April 27, 2006

If they would only...

...be so diligent in calling for the elimination of all the other government alphabet bureaus--Senate Panel Recommends Abolishing FEMA [Headline changed later to "Senate Panel Says FEMA Is Beyond Repair "]

Reading the story, we find that in the end, they only want to eliminate the name FEMA, not the actual agency. The old FEMA, in the grand tradition of things-Washington, will be remade into a new agency, the National Preparedness and Response Authority, which I assume will be called NPRA, and be pronounced "Nipra," and will have a really cool mid-'90s logo, and an official seal with an eagle on it, and a website with a nifty page for kids featuring Nipper, the NPRA Disaster Dog, and their budget will increase in order to hire more people who will sit around various field offices watching the weather radar and ordering expensive office furniture.

Sorry, but as a bureaucrat myself, this kind of political posturing and braying for rearranging the Titanic's deck chairs rings hollow. Yes, FEMA wasn't prepared, because FEMA's plans never seem to have considered how ill-advised it was to rely upon state and local governments to be first responders, especially if the elected officials of those states and cities were incompetent.

Further, the agency was designed to provide aid and assistance in a set, methodical, policy-wonk-approved manner, without the realization that responding in the plodding, red-tape-bound way as it always had in the past would suddenly be seen not in the usual way most people view government involvement--that of a slow-moving bureaucracy creaking along--but as a vicious conspiracy intent of killing poor people and thus perpetuating a secret neo-con plutocracy in the White House.

Sure, Brownie was something of a git, but the top level in any kind of government setup like that is full of people who got there out of political connectedness, not competence. The people in the field were the ones who were trying, as best they could given what they thought their job was, to keep the paperwork flowing properly and get all the right signatures so their butts would be covered. Because in the end, that's what these sorts of Congressional-level inquiries and calls for rolling heads produce--an organization less intent on actually DOING something, and much more on making sure an infinite number of procedures are followed EXACTLY as our betters in the House and Senate tell us they should be followed.

People get upset when some G-10 tells them they have to pay back an overpayment or get out of their temporary shelter, and chalk it up to whoever they tend to hate most at that particular time. There will always be a steady stream of Congresspeople out there talking about how horrid the Administration is because of this, but the folks who came up with all the rules in the first place--i.e., the same Congresspeople who are complaining the loudest, never seem to remember anything about that particular set of rules.

All the talk you hear now by the Beltway crowd of the unconscionable waste of money that has happened? Well, that's because of all the screaming they did starting five minutes after Katrina hit about how slow the response was, and why can't we fly in and airdrop several billions of dollars on the Coast, even though we don't have a good way of keeping up with it.

What did they expect!?

More to the point, why would ANYone expect the National Preparedness and Response Authority to do any better?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2006 12:08 PM

But...but... they've got a neat new logo and everything?!?!?!

Who are you who is so wise in the ways of Bureaucracy?

Posted by: skinnydan at April 27, 2006 12:58 PM

Well, they don't have one yet--they still have to hire a firm to do some visioning and placement exercises and get some focus group input before it's finalized. And I'm sure it will really be only a small part of the total promotions, marketing, outreach, and interdepartmental liaison budget, which itself will be kept very lean--probably no more than about $10,000,000 annually. Just wait until you see the cool imprint logoed Nipper plush toy! And the service pins! And again, that cool website!

How do I know this?

Because I am...


Disguised as an impoverished minor bureaucrat, in actuality I stand ready to leap into action when trouble calls, with my trusty knowledge of local municipal codes and the ability to fill out forms in QUADRUPLICATE! My supersecret abilities include indifference, apathy, and the ability to deflect blame with a single e-mail!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2006 01:43 PM

This one slams me hard.

There was no plan, not on a local or state level.

I read some strings on the nola.com site that talked about the shoddy workmanship on the levees.

My big bro Charles had something. He said Texans get rich and go into politics, and Lousisianans go into politics to get rich.

Posted by: Janis at April 27, 2006 02:04 PM

Now don't you people go writing your Congress persons and squirreling this thing. I see opportunity for a federal government contractor in this especially one who has a web based, automatic mission, vision and objectives generator.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at April 27, 2006 02:29 PM

And, Larry, who calls his staff the "Maulers."

Janis, it's really a systemic incompetence, and it would have been the same result no matter who was in office. I believe it would have gotten different play in the press had it been a Democratic President, but the actual results on the ground would have been just exactly the same. What's infuriating is that they ran this exact drill (killer hurricane, overtopped levees, need for massive evacuations) a year earlier, and everyone on the ground seemed to have conveniently forgotten everything they learned from it.

And no matter what, in every decision that was made up and down the chain of command had the taint of politics in it--it's what happens when politicians learn to take certain groups of voters for granted, and when certain groups of voters decide not to care about anything except short-term emotional feel-goodism and a little walking around money.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2006 02:51 PM

Perhaps nationally, but not locally.

Posted by: Janis at April 27, 2006 03:22 PM

And so many of the New Orleans voters were treated as pets. They're not pets, they're people, and should be expected to live as everyone else.

Mt friend Glenda, the teacher, has retired but substitutes. She told us the other night that she went to one of the Natchez schools and came home crying.

I am far from racist, but these people got to learn to police their own in a constructive way.

Posted by: Janis at April 27, 2006 03:29 PM

I read a story the other day that Charmaine Neville, who commandeered a bus, was raped in the course of events.

Dog. Bad dog. Shoot it.

Posted by: Janis at April 27, 2006 03:35 PM

As we've discussed before, that "soft bigotry of low expectations" is a pretty powerful inducement toward creating among some people (of any race) the idea that sometimes it's right to do wrong.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2006 03:46 PM

I think that what's skewing the college enrollment statistics is that black men are not going to college. The women are.

I cain't corral three men, much less a population.

Posted by: Janis at April 27, 2006 04:02 PM

I know better. All you have to do is use your feminine wiles.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2006 04:07 PM

Sorry to distract from serious conversations, but I had an odd thought at about 12:45 AM, going to bed after hockey:

Do they make BUREAUMAN! underoos? That's when you know you've hit the big time.

Posted by: skinnydan at April 28, 2006 08:37 AM

OF COURSE NOT!! Bureauman goes COMMANDO, or doesn't go at all!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at April 28, 2006 09:00 AM