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November 3, 2005
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"Are you proud of me?'' he wrote. "Can I quit now? Can I go home?" Former FEMA head Mike Brown's emails are turned over to a special House panel.
posted by four panels (87 comments total)

 
advice from a press secretary: ``You just need to look more hard-working...ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!'

Good advice, advice that Georgie boy took. Make sure the shirt's blue collar, too!
posted by anthill at 7:35 AM on November 3, 2005


I was just working on composing an FPP about this, but I suppose I'll toss the links in here to beef up four panels' post instead.

This lovely smoking gun has been provided for us by Representative Charlie Melancon (D-Louisiana), who has posted copies of the E-mails themselves on his website. Some minor information, like individuals' E-mail addresses, has been redacted, but the goods are all here.

The Brown E-mails.

Melancon's analysis.

"If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I ama fashion god." [sic] (Page 18)
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:36 AM on November 3, 2005


"We need more sweat! Can we get a spritz for the President's back? Thanks!"
posted by Pollomacho at 7:37 AM on November 3, 2005


Wow, he seems like an insecure teenaged girl.
posted by substrate at 7:39 AM on November 3, 2005


""Can I quit now? Can I go home?" "
Yes. Yes, you can.
posted by klangklangston at 7:39 AM on November 3, 2005


Everyone is going to read these emails out of context. There could've been phone/personal conversations that interjected more context to the emails.

Were these all of the emails, or just some? The only way to get to the bottom of this is to keep Brownie on for a couple more months so that he can um...provide us with the context.

Hearings anyone?
posted by jsavimbi at 7:41 AM on November 3, 2005


jsavimbi: They're already doing hearings.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 AM on November 3, 2005


Please make this all go away, even though I fully believe in this administration's total ineptitude do I have to have it validated too?

I'll be under a rock..just hope its above sea level!
posted by Mr Bluesky at 7:43 AM on November 3, 2005


My personal favorite:

Q: "Is this your last hurrah?"

Brown's response: "Last hurrah was supposed to have been Labor Day. I'm trapped now, please rescue me.
" (emphasis mine)

Trapped? Like on a roof for 5 days without food or water?
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 7:45 AM on November 3, 2005


Though the extent of Brown's hatred for jazz has always been apparent to me, I have to admit that I, personally, would not necessarily come off very well if all my dumbest e-mails were collected into a context-free compendium.

Speaking of which, I think I have some low-level reformatting to do. Gotta go.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 7:47 AM on November 3, 2005


Judging by the administration's reluctance to release any other documents, or even Michael Brown's correspondance with important administration people, I think it's clear that Brownie is planned to be the only fall guy for this colossal screwup.

Please, keep your head up and remember, Brownie isn't and wasn't the only incompetent one.
posted by anthill at 7:48 AM on November 3, 2005


Wow, just... wow.
posted by Rothko at 7:49 AM on November 3, 2005


Everyone is going to read these emails out of context.

Out of context, they're just fine-- dogsitting and fashion tips are perfectly reasonable things to send E-mails about. It's when you read them in context, and realize that they were written by the man ostensibly in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Administration at the very same time that a major American city was being destroyed... well, I'd say that the context is the whole problem, wouldn't you?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:50 AM on November 3, 2005


This is so incredibly disgusting... ugh. /outrage fatigue coma
posted by prostyle at 7:55 AM on November 3, 2005


Everybody tried their best.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 AM on November 3, 2005


President Bush last week appointed nine campaign contributors, including three longtime fund-raisers, to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a 16-member panel of individuals from the private sector who advise the president on the quality and effectiveness of U.S. intelligence efforts.
posted by four panels at 7:58 AM on November 3, 2005


From the Melancon PDF re: requests for email and/or documents:

In addition to the letter sent to Secretary Chertoff on September 30, Reps. Melancon and Davis sent similar document request letters to Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff; Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense; Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;44 and Michael Leavitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Similar document requests were also sent to the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. These letters requested an initial response within two weeks, a deadline of October 14, 2005. Rep. Davis extended the deadline to October 27, 2005.

Although the extended deadline has now passed, responsive documents have not been received
from any of these officials.


