Saturday, September 10, 2005

More on Brownie's padded resume

From LA Times:

Dishonesty May Have Been Last Straw
The FEMA director is sent back to Washington after discrepancies on his resume surface. For Bush, replacing an official is a rare move.By Maura Reynolds and Ken SilversteinTimes Staff WritersSeptember 10, 2005WASHINGTON — For more than a week, President Bush withstood mounting pressure to fire Michael D. Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But it was not until revelations that Brown might have misrepresented his qualifications on his resume that the president took the rare step of removing an aide from his responsibilities.Brown's unceremonious recall to Washington on Friday suggested to some that for the Bush administration, Brown's real error might not have been FEMA's inadequate response to the hurricane but dishonesty."The Bush people do not look kindly on someone leading them mildly astray, which is what his resume did," said David Gergen, who has advised Republican and Democratic administrations on crisis management. "The code is: 'You be straight with us and work hard, and we'll be loyal to you.' And he violated the code." Bush is known for his allegiance to his staff, and Brown, a former Republican Party official, is one of only a few senior aides moved aside in the five years of his presidency. Two others, former White House economic advisor Lawrence B. Lindsey and former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, were forced to resign in the president's first term after they made public comments that were perceived as disloyal to the president.Brown has been directed to return to administering FEMA nationally. And it may have been Brown's loyalty to the president that saved him from being fired outright as the crisis in the Gulf Coast worsened. But Washington observers said removing him from directing operations in the hurricane zone demonstrated a lack of confidence that was the equivalent of sacking him. "When you get a sign like this, it's only a matter of time until he resigns," said Republican consultant Glen Bolger. "Even though it runs against the president's nature to do it, this is a recognition that Brown didn't have anybody's confidence to get the problems fixed." Pressure from Democrats was not a critical factor, Republicans said. It was that fellow Republicans — many from hurricane-prone states such as Florida — privately pleaded with the White House to remove Brown. They told him Brown had been ineffective in past rescue efforts, and no one in the region had confidence in his ability to manage.There was a "lot of discontent" about Brown's leadership, said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). "A lot of folks the White House and the president trust were calling and expressing a lack of confidence," Bolger said. "It's not [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi who has that kind of influence." Moreover, the resume scandal appeared to give the president additional cover for taking action against Brown. Charles Cook, an independent Washington political analyst and editor of the Cook Political Report, said the allegations of dishonesty helped the president avoid acknowledging that he hired the wrong person. "This is a president who doesn't like to admit mistakes, and hiring Brown was obviously a mistake," Cook said. "This was a way to not run him out of town on a stake but still get him out of town." The resume allegations surfaced late Thursday when Time magazine reported on its website that Brown appeared to have misrepresented his employment history. For instance, the resume he submitted for his 2002 Senate confirmation hearing lists him as serving as "assistant city manager, police, fire and emergency services" in the 1970s for the city of Edmond, Okla. But according to Edmond spokeswoman Claudia Deakins, city records list his title as "assistant to the city manager." Bill Dashner, the former Edmond city manager to whom Brown reported, said Brown exercised "no authority or power." "He was an administrative assistant," Dashner told The Times in a telephone interview from Las Vegas, where he has retired. "He had nothing to do with emergency services. He did what I told him to do. I'd say, 'Mike, do this,' and he'd report back." "I feel sorry for him," Dashner added. "But, dammit, when you submit a resume, you don't put a lie in it, especially when you're going to work for the president of the United States." A second allegation involves a copy of Brown's resume posted on Findlaw.com, stating he earned an award as "outstanding political science professor, Central State University." Charles Johnson, a spokesman for the university, now known as University of Central Oklahoma, said the institution has turned up no records that he was a faculty member. But he could not rule out that Brown may have been an adjunct instructor. Officials were searching off-campus records to find out."As far as I know, we have no record of his being a professor here," Johnson said.The Findlaw resume also states that Brown served as "director, Oklahoma Christian Home … 1983-present." An official at the Edmond, Okla., nursing home's administrative office, said she did not remember him and said a search of board records found only one reference. "Today, I dug through all our materials, board minutes and correspondence, and found that he was on the board but only attended one meeting, in January of 1986," said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.FEMA released a statement late Friday disputing the Time report, alleging it "is based on online information Mr. Brown has never seen." "Mike Brown did serve as an adjunct professor of law at Oklahoma City University, was named an outstanding political science senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, was a member of the development committee on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Christian Home, and did serve as assistant to the city manager of Edmond, Okla.," the statement said.FEMA did not offer an explanation for the discrepancies between Brown's official resume and the agency's description of his professional experience. A spokesman for Findlaw said the company posts resumes supplied by the subject or their employer. "The information in Brown's attorney profile originally came from Mr. Brown or a delegate or the firm he was with," said Kyle Christensen. He said Brown's directory listing was placed in August 1997 and last updated in January 1998. Political observers said it was too soon to judge the seriousness of the resume discrepancies. But the allegations were more than enough to serve as the last straw after rising complaints. If nothing else, Cook said, the focus on Brown's resume revealed that even if completely accurate, it was thin on experience in emergency management. He added that Brown's main qualification was years of service with the Republican Party. "FEMA had become a dumping ground for political hacks," Cook said. "It exposed that for all the world to see."

Times staff writer Richard Simon contributed to this report.

Spoof Article

Jeff Gannon to replace Mike Brown as head of FEMA


Friday, September 09, 2005

Physician who told Cheney to go F*ck Himself Detained & Cuffed

From Oped News:

Physician who told Cheney to go F*ck Himself Lost his Home in Katrina, Detained, Cuffed by Cheney's M-16-carrying Goons
by Jackson Thoreau

Dr. Ben Marble, a young emergency room physician who plays in alternative rock bands and does art on the side, needs our help. Since he was the one who told Dick Cheney to "go fuck yourself" on Sept. 8, that's the least we can do.

Marble is a complex guy, to say the least. Some of the lyrics he writes can be considered harsh by some – personally what I've heard is very much on target - but he has a softer side as an organizer of breast cancer fund-raisers, not to mention an ER doctor.

When he, like thousands of others, lost his home due to Hurricane Katrina last week, it was the single most traumatic week of his life.

That led to his Sept. 8 confrontation with the man who best represents the worst of the most callous, heartless, shittiest administration in U.S. history.As Marble explains, he was driving to his destroyed house Sept. 8 in Gulfport, Ms., when military police refused to allow him to cross a barricade that was about 200 feet from his home.

They forced him to drive an extra 20 minutes and spend even more on gasoline."Thanks to Dubya Gump and Mr. Cheney, gas is really expensive and extremely hard to get anywhere Katrina has destroyed," Marble wrote. "So needless to say, I was extremely aggravated that they wouldn't let me pass."Suddenly a long line of dark cars pulled up, and they honked at Marble to back up to let them through the barricade that supposedly no one could drive through. That only made Marble madder so he did what most of us would do – or at least consider doing."I waved a middle finger at the caravan," Marble wrote.

After driving the extra 20 minutes and filming video of destruction along the way, he made it to his home. Marble overheard a neighbor say that Cheney was down the street talking to people. That's when he got the idea to go meet Dr. Evil himself."I am no fan of Mr. Cheney because of several reasons," Marble wrote. "For those who don't know, Mr. Cheney is infamous for telling Senator [Pat] Leahy 'go fu** yourself' on the Senate floor. Also, I am not happy about the fact that thousands have died due to the slow action of FEMA, not to even mention the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, i.e. Iraq."

So Marble asked a couple police officers if he and a friend could walk down to Cheney. They told him Cheney was "looking forward” to talking to “the locals.”"So we grabbed my Canon digital rebel and my Sony videocamera and started walking down the street," Marble wrote. "And then right in front of the destroyed tennis court I used to play on Dick Cheney was giving a pep rally, talking to the press. The Secret Service guys patted us down and waved the wands over us, and then let us pass."

