Saturday, September 10, 2005

Two FEMA links

I want to call your attention to two of the blogs I regularly read. Both have a follow-up story on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which must share a considerable part of the blame for the botched rescue efforts in New Orleans. Each blog has a distinctive angle.

B2 at Toner Mishap summarizes a Time article. Allegedly, Michael Brown falsified his resume to obtain the job as head of FEMA.

The implicit question is, does this let President Bush off the hook for making the appointment, which has had such disastrous consequences? Or is it still relevant that Michael Brown is a buddy of a buddy of GWB? (Brown attended college with Joseph Allbaugh, who preceded him as the head of FEMA, and who was a close political confidant of GWB.)

Meanwhile, Aaron passes along this little tidbit of information. FEMA has gathered 1,400 fire fighters to assist them with their workload. Sounds like a good move, right? But, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, they are employing the fire fighters to do public relations work.

Some of the fire fighters didn't know they had been recruited for PR work, and so they quit in disgust. They
peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic. "I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.
Excuse the strong language, but Ms. Hudak's statement is unbe-fucking-lievable. Even if the PR work is legitimate, surely it can be handled by someone who doesn't have the specialized, invaluable training of a firefighter.

President Bush has fired Michael Brown, but perhaps he should consider scrapping the whole agency and starting fresh.


At 1:35 PM, September 10, 2005, Blogger 49erDweet said...

Q, you are right. GWB got caught with his hand in the political cookie-jar on this one, IMHO, and has to take the blame for floating this guy into a directorate when he was such a light-weight. It makes no difference it is a common tactic, perfected by many presidents before him. It happened to him, he owes one!

You missed the best part of the firefighters story. Before the 1400 experienced firefighters from departments all over the country could hand out pamphlets, they had to be "trained" for a full day in classes in Atlanta, including --- a drumroll please --- a class on "sexual harassment".

Maybe FEMA knows something about firefighters we don't, or maybe they are simply doomed as an agency, and don't know it.

UNBELIEVABLE. (But now Q knows why I distrust bureaurocrats so much, even tho I were one). ;)

At 8:44 PM, September 10, 2005, Blogger Mary P. said...

Oh, my. I don't know what to say. I am honestly at a complete loss for words.

At 8:43 AM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

I've been reflecting on Ms. Hudak's comments, and here is my analysis.

The problem with bureaucrats is one that is deep-seated in human nature, and pops up in other contexts as well. Once human beings have established an institution, they tend to want to preserve it forever — even when it is no longer fulfilling its mandate.

Some churches, for example, fall into this category. In Canada, at least, I suspect you could close half of them and the Church (capital "C") would be much better positioned for mission as a result. But just try to persuade any specific congregation to close its doors.

And that's what I see at work here. FEMA has evolved a new mission: its own survival. Ms. Hudak's thinking proceeds along the following lines.

Fire fighters have credibility in a situation like the disaster in New Orleans. Someone else wouldn't be nearly as effective in the PR role.

It's perfectly legitimate to divert fire fighters from rescuing people to rescuing FEMA (from the bad press it has received) because it is such an important cause.

Fire fighters should understand the importance of this cause. Any fire fighter who isn't committed to it is not worthy of respect as a fire fighter or as an American.

That's how far Ms. Hudak has strayed from any comprehension of FEMA's true purpose. The survival of the institution has become an end in itself, not a means to an end (the rescue of people after a catastrophic event).

At 11:31 AM, September 11, 2005, Blogger 49erDweet said...

Sadly, Q is spot on. FEMAns believe their motives are pure, so everything that flows from their actions must likewise be (in some peculiar way) holy. Truly, it is a dogma disconnect.

RIP, FEMA. Comment amplified on my homepage.

At 3:26 PM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

There needs to be a general housecleaning. The lack of trust is just too much to overcome.


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