Saturday, September 03, 2005

Criticism of Bush mounts

Guardian reported George Bush arrived last night in the ravaged Gulf coast region amid mounting criticism of his handling of the crisis and a prediction by one senator that the death toll in Louisiana alone could top 10,000 people.

Why blame Bush for the deaths? I think the Hurricane was responsible for most of them, and the New Orleans police were totally ineffective at controlling the gangs that ignored the evacuation notices and stayed to loot and kill innocent people to establish their control over particular areas. If they are complaining about the speed Bush tried to help, he declared Louisiana a disaster area on 8/29, before Katrina hit land. And Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco were a lot more responsible for things the first few days. Her letter to George Bush requesting assistance was on September 2, two days after the levee breach, and the same day the convoy arrived, and Bush signed the $10.5 billion aid package.


Planned Parenthood

The Dawn Patrol blogged Planned Parenthood, the government-subsidized so-called nonprofit that made a $35.2 million profit last year, is shamelessly milking Americans' compassion for Katrina victims—by using the disaster as an excuse to raise money.

Is Planned Parenthood offering evacuees food? No! Water? No! Shelter? No! First aid? No!

The front page of Planned Parenthood's Web site features a heart-tugging photograph of hurricane victims lining up on a New Orleans sidewalk. The victims in the foreground are black. The text reads:

Help Those Affected by Hurricane

Planned Parenthood staff are on the frontlines aiding patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You can help. 100% of your tax-deductible contribution will go directly to supporting our efforts.
Clicking the "more" link leads to an page that reads:
Help Those Affected by Hurricane

Planned Parenthood clinics in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas are doing everything possible to attend to the needs of patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Women and families escaped the storm with their lives,

Note it says "women and families." Not just "victims," or "women, men and children." Women first, then families—men and children nowhere in sight. It's like that famous New York Times headline parody: "World Ends; Women, Minorities Hit Hardest."
The pitch continues:
leaving behind birth control and other items critical to their well-being.
It's really all about birth control. If Planned Parenthood were providing "other items critical to their well-being," they'd say what those items were.

The pitch translates to: "You've seen those masses of displaced black people on TV. Give us money and we'll make sure that, when they come to your town, they don't breed!"

It continues:
Those desperate for care are rushing to their nearest health center to get the care and treatment they need. Despite the horrific events of the past few days, affiliates and health centers in this region are determined to serve all those that come through the door.

Support Planned Parenthood and their patients during this time of great need. 100% of your tax-deductible contribution will go directly to helping Planned Parenthood affiliates and health centers in this region serve women and families who have nowhere else to turn.
If those refugees have nowhere else to turn but Planned Parenthood, they're really in trouble.
I started to say this is obscene, but then just about anything Planned Parenthood does is obscene. But to try to take advantage of people's generosity, thinking they are helping the people displaced by Katrina find food, water, shelter, and first aid, is ,,,, obscene.


Looting and Buses

Michelle Malkin blogged In case you missed it: Meant to link this incredible story yesterday. Here's another account. Some are characterizing the young, first-time bus driver's act as "looting." But the bus that Jabbar Gibson "commandeered" had been abandoned on a New Orleans street. He took it upon himself to rescue dozens of families--grandmothers, young parents, toddlers, and an 8-day-old infant. That is not "looting." (This is.)

What the young man did was heroic. But according to reports, he may face criminal charges. Bryan Preston points out the real New Orleans bus crime. After you read the story, go over to Slight Clutter's place at Flickr. The photographer was there when the renegade bus arrived. Pulitzer Prize-level photos, if you ask me. I hope the Houston Chronicle or local bloggers can keep track of Jabbar Gibson and the other children on the renegade bus. Perhaps the boneheaded Reliant Astrodome officials who initially refused to let the passengers in after their 13-hour journey can make up for their poor judgment by establishing a Renegade Bus Riders Relief Fund. Or maybe someone else in Houston can pick up the ball?

Breaking into a grocery store to get something to eat or drink, under conditions like existed in New Orleans is not looting.

Breaking into a Walmart and stealing all of the guns is looting

Breaking into a drug store to get medical supplies is not looting (and some police did this in New Orleans)

Breaking into a drug store and stealing all of the narcotics is looting

Taking an abandoned bus and driving a bunch of people to safety is not looting

Sending people to the head of a line of buses so they will get out of a hotel that you want to use for your people probably isn't looting, even when done by the Mayor of New Orleans, and failing to use the 364 buses owned by the New Orleans public transit or the 205 buses owned by the New Orleans school system, and just blaming the President for not sending you buses earlier is not looting either, it is just plain stupid.

And take a look at this. It does not matter what color you are, what you are taking, and why you are taking it, determines whether you should be called a looter.

Confabulator blogged You hear about the rampant looting, shooting, rapes and various other crimes against humanity by some of the remaining people in NOLA and then I ask you have you heard about what Jabar Gibson did, probably not as it is a story from Houston. He demonstrates what calm thinking and looking at options available is what many others in NOLA should have done.

Rancher blogged There are looters and there are looters. In the first case we have dirty cops, which of course contribute to a bad tone in a city. In the second we have a hero that may face prosecution for utilizing an asset that the city should have utilized.... Maybe the Mayor should be prosecuted for failing to see that school buses should be utilized in an emergency when they obviously aren’t going to be used to transport kids to school. Help is on the way.

