Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cronyism Kills

That headline seem a bit harsh? Time will tell, I guess, but every detail coming out about FEMA Director Michael Brown only seems to confirm it. His apparent failures at the International Arabian Horse Association. His comprehensive lack of qualifications to handle disaster relief. His confession that FEMA apparently didn't know about thousands of people languishing at the New Orleans Convention center, though the rest of us watching telly did. His getting hired in the first place by his former-college roommate/boss.

Believe it or not, Brown's direct reports may be less qualified than he is. Basically, Bush appointed an unqualified buddy to head FEMA, who replaced himself with another unqualified buddy (Brown), who works with a couple of similarly unqualified Bush campaign strategists, who all run FEMA together. Comforting, huh?

Here's a novel idea: how about hiring a few folks to work at the top of FEMA who have some disaster-recovery experience squirreled away somewhere in their résumés?

Folks have called upon President Bush to fire a litany of different people over the course of his administration. None, however, so far as I can tell, come with fewer qualifications or have stood so crippled before a greater catastrophe. Time for Brown to go--if he hasn't been quietly fired or demoted already. Even the NRO's Rich Lowry is decrying Brown's incompetence.

Another thought: if FEMA is riddled with this sort of cronyism, what of our other civil servants nestled within the Office of Homeland Security? Shudder to think.

Small government conservatives are always griping that government should be downsized, limited to protecting the people, paving the roads, etc. Now's their chance to put their money where their mouth is. They all need to join in a bi-partisan chorus to demand that these agencies be repopulated with qualified individuals. As Jerry Doyle, a Las Vegas talk show host just said on the Beeb's World Today, "When governments don't do what governments are supposed to do, people die." So what good is any government that's riddled with unqualified cronies? Those sort of hiring practices have brought down some mighty big companies. What could they do to the country? Compound a natural tragedy into a greater disaster, adding another jagged scar to the national psyche, perhaps equal in magnitude to that of 9/11? Seems to be where we're headed.

The suffering of the poor. The survival of the richest. The self-congratulatory cronies slapping each other on the back. What rich material for Dickens were he here to rail against it all.

Some other items I've come across:

>As usual Pat Robertson flaunts his tin ear. So does Barbara Bush. (She reminds me of Prince Philip and his famous, remarkably out-of-touch utterances, some of which are nonethless admittedly hilarious in a Basil Fawlty oh-my-god-I-can't believe-he-just-said-that sort of way.)
>Another loopy preacher blames Katrina on America's decadence: gay marriage, sex with horses, etc.
>Extraordinary video of Fox's Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith shouting down a typically arrogant, remote and cold-hearted Sean Hannity. Rivera begins weeping and holds up a baby in a plea to avoid partisanship. It's pure Rivera theater on the one hand; on the other, he seems entirely genuine.
>Crooks and Liars also has this unprecedented and compelling five-minute rant/editorial by Keith Olbermann from MSNBC.
>On a more positive note, here's a great NYT article on how London, Amsterdam and Venice have re-architected their cities, using high-tech devices to combat flooding.

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