As he stood about 10 feet away from Cheney and his friend and some camera operators from CNN and other media filmed the scene, Marble suddenly yelled, "Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney! Go fuck yourself, you asshole!"

Hey, at least Marble was polite. After all, he referred to Cheney as “Mr. Cheney.”"I had no intention of harming anyone but merely wanted to echo Mr. Cheney's infamous words back at him," Marble wrote. "At that moment, I noticed the Secret Service guys with a panic-stricken look on their faces, like they were about to tackle me, so I calmly walked away back to my former house."

His friend videotaped a little bit longer and then came back to Marble’s house. As they were salvaging a few things from Marble's home, two military police waving M-16's showed up and said they were lookingfor someone who fit Marble's description who had cursed at Cheney."I told them I was probably the person they were looking for, and so they put me in handcuffs and 'detained' me for about 20 minutes or so," Marble wrote. "My right thumb went numb because the cuffs were on so tight, but they were fairly courteous and eventually released me after getting all my contact info.

They said I had NOT broken any laws so I was free to go."

Go to eBay here and place a bid for this important video to help Marble raise some needed funds. I have done so and was at least at one time the high bidder.Marble also has an Internet site with photographs of some damage in his town at http://www.hurricanekatrinasucked.com/. A photo of him is here, and you can also email Marble at clone9@yahoo.com.Dr. Ben Marble, you rock. May we all return the favor.

More links on Ben Marble:


Compassionate Conservatism

Tom DeLay

From Houston Chronicle Blog:

DeLay to evacuees: 'Is this kind of fun?'

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it's like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.
--Purva Patel

Richard Baker

From DCCC:
From WSJ's Washington Wire (sub req'd):
Rep. Baker of Baton Rouge is overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."
Baker explains later he didn't intend flippancy but has long wanted to improve low-income housing.

Mark Williams

From Crooks & Liars:

Williams: ..they didn't have the necessary brains and common sense to get out of the way of a Cat 5 Hurricane and then when it hit them- stood on the side of the convention Center expiring while reporters were coming and going...

Morris:...that's just sickening---that is atrocious what you are saying...He calls Kanye West a racist while he spews racism.

Willimas: The only role race plays in this is that the American black population has been the prototype for an entire race of people being, being turned into a grouip of dependents of the government--trapped there, I'm using that word very loosely are screaming we want help, we want help..

Mark, the people were locked in the Convention center and armed personel wouldn't let them off of the bridge you fool.

Video WMP


VideBittorent-WMP-higher quality


Williams: Blacks are too stupid to get out of the way of a hurricane...

Morris: I'm afraid you shouldn't be an American.

Barbara Bush

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

George W. Bush

where to start?

FEMA Nixes Grassroots Radio Station for Hurricane Evacuees

From the VillageVoice:

Bureaucracy KO's info source at the Astrodome
by Sarah FergusonSeptember 8th, 2005 5:04 PM

Although the effort was trumpeted in the media as an example of grassroots ingenuity in the face of disaster, local officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency have nixed an attempt by Houston activists to set up a low-power radio station at the Astrodome that would have broadcast Hurricane Katrina relief information for evacuees.

The project was unplugged even though it had key support. On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission quickly granted temporary licenses to broadcast inside the Astrodome and the adjacent Reliant Center. The station was also backed by the Houston Mayor’s office and Texas governor Rick Perry. But local officials said FEMA bureaucrats KO’d the station—dubbed KAMP “Dome City Radio”—because of “security concerns.”

“They wanted unlimited access to the buildings, which we could not give to anyone in the media,” said Gloria Roemer, a spokesperson for Harris County, which has jurisdiction over the Astrodome complex. Currently reporters are allowed in only on 15-minute guided tours.

According to Roemer, FEMA officials also believed they could not allocate “scarce” electricity, office space, and phone and Internet access to the volunteer station—even though activists say they offered to run the station on batteries and use their own cellphones.

Supporters of KAMP, which was set to launch at 95.3 FM, blame red tape and bureaucrats seeking to “manage the news.”

“I’m very disappointed,” said Councilmember Ada Edwards, who represents a mostly black district in central Houston and had issued a letter of support for the station. “One of the real challenges of this big tragedy has been access to communication--open and honest communication. I really hoped this would be an open outlet for people to get information that was unscripted and that would really address their needs.

“But it seems par for the course in terms of how this whole thing has been rolling out with FEMA and the Red Cross trying to keep tight control and manage the news,” Edwards complained. “It’s really sad when these people feel they have to sanitize all the time.”

Activists with Houston Indymedia and Pacifica radio first brainstormed the idea over the weekend when they visited the Astrodome and spoke to swamped relief workers and survivors desperate for information about emergency services and news from back home.

“People were asking things like how can I get my FEMA check, do my kids need shots for school, can I get a free cellphone, how do I get out information about missing family members,” says Jim Ellinger, a freelance radio consultant from Austin. “This is complicated stuff that you can’t really address on a booming public address system. The mainstream radio stations are more focused on broadcasting to the general public about where to donate to hurricane relief, so there was no place for survivors to go to get what they need. ”

“We talked to cops, volunteers, church groups—everyone said it was a good idea,” Ellinger added.

But Astrodome officials were apparently more concerned about evacuees fighting over the radios. “They were worried about noise and people stealing them or that people would be tuning in to gangsta rap on other Houston stations, which they said could incite violence,” says Tish Stringer, a graduate teacher at Rice University and organizer with Houston Indymedia. After several days of back and forth, activists agreed to provide 10,000 cheap, Walkman-style radios with batteries.

They had 1,000 sitting in the parking lot and 9,000 more waiting in a warehouse--with a pledge from Sony to donate an additional 10,000 radio—when the local FEMA officials rejected the plan.

But donated radios continue to pour into KPFT, the local Pacifica station, and volunteers say they plan to begin distributing them anyway in hopes they can set up some kind of station in the Astrodome parking lot, or else partner with KPFT to provide news for hurricane survivors.
“Radios are powerful tools in the hands of the people,” says Hannah Sassaman of the Prometheus Radio Project, which has helped set up dozens of low-power FM stations across the country, and has been pressing Texas officials to move forward on this one. “In a case like this, having a low-power station that can deal specifically with the needs of displaced people is a no-brainer.”

Although the number of evacuees housed at the Astrodome and George R. Brown Convention Center downtown has dwindled from 25,000 to about 8,000, many of the survivors remain temporarily lodged in smaller shelters and private houses around Houston. All told, the FCC has issued some 20 temporary licenses for a low-power emergency relief stations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, including a volunteer-run station in Louisiana. “

Brownie Speaks

What's he going to do now?

"I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep...And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims."

"I'm anxious to get back to D.C. to correct all the inaccuracies and lies,"

Why is he no longer in charge of the Hurrican Katrina effort?

"You'd have to ask Secretary Chertoff why he made that decision"

Has he been made into a Scapegoat?

"By the press, yes. By the president, no."

"This story's not about me."

Why did the FEMA website post an incorrect biography of him?

"I have no clue"

Officials: Guard Deployment Hurt Response

There has been much speculation about whether or not Iraq deployments hurt the Katrina efforts. As thousands of Americans begged for help, Bush commented "We'll do both. We've got plenty of resources to do both"

From the Washington Post:

The Associated PressFriday, September 9, 2005; 3:19 PM

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- The deployment of thousands of National Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina struck hindered those states' initial storm response, military and civilian officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that "arguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.
"Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Blum.

Blum said that to replace those units' command and control equipment, he dispatched personnel from Guard division headquarters from Kansas and Minnesota shortly after the storm struck.
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., whose waterfront home here was washed away in the storm, told reporters that the absence of the deployed Mississippi Guard units made it harder for local officials to coordinate their initial response.

"What you lost was a lot of local knowledge," Taylor said, as well as equipment that could have been used in recovery operations.

"The best equipment went with them, for obvious reasons," especially communications equipment, he added.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week that the Pentagon has the ability to cope with both Katrina and the Iraq war: "We can and will do both."