Not one? What does this tell you/us about accountability and our elected officials. Unreal.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:59 AM on November 3, 2005


Everyone is going to read these emails out of context.

* * *

well, I'd say that the context is the whole problem, wouldn't you?

I think you're talking about two different "contexts." Not to speak for jsavimbi, but I'm guessing the context he's referring to is the 1,000 pages of emails that were produced. If he wrote 100,000 words, and 100 of them were about his clothes and dog, while 99,900 were about responding to the crisis, I would call those 100 words "out of context."

Note, I'm no Brownie defender. But I do believe that even somone coordinating the response to a major crisis could be excused a few moments of levity. Who in such a position hasn't said, "Can I quit now?" Let's judge Brownie on the basis of his actions -- which were abysmal -- not his throwaway emails.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:02 AM on November 3, 2005


I have to admit that I, personally, would not necessarily come off very well if all my dumbest e-mails were collected into a context-free compendium.

Context-free? The context is that he's sending these emails during the height of what is supposed to be his frickin' job responsibility. During the most hectic periods of my work year, I find little time to shoot off giddy little emails celebrating my great fashion sense.

But that's just me, I'm a lowly assistant whose never had an entire American city flooded while I fretted about my wardrobe.

Furthermore, lest we forget this exchange:




Bahamonde to FEMA Director Michael Brown, Aug. 31, 11:20 a.m.

Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes.




Sharon Worthy, Brown‘s press secretary, to Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs, and others, Aug. 31, 2 p.m.

"Also, it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn (sic) that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc.




Bahamonde to Taylor and Michael Widomski, public affairs, Aug. 31, 2:44 p.m.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! No won‘t go any further, too easy of a target. Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move my pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don‘t stab me in the back while I try to sleep.




Fuck this guy. Why is he still getting paid with MY tax money?
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 8:05 AM on November 3, 2005


What does the vomit comment even mean? I can't figure it out.

And pardonyou?, I would agree if it seemed he had been on the ball the entire time, but he wasn't. Remember his assertation that he didn't know the Superdome was out of food and water 3 days after the media was reporting it? Also: his "can I quit now" seemed to be more of him saying that he had already planned to quit and now he's "trapped" and has to actually do his job. Sadly for everyone involved, he didn't actually do his job.

Although, FEMA was never supposed to be the first responders, but that's another topic for another thread.
posted by nadawi at 8:06 AM on November 3, 2005




To: POTUS (georgewbush@seclinealpha.nsa.mil)
From: Turd Blossom (karlrove@seclinealpha.nsa.mil)

GWB, it's sleeve-rolling time part three. We gotta get that bird flu thing going with a little press conference -- USA Today is ripe for a front-pager that'll make Reid's little carnival in the Senate go bye-bye for a news cycle or two, and we can get one of our DHHS guys to float some figures like "1.9 million possible dead" while we work on that Posse Comitatus stuff.

You looked great last night, BTW.

KR

posted by digaman at 8:10 AM on November 3, 2005


The accounts of police threatening victims, harassing them, refusing to let them evacuate, and destroying shelters - very serious. There are lessons to be learned here...
posted by ewkpates at 8:14 AM on November 3, 2005


Holy shit, seriously, read Melancon's analysis. Send it to your friends.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:21 AM on November 3, 2005


This is pretty much what I expected.

Worst president ever.
posted by wakko at 8:23 AM on November 3, 2005


Out of context, they're just fine-- dogsitting and fashion tips are perfectly reasonable things to send E-mails about. It's when you read them in context, and realize that they were written by the man ostensibly in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Administration at the very same time that a major American city was being destroyed... well, I'd say that the context is the whole problem, wouldn't you?

Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives. If something comes up they have to deal with then they may have to put their personal lives on hold, but they still have particular duties to attend to, not allowing one's dog to starve can safely be put on that list I think, and quite possibly using email from the terminal in front of you may well be the easiest/most efficient way to get one's personal life on hold and allow one to deal with the situation at hand. The fact that he then dealt with the situation incompetently does not change this.
posted by biffa at 8:25 AM on November 3, 2005


Brown is incompetent, but he's just a patsy:

Although the Department has provided many e-mails from Mr. Brown, it does not appear that all of Mr. Brown’s e-mails have been produced by the Department. In his congressional testimony, Mr. Brown referenced e-mails that he sent to the White House. Mr. Brown stated: “I exchanged e-mails and phone calls with Joe Hagin, Andy Card and the President.”39

However, no e-mail messages between Mr. Brown and Joe Hagin, who is White House deputy chief of staff, or Andrew Card, who is White House chief of staff, have been provided by the Department. There have also been no e-mails produced between Mr. Brown and President Bush or other senior White House officials. Moreover, it does not appear that any e-mails between Mr. Brown and Secretary Chertoff have been produced. These are significant gaps in the Department’s compliance with the congressional document request.
(emph. mine)
posted by Rothko at 8:28 AM on November 3, 2005


allow one to deal with the situation at hand.

Please point out one goddamn time he dealt with the situation at all.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:28 AM on November 3, 2005


digaman, that is so fake. Everybody knows the president's real email address is president@whitehouse.gov.
posted by S.C. at 8:30 AM on November 3, 2005


Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives.

I think folks are missing the point here. Brown's emails formed a pattern and the cited emails were examples cited by Melancon, not just the select few emails that were found in a sea of hard working dedicated ones.

Sure he is permitted a personal life and sure email would be a great way to conduct that life, however when you are in charge of the largest natural disaster in our history and the only thing that you take decisive action on is your tie and your dog, things are not so good.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:31 AM on November 3, 2005


Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives.

Lame.
posted by Rothko at 8:33 AM on November 3, 2005


Why will no one answer my question: "Were there, or were there not weapons of mass destruction in New Orleans?"
posted by blue_beetle at 8:35 AM on November 3, 2005


Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives.

Now, watch this drive.
posted by postmodernmillie at 8:35 AM on November 3, 2005


Had Brown handled this in somewhat of a reasonable fashion, we would never have seen this emails.

That fact that he was such a complete fuckup with this virtually asssured that someone would make these emails public.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on November 3, 2005


I hope he was able to find someone to watch his dog. I mean, come on, they'd have had the whole house to themselves for, what, four days? Niiiiice.
posted by papercake at 8:56 AM on November 3, 2005


I wonder what Congress would think of the email I sent to hundreds of co-workers last week that said, "In Soviet Russia, [position for which we are hiring] fills you!" in response to some HR blast email.

Hopefully, they'll think it's funnier than my colleagues did.
posted by mullacc at 8:57 AM on November 3, 2005


Good thing he's still on the payroll. As of October 21, FEMA had extended his contract by another 30 days.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:04 AM on November 3, 2005


If it helps keep the enormous incompetence of the Katrina response in the news, it's worth it. Remember, Katrina was the one time in the past five years where even people like David Brooks and Fox News were like, "Holy shit Bush fucked up." Don't let them forget that (as hard as they will try.)
posted by fungible at 9:08 AM on November 3, 2005


You would expect the guy to be concerned about a dog trapped in a house with no food or water.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:08 AM on November 3, 2005


It's right that senior officials be concerned with their image, especially during crisis. Being seen as a leader by the press and by the public requires such things. I've been on the government side of a few emergency situations, and media relations are critical to both keeping public order and the decisions of how response efforts happen. If the public is concerned (to the point of riot) about a few issues, those can get all the attention, to the exclusion and detriment of the long-term. Projecting the right message to the public is the job of the administration so that the operational people can do their work.

These mails, however, reveal a very unhealthy narcissism that is an all-too-common occupational hazard of upper management. A good manager is concerned with their image, yes, but only as a means to the end of effectively and efficiently responding to the incident. Brown never appears to have understood that. If everything is viewed through the lens of personal aggrandizement, then disasters like the response to NOLA are what result.

It's a given in the response community that local authorities are going to be overwhelmed. That's why state- and national-level agencies exist. There are very good models for how long a municipality has to hold out until federal resources can be marshaled (2-4 days in most cases). Most agencies practice these exact scenarios, on paper quite often, and every few years with real equipment. I'd seen documents prior to 2000 on Lake Pontchartrain burst scenarios in the hands of the USCG and the USACE. FEMA was certainly aware of these plans too.

