brown was confirmed. (Apparantly only four senators attended the confirmation hearing, and there weren’t any substantial questions raised about his qualifications.)Brown is a lawyer, as was the previous FEMA Director.FEMA has traditionally been a bureaucratic-coordinating agency, working to assist state/local authorities. They’re not a “massive army,” they write checks and draw resources from other federal agencies or hire private contractors. (Whether that is sufficient for today’s needs is certainly open to question!) So we’ve got an agency with a bureaucratic mindset and tradition, headed by lawyers (and “general counsel” type lawyers tend to be better at getting the paperwork and procedures “just so,” as opposed to taking initiative in unpredicted situations). Neither the President, nor his Director of Homeland Security, nor the Senate appear to have had any concerns about his suitability, or about the way the FEMA defined its mission.And Brown probably could have done a credible job in LA if he had been getting the information he needed from state and local authorities. (I haven’t noticed any more than the usual grumbes concerning FEMA’s post-Katrina operations in Florida.) But in Louisana FEMA wasn’t getting that information, and it appears that it took Brown a while to realize what was happening and to “wire around” the dead channels. Thus his unbelievable Nightline interview in which he said FEMA had “just learned [that day]” about the people at the Convention Center (after three days of television reports). Again, possible explanation, not excuse! What was needed was to have someone in charge who could exercise initiative; what we had was a bureaucrat.

  • Old Grouch

    Bah, Buzzmachine doesn’t like HTML tags (oh, for “Preview”). More readable version of the above:

    Just want to throw out a few points to add to the discussion:

    (1) Brown didn’t get hired into the position of FEMA Director, he was already with FEMA (general counsel, IIRC) and was promoted, at the recommendation of his predecessor.
    (2) The position of FEMA Director is subject to confirmation by the Senate. Brown was confirmed. (Apparantly only four senators attended the confirmation hearing, and there weren’t any substantial questions raised about his qualifications.)
    (3) Brown is a lawyer, as was the previous FEMA Director.FEMA has traditionally been a bureaucratic-coordinating agency, working to assist state/local authorities. They’re not a “massive army,” they write checks and draw resources from other federal agencies or hire private contractors. (Whether that is sufficient for today’s needs is certainly open to question!)

    So we’ve got an agency with a bureaucratic mindset and tradition, headed by lawyers (and “general counsel” type lawyers tend to be better at getting the paperwork and procedures “just so,” as opposed to taking initiative in unpredicted situations). Neither the President, nor his Director of Homeland Security, nor the Senate appear to have had any concerns about his suitability, or about the way the FEMA defined its mission.

    And Brown probably could have done a credible job in LA if he had been getting the information he needed from state and local authorities. (I haven’t noticed any more than the usual grumbes concerning FEMA’s post-Katrina operations in Florida.) But in Louisana FEMA wasn’t getting that information, and it appears that it took Brown a while to realize what was happening and to “wire around” the dead channels. Thus his unbelievable Nightline interview in which he said FEMA had “just learned [that day]” about the people at the Convention Center (after three days of television reports).

    Again, possible explanation, not excuse! What was needed was to have someone in charge who could exercise initiative; what we had was a bureaucrat.

  • Chancy

    George Bush was on vacation and speaking in the western states when he sould have been showing leadership by being IN the White House and being a hands on leader. No amount of blaming others down the line will work in this coverup.

  • Chancy

    Andrew Sullivan quotes Newt Gingrich on “plenty of blame to go ALL around”

    http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2005_09_04_dish_archive.html#112629178683122146

    QUOTE FOR THE DAY III: “For the last week the federal government and its state and local counterparts have consistently been behind the curve. The American people overwhelmingly know that the current situation is totally unacceptable,” and for that reason, “it is a mistake to get trapped into defending the systems and processes which clearly failed.” – Newt Gingrich, getting it.

  • DonDon

    “Lessons will repeat themselves until they are learned …”

    All the fingerpointing (dem/rep, local/state/fed, residents being dumb, etc.) is largely irrelevant and incremental. Two preventable things stand out as tragic.
    1. Those poor souls who wanted to get out, but could not. A terrible falure that was wholly preventable.
    2. A problem that could have been solved with $200M (shoring up the levees) will now cost $40B. This one is not even ideological, but all about 35 years of locking up re-election (pork) at the cost of the greater good.

    The day we as citizens elect our officials based on a bigger view, based on the fading notion of what is in the broader best interest, is the day our gov’t becomes enlightened, the day it “sees the forest through the trees,” the day it regularly makes decisions that render predictable events like broken levees a thing of the past.

    “… One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Maureen, et al:
    Simple and obviuos difference: Brown is an appointee, a crony at that, and he can be fired. Mayors and governors need to be voted out of office and that happens when it happens. I have said here before that they will meet their fate at the hands of the voters. But Brown was in there to do a job he was doing badly and that needed to be dealt with; that is a matter of management, or mismanagement.

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    Carsonfire: Dallas’ mayor has some experience in dealing with the likes of FEMA, and you are well aware that a member of the city’s staff has just had to leave because of scandal involving hiring contributors as contractors onto the city payroll. That should give her a lot of practice dealing with this administration.

  • Pingback: Project Nothing! » Blog Archive » Jarvis on FEMA’s ‘Brownie’ departure:

  • Mike G

    George Bush was on vacation and speaking in the western states when he sould have been showing leadership by being IN the White House and being a hands on leader.

    Because, of course, the telephone hasn’t been invented yet. Or do you think if he had stood there he could have repelled the hurricane by the invocation of his dark powers?

    Simple and obviuos difference: Brown is an appointee, a crony at that, and he can be fired. Mayors and governors need to be voted out of office and that happens when it happens.

    Okay, Jeff, how long before either Blanco or Nagin accepts the teensiest bit of responsibility for what happened? How long before any of the pork-peddlers in Congress does? Bush deserves some blame, but the reason New Yorkers saved themselves and each other, and New Orleansians stayed behind and screwed things up and whined for big daddy gummint to do something, has a lot more to do with the dependency culture and corruption of Louisiana than it does with cronyism at FEMA, as scummy as it is.

  • rick_d

    Yup, mayors and governors can be voted out or recalled, that’s solely up to the people of New Orleans and Louisiana. I suspect there’ll be a large percentage of absentee ballots when the time comes.

    This Brown…demotion(?) is the nearest thing to a sacking we’ve seen from this administration since they ran Christie Whitman out of town on a rail; ironically, for *trying* to do her job. Call the Brown affair a sack-a-hack. Who knows, maybe the prez will discover it felt good and clean some more house (yeah, right)?

    Medals all around!

  • cardeblu

    Brown was in charge of FEMA during the 4 hurricanes that hit Florida last year, as well as Katrina when she it Florida before hitting 3 MORE STATES. He did well in those situations and in the situations of MS and AL. The ONLY problem has been with LA/NO.

    Hmmm, I wonder what the difference is…

    I guess my my husband’s boss was correct when he used to say,
    “One OH SHIT!! wipes out 10 Attaboys.”

  • http://www.bucko.com TheBuckStopsThere!

    Based on comments from the Republicans in leadership and their supporters, it’s good to know where their hearts are.

    “so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them.” –Former First Lady Barbara Bush

    “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” –President Bush

    “It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level….It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.” –House Speaker Dennis Hastert

    Check out link below for more …

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/currentevents/a/katrinaquotes.htm

  • London Moore

    Keeping you safe? That’s not FEMA’s job. You should read this blog entry, http://www.liberalconservative.com/2005/09/mike-brown-booted.html, way more accurate portrayal of what is really going on. I believe there is also an entry there that explains who to blame, and Brown isn’t the one.