Asked on Tuesday about critics who said the commitment of large numbers of troops to the Iraq conflict hindered the military's response to Hurricane Katrina, Rumsfeld said, "Anyone who's saying that doesn't understand the situation."

Blum said that overall, the Iraq mission for Guard units across the nation is not limiting the military's ability to expand and continue the rescue and recovery operations in storm-battered states.

"Iraq and other overseas commitments do not inhibit our ability to sustain this effort here at home," Blum said in an interview with three reporters who flew here with him from Washington on Friday.

Blum and Taylor toured the heavily damaged areas around Bay St. Louis. They also met with Guardsmen and other troops who are helping clean up and provide emergency assistance to those displaced by the wall of water that wiped out many homes and flooded a widespread area miles north of the coastline.
© 2005 The Associated Press

Michael D. Brown

Before it's scrubbed, check out FEMA's bio on "Brownie"

Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response

Michael D. Brown was nominated by President George W. Bush as the first Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response in the newly created Department of Homeland Security in January 2003. As the head of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Under Secretary Brown leads federal disaster response and recovery operations and coordinates disaster activities with more than two dozen federal agencies and departments and the American Red Cross. He also oversees the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration, and initiates proactive mitigation activities.
Additionally, Under Secretary Brown helps the Secretary of Homeland Security ensure the effectiveness of emergency responders, and directs the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Integration Center, the National Disaster Medical System and the Nuclear Incident Response Team.
Under Secretary Brown has led Homeland Security’s response to more than 164 presidentially declared disasters and emergencies, including the 2003 Columbia Shuttle disaster and the California wildfires in 2003. In 2004, Mr. Brown led FEMA’s thousands of dedicated disaster workers during the most active hurricane season in over 100 years, as FEMA delivered aid more quickly and more efficiently than ever before.
Previously, Mr. Brown served as FEMA's Deputy Director and the agency's General Counsel. Shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Mr. Brown served on the President's Consequence Management Principal's Committee, which acted as the White House's policy coordination group for the federal domestic response to the attacks. Later, the President asked him to head the Consequence Management Working Group to identify and resolve key issues regarding the federal response plan. In August 2002, President Bush appointed him to the Transition Planning Office for the new Department of Homeland Security, serving as the transition leader for the EP&R Division.
Prior to joining FEMA, Mr. Brown practiced law in Colorado and Oklahoma, where he served as a bar examiner on ethics and professional responsibility for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and as a hearing examiner for the Colorado Supreme Court. He had been appointed as a special prosecutor in police disciplinary matters. While attending law school he was appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee of the Oklahoma Legislature as the Finance Committee Staff Director, where he oversaw state fiscal issues. His background in state and local government also includes serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight and as a city councilman.
Mr. Brown was also an adjunct professor of law for the Oklahoma City University.
A native of Oklahoma, Mr. Brown holds a bachelor's degree in Public Administration/Political Science from Central State University, Oklahoma. He received his J.D. from Oklahoma City University’s School of Law.

As of 2:34 Eastern 9/9/05, here are the latest press releases on FEMA's site:
FEMA Warns Of Fraudulent Practices In Aftermath Of Katrina, Sep 9
Emergency Assistance Flowing to Gulf Coast, Sep 9
Alabama Disaster Assistance Expanded, Sep 9

Listen to this:
Nicol Andrews, deputy strategic director in FEMA's office of public affairs, told Time the discrepencies were based on inaccurate information posted on various Web sites.

What Nicol Andrews is refering to is FEMA's Web site (and those that quote it)!

Brownie's Resume

Here is the Time article which is very possibly the real reason for today's "sidelining" of Brownie:

How Reliable Is Brown's Resume?
A TIME investigation reveals discrepancies in the FEMA chief's official biographies

When President Bush nominated Michael Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2003, Brown's boss at the time, Joe Allbaugh, declared, "the President couldn't have chosen a better man to help...prepare and protect the nation." But how well was he prepared for the job? Since Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA director has come under heavy criticism for his performance and scrutiny of his background. Now, an investigation by TIME has found discrepancies in his online legal profile and official bio, including a description of Brown released by the White House at the time of his nomination in 2001 to the job as deputy chief of FEMA. (Brown became Director of FEMA, succeeding Allbaugh, in 2003.)

Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

In response, Nicol Andrews, deputy strategic director in FEMA's office of public affairs, insists that while Brown began as an intern, he became an "assistant city manager" with a distinguished record of service. "According to Mike Brown," she says, "a large portion [of the points raised by TIME] is very inaccurate."

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA. Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at FindLaw.com — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University). "He may have been an adjunct instructor," says Johnson, but that title is very different from that of "professor." Carl Reherman, a former political science professor at the University through the '70s and '80s, says that Brown "was not on the faculty." As for the honor of "Outstanding Political Science Professor," Johnson says, "I spoke with the department chair yesterday and he's not aware of it." Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.

Speaking for Brown, Andrews says that Brown has never claimed to be a political science professor, in spite of what his profile in FindLaw indicates. "He was named the outstanding political science senior at Central State, and was an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City School of Law."

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

The FindLaw profile for Brown was amended on Thursday to remove a reference to his tenure at the International Arabian Horse Association, which has become a contested point.

Brown's FindLaw profile lists a wide range of areas of legal practice, from estate planning to family law to sports. However, one former colleague does not remember Brown's work as sterling. Stephen Jones, a prominent Oklahoma lawyer who was lead defense attorney on the Timothy McVeigh case, was Brown's boss for two-and-a-half years in the early '80s. "He did mainly transactional work, not litigation," says Jones. "There was a feeling that he was not serious and somewhat shallow." Jones says when his law firm split, Brown was one of two staffers who was let go.

— With reporting by Jeremy Caplan and Carolina A. Miranda/New York; Nathan Thornburgh/Baton Rouge; Levi Clark/Edmond; Massimo Calabresi and Mark Thompson/Washington

US emergency aid chief sidelined

Brownie, who has been doing a "heck of a job," is "sidelined"

From BBC:

The top US emergencies official is being removed from his role managing the Katrina relief effort, agencies report, quoting unnamed US officials.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is being sent back to Washington from Louisiana where he has been overseeing aid work.

Mr Brown has faced strong criticism over the pace of the rescue effort.

Allegations that Mr Brown was not properly qualified for his post recently surfaced in the US media.

According to the unnamed officials, Mr Brown is being replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm Thad W Allen, who has been overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts.

The officials added that Mr Brown was not being removed from his job as Fema director "at this time", AP news agency reports.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff took the decision to move Mr Brown, the sources said.

The BBC's Washington correspondent, Justin Webb, notes that questions over Mr Brown's eligibility for his post have further intensified the political pressure on the White House over its response to Hurricane Katrina.

Allegations have been raised that he padded his resume to exaggerate his previous experience in emergency management.

In parts of Biloxi, residents live in squalor as they wait for FEMA

The Bush Administration has made the point that 'there will be plenty of time for blame later' and right now is the time for action. I agree...