And speaking of buses, look at this

B. Preston blogged This is infuriating:

An angry Terry Ebbert, head of New Orleans' emergency operations, watched the slow exodus from the Superdome on Thursday morning and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency response was inadequate. The chaos at the nearby New Orleans Convention Center was considerably worse than the Superdome, with an angry mob growing increasingly violent and few options for refugees to leave the scene. "This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control," Ebbert said. "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."
Ebbert's job is to coordinate New Orleans' response to emergencies. Somebody should show him this picture and tell him to stop blaming everyone but himself:

New Orleans owns those buses. Here's their significance:
I count 205 busses. When I was a kid, I remember that school busses could carry 66 people. If that is still the case, 13,530 people could be carried to safety in ONE trip using only the busses shown in that picture.

One trip.
Houston is 350 miles from New Orleans. At 50 miles per hour, 13,530 people could have reached Houston in seven hours. Turn the buses around. 14 hours later another 13,530 people are in Houston, far away from Katrina's wrath. In a little more than a day's time, you've gotten the poorest people who wanted to leave but couldn't leave on their own out of the city. And you don't have to drive them as far as Houston. It's the closest huge city, but there are lots of smaller towns you could ferry people to more quickly. The shorter the drive, the more trips you can make. Pretty soon 26,000 saved becomes everyone saved. If anyone left behind in the storm survives and then loots, at least they're not endangering thousands of innocent people. Those innocent people aren't there to be endangered. They're somewhere else.

You see, buses have these interesting features on them, Mr. Ebbert, called wheels. They allow buses to move about the streets of a city under the control of a human. Because of their wheels, buses can go to where the people are and offer them a ride. You could tell people to congregate at street corners for easier pickup. Moreover, since the buses are on the road picking up people and moving them out of the city, they're not in the path of the flood when the levee breaks. So you can keep using them to get the few stragglers who managed to survive the storm and the floods. And you can use them to haul in supplies. Troops. Whatever you need.

But since no one mobilized these buses before the storm--ahem, Mr. Ebbert--since no one mobilized them before the storm, the poor in New Orleans had no way of getting out. And now the buses are waterlogged and useless. All 205 of them. They will go on the expense side of the ledger instead of the asset side. That's your fault, Mr. Ebbert. The blame rests with you, sir. You knew the city owned those buses, you knew where to get them, where to fuel them and you probably had a list of the drivers who operate them. Yet there they sit, half submerged.

One emergency manager with half a clue and a couple hundred drivers could have more or less saved New Orleans from turning into Mad Max territory. Terry Ebbert can blame everyone else all he wants, but this crisis is almost entirely his fault.

Bill Hobbs is on the same page. He notes that New Orleans public transit has 364 buses it could have used to carry out the mandatory evacuation. Those buses could have ferried 22,000 New Orleans residents to safety in one single trip. But they were never pressed into service.

Greyhawk blogged The only way the city management of New Orleans can avoid being lynched at noon on Rue Burbon is to keep blaming the President, loud and often. It will work, too.


Slogging, and Blogging, Through Katrina

WaPo reported When people prepare for hurricanes, they do many things: top off gas tanks in cars, fill bathtubs with water, buy water, charge up mobile phones and check evacuation routes. I did all these things. And I started a blog.

Sounds like Kaye has her priorities straight. I would have skipped the charge up mobile phone step, because I don't have one, but otherwise it is just as I would have done. <grub>
Hearing that Hurricane Katrina was making her way to Louisiana, I started the blog to keep my loved ones updated about my safety. Even though I have been through many hurricanes, this would be the first I would go through alone. Why not just leave? I thought I had to work on Tuesday. I didn't naively assume that the audience for Kaye's Hurricane Katrina Blog was limited to my loved ones; I knew others might be interested in my "coverage." Even so, I blogged my account in a very personal way. Within hours my readership expanded from my family in Florida, Kansas and Texas to people in Israel, Germany and across the United States. With A-list blogs (whose audiences rival those of small weeklies) linking to my site, the word that I was blogging the storm spread quickly.


Republicans urge Bush to ask Giuliani to guide relief effort

Newsday reported Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., urged President Bush to appoint former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani

Giuliani would be a fantastic choice, and it would position him very well for a Presidential Run in 2008
or two former military officials to run the ground response in the Gulf Coast, saying local authorities are not up to the task. Sweeney suggested Giuliani or retired generals Colin Powell and Tommy Franks could take charge of the much-criticized hurricane relief efforts.

Rex Hammock blogged Two words: Rudy Giuliani.


The Future of New Orleans

Greg Ransom blogged New Orleans is a city below sea level — and dropping. The Gulf of Mexico is closing in on New Orleans — and will become one with the city before the end of the century. Will government repeat the follies of the past and make another Katrina-like disaster inevitable down the road? My guess is that it will. Look simply what it has already done. It has channeled the Mississippi in such a fashion that the coast line is giving way to the Gulf. It has constructed levies that were destine to break in the face of expected storms. It has constructed low income housing and given poor folks public assistance in a form which encouraged them to live in a city which was little other than a disaster waiting to happen.

Lest we repeat the mistakes of the past, it is important to be honest about how the Katrina disaster in New Orleans is as much a man-made disaster as it is a natural one.

