escape goat

A reader sent this image to me today. I don’t think he made it though. At least he didn’t say that he did. So, if you made it, and if you’re pissed that I’ve got it here without your permission, I’m sorry… As for Katrina and FEMA, I’ve got a lot to say, but no time. (I’m behind deadline on my next comic for the Ann Arbor Paper, and I’ve got to get it done tonight.)

Right now, in the wake of Mike “Brownie” Brown having resigned as the head of FEMA, I have mixed feelings on how we in the blogosphere handled the whole Katrina thing. On one hand, I’m incredibly proud that we pounded the Brownie thing so hard that he had to be removed, hopefully clearing the way for someone with better qualifications, but on the other hand I think we might have overplayed the, “You don’t hire someone who organizes horse shows to be in charge of saving American lives” card. By doing that, I think we really did a disservice to the bigger issue, which is the systematic dismantling of FEMA specifically, and of government programs in general. By focusing on Brownie, we diverted everyone’s attention from the more substancial issue, which is that things probably still wouldn’t have gone well even if competent leadership were in place. (As we’ve heard several people say over the past few days, it’s just not the same organization it was under Clinton.)

So, even though we all made it clear that Brownie was a Bush appointee, and thus his ultimate responsibility (ignoring for the moment the fact that the Democrats didn’t raise any red flags, or even really question him, during his confirmation hearing), we allowed the story to be more Brownie than Bush. And, just as the torture at Abu Ghraib became the work of “a few bad apples,” I’m afraid that this is going to go down in history as just the colossal fuck-up of one man who overstated his qualifications. We all know, however, that that’s not the case. This can’t be explained away by the fact that Mike Brown overstated his qualifications a little bit, or even the fact that he suffers from incompetence of “Biblical proportions.” The real story here is that our country is being starved to death like the men and women in the New Orleans Civic Center. (As Paul Krugman pointed out a few days ago, the same think that happened to FEMA has also happened at the EPA, the FDA and several other organizations over the past five years.)

But, now that everything’s been conveniently pinned on Brownie, it looks as though there won’t be any real, substantial change. In fact, it looks as though Brownie’s job is going to one of his former employees, a fellow who first came into the national spotlight with his announcement that we should seal our homes in plastic wrap and duct tape. (Remember that?) Here’s a clip on the new nominee from MSNBC’s Olberman:

Paulison brings an extensive resume to the post. He ran fire operations for Miami-Dade County in Florida, and was past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. But in light of the response to this hurricane, another comment he made at the time of the Duct Tape announcements rings especially loudly. Paulison said in February, 2003, that in the first 48 to 72 hours of an emergency, many Americans would likely have to look after themselves.”

At the very least, let’s hope that the Democrats ask him some serious questions during his confirmation hearing… Because, if Bill McKibben’s right, what just happened on the Gulf Coast is just the start of what we’ve got in store for us.

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  1. Tony Buttons
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone aware of FEMA whistleblowers who might have warned of this eventuality? It seems as though if things were in such disarray, someone might have mentioned that lives would be put in danger.

  2. mark
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what kind of job Brownie’s going to get after this. I was thinking about starting a little betting pool here at the site, but then got scared that doing so might be some kind of federal crime.

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