From KR Washington:

In parts of Biloxi, residents live in squalor as they wait for FEMA
By John SimermanKnight Ridder Newspapers

BILOXI, Miss. - As the Gulf Coast creeps back to life, some residents who remain in this city's ravaged eastern peninsula dwell in post-Katrina squalor, sleeping in molding, sludge-coated houses, digging holes for toilets and waiting for help.
Many haven't even contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but even for those who have, relief may be far off.
On Holley Street, a neighborhood of row houses, six neighbors whose homes have been marked as uninhabitable are sharing a vacant house, sleeping on flood-damaged mattresses. Newspapers and tarps cover the floor. The smell is of bleach, mold and acrid mud.
"I can't stay here but a couple more weeks. I'm tired of it," said Walter Chambers, 71, who's lived on Holley Street for two decades.
Chambers rode out Hurricane Katrina at home, in neck-high water with his wife, Pastora. They spent one night sleeping in a shelter hallway, then moved into the vacant house three doors down from their home.
In all, about 15 people, mostly renters, remain on the block where Katrina shoved many homes off their brick columns. Along the block, where none of the houses have electricity, orange spray paint marks houses that shouldn't be entered. Some residents ignore the warnings.
Louis Russell sleeps on a sofa on his front porch, behind the massive stump of an oak tree that Katrina yanked down across the corner of the house. Russell dug a hole out back for a latrine.
"Ain't no use in running. The worst is over. I'm going to kick it out and see what happens," he said. "What we need is some portable toilets."
Sherry Hamilton and her husband, Jessie Walker, sleep on their front porch, on a mattress she dragged from the floodwaters. The porch, buckled by Katrina, slants sharply toward the front of their home.
"I'm just disgusted by the whole idea of everything. What can I say? God bless me," she said as she traipsed through the sludge in her ravaged home. "As soon as I hear from FEMA, I'm getting out of here."
FEMA has ordered about 270,000 travel trailers for the Gulf Coast and is searching for rental housing near and far, said Tom Hegele, a FEMA spokesman.
But "this is not going to happen overnight. I wouldn't look for the 7th Cavalry to ride over the hill by tomorrow," he said. "I would not advise them to live in those conditions. You don't need to subject yourself to that."
Similar conditions exist in other pockets nearby, where shrimpers and east Biloxi stalwarts hold fort. At some point, city officials will order residents out and cordon off much of east Biloxi, said Vincent Creel, a city spokesman. A tent city also is in the works, he said.
"It's not going to be too much longer. I can't say days, weeks or months, but it's coming," Creel said. "We can't allow it to be unsafe for them or the city. Hopefully it won't come to the point where we have to force them to leave."
Creel said several services for Katrina victims are available within blocks of the neighborhood and that residents ultimately need to seek them out.
"You can't just wait for things to happen," he said. "This is not Domino's. We don't deliver."
(Simerman reports for the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times.

Katrina underscores Bush's isolated style

Last Friday, International News was reporting on Bush's "2nd" visit to the Hurricane area. US News was calling it his "3rd." I really don't think flying over something and looking out the window should be termed a "visit."

From Knight Ridder:

By Steven ThommaKnight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - As President Bush flew this week to the Gulf Coast for his second post-Katrina visit, an aide said the trip reflected Bush's usual routine of "seeing as much as possible and getting information from different places."

Not quite.

Bush did not visit with any angry evacuees in New Orleans. As Katrina approached, Bush and his top aides spent days apparently unaware that New Orleans might be flooded - despite many warnings, some from inside his own administration. Afterwards, he heaped praise on officials responsible for the slow and initially disorganized disaster-relief efforts. His aides dismiss demands that Bush hold someone accountable for failure, saying that's merely a distracting "blame game."

None of this should be a surprise. Bush has a long record of avoiding critics, rewarding loyalty even in the face of failure and shunning - even punishing - those who disagree with him. It's a management style that shapes how he governs - disdaining compromise with Democrats in Congress, for example - and one that brushes off whole sectors of the American electorate.
That could come back to haunt him, as is now evident in the two problems - Iraq and Katrina - that together have sent his approval ratings to the lowest levels of his presidency and threaten his second-term agenda.

His style of isolating himself from unwelcome voices pleases his core supporters, who don't want him to compromise, but it sacrifices the broader public appeal that helped Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton weather second-term setbacks. One new poll, from the independent Pew Research Center, suggests he is losing support even from Republicans and conservatives.
To Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the Bush administration's response to Katrina suggested "a real sense of arrogance. Loyalty and never admitting a mistake matters more than the truth. It has a Nixon feel to me."

Analyst Andrew Sullivan, who writes an idiosyncratic but often conservative Weblog, thinks Katrina unmasked Bush's weakness as an executive.

"I must say that the Katrina response does help me better understand the situation in Iraq," Sullivan said. "The best bet is that the president doesn't actually know what's happening there, is cocooned from reality, has no one in his high-level staff able to tell him what's actually happening, and has created a culture of denial and loyalty that makes fixing mistakes or holding people accountable all but impossible."

Bush allies insist he is engaged and pressing the government to fix all hurricane-related problems. But the public isn't much impressed, judging by his plummeting polls. One new survey by independent pollster John Zogby shows Bush would lose a hypothetical election to every modern president, including the much-maligned Jimmy Carter.

Bush's isolated management style is one factor hurting him. While his decision-making is usually cloaked in secrecy, the hurricane crisis showed some characteristic traits.
Denial of unpleasant realities, for example. On Sept. 1 Bush contended that no one could have foreseen that New Orleans might be flooded: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

Actually, a lot of people saw it coming. Three years ago, The New Orleans Times-Picayune published a lengthy examination of how likely that scenario was, and it got wide attention. In fact, Bush's own administration participated in a disaster drill for almost exactly this kind of catastrophe.

Bush himself has admitted in the past that he does not reach far for information.

"I glance at the headlines," Bush told Fox News in September 2003, but "I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who ... probably read the news themselves ... And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
Inside his administration, dissenting views are often stifled, and dissidents punished.
In 2002, the administration fired the head of the Army Corps Engineers after he continued to advocate spending increases for flood control after he'd been overruled. Michael Parker, a former Republican congressman from Mississippi, wanted a 40 percent spending increase, while Bush wanted a 10 percent cut.

In another example, the administration marginalized the Army chief of staff after he told Congress many more troops would be needed to secure Iraq. The administration called Gen. Eric K. Shinseki's views "wildly off the mark" and leaked word of his replacement 15 months before his retirement date, turning him into a lame duck.

When Bush convened an economic summit in 2002, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill later told writer Ron Suskind, the White House wanted to hear only from people who already supported Bush policies.

"A carefully vetted group of more than 240 executives, economists, and even a few labor leaders was being assembled," Suskind wrote. "They'd seem diverse and independent to the untrained eye. In fact, nearly every one would be a Bush supporter and many were major fundraisers. Attendance was, in a way, a reward for support."

While Bush likes to be surrounded by friendly faces, he avoids frowning ones. Since Katrina hit, Bush visited the Gulf Coast twice, but both times avoided angry evacuees - ostensibly so he wouldn't interfere with relief operations.

Some veteran Bush-watchers are skeptical of that White House explanation.

"They didn't want anything to be on TV showing a bunch of angry people hollering at the president," said George Edwards, a presidential scholar at Texas A&M University. "It would not have been a favorable scene unless he could handle it well, which he can't. Clinton could. He would be down there feeling their pain. But Bush can't."

As Edwards noted, many presidents have avoided that kind of public dressing down, but Bush doesn't just shun confrontation, he also avoids reaching out to those who disagree.

When Bush embarked on a 60-city campaign-style tour earlier this year to pitch partly privatizing Social Security, he spoke only to pre-screened audiences of friendly faces.
In Denver last March, three people were ejected from a Social Security townhall meeting because their car bore an anti-Iraq War bumper sticker. In Fargo, N.D., local Republicans prepared a blacklist to ban more than three dozen residents from Bush's venue.
Coincidentally, Bush's Social Security pitch steadily lost public support.

The president also has refused to speak to two major groups that represent millions of Americans, but have criticized him.

After one brief phone conversation in 2001, Bush has never met with the president of the AFL-CIO. He is the only president in the last half century who has not.

And Bush has never addressed the NAACP as president. "You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me," he once explained.

Top FEMA Jobs: No Experience Required

Michael Brown's time with the 'Arabian Horse Society' (or whatever it's called) is his qualification for running FEMA's dog and pony show.

From the LA Times:

Director Brown wasn't the agency's only senior official appointed under Bush with little or no background in dealing with natural disasters.