For evidence see the two pictures on Greg's post

Michael Williams blogged We need to do everything we can to rescue people still trapped in that annihilated city, but beyond that I think it's time to face facts: New Orleans should be almost entirely abandoned. Let everyone collect their insurance checks and spend their money how they will, but I don't think I single dollar of public money should be spent rebuilding a coastal city that's 80% below sea level. That's just insane. Experts had been predicting this distaster for decades, and now that it's finally come it's time to cut our losses and pull out. No tax dollars should be spent rebuilding or repairing any structure less than one foot above the high water mark.

I agree completely. As I said here "It is foolish to try to protect a large city that is 10 to 15 feet below sea level with levees on all sides. What if the hurricane had come right over New Orleans, rather than taking the jig to the east, and dumped all the rain in the city. It still would have been flooded, even if the levees had held. If the city is to be rebuilt, it should be rebuilt somewhere else."
Nicole Gelinas has an article in City Journal in which she points out that New Orleans was collapsing before Katrina, and the job of reconstruction will be nearly impossible. We need to help the survivors rebuild, but somewhere else.
I agree completely, as I indicated here

The WaPo has an article explaining why most ex-residents won't bother waiting around.


Rhetoric Not Matching Reality

AP reported The Iraqi insurgency is in its last throes.

The news today certainly looks good.
The economy is booming.
It is.
Anybody who leaks a CIA agent's identity will be fired.
So far, the only government employees I have seen mentioned did nothing except confirm hearing the news from other reporters
Add another piece of White House rhetoric that doesn't match the public's view of reality: Help is on the way, Gulf Coast.
And it has arrived.
As New Orleans descended into anarchy, top Bush administration officials congratulated each other for jobs well done and spoke of water, food and troops pouring into the ravaged city. Television pictures told a different story.
You must have been watching a different television station than I did. I saw long convoys of national guard troops, trucks loaded with water and MREs, jeeps pulling boats on trailers, and buses to take people out of New Orleans. Should they have been sent a few days earlier, yes, but the Governor did not ask for them, and while Bush declared a disaster area a couple of days before Katrina strck, so that he could pre-position supplies, he could not send in the military or federalize National Guard troops from other states until the Governor asked for it.


Tall Afar

WaPo reported 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi Troops Sweep Into City of Tall Afar - .... In the largest urban assault since the siege of Fallujah last November, more than 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops entered this northern city before dawn Friday. But the 45-minute firefight at day's end suggested that the insurgents who have controlled much of Tall Afar for almost a year would not relinquish it easily. "We knew they were going to fight," said Pfc. Johnny Lara, a machine gunner from Blue Platoon, Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron of the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who watched the clash with a reporter from a rooftop about 100 yards away. "Now it's a fight." During the course of the day, at least 30 insurgents were killed as U.S. troops conducted house-to-house searches in the baking sun. Apache attack helicopters that circled the city of 250,000 all day killed 27 people, including eight who were attempting to conceal roadside bombs in old tires, commanders said. No American or Iraqi army casualties were reported.

With all of the news about Katrina, the news about all three of the suspects (Deepak Kalpoe, 18, and Satish Kalpoe, 21, and Joran van der Sloot, 18) getting out of jail in Aruba) did not even get much publicity, so I am not surprised that nothing was said about this important action in Iraq, but I want to congratulate the fine work of the 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops involved

Bill Roggio blogged Whether or not Coalition troops remain in force in Tal Afar, the Coalition still maintains the initiative in western and northern Iraq (see The Anbar Campaign for a list of successive operations). As the Anbar Campaign has shown, insurgent IEDs or suicide attacks cannot prevent the U.S. military from operating at the time and place of their choosing.

Iraqi Army units are now entering the fight with significant formations capable of independent operations. During the operations along the Euphrates, typically an Iraqi Army company was embedded within a Marine battalion. In Tal Afar, two Iraqi battalions have been deployed, using their own airlift. The times are changing, and al Qaeda and the insurgents' comfort zone is slowly shrinking.

Jan Haugland blogged Hopefully the political process and the military operations both contribute to put enough pressure on the terrorists to break them.


A Perfect Storm of Lawlessness

Nicole Gelinas wrote in City Journal New Orleans hasn’t even been disarmed yet, but the story of those who looted, trashed, and terrorized the city this week is already being re-written. Al Sharpton went on MSNBC Thursday night to say that “looters are people who pay their taxes whose infrastructure caved in on them.”

Like most of what Al Sharpton says, that does not make bit of sense (like many of the things he said when he tried to promote Tawana Brawley's false alligations).
The final PC version of the story is likely to go like this: The desperate people left behind in New Orleans, nearly all black, had justification in brutally attacking their city because the help they frantically sought didn’t come.
No one (black, white, or polkadot) is justified in doing what these thugs did, regardless of whether they think they should receive help they are not getting. And it was the violence on the part of the thugs that stayed behind to loot the city that prevented worthy people of getting help.
In truth, the looters, rapists, and murderers who have terrorized New Orleans since Monday began their post-Katrina reign of terror a full day before the situation grew truly desperate—and it was their increasingly lawless behavior that kept willing but unarmed professional and volunteer rescue workers away from the city and from the poor people who needed saving.
Let’s go back to last Sunday morning—such a long time ago, it now seems. Most New Orleanians with means—the most resourceful poor, the middle class, and the affluent—left the city of nearly half-a-million residents that day, 24 hours before Katrina hit. They took planes, they drove, they hitchhiked, and some walked.
What is being done for them. They followed evacuation orders, and left their homes and businesses behind to be looted, and now they are probably staying in hotels, spending their life savings, while all of the free government aid is going to those that stayed behind, and did not follow evacuation orders. Certainly the people that stayed behind found themselves in terrible conditions, and they need to be helped, but shouldn't the 80% that followed instructions be entitled to help as well?
Save for the home and business owners who valued their property more than their lives, most of the 100,000 or so who stayed behind were those not only poor in financial resources but in human capital as well. Some who stayed behind are the New Orleanians who depend on the government on a good day—impoverished women, children, and elderly folks who went to the Superdome and to the Convention Center Sunday, expecting their government to take care of them. And those were the smart ones—those who moved rationally and proactively, despite a lack of transportation out of the city and a lack of government co-ordination, to secure their own physical safety. Thousands of others who stayed in their low-lying homes in the 9th Ward (which predictably flooded, as it flooded 40 years ago during Hurricane Betsy) drowned or now find themselves trapped—starved and dying of dehydration.

