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Friday, October 26, 2007

Of Rubber Chickens and Federal Emergency Response Agencies...

(A special note to my brother and sister firefighters putting their lives on the line; this in no way includes nor implicates you in the mishandling of things by FEMA administrators. As with our soldiers, our nation is damned proud of you and the fine hard work you are doing in fighting this monster.

God Bless each and every one of you out there fighting the Dragon.)

Hurricane Katrina was a huge, huge disaster both in terms of the storm itself and the destruction left in it's aftermath. Couple that with the flooding of New Orleans after the failure of the dike system, and the HUGE, HUGE public relations nightmare that FEMA faced in the days and weeks after Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast, you would THINK that FEMA would have learned a thing or six after all was said and done.

That would be reasonable to expect, right?

If we were talking about anything OTHER than an agency of the federal government, we might possibly expect a bit of a learning curve.

We're talking about an agency of the federal government however.

The same people that Hillary Clinton wants to put in charge of...


Oh my.

Okay, so what has FEMA done to deserve the prestigious Wake Up America Rubber Chicken Award?

They held a press conference. No big deal, right? Nothing out of the ordinary. We have a disaster situation going on in California, fires everywhere, burning like HELL (literally). So it's only natural to think that FEMA would be conducting press conferences.

But how do you hold a press conference without the press? You put people from your agency out there as an audience and have them POSE as "the press:"

FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA

By Al Kamen
Friday, October 26, 2007; Page A19

FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices.

They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News (see the Fox News video of the news conference carried on the Think Progress Web site), MSNBC and other outlets.

Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about the "commodities" being shipped to Southern California and how officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He responded eloquently.

He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."

"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."

"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

Asked about this, Widomski said: "We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute."

Man-made disaster: Phony FEMA press conference

by Mark Silva

Hurricanes? Wildfires?

They aren’t half the disaster that a FEMA press conference has become.

Earlier this week, in an attempt to get the word out about relief efforts in the Southern California wind-fanned wildfires, the Federal Emergency Management Agency staged a press conference. And we mean staged: Lacking actual reporters, the agency planted FEMA workers to ask the questions that FEMA wanted answered.

And FEMA today stood ready with a mea culpa for the “stunt’’ – suggesting that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was none too happy about this agency-made disaster in the wake of natural disasters that have tested the agency's mettle.

“It is simply inexcusable and offensive to Secretary Chertoff that such a mistake could be made,’’ Laura Keehner, deputy press secretary for Homeland Security, said in a call with actual reporters today. “ We have made it clear that such a stunt will never be tolerated or repeated."

Real reporters had been invited, she said, “but clearly (were) not given enough time to be able to attend… As I understand, a few camera crews were able to arrive in time take B-roll toward the end.’’

B-roll is footage that television stations use – footage that captured the actual questions of the fake reporters at the FEMA press conference.


A fake press conference.

Makes you want to just go JOIN RIGHT UP for work as a federal worker, doesn't it? Make things up as you go along, create fictional situations, stir or sooth mass hysteria...Does man-made global warming come to mind with any of the rest of you, or is it just me?

Just a thought.


Congratulations to FEMA, particularly Michael Chertoff who heads Homeland Security, for showing us once again how much we can trust the agencies of our federal government, and please accept this Rubber Chicken Award as a token of the depth of our gratitude in keeping ourselves ever vigilant in calling the hand of corrupt and inept government.

Once and Always, an American Fighting Man