By Ken SilversteinTimes Staff

WASHINGTON — In the days since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown has come under withering attack, with critics charging that his lack of prior experience in dealing with natural disasters contributed to his agency's poor performance.But Brown is just one of at least five senior FEMA officials appointed under President Bush whose backgrounds showed few qualifications in disaster relief.As the administration struggles to counter negative national perceptions about its response, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the administration's FEMA appointees in remarks to reporters Thursday."You've got to have people at the top who respond to and are selected by presidents, and you pick the best people you can to do the jobs that need to be done," Cheney said while touring the stricken Gulf Coast. "We've also got some great career professionals, an absolute and vital part of the operation — couldn't do it without them."But Democrats in Congress have attacked Brown and other top FEMA appointees."FEMA is an important agency and needs to be run by professionals, not political cronies," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), the ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform. More than a year before the hurricane hit New Orleans, the head of a labor union representing FEMA workers sent a letter to members of Congress charging that "emergency managers at FEMA have been supplanted on the job by politically connected contractors and by novice employees with little background or knowledge" of disaster management. "As … professionalism diminishes, FEMA is gradually losing its ability to function and to help disaster victims," the letter said.People appointed to run domestic government agencies frequently have political connections. But for many top positions, some relevant background is required as well.Paul Light, a professor of organizational studies at New York University who has testified before Congress on FEMA's role in the Department of Homeland Security, said that for years, FEMA was a dumping ground for the politically connected.But during the Clinton years, Light said, FEMA Director James Lee Witt "built a serious hierarchy around expertise. Somewhere along the line, FEMA has returned to being a destination of last resort for political appointees." Brown, a career attorney who was active in Republican Party politics, was hired to be FEMA's general counsel by Joe Allbaugh, an old friend and the agency's first director under Bush. Before FEMA, Brown had worked for nearly a decade at the International Arabian Horse Assn. His responsibilities included supervising horse show judges.Allbaugh — a longtime aide to Bush who had managed his 2000 campaign — resigned as FEMA director in 2003 and opened a consulting firm that helped companies win contracts in Iraq. Brown, who had risen to become Allbaugh's top deputy, took charge.Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), a strong critic of Brown's even before Katrina, wants him removed. "When you're dealing with responding to a natural disaster, it's hard to do your job when you have no experience or background," said Lale Mamaux, Wexler's spokeswoman. Brown is not the only official who came to the agency with scant disaster management background. His acting deputy director, Patrick James Rhode, began his professional career as an "anchor/reporter with network-affiliated television stations in Alabama and Arkansas," according to his resume on FEMA's website.Rhode later did public relations work for several state agencies in Texas before becoming deputy director of national advance operations for Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Before moving to FEMA in 2003, Rhode served as a special assistant to the president and White House liaison with the Commerce Department. He donated $2,000 to Bush's 2004 campaign.Daniel Craig, director of FEMA's Recovery Division since October 2003, "is responsible for planning and executing the federal government's recovery efforts following major disasters," according to the FEMA website.Before coming to FEMA — he became a regional director based in Boston in 2001 — he worked for the Eastern Regional Office of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he "was responsible for Chamber-related legislative, political, and media initiatives in New England and the Atlantic coast," the website says. Craig previously worked as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn., and before that as a campaign advisor, political fundraiser and research analyst. Both Allbaugh and Brown were Oklahoma natives involved in that state's Republican politics. FEMA's acting deputy chief of staff, Brooks Altshuler, also hails from Oklahoma. And like Rhode, Altshuler was an advance man for Bush.Altshuler was a minor donor to the GOP in 2004, giving $250 to the Bush campaign and another $250 to the Republican National Committee. His father, Geoffrey, has donated $750 to Rep. Ernest J. Istook (R-Okla.) and in 2002 hosted a fundraiser for Oklahoma Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe at his home, according to campaign records and Inhofe's website.Scott R. Morris, who held Altshuler's job until May and now is a FEMA official in Florida, had been a GOP activist as far back as the 1996 presidential campaign of former Sen. Bob Dole, when he handled grass-roots activities and media strategies.He later served as "a media strategist for the George W. Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign," according to his resume. Morris donated $2,250 to Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.Morris' private sector career includes a stint as "marketing director for the world's leading provider of e-business applications software in California," his resume states.Natalie Rule, a FEMA spokeswoman, said Brown had received "on-the-job training" in dealing with more than 200 presidentially declared disasters since coming to the agency. Brown gained important background as assistant city manager for Edmond, Okla., and as chairman of the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, where he handled issues such as contingency planning and police negotiations, Rule said.Rule said other top FEMA appointees whose qualifications have been challenged also brought skills to the table. For example, both Rhode and Altshuler had logistics backgrounds from their work on Bush's advance team.In June 2004, Local 4060 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA workers, wrote to members of Congress to warn about alleged cronyism at the agency. The letter said the practice initially "took place mainly at the senior levels of FEMA, but it has now entered into the mid-level and working-level" of FEMA. "The ability of FEMA to manage emergencies and disasters is being seriously eroded," the letter said.

Texas Group That DeLay Advised Is Indicted

From the LA Times:

Committee took illegal corporate contributions to help GOP candidates, prosecutors allege.
A major employer group in Texas is also charged.

By Richard B. SchmittTimes Staff WriterSeptember 9, 2005

WASHINGTON — A Texas grand jury Thursday indicted a political action committee linked to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), alleging that it accepted illegal campaign contributions during the 2002 election that led to a historic realignment of the Texas Legislature. The charges, which include indictments against one of the state's oldest and largest employer groups, arise out of an investigation by local prosecutors, begun more than two years ago, into the use of corporate money to bankroll Republican candidates for state office. The indictments allege violations of a state law that bans corporate contributions to state legislative candidates.DeLay, one of the most powerful figures in Congress, was not named in the indictment. Three individuals associated with the political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, were indicted last year. In a statement, the House leader said the allegations were "limited to a political organization" and acknowledged he had voluntarily spoken with investigators last month at the Travis County district attorney's office, which is overseeing the probe. "Mr. DeLay explained to officials what he has always said publicly: His role … was limited to serving on the political action committee's advisory board along with other elected Texas officials and to appearing at fundraising events," DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said. "Mr. DeLay assured the district attorney's office that he was not involved in the day-to-day operations … and to his knowledge all activities were properly reviewed and approved by lawyers" for the political action committee. The indictments unsealed Thursday alleged that the Texas Assn. of Business, which represents employers in the state, and Texans for a Republican Majority worked together in a complicated scheme to circumvent the state's election code. Travis County Dist. Atty. Ronald Earle contended that "massive amounts of secret corporate wealth" had been illegally funneled into the coffers of Republican candidates during the 2002 campaign. The business group was charged with fraudulently soliciting money from corporations, and making illegal contributions, in violation of state election law. The political action committee was charged with illegally soliciting and accepting corporate contributions, including $20,000 from AT&T Corp. and $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.A lawyer for the Texas Assn. of Business, Roy Minton, said the state was attempting to criminalize activity protected by federal law. According to the indictments, the group paid more than $1.1 million in corporate money for mailings to voters and television advertising. "The indictments leave out all the federal law that there is as to the constitutional right of any business to inform the public concerning the voting record or any conduct on the part of candidates for office," Minton said. "That is not something that can be regulated by the state through its election code." Some advocates of campaign finance overhaul have suggested that the investigation and indictments essentially illustrate a conspiracy to bolster the Republican majority in Congress. After the GOP took control of the Texas Legislature in 2002, lawmakers the next year drew, at DeLay's behest, new congressional district maps that were credited with helping Republicans gain seats in Texas' congressional delegation in 2004. Republicans have denounced the politically charged investigation as partisan. Earle, the district attorney in Travis County, which includes the state capital, is a Democrat.

Chertoff's plans for FEMA

From the BostonGlobe:

FEMA's focus

HOMELAND SECURITY Secretary Michael Chertoff has plans to weaken the Federal Emergency Management Agency as of Oct. 1. Hurricane Katrina ought to put a stop to that. The reorganization needs to be delayed until an independent commission determines what went wrong on the Gulf Coast.