And the others who stayed behind, unfortunately, are those who terrorize New Orleans on a low-grade level on a good day—and have now taken over the stricken city. What’s happened is the predictable civil deterioration of a city whose fragile civil infrastructure can’t control or contain its core criminal class in peacetime.
Get the first ones out, and leave the thugs, like in the movie Escape from New York
Katrina didn’t turn innocent citizens into desperate criminals. This week’s looters (not those who took small supplies of food and water for sustenance, but those who have trashed, burned, and shot their way through the city since Monday) are the same depraved individuals who have pushed New Orleans’ murder rate to several multiples above the national average in normal times. (New Orleans, without Katrina, would have likely ended 2005 with 330 or so murders—compared to about 65 in Boston, a city roughly the same in size.) Today may not be the best day to get into New Orleans’ intractable crime problem, but it’s necessary, since it explains how this week’s communications and policing vacuum so quickly created a perfect storm for the vicious lawlessness that has broken out.... On a normal day, those who make up New Orleans’ dangerous criminal class—yes, likely the same African-Americans we see looting now—terrorize their own communities.... This week, this entrenched criminal class has freely roamed the streets—and terrorized everyone. On Monday, New Orleans still had food and water stocked in stores across the city, but young looters began sacking stores, trashing the needed food and stealing TVs, DVDs, and other equipment. If the uncoordinated, understaffed New Orleans police had even a prayer of keeping order, it was Monday. By Tuesday, the looters had armed themselves with ample weapons supplies available in stores all across the city; by Wednesday, the armed gangs, out of food and water like everyone else, were not only viciously dangerous but desperate, hungry, and thirsty. But while the looters have reportedly killed police offers and have shot at rescue workers, they’re mainly victimizing, as usual, other poor blacks. The vicious looters aren’t the face of New Orleans’ poor blacks. Their victims are: the thousands of New Orleanians who made their way to shelter before the storm, and who rescued others and brought them to shelter during and after the storm—but who now cannot get the help they desperately need.... Armed marauders have now taken over every dry area of a deluged city. They’ve hampered rescue efforts: without wanton looting, there was at least a chance that individual police officers could have distributed food in stores to those who needed it most. And they’ve likely hampered rebuilding efforts down the road: they’ve smashed much of intact Uptown and the French Quarter, which will surely a pyschological barrier for those who knew that the storm didn’t destroy their homes and their livelihoods—fellow citizens did.

Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco lost whatever fragile authority they ever had over New Orleans early Monday, as the waters still rose. The federal government was unacceptably slow at assessing a rapidly deteriorating situation. Now, no civil authorities can re-assert order in New Orleans. The city must be forcefully demilitarized, even as innocent victims literally starve. What has happened over the past week is an embarrassment to New Orleans—and to America.


Saturday, September 3

This Day In History

  • 1189   England's King Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) was crowned in Westminster.
  • 1658   Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, died.
  • 1783   The Treaty of Paris between the United States and Great Britain officially ended the Revolutionary War.
  • 1833   The first successful one-cent (or penny) newspaper was published. Benjamin H. Day issued the first copy of "The New York Sun". By 1836, "The Sun" had the largest circulation in the country: 30,000. Wouldn’t he be surprised at how successful a paper can be selling at a buck instead of a penny!
  • 1838   Frederick Douglass, a black man, boarded a train in the slave state of Maryland, dressed as a sailor with borrowed ID papers. He rode the train to Wilmington, Delaware. There he caught a steamboat to Philadelphia. Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was a free city. There Douglass transferred to a train that took him to New York City -- also a free city. It was in New York that he was helped by the underground railway network to freedom. Frederick Douglass became one of the nation’s strongest abolitionists, fighting for the struggle against slavery and one of America’s greatest orators. He published the weekly "North Star" which was later titled, "Frederick Douglass’ Paper", to reach the black people. It was mostly through his urging that there were black troops serving in the Civil War. His autobiography, "Life and Times", is a narrative classic of escape to freedom.
  • 1895   The first professional football game was played -- in Latrobe, PA. The Latrobe YMCA defeated the Jeannette Athletic Club 12-0. Since 1967, St. Vincent College in Latrobe has been the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.
  • 1935   Sir Malcolm Campbell became the first person to drive an automobile over 300 miles an hour. Campbell drove his Bluebird Special on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah at a speed of 301.13 MPH.
  • 1939   Britain and France declared war on Germany, two days after the Nazi invasion of Poland.
  • 1943   The British 8th Army invaded Italy during World War II, the same day Italy signed a secret armistice with the Allies.
  • 1967   Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president of South Vietnam under a new constitution.
  • 1970   Hall-of-fame football coach Vince Lombardi died at age 57.
  • 1978   Pope John Paul I was installed as the 264th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 1991   Movie director Frank Capra died at age 94.
  • 1994   China and Russia pledged they would no longer target nuclear missiles at or use force against each other.
  • 1997   Arizona Gov. Fife Symington was convicted of lying to get millions in loans to shore up his collapsing real estate empire. His conviction was overturned in 1999.
  • 2001   Movie critic Pauline Kael died at age 82.
  • 2001   St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bud Smith became the 16th rookie in modern history to throw a no-hitter, blanking San Diego 4-0.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1875   Ferdinand Porsche (auto designer; died Jan 30, 1951)
  • 1913   Alan (Walbridge) Ladd (actor)
  • 1914   Kitty Carlisle (Catherine Conn) (actress: panelist: To Tell the Truth)
  • 1925   Hank (Henry Williams) Thompson (‘Crown Prince of Country Music’: singer)
  • 1943   Valerie Perrine (actress)
  • 1965   Charlie Sheen (Carlos Irwin Estevez) (actor)