As a side note, it's hard for me to take criticism of the NOLA mayor seriously. Sure he made some bad decisions, but of course he would. He had almost no resources and no experience. All he should have had to do was hang on for a couple of days, and then FEMA should have been ready to take over.

Of course, that didn't happen. It's clear that there were systemic breakdowns, not only in FEMA but in DHS too. Coordination that was supposed to happen didn't. Marshaling and callups weren't done according to plan. Offers of help were ignored because FEMA seemingly had no ability or direction. The biggest problem in any emergency isn't the operational people--who train for this regularly---but keeping the politicals and the higher admins from throwing away the plans (drafted by the operational folks) and posing for the cameras. That's Brown's failure.
posted by bonehead at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2005


Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives.

True, but emergencies and workers from emergency response agencies are different. You wouldn't expect a firefighter not to respond because he had to go home to feed the dog. At the operational level these things are well understood and taken into account. Workload management is taken very seriously. Tired people make mistakes and no one wants that in an already bad situation.

The problem was that the politicals weren't prepared for the demands of a real emergency.
posted by bonehead at 9:19 AM on November 3, 2005


in new model america, brownie i bet won't get to go to trial. supercronies somehow have a magical tendency to become supergrasses when subject to intrusive investigation.

a potential supergrass of brown's calibre would i'd imagine have a expected lifespan slighty exceeeding that of a mayfly.

whatever happens next, don't take your eye off the ball - events over the next few weeks concerning brown will be incredibly interesting to say the least.
posted by rodney stewart at 9:21 AM on November 3, 2005


it's even worse than i thought ... i'm speechless
posted by pyramid termite at 9:24 AM on November 3, 2005


``You just need to look more hard-working...ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!'
posted by stenseng at 9:24 AM on November 3, 2005


I like when he thanks Howard Pike for helping him with "this awful mess." The awful mess being, of course, media reports about him fucking up as a horse judge. Not, you know, that whole hurricane thing.
posted by papakwanz at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2005


This is the one that needs to be followed up on.
From Robert Fenton to everybody
September 01,2005 18:54

I hope this report is in error, we ordered 450 water and 450 ice per day, two day's ago which was supposed to start tomorrow. Prior to that on August 28th we ordered 255 water and 255 ice per day to start on August 30th. We have not yet met any of our requirements even with two day's notice. If we get the quantities in your report tomorrow we will have serious riots.
posted by Chuckles at 9:28 AM on November 3, 2005


Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives.

A lot of people have already beaten on this comment, however:

The fact that he then dealt with the situation incompetently does not change this.

The fact that he was worried about his poor widdle doggie being hungry for a little while instead of doing his goddamned fucking job kind of irks me.
posted by wakko at 9:32 AM on November 3, 2005


What a fucking idiot.

Firstly for obviously not realizing every word he wrote would eventually be public record.
posted by tkchrist at 9:35 AM on November 3, 2005


Context-free? The context is that he's sending these emails during the height of what is supposed to be his frickin' job responsibility.

Sounds like a good time to blow off a little steam, and find solace in humour. Could we be seeing the results of some kind of Haweye Pierce effect -- levity to maintain sanity?

Of course, the comparison breaks down because the surgeons on M*A*S*H always did an excellent job despite their quips, unlike a certain jazz-hating horse-breeding ex-bureaucrat we all know and...know.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 9:36 AM on November 3, 2005



"I am a fashion god."
posted by rodney stewart at 9:39 AM on November 3, 2005


Fuck this context shit. He should have been managing a crisis of epic proportions, and not worrying about his clothes. Brown and the person who chose him for that position should be charged with criminal negligence or something like that.