Chertoff wants to eliminate the FEMA role in disaster prevention and have a separate office do its liaison work with state and local governments. This reorganization, planned before the hurricane struck, is supposed to focus FEMA on its core mission: responding to disasters. Elimination of powers diminishes agencies, however, not strengthens them.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, FEMA was subsumed in the Homeland Security Department, which focuses on terrorism. As Katrina demonstrated, a hurricane can pack even more destructive power than a jetliner, and, unlike a hijacking, cannot be prevented.

FEMA enjoyed its greatest influence under President Clinton when it was headed by James Lee Witt, a disaster specialist. President Bush appointed first Joe Allbaugh, then Michael Brown, to head the agency. Neither had experience with disaster relief. Early in his tenure, Allbaugh described FEMA as an oversized entitlement program. Its diminished stature was compounded by untested, unsympathetic leadership.

In just a week, FEMA has grown in importance. New York's Senator Hillary Clinton has called for it to be split off from the department and have it once again report directly to the president. Government agencies should not be moved around with every catastrophe. FEMA should stay where it is unless an authoritative inquiry finds otherwise.

House and Senate leaders yesterday announced an investigation into the Katrina disaster. Congress does need to examine the performance of FEMA, especially in light of the Chertoff reorganization plan. Given the partisanship in Washington, it may not provide convincing answers about the response to the storm.

Bush also promises an inquiry. The president is loyal to his appointees, but he needs to look dispassionately at Brown's performance, and if it is found wanting, he's got to go.
Effective disaster relief requires coordinated, quick action by federal, state, and local authorities. The response in New Orleans fell far short. To draw the proper lessons, Congress and the president need to appoint a truly independent, bipartisan commission to examine the response to Katrina and suggest improvements.

For most of the country, natural disasters pose a greater threat than terrorism. The Sept. 11 attack merited this kind of investigation, and so does Katrina.

Facts and Rumors: Federal Power in a State of Emergency

From the WashingtonPost:

Fact: Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a State of Emergency for her state on Friday, Aug. 26. Full disclosure: The Post reported last week -- erroneously, it turned out -- that Louisiana had not issued such a declaration. A correction was published on Sept. 5.

Fact: President Bush declared a State of Emergency the next day Saturday before Hurricane Katrina hit.

Fact: Presidential declarations of emergency are made after a request from "the governor of the impacted state, based on finding that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the ability of the state and affected local jurisdictions." [Update: The link above doesn't seem to be working anymore, so here's a copy of the page as it appeared on Aug. 14, 2004, courtesy of archive.org's Wayback Machine. The page does not appear to have changed between when it was archived and when I looked at it yesterday.]

Fact: Blanco sent a letter dated Aug. 28 to Bush -- via the FEMA regional director -- requesting that he "declare a major disaster," and Bush responded by wisely declaring an emergency. There is a very slight difference, funding-wise, between declaring a major disaster and declaring an emergency -- the difference is explained here -- but both authorize "emergency protective measures."[Update: Thanks to the astute anonymous reader who provided the link to the letter.]

Fact: A declaration of emergency "unleash[es] the support of any or all of 27 federal agencies. It also authorizes reimbursement of emergency work, such as debris removal and emergency protective measures."

Fact: There is a FEMA program called the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System (US&R) -- now part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate (EP&R) of the Department of Homeland Security. According to federal legislation, it "provides specialized lifesaving assistance during major disasters or emergencies that the President declares under the Stafford Act. US&R operational activities include locating, extricating and providing on-site medical treatment to victims trapped in collapsed structures, victims of weapons of mass destruction events, and when assigned, performing incident command or other operational activities."
(I think we can all agree that such teams would have been immensely helpful on the two to three days immediately following the hurricane. The Coast Guard did a great job, it would seem, of airlifting people out of drowning homes very soon after the flooding happened, and New Orleans police devoted a great deal of time to performing search and rescue as well. Yes, some deserted, but others stayed and did everything they could to help the city and its residents recover. Perhaps if more search and rescue professionals had been sent in in the immediate aftermath, the police could have spent that time maintaining order in the city.)

Fact: In the Rules and Regulations section of the US&R legislation, "emergency " is defined as "any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States."

Fact: In the supplementary information for the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System legislation, it says (I've taken out some of the extraneous numbers and some unnecessary phrases for ease of reading, but the meaning is unchanged):
Section 303 of the Stafford Act authorizes the President of the United States to form emergency support teams of Federal personnel to be deployed in an area affected by a major disaster or emergency. The President delegated this function to the Director of the FEMA under Executive Order 12148. Under E.O. 13286 of February 28, 2003, the President amended E.O. 12148 to transfer the FEMA Director's delegated authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and under Homeland Security Delegation No. 9100, delegated the Secretary's authority under Title V of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which includes the Stafford Act, to the Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R).

Fact: The Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response is Michael Brown.
(So, EP&R director -- the head of FEMA, the guy the New Orleans Times Picayune said should "especially" be fired -- had the authority to dispatch specialized rescue squads right away. Where were they? Why didn't the president, under whose direction the Department of Homeland Security ultimately falls, insist on getting those teams on the ground -- or in the air -- as soon as the levees were breached and the flooding began?)
In 1995, the Washington Monthly wrote about FEMA's miraculous turnaround after its abysmal performance dealing with Hurricane Andrew. In that story was this tidbit from Jeffrey Itell, who conducted a massive study of FEMA's operations, which uncovered that FEMA had extensive powers according to the Stafford Act that, to everyone's detriment, it was not exercising:
We found that without state requests, FEMA could assess the catastrophic area, assess what assistance the state needed, start mobilizing that relief, present its recommendations to the governor, and, if necessary … get in the governor's face to force the issue of accepting federal help.
This should all still apply -- unless the Department of Homeland Security nullified these common-sense FEMA powers when it subsumed the agency a couple years ago. (If it did, DHS has a lot of explaining to do.)
Again, that's without state requests. (This is not to say the the local authorities couldn't have done more. For starters, they could have taken into account the substantial number of poor Now Orleans residents who wouldn't have the means to evacuate. But they were right in the middle of it all, their resources overwhelmed, whereas the federal emergency management professionals are likely to have vastly more resources. How many helicopters did the New Orleans Police Department have? I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing not as many as the federal government.)

What's important to remember here is that misinformation is swirling, as is not unusual after unprecedented disasters. (David Brooks of the New York Times recalls the news accounts of [insert then-feared minority group here] cutting off the fingers of the dead in order to steal their wedding rings.)

"How can it be that Mr. Bill was better informed than Mr. Bush?"

From NYTimes:

Back From Her Vanquished City, Lawmaker Takes Senate Floor to Denounce the President

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - The senior senator from Louisiana returned to the Capitol on Thursday not just as a lawmaker but also, in her words, as "a daughter of the Crescent City."
The senator, Mary L. Landrieu, whose father was a storied mayor of New Orleans, whose brother is Louisiana's lieutenant governor, who walked her children out of her lakeside home expecting, correctly, that she would never see it again, was back in the Senate chamber, full of passion and rage at President Bush and what she called "the staggering incompetence of the national government."

Ms. Landrieu, a Democrat who was nearly put out of office in 2002 after Mr. Bush campaigned intensely for her Republican opponent, had mostly held her fire against the president in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But her tone changed markedly on Thursday, with a 20-minute speech that was at turns poignant and defiant.

"We know the president said, quote, 'I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,' " Ms. Landrieu said. "Everybody anticipated the breach of the levee, Mr. President, including computer simulations in which this administration participated."

The senator went on to describe how the creator of Mr. Bill, the clay figurine whose cry of "Ohh noooo!" was long a staple of "Saturday Night Live," had used the character in public service announcements to warn southern Louisianians of the dangers they would face in an extraordinary storm.

"How can it be," she asked, "that Mr. Bill was better informed than Mr. Bush?"
As she spoke, Ms. Landrieu was surrounded by about two dozen colleagues on the Senate floor, all of them Democrats except one, Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi. When she finished, they encircled her, offering hugs as if comforting a widow at a funeral.