Friday, September 02, 2005

Neighbors Will Need Papers to Enter U.S.

WaPo reported The government said yesterday that it will proceed with plans to require travelers from Canada, Mexico and other allied nations to show a passport or other secure document to enter the country.

Wonderful. About time.
The departments of State and Homeland Security said they expect to officially adopt the new policy -- which drew complaints from travelers, the affected nations and even President Bush -- by year's end. But they pushed back by a year the date when the rules would begin to affect travelers.
Corry to hear that.
Under the new timeline, all who travel by air or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda and South and Central America will have to show a passport or one of four other secure documents by Dec. 31, 2006. Travelers crossing land borders, namely from Mexico and Canada, will have to comply with the rules by Dec. 31, 2007.
Now if they would just build a wall to keep people from getting into the US without passing through an official border crossing, that would be wonderful.


Move, don't rebuild in place

HoustonChronicle originally published this on Dec. 1, 2001 New Orleans is sinking. And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster. So vulnerable, in fact, that earlier this year the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country. The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City. The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all. In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston..... Yet despite the damage Allison wrought upon Houston, dropping more than 3 feet of water in some areas, a few days later much of the city returned to normal as bloated bayous drained into the Gulf of Mexico. The same storm dumped a mere 5 inches on New Orleans, nearly overwhelming the city's pump system. If an Allison-type storm were to strike New Orleans, or a Category 3 storm or greater with at least 111 mph winds, the results would be cataclysmic, New Orleans planners said. "Any significant water that comes into this city is a dangerous threat," Walter Maestri, Jefferson Parish emergency management director, told Scientific American for an October article. "Even though I have to plan for it, I don't even want to think about the loss of life a huge hurricane would cause." New Orleans is essentially a bowl ringed by levees that protect the city from the Mississippi River to its south and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. The bottom of the bowl is 14 feet below sea level, and efforts to keep it dry are only digging a deeper hole. During routine rainfalls the city's dozens of pumps push water uphill into the lake. This, in turn, draws water from the ground, further drying the ground and sinking it deeper, a problem known as subsidence.

Rebuilding New Orleans where it is, is pure stupidity.
Roy Spencer wrote in Tech Central Station It has long been known that New Orleans was at greater risk of catastrophe than most coastal areas, especially from flooding and the hurricane storm surge. While the storm surge itself is not what inundated the city, it was responsible for the levee failures that then caused flooding over the couple of days following the hurricane. Another geographical area of concern is the U.S. 1 evacuation route out of the Florida keys. A rapidly approaching and intensifying hurricane in this area could also lead to a great loss of life. The only way to completely avoid the loss of life and property in these areas is for people to not live there, and for businesses to not operate there. The stark reality, however, is that this will not happen. People in these areas live at greater risk than most of the rest of the country, and they will continue to in the future. No human endeavor is risk-free, and coastal residents simply take greater risks than most of the rest of us. As long as weather forecasts are not perfect, and as long as severe weather events are (necessarily) over-warned, weather disasters will continue to happen.
But if people living in those area realize they are at a much greater risk than most of the rest of the country, then they should not expect the Federal Government to bail them out when they get flooded.
Duane D. Freese wrote in Tech Central Station The New York Times editorialists might have discovered had they read their own news story by Andrew Revkin and Christopher Drew. The reporters quoted Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, about how surprising it was that the break in the levee was "a section that was just upgraded." "It did not have an earthen levee," he told them. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feet thick."
So it was not Bush's fault for cutting back on the money to be spent updating the levee.
Worse for the editorial writers were statements by the chief engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen Carl Strock: "I don't see that the level of funding was really a contributing factor in this case. Had this project been fully complete, it is my opinion that based on the intensity of this storm that the flooding of the business district and the French Quarter would have still taken place." The reason: the funding would only have completed an upgrade of the levees to a protect against a level 3 hurricane. Katrina was a level 4 plus. And the reasons for this goes back decades. Since the 1930s, when levee building began in earnest, Louisiana has lost a million acres of its coastal wetlands, and faces the loss of another 640,000 additional acres -- an area the size of Rhode Island -- by 2050. A new study based on satellite measurement released in May found that the wetlands area was sinking at a half-inch to two-inches a year as of 1995, or up to more than a 1.5 feet a decade.
So a bad situation is only going to get worse.
"If subsidence continues and/or sea level rises and human action fails to take place, the entire coast will be inundated," Roy Dokka of the Louisiana Spatial Reference Center at Louisiana State University and an author of the study noted in July. And he went on in a Times-Picayune piece that columnist Bunch apparently failed to examine:
"The current plans to save the coast are focused on fixing wetlands, which is incredibly important, but the problem is that subsidence is affecting the entire coast. We need to combine those plans with regional hurricane levees and sand shoals. We have to find some way to protect the people and valuable infrastructure we have on the coast."
This echoes a point that was raised by the White House Office of Management and Budget in a review of the Corps of Engineers levee and flood work back in 2003. It noted that while the Corps managed projects that reduced flood damage to specific areas, annual flood damages to the nation were increasing. As such, it wanted the Corps -- though well-managed -- to broaden its approach by coordinating with federal flood mitigation efforts -- to be "more pro-active in preventing flood risks rather than reacting to them."

