Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How They Fire People These Days

To fire someone is to admit that their appointment was a failure... and this just won't do. So instead of relieving someone of their job, the new approach is to appoint a "deputy" underneath them to do their job for them. The head of FEMA has just been quasi-replaced in this manner. As the Washington Post reports,

With Michael D. Brown, the embattled public face of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, taking harsh criticism for the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the secretary of homeland security this week assigned a top Coast Guard official to help bail him out.

Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, the Coast Guard's chief of staff, was assigned on Monday to be Brown's deputy and to take over operational control of the search-and-rescue and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. The unprecedented task of coordinating the massive effort was handed off to a leader and expert who was described by colleagues as unflappable, engaging and intensely organized...

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff handpicked Allen to essentially lead the federal recovery efforts in New Orleans... to oversee, manage and lead all military and civilian recovery efforts.

But of course, Bush assures us that Brown is doing a fine job. My question is: with Allen doing all the work, what exactly is Brown's job now?


Dr. Strangelove said...

Meanwhile, the NY Times reports that Bush has requested $51.8 Billion in additional funds for relief efforts--of which $50 Billion will go to FEMA--and there will be further requests. Sen. Harry Reid expects $150 Billion when all is said and done.

I'm all for spending the money. And just imagine what good we could have done if we had been willing to spend that kind of money to help those two states before the hurricane!

Anonymous said...

I often bash California for its chronic mismanagement. But I've been reminded during the coverage of this that California actually does a fairly good job of preparing for earthquakes. Building codes are enforced and updated to account for the latest scientific and engineering advances. Usually the updates come AFTER big quakes but at least they don't make them temporary.

Galvaston, TX was completely destroyed in 1900 by huricane. Louisiana and Mississippi were hit by a category 5 huricane (Camille) in 1969. Neither storm seems to have convinced either local, state or federal authorities or voters to prepare for these kinds of storms.

So my hat's off to California building codes! 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Earthquakes happen in California with sufficient regularity to make planning seem rational, unlike the hundred-year floods and tsunamis. It's hard to ask someone in Louisiana to spend the money to make the place safe for a Category 4 storm when such a storm had never struck the city in 300 years. Or at least it's understandable why they fail to allocate resources to such threats. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG's remark about "300 years" is wrong. In 1969, Hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm with sustained winds near 200 mph, struck the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline. It's path was nearly identical to that of Katrina to within about 20 miles when it made landfall. The damage was horrific, especially to Biloxi.

If you want to read something stunning, try this
article in the Washington Post, published the morning of Monday, August 29th. Here are some choice passages:

"It may well be that New Orleans will dodge another meteorological bullet, as it has for more than 250 years, and once again escape the doomsday scenario that has long haunted the dreams of disaster officials...

[But] the real nightmare has always been the prospect of a Wagnerian hurricane like Katrina coming ashore so that its strongest winds push the Gulf of Mexico into the eastern-facing entrance to Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city's northern edge... A 20-foot storm surge arriving in concert with both high tide and 20-inch rains could overwhelm the city's more vulnerable lakeside levees and then flow downhill all the way to the French Quarter. Many of the city's massive drainage pumps are located closer to the lake. Were they to be flooded out, the city would not only be helplessly inundated while the hurricane is overhead -- it would remain so for weeks if not months.

For more than 2½ centuries, that precise scenario has never quite happened, though hurricanes rake the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast regularly and sideswipe the Big Easy more often than not. One reason it hasn't is that the city was long protected by scores of miles of surrounding saltwater marshes capable of sponging up even massive storm surges like a swampy dishrag.

But for the last half of the 20th century and into the present day, those wetlands have been disappearing--hundreds of acres of them every year...

With a far smaller marshland buffer zone to suck up Katrina's ferocious storm surge, New Orleans is very definitely in harm's way. Never mind the roof-ripping winds. Water fed New Orleans with commerce most of her life. If she dies today, it will be water -- born of Katrina's catastrophic power -- that's the death of her."

Anonymous said...

Camille in 1969, Betsy in 1964, yes, we know that. But neither hit New Orleans and broke the levies before. In part because the levy system was largely constructed in the 1930s-1950s- before then the City was higher above water. NPR did a great report on how the city has been sinking now for a hundred years, dropping from sea level to about 3 feet below (average depths).  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Strangelove said...

Oh, and it looks like now Michael Brown is being "relieved of his duties in managing" hurricane relief efforts, according to the NY Times--Adm. Allen will formally "replace" him in that role. But apparently, you can still keep your job and not publicly lose the confidence of the Preisdent even if you have no duties to perform. As the NY Times reported it,

"Less than an hour before Brown's removal came to light, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Brown had not resigned and the president had not asked for his resignation.

McClellan did not directly answer a question about whether the president had full confidence in Brown.

'We appreciate all those who are working round the clock, and that's the way I would answer it,' he said."


Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG, your original comment was, "It's hard to ask someone in Louisiana to spend the money to make the place safe for a Category 4 storm when such a storm had never struck the city in 300 years."

But at least one Category 4+ storm had struck New Orleans a glancing blow in living memory (Camille in 1969). So--sorry--but your comment about none in 300 years is simply wrong.

Moreover, Camille killed over a hundred people and the cleanup costs were several billion in today's dollars, so even a glancing blow was understood to be terribly costly.

For years, we have been preparing for a magnitude 7.0+ earthquake in Los Angeles, even though such a quake has not hit us in century--because quakes of that magnitude have come close, and quakes of lesser magnitude (but still devastating!) have struck quite recently.

Los Angeles city planners understand that if you've had a few collisions already, it is entirely sensible to buy insurance.

Anonymous said...

Also...GALVESTON 1900! That city was right at sea level and right on the coast. It was the big port in Texas before the storm. After the storm...Houston was a boom town.

There is really no way you can cut this up so it looks like New Orleans was not at major risk for total destruction. Category 5's were hitting that stretch of coast about once every 50 years. A little wobble east or west at the right time and New Orleans would have been destroyed in 1900 or 1969. This is hardly out of the blue.

Now, I'm not saying this all the local and state folks fault. The Feds had a major responsibility to invest in protecting the port of New Orleans let alone the actual people! Now we are going to be spending hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up a mess that might have been largely prevented by an investment of 15-20 billion over the last 20 years. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Brown resigned FEMA director this morning.


// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

The man in question "resigns." Ah yes... now that is truly how they fire people these days.