Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bullshit Brown

Via the Voluntary Trade Council, via Mises Economics Blog, via Juliette Kayyem at TPMCafe, via Josh Marshall, we see the official transcript (pdf) of the Nomination of Michael D. Brown to be Deputy Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And it's disgusting.

See, the problem for us nice, decent, normal, thinking kind of people, is that bullshit is easier than the real thing, and people who can fake it can often appear more competent and professional than the people who actually are competent and professional. And too many people just can't see that. Like they were born without bullshit detectors. And that's how bad people get good jobs and why you get stuck working under them. Because they can bullshit it better than you. This isn't always the case, of course; and oftentimes your boss really is more competent than you. But I was just trying to be polite.

And this is exactly how we ended up with Bush. I mean, that guy's bullshit all the way. Because that's all he's got. He just doesn't give a damn about what he says, and he's not trying to bullshit; he just can't help it. He's got nothing better to say. And so it is with all bullshitters. They don't want to bullshit, they just can't do anything else, and don't even understand the distinction. In fact, they think of us honest folks as suckers, and don't understand why we're too stupid to bullshit too. They think it's all bullshit, all the time.

Bullshitters beget more bullshitters, and so we end up with the likes of Michael D. Brown heading up the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A 42-minute hearing, and this boob ended up as the head honcho. And I've never read one of these nomination transcripts, but the whole thing just sounds like complete bullshit. Like people who know they have a role to play, but can't do anything but copy what the other meetings were like.

It starts off with a brief introduction by Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the committee in 2002, and then goes quickly for the bullshit. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Co) begins the lovefest with stuff like:
"Mr. Chairman, I cannot state firmly enough that I believe Michael Brown to be more than qualified to serve FEMA and the people of this country as part of the administration. He is dedicated, tenacious, and he is exactly the type of individual who has given up probably a better lifestyle to be in public service and we certainly appreciate all of that."

Wow, he just couldn't state firmly enough that Brown was more than qualified for the job. Wow. The Senator didn't specify whether this inability was due a failure in our language, not having strong enough words to convey his feelings; or if it was that Brown was so infinitely qualified that it was physically impossible to do it any justice. Whatever it was, Nighthorse Campbell just couldn't do it.

Then again, perhaps he was just trying to warn us off. When he said that "I can't state firmly enough", perhaps it was because he thought that Brown was completely incompetent and unqualified, and might even damage America.

We quickly move to the Honorable Wayne Allard, another Republican Senator from Colorado. In fact, Colorado has a big part to do with his Honor's praise of Brown; as Brown too is a Coloradan. And this pleases the Honorable Allard, as he mentions several times. At the end, Allard actually thanked the committee for allowing him the opportunity to introduce Michael D. Brown. And I'm sure that's what I'm missing from my life too. I've been feeling kind of sluggish lately, a bit down in the dumps. But I'm sure that if someone gave me the opportunity to introduce a deputy director nominee to a committee, I would thank them for it afterwards.

I'm being bad, of course. I'm sure that this is all just standard protocol. But it does seem a bit stupid, in light of how little that hearing accomplished, in regards to our recent national disaster. Just more bullshit to help these people feel important. Especially as I'm sure that these guys didn't write these speeches, and they were most likely just rewrites of the same kind of crap that these guys spew out all the time.

And then Lieberman steps up, and after mentioning that those two endorsements got Brown "off to a good start", he enters a written statement praising Brown. And what's crazy is that I was just getting to this part when I clicked over at TPM and read this: Time finds what it really, really charitably calls discrepancies' in FEMA Chief Michael Brown's resume. Like when he served as "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" in Edmond, Okla.? Okay, he was an intern (title=administrative assistant) there while he was in college.

And sure enough, I read this from Lieberman's opening statement:
"and, in what I think is particularly useful experience, early in his career, was assistant city manager in Edmond, with responsibility for police, fire and emergency services. Yes, that would have been particularly useful, had it been true. And you know what else would have been helpful? If someone on this committee had actually checked Brown's resume. That would have been helpful.