The regional Corps head so often quoted by the media himself said in 2003 that a project to protect the city from a category 4 or 5 storm would take 30 years to complete, with the feasibility study alone costing $8 million and taking six years to complete. At the time he opined, "Hopefully we won't have a major storm before then."
Oops, we did.
As for the $14 billion plan called Coastal 2050 for wetlands restoration that Louisiana politicians have been pushing for the last two years for the federal government to provide a stream of funds -- up to 65% of the cost -- some experts say it was only a stop-gap. "We are not going to stop marsh loss. Subsidence is too dominant," James Coleman, a professor of coastal studies at Louisiana State University, told the Times Picayune a few years ago. Coastal restoration "is a temporary fix in terms of geological time. You will see results of massive coastal restorations in our lifetime, but in the long run they are also going to go."
We should spend whatever it takes to evacuate New Orleans, but it makes more sense to build new housing for them in some other city, or in a new New Orleans somewhere else in Louisiana, than to rebuild in the same "bowl".


Rice soaks in N.Y.

New York Daily News reported Like President Bush, the Secretary of State has been on vacation during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, with Rice enjoying her downtime in New York Wednesday and yesterday....

So what? She is Secretary of State, concerned with things in other countries, not domestic matters. She does need to respond to this, but she can do that when she gets back to Washington
Joe Gandelman blogged Speaker of the House Dennis Halstert put his foot in his mouth by asking a question some have asked out on the streets:
Hastert, in a transcript supplied by the suburban Chicago newspaper, said there was no question that the people of New Orleans would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid was involved. "We ought to take a second look at it. But you know, we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild, too. Stubbornness." Asked in the interview whether it made sense to spend billions rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he replied, "I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me."
I completely agree with the Speaker.
Hastert later issued a statement saying he was not "advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated." "My comments about rebuilding the city were intended to reflect my sincere concern with how the city is rebuilt to ensure the future protection of its citizens and not to suggest that this great and historic city should not be rebuilt," the statement said.
Again: not smart. He MAY be right; it's no secret that New Orleans has known for years that the way the city was built meant it could be decimated by The Big One.and so it was. Does it make sense to rebuild exactly the same way so residents continue to in effect be poised to suffer possibly another disaster — maybe even a worse one?
It makes absoutely NO sense to rebuild in a place that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level. Start construction somewhere above sea level, and dump any material that must be removed for that construction in the bowl that is now called New Orleans
But it is indeed a political fumble (he wouldn't have issued his statement later if his people didn't realize it was a mistake). Whether or not to rebuild New Orleans is not the issue on the table right now. A supposedly smart professional politician would have avoided opening his mouth so wide and shoving his foot so deeply in it.
I disagree. If he had not even mentioned the possibility (which I think should be done), of relocating New Orleans, everyone would have just assumed it would be done. By placing the subject on the table, and then spending whatever it takes to save people and get them out of New Orleans and into better housing somewhere else, we make sure the subject of relocation is considered when it is time.


Foreign governments line up to help after Katrina

Reuters reported More than 20 countries, from allies Germany and Japan to prickly Venezuela and poor Honduras, have offered to help the United States cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Accustomed to being a rich donor rather than on the receiving end of charity, the United States initially seemed reticent about accepting foreign aid, but later said it would take up any offers. The hurricane devastated New Orleans and other parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast, killing hundreds and possibly thousands. "Anything that can be of help to alleviate the tragic situation of the area affected by Hurricane Katrina will be accepted," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.... The State Department said offers so far had come from Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Australia, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organization of American States, NATO, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Interesting that there is just one Islamic country offering to help, after all the help we provided after the Tsunami hit several Islamic countries.
Assistance ranged from medical teams, boats, aircraft, tents, blankets, generators and cash donations. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wrote to Bush offering medical teams that specialized in trauma and natural disasters and said they could be ready in 24 hours.


Trapped Tourists Lose Chartered Buses

SFGate reported Five days after Susan Dewey arrived in New Orleans to celebrate her birthday, she was so desperate to get out that she banded with hundreds of other tourists to hire 10 buses for $25,000 to rescue them. After waiting hours, they learned government officials had commandeered their buses to evacuate others.... The handful of managers left at the hotel told guests they had booked 10 buses for $25,000 to evacuate them and those from the Crowne Plaza Astor Downtown. Each passenger paid $45. The hotel staff began lining up elderly and ill people outside about 7:30 p.m. "I couldn't count how many wheelchairs you saw," Dewey said. The guests waited until 9:30 p.m. when a manager told them the buses were confiscated by the military.