Bush & Co. have probably killed more innocent people than al-Qaeda.
posted by marxchivist at 9:40 AM on November 3, 2005


There's just basically no way to defend this guy without making yourself look like a huge retard. So don't bother defending him. It's more fun to pile on anyway.
posted by wakko at 9:53 AM on November 3, 2005


We'll never rid the world of cronyism, I know, but it still makes me want to throw up, because I know dozens of hard-working, intelligent, capable people who are either un- or under-employed while lazy idiots like this guy are handed the world on a silver platter.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2005, at 12:20 p.m., Marty Bahamonde, one of the only FEMA employees on the ground in New Orleans, sent a desperate message to Mr. Brown:

Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes. The dying patients at the DMAT tent being medivac. Estimates are many will die within hours. Evacuation in process. Plans developing for dome evacuation but hotel situation adding to problem. We are out of food and running out of water at the dome, plans in works to address the critical need. FEMA staff is OK and holding own. DMAT staff working in deplorable conditions. The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner wecan get them out. Phone connectivity impossible.

Mr. Brown responded to Mr. Bahamonde at 12:24 p.m. This is Mr. Brown’s full response:

Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?


Words fail me.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:02 AM on November 3, 2005


That Brownie, he did a heck of a job!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:04 AM on November 3, 2005


Well, since these emails are the only communications that Chertoff's office was willing to release (so far, at least), I have to assume that Chertoff is very interested in focusing public attention on Brown the Imcompetent Gadfly.
And that makes me REALLY wonder what the DoHS is trying to sweep under the carpet.
posted by maryh at 10:07 AM on November 3, 2005


"Brownie, You're Doin' a Heck of a Job" [via Harry Shearer's Le Show]
posted by Rothko at 10:10 AM on November 3, 2005


How's Trent Lott's new house coming along, anyway? The president needs lemonade!
posted by gompa at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2005


"Bush & Co. have probably killed more innocent people than al-Qaeda."

Ya' think?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:22 AM on November 3, 2005


Can we revolt now, PLEASE?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2005


Well, since these emails are the only communications that Chertoff's office was willing to release (so far, at least), I have to assume that Chertoff is very interested in focusing public attention on Brown the Imcompetent Gadfly.

Well, no. This is actually selective release from a congressperson, not Homeland Security. From the article:
The e-mails were among 1,000 pages of electronic messages the Homeland Security Department turned over to a special House panel probing the federal response....
Again, not defending Brownie. Just keepin' it real.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:44 AM on November 3, 2005


The problem was that the politicals weren't prepared for the demands of a real emergency.


The problem was that Bush cut off funding for FEMA when he first came into office, and hired this clown to run it.
posted by xammerboy at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2005


Well, no. This is actually selective release from a congressperson, not Homeland Security.

Well, no. This is actually an understandably selective report from a congressperson based on a suspiciously selective release from the administration.

Also keepin' it real.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:08 AM on November 3, 2005


Please get some sort of plan together to start handling the pets. Thanks. MB

I was under the impression that managing an organization like FEMA required that you do more than merely suggest that some of his employees start formulating a plan. I though that to do that sort of job, the top-most executive would have to actually contribute sensible and at least somewhat fully fleshed-out plans. Not just a sort of, "Yeah, we sure should so something about that. Make it happen for me, ok?"


Federal employees are allowed to have personal lives.


Fuck that. I can't make personal calls while I'm at work even when there's nothing going on. So why the fuck does Brownie get to do shit besides MANAGE AN END OF THE WORLD DISASTER. Goddamnit. Read my motherfucking emails during that week. I was a thousand miles away but you can be goddamn sure that I wasn't writing about anything besides what was happening in the Gulf.
Prison is too good for these rotten fucks.
posted by Jon-o at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2005


correction: this is the famous shirt.



a fine pouting performance from on evening of aug 29th:

http://mediamatters.org/items/200509080002 (brown appears about halfway in)

no wonder Cindy Taylor was creaming herself. i believe this is the performance she was referring to in her email.

I know its early, but … My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous — and I’m not talking the makeup!

Mr. Brown’s reply was: “I got it at Nordstroms.

posted by rodney stewart at 11:33 AM on November 3, 2005


aug 28th i should've said
posted by rodney stewart at 11:35 AM on November 3, 2005


I though that to do that sort of job, the top-most executive would have to actually contribute sensible and at least somewhat fully fleshed-out plans. Not just a sort of, "Yeah, we sure should so something about that. Make it happen for me, ok?"