Because her family is so steeped in New Orleans politics - her father, Moon Landrieu, was both mayor of New Orleans and then, under President Jimmy Carter, secretary of housing and urban development - the senator, perhaps more than any other Washington official, has become a national spokeswoman for victims of the hurricane. She returned to Washington, where she owns a luxurious brick home a few blocks from the Capitol, late Wednesday night.

Ms. Landrieu predicted that the cost of repairs to the Gulf Coast would top $200 billion, and pledged to find out why the federal response "was so incompetent and insulting to the people of our states."

At one point in her speech, she addressed Mr. Bush directly, saying: "Mr. President, we need you. We need your help." At another, she spoke of a tearful interview she had Sunday with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

"I was not crying in anguish because the home that I walked out of with my children was gone - I knew it would be gone when I left," she said. "It was an anguished cry of plea to the only person that I thought could hear, and that was God himself. And I think he has heard, because the people of my state have cried out to him for now over a week and a half. But as he gives us the grace and the wisdom to do our job, I hope we can do it well."

Bush Suspends Minimum Pay for Contract Workers

From Whitehouse.gov:

Message to the Congress of the United States Regarding Hurricane Katrina
I hereby report that I have exercised my statutory authority under section 3147 of title 40, United States Code, to suspend the provisions of 40 U.S.C. 3141-3148 in the event of a national emergency. I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a "national emergency" within the meaning of section 3147. I have, therefore, suspended the provisions of 40 U.S.C. 3141-3148 in designated areas in the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
This action is more fully set out in the enclosed proclamation that I have issued today.
September 8, 2005.

From OMB Watch:

Thursday, September 08, 2005
Bush Suspends Minimum Pay for Contract Workers

The White House announced that it is suspending its obligations under the Davis-Bacon Act to require a fair minimum wage for contractors working on the reconstruction and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Davis-Bacon Act prohibits the federal government from undercutting prevailing wages in the construction industry in areas where the federal government is contracting for work. The administration is required to ensure that its contracts establish minimum wages for workers that comport with the prevailing wage of the area. The White House invoked the act's exemption for national emergencies.

The irony here is that the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was compounded by poverty and low wages -- factors that kept many from evacuating in time. Now the Bush administration is empowering itself to pay substandard wages for the reconstruction effort.Posted by Robert Shull

Thursday, September 08, 2005

FEMA locks Mac users from hurricane relief

From Mac World:

Mac and Linux-using hurricane survivors are unable to use Federal disaster relief claim form services online.
This is because the much-criticized US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has created a service that only works with Windows and Internet Explorer 6.
This acts to the frustration of survivors lucky enough to be able to access a Mac or Linux computer, and to the reported consternation of disaster relief teams on the ground.
However, some Mac users exploiting the Opera browser (which by default identifies itself as Internet Explorer 6) report being able to access the claims service.
FEMA and the US administration face strong criticism that it failed to act fast enough to help save thousands of hurricane survivors.
Some local Louisiana representatives complained that following last week's terrible natural disaster, FEMA agents actually stopped other forms of help getting through.
What happened in terms of US disaster relief last week will in future be assessed by a cross-party team led by current US president George Bush, who returned from holiday after the disaster happened but just in time to see Federal aid begin to reach affected areas, four days after the storm levelled the Gulf Coast region.
Ars Technica claims many relief workers are frustrated at being tied to Windows by FEMA's online services, as it means they need to spend precious aid money on Windows OS licenses as they set up terminals to help thousands of hurricane victims initiate the claims process. "Workers on the ground have told Ars Technica that they would prefer to avoid setting up Windows XP workstations because they take longer to setup, and even longer to properly patch and configure for use," the report states.
"The issue isn't only security", the report continues. "Windows XP hardware requirements, while not impressive by today's standards, rule out using some donated hardware as well. Furthermore, legitimate copies of Windows also cost money, and relief workers are trying to stretch their dollars as far as they can go," it reports.

Dick & Laura

Apparently, Laura called the Hurrican "Corrina" twice:

Video-WMP Video-QT

And Dick was giving a press conference in which:

Off camera, a protester shouts, "Go f--k yourself, Mr. Cheney. Go f--k yourself." The camera remains on Cheney while we hear scuffling in the background.CNN's reporter asks Cheney, "Are you getting a lot of that Mr. Vice President?"Cheney replies, "First time I've heard it., Must be a friend of John..., er, ah - never mind."




(video wasn't working when I tried)

Link to when Cheney used same phrase on the Senate floor

UN hits back at US in report saying parts of America are as poor as Third World

From the Independent UK:

Parts of the United States are as poor as the Third World, according to a shocking United Nations report on global inequality.

Claims that the New Orleans floods have laid bare a growing racial and economic divide in the US have, until now, been rejected by the American political establishment as emotional rhetoric. But yesterday's UN report provides statistical proof that for many - well beyond those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the great American Dream is an ongoing nightmare.
The document constitutes a stinging attack on US policies at home and abroad in a fightback against moves by Washington to undermine next week's UN 60th anniversary conference which will be the biggest gathering of world leaders in history.
The annual Human Development Report normally concerns itself with the Third World, but the 2005 edition scrutinises inequalities in health provision inside the US as part of a survey of how inequality worldwide is retarding the eradication of poverty.
It reveals that the infant mortality rate has been rising in the US for the past five years - and is now the same as Malaysia. America's black children are twice as likely as whites to die before their first birthday.
The report is bound to incense the Bush administration as it provides ammunition for critics who have claimed that the fiasco following Hurricane Katrina shows that Washington does not care about poor black Americans. But the 370-page document is critical of American policies towards poverty abroad as well as at home. And, in unusually outspoken language, it accuses the US of having "an overdeveloped military strategy and an under-developed strategy for human security".
"There is an urgent need to develop a collective security framework that goes beyond military responses to terrorism," it continues. " Poverty and social breakdown are core components of the global security threat."
The document, which was written by Kevin Watkins, the former head of research at Oxfam, will be seen as round two in the battle between the UN and the US, which regards the world body as an unnecessary constraint on its strategic interests and actions.
Last month John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the UN, submitted 750 amendments to the draft declaration for next week's summit to strengthen the UN and review progress towards its Millennium Development Goals to halve world poverty by 2015.
The report launched yesterday is a clear challenge to Washington. The Bush administration wants to replace multilateral solutions to international problems with a world order in which the US does as it likes on a bilateral basis.
"This is the UN coming out all guns firing," said one UN insider. "It means that, even if we have a lame duck secretary general after the Volcker report (on the oil-for-food scandal), the rest of the organisation is not going to accept the US bilateralist agenda."
The clash on world poverty centres on the US policy of promoting growth and trade liberalisation on the assumption that this will trickle down to the poor. But this will not stop children dying, the UN says. Growth alone will not reduce poverty so long as the poor are denied full access to health, education and other social provision. Among the world's poor, infant mortality is falling at less than half of the world average. To tackle that means tackling inequality - a message towards which John Bolton and his fellow US neocons are deeply hostile.
India and China, the UN says, have been very successful in wealth creation but have not enabled the poor to share in the process. A rapid decline in child mortality has therefore not materialised. Indeed, when it comes to reducing infant deaths, India has now been overtaken by Bangladesh, which is only growing a third as fast.
Poverty could be halved in just 17 years in Kenya if the poorest people were enabled to double the amount of economic growth they can achieve at present.
Inequality within countries is as stark as the gaps between countries, the UN says. Poverty is not the only issue here. The death rate for girls in India is now 50 per cent higher than for boys. Gender bias means girls are not given the same food as boys and are not taken to clinics as often when they are ill. Foetal scanning has also reduced the number of girls born.
The only way to eradicate poverty, it says, is to target inequalities. Unless that is done the Millennium Development Goals will never be met. And 41 million children will die unnecessarily over the next 10 years.
Decline in health care
Child mortality is on the rise in the United States
For half a century the US has seen a sustained decline in the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. But since 2000 this trend has been reversed.
Although the US leads the world in healthcare spending - per head of population it spends twice what other rich OECD nations spend on average, 13 per cent of its national income - this high level goes disproportionately on the care of white Americans. It has not been targeted to eradicate large disparities in infant death rates based on race, wealth and state of residence.
The infant mortality rate in the US is now the same as in Malaysia
High levels of spending on personal health care reflect America's cutting-edge medical technology and treatment. But the paradox at the heart of the US health system is that, because of inequalities in health financing, countries that spend substantially less than the US have, on average, a healthier population. A baby boy from one of the top 5 per cent richest families in America will live 25 per cent longer than a boy born in the bottom 5 per cent and the infant mortality rate in the US is the same as Malaysia, which has a quarter of America's income.
Blacks in Washington DC have a higher infant death rate than people in the Indian state of Kerala
The health of US citizens is influenced by differences in insurance, income, language and education. Black mothers are twice as likely as white mothers to give birth to a low birthweight baby. And their children are more likely to become ill.
Throughout the US black children are twice as likely to die before their first birthday.
Hispanic Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to have no health cover
The US is the only wealthy country with no universal health insurance system. Its mix of employer-based private insurance and public coverage does not reach all Americans. More than one in six people of working age lack insurance. One in three families living below the poverty line are uninsured. Just 13 per cent of white Americans are uninsured, compared with 21 per cent of blacks and 34 per cent of Hispanic Americans. Being born into an uninsured household increases the probability of death before the age of one by about 50 per cent.
More than a third of the uninsured say that they went without medical care last year because of cost
Uninsured Americans are less likely to have regular outpatient care, so they are more likely to be admitted to hospital for avoidable health problems.
More than 40 per cent of the uninsured do not have a regular place to receive medical treatment. More than a third say that they or someone in their family went without needed medical care, including prescription drugs, in the past year because they lacked the money to pay.
If the gap in health care between black and white Americans was eliminated it would save nearly 85,000 lives a year. Technological improvements in medicine save about 20,000 lives a year.
Child poverty rates in the United States are now more than 20 per cent
Child poverty is a particularly sensitive indicator for income poverty in rich countries. It is defined as living in a family with an income below 50 per cent of the national average.
The US - with Mexico - has the dubious distinction of seeing its child poverty rates increase to more than 20 per cent. In the UK - which at the end of the 1990s had one of the highest child poverty rates in Europe - the rise in child poverty, by contrast, has been reversed through increases in tax credits and benefits.

