No More Horsing Around

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 8 2005 5:54 PM

No More Horsing Around

Nancy Pelosi isn't the only one calling for the firing of FEMA Director Mike Brown for the inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. Bloggers across the spectrum are pointing out the various failures of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and putting their own pressure on President Bush to make a rare firing.

FEMA, writes independent Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, "will now likely go down in history as having had under the Bush administration perhaps the most inept and controversial leadership ever, sparking calls from people of MANY ideologies and BOTH parties for a resignation (but the administration prides itself on loyalty and President Bush reportedly said nothing with the government response to the storm went wrong.)"

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Or is the administration listening? Salt Lake City blogger SLC Library Boy hints that those stories about Brown's previous job as a rules enforcer for the Arabian Horse Association might have come from on high. "Mr Bush is loyal to appointees," he writes. "But leaks against Mr Brown, about a lack of qualifications for the job - suspected of orginating in the White House, suggest he is being lined up as designated fall guy, in an attempt to save the necks of those higher up."

Noting that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has appointed Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard as his "deputy for Katrina relief," D.C. gossip Wonkette snarks that, "Allen will be Brown's 'deputy' in the same sense that same sense that, say, the surrogate who Ted Kennedy hired to take his Harvard Spanish final for him was 'Ted Kennedy': i.e., someone to do the hard work, while the privileged, well-connected sinecure-holder tries to steer clear of his next Bertie-Wooster style scrape."

More specifically, bloggers are responding to reports that FEMA has banned media outlets from photographing dead bodies. Conservative Andrew Sullivan, who's been railing against Brown for days, is aghast at the reported attempts to censor news coverage: "The press should ignore those requests, get boats themselves and show the world what has actually happened. (Hey, much of the media was ahead of FEMA during the worst of it. Why not again now?)"

Another conservative blogger, Sublog, thinks such complaints go too far: "It's unfortunate that the left's, and Sullivan's, disdain for the Bush administration has led them to such lows. I hope photobloggers in the area have more respect for their fellow man than Sullivan does, and ignore his repulsive advice." Sublog links to this post by Catholic blogger The Anchoress, in which she does post an image depicting a dead body and asks, "You like it? You like looking at that? That's someone's father or brother or husband or grandpa! Would you like it if it was YOUR father, or brother or husband or grandpa being displayed like that? I don't think anyone would."

Another uproar is over a Salt Lake Tribune report that FEMA brought in firefighters from across the nation not to rescue victims but to be community-relations officers. They're reportedly being asked to disseminate fliers and advise people of FEMA's toll-free number (1-800-621-FEMA). One team of 50 supposedly was dispatched to stand beside President Bush as he visits affected areas. "It's an article you've really got a to read to appreciate the full measure of folly and surreality," writes lefty Joshua Micah Marshall in his Talking Points Memo. "You can't make this stuff up." Live Journal blogger Aden Nak raises an obvious logistical point: "Of course, one has to wonder exactly who they are going to be handing out fliers to, since none of the people in trouble are likely to have electricity or running water, let alone phone service."

Even the FEMA plan to distribute $2,000 debit cards to Katrina victims is catching heat. "Is it just me, or is anyone else worried about giving $2000 to victims without any control over what it gets spent on?" writes Dan Markel on PrawfsBlawg. "Call me paternalist, but since these are public dollars (that I subsidize through taxes), I'm not entirely excited about "empowering" the purchase of alcohol, tobacco, guns and ammo, and lottery tickets." A further sign of government inefficiency is pointed out by Houston blogger Laurence Simon: "The Red Cross is handing out assistance debit cards faster and more effectively than the FEMA folks (F***ing Everyone? Mission Accomplished!), surprise surprise." Meanwhile, Political Animal Kevin Drum links to another solution to help people: vouchers for Section 8 housing.

Read more about coverage censorship here, FEMA debit cards here, and Michael Brown here.

Darren Everson is a sportswriter in New York City.