Actually, in my recent professional experience, Brownie's hands-off approach to management is catching on like wild-fire among manager types these days... But yeah, one would hope they'd provide some real leadership, but more often than not, it's the appearance of leadership they're more concerned with.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 11:47 AM on November 3, 2005


all-seeing has a point: "hands off" is in vogue. And what's more, if it's done right, it works.

But the best "hands off" managers only really appear to be hands off. They're very hands-on in one special regard: Motivating and directing people. They know, at a high level, everythign that's going on. They've delegated it, sure; but they know the people working for them well enough that they know when they need to get hands on.

I know about these types because I've worked for them. You catch them by surprise when people downstream screw up and drop balls; but when that happens, they're all over it as much as they need to be until it's fixed. They take personal responsibility where appropriate; they take the bullet for a subordinate if the persecution is unfair. Managers like that get great loyalty from their subordinates.

In these Brown correspondences, I see a charicature of that attitude. I've worked for guys like him, too: They issue a series of vague handwaves and mutter about being "big picture" and "hands-off managers", while they clear the afternoon calendar for their golf game and screen their cell phone calls because they need their "down time."

The administration is full of guys like Brown. It's full of the first type, too: Much as I dislike the man, I think Rummy is probably one of those hands-off-until-they're-on kind of managers who inspires loyalty from subordinates and terror from bureaucratic enemies. Karl Rove is probably like that, too. Brownie and his ilk copy the affect, but not the substance, of those managers.
posted by lodurr at 12:02 PM on November 3, 2005


Exactly lodurr...

and mutter about being "big picture"

...The good hands-off managers I've known actually do understand the big picture, and have a clear understanding of the larger game plan. Not just some casual, incidental grasp of the big picture, but one that results from careful visionary planning. Workers in the trenches need someone to call the plays, and most importantly, to have a solid playbook and a broader strategy. But the kind of bad hands-off managers I'm talking about don't seem to realize they actually have a job to do other than just keeping their political allies happy and their subordinates in line and tied-up with busy work.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 12:10 PM on November 3, 2005


I don't think Democrats made enough of Bush's seven-minute freeze, and I doubt they'll make enough of these emails. Bloggers aren't enough; you need high-profile Democrats to actually care about this sort of thing. For the time being, Democrats shouldn't talk about issues like tax reform and health care. They should talk about incompetence.

Consider that a free tip from a Republican.
posted by cribcage at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2005


cribcage: A good tip it is.
posted by brundlefly at 12:36 PM on November 3, 2005


cribcage, I agree, and I'll add: The kind of hands-off manager that all-seeing and I are talking about is the kind who could freeze for 7 minutes, even in a crisis like that, and it might not be such a problem. Because people who work for them are accustomed to acting independently, without fear of being either second-guessed or sold out by their bosses.

But managers like Bush, who leads by intimidation (what do you think those nicknames are all about, anyway?), or like Brown, who "leads" by following the wind -- they freeze, and nothing happens.
posted by lodurr at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2005


Real "hands-off" managers don't stop monitoring, ever. There might be a point where they need to step in and direct things when their subordinates are in over their heads. They just aren't overt about it. Their people are "empowered", not abandoned. It's a big difference.

But guys like Brown perceive this instead as a license to ignore what's going on and focus on themselves. In his particular case, I believe he lacks the skills to manage anyway, so this was an ideal situation for him. That is, right up to the point where he needed to put his "hands on". He couldn't.
posted by tommasz at 1:05 PM on November 3, 2005


melancon's entire website now gone.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2005


...based on a suspiciously selective release from the administration.

Got a cite for that?
posted by pardonyou? at 2:12 PM on November 3, 2005


"Hands-off management" is new-age bullshit, like "synergy." If you believe in that junk, stick to coaching seminars and leave real jobs to genuine leaders -- particularly when those jobs involve decisions which directly affect the safety and well-being of strangers.