And seeing as how these reporters found it in just a few days, I'm having trouble understanding why our own government couldn't do this. Shouldn't it just be standard issue to at least check the resumes of these people? I've worked at small companies where we checked resumes, and in one case, even fired an employee a week after he started for lying about a previous job. We had already hired the guy, yet my boss still kept calling his references and past employers until he got his answers. And the guy was sacked immediately.

And yet, here I'm reading Brown's confirmation hearing, and they're clearly using his resume as filler in their speeches. The only things they have to recommend him, outside of being from Colorado, is his resume. His heavily padded, and often fraudulent resume. And yet these Senators were satisfied enough to use it again and again. And I wonder if Brown was thinking about any of these falsehoods when these fine Senators recited them. Or is he such a bullshitter that he doesn't even remember when he's bullshitting? If he was thinking about them at all, he was probably laughing about the whole thing. But he probably had forgotten about it completely.

Ah fuck it. I just don't have the time to finish this soon, and by the time I finish it, it'll be completely stale. So I'll just end this for now. Maybe I'll finish it later tonight, or maybe I won't get back to it at all. I don't know. I'll just leave you with one of Brown's bullshit answers.

Lieberman asks about evacuation plans around nuclear plants in the New York area, and refers to a petition filed with FEMA from a New York Assemblyman who thought that FEMA's evacuation plan was inadequate. Lieberman says that as Deputy Director of FEMA, Brown would be responsible for handling that kind of thing, and asked about how he would handle the investigations of such plans. Brown answers:

I think my role is a very serious one. I think the agency's role is a very serious one, that we should not just wait for someone to petition or request that we evaluate, that those types of plans should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. It would be my intent to somehow implement the ongoing evaluation so we do not have to look in hindsight and say, gosh, we wish we had looked at that. We should be looking at that all the time to make sure they are adequate, and I will pledge to you that we will certainly do that.

Nice, bullshitty kind of answer. The kind of thing that anybody could say, whether competent or not. In fact, one that a bullshitter would be more likely to find at hand, rather than the competent. He's not going to wait for people to petition an evaluation of FEMA's plans. He's not going to "wish we had that" in hindsight. Oh no. And I'm sure that if he had given his answer five years ago, he might even have used the cliche "proactive" at least once. And he might even have referenced "synergy", another bullshit phrase used in these kind of situations.

But then Lieberman asks a follow-up, and we have this exchange that ends the grueling 42 minute confirmation hearing of this important incompetent:

Chairman LIEBERMAN. I appreciate that, obviously, from the point of view of Connecticut. I am not asking for what your response will be, but do you have any sense of how you will handle this petition from New York about a review of the Indian Point plant?
Mr. BROWN. In all honesty, I do not. I just received it yesterday --

Chairman LIEBERMAN. You did?
Mr. BROWN [continuing]. When I got back into the States and I just looked at it for the first time yesterday.
Chairman LIEBERMAN. Understood. We will continue to want to be in dialogue with you on this, as well, and I appreciate the commitment that you made to be involved in ongoing review of these plans because it is obviously critical.

And that's that. That's how it ends. The answer to the last question of the hearing is that Brown hadn't looked at the petition, and didn't have the slightest idea how he would respond to it. Which means that he didn't know anything about it. I mean, Lieberman clearly stated he didn't need a specific answer, just a general sense of what Brown would do. And Brown couldn't even give that much, because he was so unfamiliar with this topic which he had just said he wouldn't wait for. And Lieberman was clearly of the impression that Brown should have already seen it. Because, mind you, Brown was already acting Deputy, so it's not like he hadn't been doing the job already. But he clearly wasn't aware enough of this part of the job to even give a bullshit answer.

Of course, it's not like evacuations for nuclear plant disasters are all that important anyway. And maybe Brown does have a good excuse for not being able to answer the question. But as we've seen excuses aren't nearly as good as plans. Brown talked a good game of not waiting for petitions, and not having to wish for things in hindsight. But in hindsight, it was all complete bullshit.

Anyway, I might finish this later, or maybe not. I'm really kind of busy.


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