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September 07, 2005

The Brown memo: While people were dying

As the details of Michael Brown's "qualifications" for his high post come pouring out, I decided I wanted to know how he got by a Senate hearing. Did everybody play hear, see and speak no evil?

No luck. Can't find the vote at the Senate nominations database on Thomas Can't find the vote in the Senate Homeland Security Committee nominations database, though some from the relevant time period are there. Googled my fingers off with no luck, though I did discover a couple other people are looking, too, without luck.

I did find transcript of his 2002 confirmation hearings for the deputy director's job, at which Sen. Joe Liebermann said "I will certainly support your nomination. I will do my best to move it through the Committee as soon as possible..." So we know the name of least one of the guys who was asleep at the switch.

Obviously a bunch more were snoozing, too, as they "advised and consented" to the appointment of Mr. Brown -- and his vast experience in running a horse race association -- to a job of critical importance to our safety.

During his 2002 confirmation hearings, he said how pleased he was that his "friend Joe Allbaugh, whom I have known for some 25 years, has asked me to serve with him. Our friendship goes back many years."

Joe Allbaugh, of course, was George Bush's chief of staff during his -governor-of-Texas days, and managed Mr. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, and got FEMA's top job for his reward.

So there you have it. The campaign guy got a critical job and soon gave another one to a buddy who was even less qualified.
Hell, even the local pols would be bashful about a move that brazen.

So Brown's cluelessness can't really be a surprise, though the depth of it is. Here's a Brown memo AP posted today. Keep in mind as you read it that it was written five hours into Katrina's assault on New Orleans, a time when a flooded, helpless city as as certain as night following day.

Asking Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's permission to begin assemblying personnel, it outlines various procedures and offers advice, for example: how the "role of assigned personnel" included "convey(ing) a positive image of disaster operations" and about going to "Altanta, Georgia, for Community Relations Training" en route to whichever part of the three-state disaster area they might finally be assigned.

The ever on-top-of-it Mr. Brown even advised "assigned personnel" to "bring appropriate clothing (walking shorts acceptable)."

And people were dying.

Posted by jcb at September 7, 2005 01:03 AM


Since the current theme here seems to be FEMA MUST DIE! (and I couldn't agree more), I thought you might enjoy this blog about FEMA failures. It's also starting to become obvious to everyone that Michael Brown has to go. It's also obvious to those of us of the libertarian bent that large government bureaucracies are not especially adept at fast response to disasters. They are mostly about turf building and protection and red tape. My opinion is that we should ditch both FEMA and the Homeland Security atrocity.

For your reading pleasure: http://femafailures.blogspot.com/

Posted by: paladin at September 7, 2005 11:23 AM

Thanks for the link.

QC blogger The Inside Dope is pretty fixated, too; has up lots of good links.

Posted by: jcb at September 7, 2005 03:28 PM

Might be a tad off-topic but I found this blog:


to be interesting if you guys haven't seen it already. This guy and some of his coworkers holed up in a datacenter in downtown NOLA that's actually been able to stay up with generators and whatnot. He has been able to blog through the whole thing. If I were them I would be working on getting the data replicated on the servers and getting the hell out of there.

Backn on topic, I think if FEMA were under the direct command of the Pentagon aid would have gotten there sooner.

Posted by: t at September 7, 2005 07:43 PM

Paladin, back to the future of waht used to be FEMA -- fear that natural-disaster capability would be lost in "security" concerns was expressed by some senators in the hearing I linked to above. Brown talked about a unified response plan that would work in either disaster/terrorism scenario. Course,we've seen that one in action now.

Sen. Clinton's got a bill in to split off FEMA, restore cabinet status. Not that that would do any good with a Michael Brown in charge.

And rebuilding...

Hastert caught hell for saying maybe no federal funds to rebuild N.O., but he's essentially right that just rebuilding doesn't make much sense. Lots of people busy making that case on environmental grounds.

That discussion gets pretty murky, but the clear thing is that the river's been channelized over the last couple of hundred years; it's narrower, straighter and runs faster. Been watching that process at work for 30 years. Shoots its load ever further out in the gulf instead of tip-toeing around, building land outward, as it did for millions of years.

Some serious re-thinking needed, or things'll just get worse. Hope the boys in d.c. react a little more agilely on this one.

Posted by: jcb at September 7, 2005 11:58 PM

t, thank you for the link, too.

Good stuff. Couple of techies here admired the resourcefulness on display.

Did notice that lots of NO sites, government and otherise, pretty much stayed up, and updated. Better planning by webguys than some others, I guess.

Posted by: jcb at September 8, 2005 02:28 PM