Zen and the Art of Federal Emergency Management

When FEMA was absorbed into the greater Homeland Security apparatus, the protocol for immediate disaster relief operations changed. An event labeled an "incident of national significance" -- like Hurricane Katrina -- meant an automatic realignment of bureaucratic hierarchy, and Michael Brown was technically demoted before he should have been fired. The Washington Post snagged some 80 e-mails which were furiously sent back and forth among now-high-profile incompetents, who also don't talk so good:

"Demote the Under Sec to PFO [Principal Federal Officer]?" an outraged FEMA press secretary Sharon Worthy wrote Brown at 10:54 p.m., soon after Chertoff's decision. "What about the precedent being set? What does this say about executive management and leadership in the Agency?"

"Exactly," replied Brown, then-under secretary for preparedness and response...

I don't think those were rhetorical questions, Mike. Unless your true genius lies in being mystically laconic. You know, signing off e-mails with sayings like, "You must learn to master your fear or else fear will become your master."

Though it's probably the old rule about making a copy of a copy -- it always comes out with greater dither and less resolution -- that governs any attempt to make a crony of a crony:

"Let them play their raindeer [sic] games as long as they are not turning around and tasking us with their stupid questions. None of them have [sic] a clue about emergency management," [Brooks] Altshuler [Brown's deputy chief of staff] told Brown and Brown's chief of staff, Patrick Rhode.

Freudian slip on that "raindeer," huh?

Messages Depict Disarray in Federal Katrina Response [WaPo]


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