We have heard many stories of looters with guns taking whatever they wanted, but this time the looters with the guns were the military. The people that paid money to bring those buses into the area should have been evacuated first, and then if the buses wanted to go back and pick up more people that would have been fine.

I wonder if the Governor's order to "Shoot to Kill" also applied to the government officials and/or military that stole the 10 buses.

James Joyner blogged These are desperate times which, I'm told, call for desperate measures. Having the American military shooting suspected looters on sight, however, is an outrageous precedent from which we may not recover. Indeed, were I still on active duty, I would refuse this order as illegal. Not only does the use of the military for domestic law enforcement rather clearly violate the posse comitatus law but shooting unarmed civilians violates all the ethics of professional soldiering that I learned. It is ironic, too, that we are treating an American city suffering from the worst natural disaster in memory as a hot fire zone while our soldiers fighting in Iraq are under much, much tighter rules of engagement.

Digby blogged The national guard and the coast guard are trained to operate in hostile environments where people are shooting at them. And big city police forces are no slouches either. Yet they completely cancelled the rescue operation because some bozo shot at a helicopter. And the national guard now refuses to escort patients who are being transferred from hospitals that have no power, food and water. Gosh I sure hope someone is guarding the oil ministry.


Politicians Failed Storm Victims

Yahoo! News reported At every turn, political leaders failed Katrina's victims. They didn't strengthen the levees.

I dont see how that is the Federal Government's problem, but as Michelle points out below, it was a decision made in the Clinton administration as well as the Bush administration.
They ceded the streets to marauding looters.
FEMA went in to help, and started getting shot at. The governor has now issued "Shoot to Kill" orders
They left dead bodies to rot or bloat.
They did not have refrigerated trucks to store them; they were more focused on finding people that were still alive.
Thousands suffered or died for lack of water, food and hope. Who's at fault? There's plenty of blame to go around — the White House, Congress, federal agencies, local governments, police and even residents of the Gulf Coast who refused orders to evacuate. But all the finger-pointing misses the point: Politicians and the people they lead too often ignore danger signs until a crisis hits. It wasn't a secret that levees built to keep New Orleans from flooding could not withstand a major hurricane, but government leaders never found the money to fully shore up the network of earthen, steel and concrete barriers.
It is foolish to try to protect a large city that is 10 to 15 feet below sea level with levees on all sides. What if the hurricane had come right over New Orleans, rather than taking the jig to the east, and dumped all the rain in the city. It still would have been flooded, even if the levees had held. If the city is to be rebuilt, it should be rebuilt somewhere else.
Both the Bush and Clinton administrations proposed budgets that low-balled the needs. Local politicians grabbed whatever money they could and declared victory. And the public didn't exactly demand tax increases to pay for flood-control and hurricane-protection projects. Just last year, the Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans. The White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress finally approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency's request. Yet the lawmakers and Bush agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-laden highway bill that included more than 6,000 pet projects for lawmakers. Congress spent money on dust control for Arkansas roads, a warehouse on the Erie Canal and a $231 million bridge to a small, uninhabited Alaskan island. How could Washington spend $231 million on a bridge to nowhere — and not find $42 million for hurricane and flood projects in New Orleans?
The only thing that will solve the problem of pork laden projects is a constitutional amendment giving the president the line item veto.
It's a matter of power and politics. Alaska is represented by Republican Rep. Don Young, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a senior member of the all-important Senate Appropriations Committee. Louisiana's delegation holds far less sway.

Steve M. blogged There will be careful media examinations of what happened, both in the years before the levees failed and as the relief effort descended into anarchy -- but far more of the coverage will be in this same "It's all so incomprehensible" vein. And the conventional wisdom will be that it was all too overwhelming to really be anybody's fault.

Steve Antler blogged Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but Ron Fournier seems to be insisting we take pork barrel spending from all around the country and send it to New Orleans flood control instead

James Joyner blogged There's plenty of "blame" to go around here, if it's warranted. Certainly, no president in my memory has launched a crusade to spend tens of billions more on levees and other storm protection measures. Nor, despite their willingness to spend exhorbitant amount of money on various "pork barrel" projects in their states and districts, has Congress allocated these monies. Again, Parker is right: That sort of spending isn't very "sexy." Whether it's smart, in the grand scheme of federal priorities, is again well beyond my expertise.

Michelle Malkin blogged Naturally, Bush's critics want to make this into a major issue in the run-up to the 2006 mid-term elections next fall. But the reality is more complex than the Bush Blamers will admit. They want you to believe that inadequate flood-control protections became a problem only after Bush took office. However, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has written numerous articles over the years describing the threat posed by inadequate funding for flood-control measures. Many of these articles, such as the one authored by Pam Louwagie on June 1, 1999 (see extended entry), appeared well before President Bush took office.

The Times-Picayune's articles make clear that throughout much of the 1990s, officials in Louisiana couldn't come up with state money needed to match federal funds. The resignation of Rep. Bob Livingston in December 1998 didn't help. (Livingston was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; federal funding for flood control projects was one of his pet projects.) Nor did environmental laws, such as the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. (Construction on a hurricane protection levee in St. Charles Parish was halted for months because a great egret nesting area sat in the levee's path.)

