The Butt of the Joke

There's no place like Home Depot for the holidays.

"Bottom line," Borovay told him, "people are going to laugh at you. Just laugh with them."

But Dougherty may have the last laugh: a $10,000 donation just showed up in his legal trust account, forwarded by Borovay from a Japanese businessman who'd found his story on gotglued. "I feel so pity to Bob," the man wrote. "He is luck to be alive."

A Heck of a Job

Flash back to January 2004. Leaks suddenly spring at the University of Colorado, with tales of sexual assaults connected to football-recruiting parties. Soon the state's flagship educational institution will be awash in bad press as revelations keep pouring out; eventually, the torrent will sweep away athletic director Dick Tharp, CU chancellor Dick Bynny, president Betsy Hoffman and, finally, football coach Gary Barnett.

Now, just think what would have happened if, at the first hint of rough weather ahead, Hoffman had picked up the phone and dialed disaster-management consultant Michael D. Brown.

Boulder might have been wiped off the map altogether.

Timing is everything. Michael Brown's learned that the hard way.

Five years ago, Brown was thrown from his cushy post as commissioner of judges and stewards at the Colorado-based International Arabian Horse Association and fell upward to a job as legal counsel with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, then headed by Joe Allbaugh, a Brown buddy who'd been President George W. Bush's 2000 campaign manager. By August 2005, Brown himself was director of FEMA. And then Katrina hit. While Brown fiddled around with what to wear on TV -- "I am a fashion god," he said in one e-mail -- New Orleans flooded, then burned.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Bush told his appointee on September 2. Ten days later, Brown went under. He got to stay on as a FEMA consultant for more than a month after his resignation, though, and apparently enjoyed the consulting gig so much that now he's starting a disaster-management consulting firm. Based conveniently close to Boulder.

"If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses -- because that goes straight to the bottom line -- then I hope I can help the country in some way," he told Rocky Mountain News reporter M.E. Sprengelmeyer, in an interview published the same day CNN named Brown a "political turkey of the year."

The ironies piled up higher than the trash at the New Orleans Superdome. People who make their living at crisis consulting -- including a few who've been called on in the past by CU -- wondered how much lower their profession could go. Another round of Brownie jokes hit the late-night shows. And New York-based blogger Evan Derkacz posted a contest to create a slogan for Brown's new consulting firm, "unleashing unprecedented levels of toxic sludge into the political discourse," he noted. "Thanks."

The top fifteen:

1. Michael Brown, Disaster Consultant: "It Takes One to Know One!"

2. "You've tried all the rest, now try the worst."

3. Michael Brown: "Getting It Right the Second Time Around!"

4. "Been there, didn't do that!"

5. Brown Disaster Consulting: "Showing up was the least we could do."

6. "Don't let amateurs mess things up for you. Get a pro."

7. "When you need help really bad, we have really bad help."

8. "From the same people who brought you Iraq!"

9. "We fuck up so you don't have to."

10. "Anyone can plan for a disaster; we make it happen!"

11. "There's no 'ME' in emergency."

12. "When the going gets tough, we will hire a consulting agency to study the demographics, then take a survey to determine if an actual disaster has taken place."

13. "When the day-after-tomorrow is too soon, use Mike Brown."

14. Brownwater Security: "Leaving the Seat Up for Safety."

15. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the Brown stuff."

Michael Brown's house in D.C. is up for sale, and he's headed back to Colorado. Let's just hope he doesn't have Hank Brown's number.

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