"Hands-off management" was the buzzword used by the criminal executives at Enron. It's a crock, an imaginary buffer used to justify exorbitant salaries or to preserve plausible deniability in case of indictment.
posted by cribcage at 2:20 PM on November 3, 2005


pardonyou?: Here's a chunk of Melancon's analysis, before it was taken down (even more suspiciously). The DHS and White House left out a lot of correspondence between Brown and them.
posted by Rothko at 2:21 PM on November 3, 2005


Ah, missed that. Thanks.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:28 PM on November 3, 2005


Why did no one ask me to lead FEMA? Why aren't people banging on my door handing me assloads of cash in exchange for merely being competant? Why am I not in charge of the Department of Homeland Security by the simple grace that I will show up for work and actually stay on task?
Why doesn't the President come to my house and say "Smedleyman, we want you to straighten our asses out 'cause we're totally clueless."


...oh, yeah, poor ass-kissing skills, I forgot.

I'm with you on the management thing, lodurr.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:53 PM on November 3, 2005


CNN still has a copy of the Melancon Report [PDF]. I don't think there's anything suspicious - looks like Melancon's site has folded under traffic pressure or bad code - but grab the PDF while you can, just to be on the safe side.
posted by LondonYank at 3:11 PM on November 3, 2005


cribcage, I expect you're talking about what the rest of us loathe. I like hands-off managers -- but I'd prefer they knew what I was doing, as tommasz suggests.
posted by lodurr at 3:23 PM on November 3, 2005


I don't think Democrats made enough of Bush's seven-minute freeze, and I doubt they'll make enough of these emails.

It's probably just the way that US news is covered over here in the UK, but from my vantage point, the Democrats have just disappeared off the face of the earth when it comes to serving as an effective opposition. Are they headless and floundering like the Tories over here, or is it that they're afraid of being labelled 'unpatriotic', or what?

As for these emails - I knew Brown was a useless tosser, but this is just astounding.
posted by jack_mo at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2005


From the Melancon report:

On September 30, 2005, Rep. Charles Melancon and Rep. Tom Davis, the chairman of the House select comittee investigating Hurricane Katrina, wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Micheal Chertoff requesting documents and communications from the Department of Homeland Security and its components relating to the response to Hurricane Katrina. The request asked for a response within two weeks, by October 14, 2005.

To date, the Department of Homeland Security has provided few of the documents requested by Reps. Melancon and Davis. One exception, however, involves the e-mails of Micheal Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although it does not appear that the Department has provided a complete set of e-mails involving Mr. Brown, the Department has produced more than 1,000 pages of e-mail correspondence from Mr. Brown's office. About 100 pages of these e-mails were produced on October 14, 2005. The remainder, about 900 pages of e-mails, were produced on October 18, 2005.


Brown is a absolute cock-up, but it seems pretty clear to me that he's also a sacrifice. The worse he appears, the more blame is deflected from Chertoff and the administration and I'm sure that's just the way they want it.
I keep imagining that scene in The Maltese Falcon where the hapless gunsel Vilmer wakes up to find everyone in the room has wordlessly chosen him to be the fall guy. Sorry, Brownie.
posted by maryh at 4:19 PM on November 3, 2005


workers from emergency response agencies are different. You wouldn't expect a firefighter not to respond because he had to go home to feed the dog.

A coworker of mine was very sick at home today and called a colleague to take her to the hospital because her husband wasn't available. He's a cop and was working on a rape case.

His wife had a killer headache, was pooping blood and vomiting nonstop - and he couldn't leave because of this one serious crime he had to handle.

So yeah, Brownie making flaky jokes about his fecking wardrobe and chatting about dogsitters while the ENTIRE CITY of New Orleans was falling apart is beyond reprehensible.

But Kanye West had it wrong - it's not that BushCo doesn't care about black people. They don't care about any people.
posted by NorthernLite at 4:42 PM on November 3, 2005


They don't care about any poor people.

They care lots about their donors.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:36 PM on November 3, 2005


Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:14 PM on November 3, 2005


Oh, for Christ's sake. That line was a joke scripted by a speechwriter -- and actually, it was pretty funny. If you're going to harp on something so trivial and stupid, at least use the "Now watch this drive!" line. That one was actually Bush.
posted by cribcage at 9:13 PM on November 3, 2005


It's funny because it's true.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:31 PM on November 3, 2005


Thanks to CNN for hosting the emails and analysis. An amazing read.

*rolls up sleeves and looks in the mirror*
Yep, I look more hard-working already.
posted by slf at 10:15 PM on November 3, 2005


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