Michael Brown: first horses, now scapegoat

Not that he isn't qualified, and didn't drop the ball, but...

Mr Bush is loyal to appointees. But leaks against Mr Brown, about a lack of qualifications for the job - suspected of orginating in the White House, suggest he is being lined up as designated fall guy, in an attempt to save the necks of those higher up.

from the Independent UK

But what happens if/when he's gone?

The three top jobs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Bush went to political cronies with no apparent experience coping with catastrophes, the Daily News has learned.

Even if Bush were to fire embattled and suddenly invisible FEMA Director Michael Brown over his handling of Hurricane Katrina, the bureaucrat immediately below him is no disaster professional, either.

While Brown ran horse shows in his last private-sector job, FEMA's No. 2 man, deputy director and chief of staff Patrick Rhode, was an advance man for the Bush-Cheney campaign and White House. He also did short stints at the Commerce Department and Small Business Administration.

Rhode's biography posted on FEMA's Web site doesn't indicate he has any real experience in emergency response.
In addition, the agency's former third-ranking official, deputy chief of staff Scott Morris, was a PR expert who worked for Maverick Media, the Texas outfit that produced TV and radio spots for the Bush-Cheney campaign. In June, Morris moved to Florida to become FEMA's long-term recovery director.

"The Bush administration has apparently transformed FEMA from a professional, world-class emergency responder into a dumping ground for former campaign staff and political hacks," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan).
FEMA also is hampered by several midlevel and regional director's jobs currently held by acting directors.

"Just like our military, FEMA should be immune to this kind of political staffing. It should be run by career emergency response professionals," Maloney added.

Traditionally, the Commerce and Labor departments have long been Washington's dumping ground for presidential pals and campaign operatives - not the disaster relief agency.

Government sources blame Bush's first FEMA director, Joe Allbaugh, with turning FEMA into a patronage shop.
He was chief of staff when Bush was Texas' governor and later headed the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.

"He stacked the deck with political appointees," a knowledgeable source said of Allbaugh, who had a reputation for running an efficient FEMA operation until he left the job in March 2003.

FEMA is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. Officials at both agencies did not return phone calls or E-mails yesterday.

from NYDaily News

Behind Closed Doors...

From NewYork Times:

Chertoff Draws Fire on Briefing

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary who has been the Bush administration's point man in fielding criticism of the hurricane relief effort, came under fire Wednesday from some Congressional Democrats for private remarks about the conditions faced by storm survivors that struck the lawmakers as insensitive.
The new criticism was set off by a private and sometimes contentious briefing that Mr. Chertoff and other senior administration officials gave to House members on Tuesday night on the status of relief efforts.
Exactly what was said at the closed-door briefing remained in some dispute Wednesday.
Administration officials and Democrats at the briefing agreed that Mr. Chertoff and other speakers emphasized that news images showing horrendous conditions for evacuees in shelters did not reflect the totality of the federal government's response.
But administration officials said several remarks that House members attributed to Mr. Chertoff were in fact made by other officials.
For instance, one administration official who was at the briefing said it was Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, not Mr. Chertoff, who told House members that television images of sparse relief efforts for evacuees sheltered at the Superdome offered "a small soda-straw view of what was going on."
Still, much of the Democrats' criticism was directed at Mr. Chertoff himself.
Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said the message he took from Mr. Chertoff's comments regarding the relief effort was that "what you see is not really what is."
"People just looked at him," Mr. Thompson said. "He was the first speaker, and it sort of went downhill after that. People felt we are not going to get the truth here."
A few Democrats were so upset by the tone of Mr. Chertoff's remarks that they walked out of the briefing, said Representative Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who said he stayed for all of the remarks but became increasingly frustrated by what he heard.
"The picture was being painted that things were not as bad as they appeared to be" in news reports, Mr. Cummings said in an interview. "It reached the point where the answers didn't add up."
Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said Mr. Chertoff said nothing at the House briefing to minimize the suffering of evacuees at the Superdome and "was appalled by the situation" when he toured the site, where evacuees complained that food, water and medical supplies were in short supply.
At the same time, however, Mr. Chertoff believes that rescue crews had to make it their top priority to try to save people outside the stadium, Mr. Knocke said in an interview.
"While the situation in the Superdome was nightmarish and not satisfactory to anyone involved," Mr. Knocke said, "it was not a life-and-death situation, and we had to focus our priorities where we could."
Even so, he said relief crews delivered seven trailers filled with water and ready-to-eat meals to the Superdome before the storm hit on Aug. 29, along with another seven trailers on Aug. 30.
Homeland Security Department officials said Mr. Chertoff, in his assessment of relief priorities in New Orleans, as well as in his comments in July about the threat posed by a terrorist attack in a subway system, was giving a blunt assessment of the difficult choices that federal officials faced in disasters.
Since taking over as homeland secretary this year after serving as a judge and a top Justice Department official, Mr. Chertoff has pushed for setting clearer priorities for assessing financing and resources for domestic security.
A former organized-crime prosecutor, Mr. Chertoff has always had a reputation for a blunt-spoken manner.
In July, after the London subway bombings, he caused a minor flap by suggesting that the federal government did not consider the threat of a subway bomb, which he said "may kill 30 people," to represent as high a priority as the "catastrophic" prospect of another airplane strike that could kill thousands.
"Secretary Chertoff is candid, he's open, he's direct, and I think a lot of people find that a refreshing attitude," Mr. Knocke said. "He doesn't mince words, and the fact that he's willing to talk frankly about complex issue speaks to his characteristics as a leader and his no-nonsense approach to an extraordinarily tough job."
Carl Hulse contributed reporting from Washington for this article