One of Bush's critics cited a February 16, 2004, New Orleans CityBusiness article. That critic, however, chose not to excerpt these two sentences:
The Corps' New Orleans district in 2003 spent about $409 million on construction contracts, dredging and maintenance for the state's waterways, real estate purchases, private sector design contracts and in-house expenditures, according to the Corps. That more than doubles the $200 million the district spent in 1991.
Presumably those sentences were omitted because they do not support the notion that the Army Corps of Engineeers in New Orleans was starved for funds.

And don't expect Bush's critics to mention that the main levee that was breached earlier this week had recently been upgraded. Per the New York Times:
No one expected that weak spot to be on a canal that, if anything, had received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region. It did not have broad berms, but it did have strong concrete walls. Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said that was particularly surprising because the break was "along a section that was just upgraded." "It did not have an earthen levee," Dr. Penland said. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feel thick."
The Chicago Tribune makes the same point in even stronger terms:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that a lack of funding for hurricane-protection projects around New Orleans did not contribute to the disastrous flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. In a telephone interview with reporters, corps officials said that although portions of the flood-protection levees remain incomplete, the levees near Lake Pontchartrain that gave way--inundating much of the city--were completed and in good condition before the hurricane. However, they noted that the levees were designed for a Category 3 hurricane and couldn't handle the ferocious winds and raging waters from Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 4 storm when it hit the coastline. The decision to build levees for a Category 3 hurricane was made decades ago based on a cost-benefit analysis.

Read the whole thing.

Michell has a lot more than I have printed here. Read all she has to say


White House's Response

NYT reported A political furor intensified on Thursday over President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina as Democrats, local officials and members of an increasingly bewildered public accused the president of a slow response to the flood that has plunged New Orleans into chaos.

Why listen to these idiots. They are just taking another opportunity to take a shot at Bush.
Mr. Bush, in a rare morning television interview, fought back. "I hope people don't play politics during this period of time," Mr. Bush told Diane Sawyer of ABC's "Good Morning America" in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. "This is a natural disaster, the likes of which our country may have never seen before." But the politics of natural disaster were close to the surface as Democrats said that the crisis had become a political catastrophe as daylong images on television showed refugees desperate for food and water in the richest nation on earth.
80% of the residents responded to the order for a mandatory evacuation. Some who did not evacuate did not have transportation, but some were thugs with guns that wanted the chance to loot as much as they could, and I am not talking about food and water. And their presence delayed the arrival of a lot of the aid, since drivers and helicopter pilots did not want to get shot.
Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, said in a statement that he was struck by Mr. Bush's "cavalier attitude toward the plight of poor people across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama" and added that "now is not the time in the face of pain, anguish and death to be weak and uncertain."
Representative Ford should shut up, and if wants to help, he should go to New Orleans and help distribute food and water.
Terry Ebbert, the head of homeland security in New Orleans, bitterly complained on Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was not offering enough help. "This is a national emergency," Mr. Ebbert told The Associated Press. "This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."
I dont think a bucket brigade would be able to bail out the city, especially as long as there are still holes in the levee.
Other Democrats cast Mr. Bush's first survey of the damage, from his window on Air Force One two days after the hurricane hit, as an imperial act removed from the suffering of the people below. "It was not enough for the president to bank his plane and look at the window and say, 'Oh, what a devastating site,' " Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, said in a statement on Thursday. "Instead of looking out the window of an airplane, he should have been on the ground giving the people devastated by this hurricane hope."
He is going there now; had he gone earlier his presence would just have disrupted the people trying to save human lives.


Friday, September 2

This Day In History

  • 490 B.C.   A trained runner by the name of Phidippides of Athens, was sent on a mission to seek help against the invading Persian army. Phidippides left Marathon for the city of Sparta, 26 miles away. Under religious law, he could not get the needed help until after the next full moon. And so, on September 4th, he ran the 26 miles again, returning to Marathon without Spartan troops. The Athenians were still able to win the battle at Marathon. Wounded, Phidippides took to the road again, running to Athens to carry the news of the victory. His last words, “Rejoice, we are victorious.” In honor of Phidippides, the 26-mile marathon became part of the Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896. A year later, the Boston Marathon was held for the first time, making it the oldest marathon race in the United States. At the Olympic games in London in 1908, 385 yards were added to the 26-mile marathon in order for the runners to pass King Edward VII’s royal box in White City Stadium. This 26.2 mile distance was made the official Olympic marathon distance in 1924 at the Paris Olympics.
  • 1666   The Great Fire of London broke out, claiming thousands of homes but only a few lives.
  • 1789   The U.S. Treasury Department was established.
  • 1864   Union Gen. William T. Sherman's forces occupied Atlanta during the Civil War.
  • 1901   Vice President Theodore Roosevelt offered the advice, ''Speak softly and carry a big stick,'' in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair.
  • 1935   A hurricane slammed into the Florida Keys, claiming 423 lives.
  • 1945   U.S. President Harry S Truman proclaimed this day as Victory-over-Japan Day (V-J Day or Victory Day). It was so named because the official ratification of the Japanese surrender to the Allies was made aboard the "USS Missouri" in Tokyo Bay on this day (Far Eastern Time). The informal agreement of surrender had been made on August 14.
  • 1945   Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam an independent republic.
  • 1949   Alben W. Barkley, the Vice President of the United States under President Harry S Truman, wrote a letter that made reference to his office as the Veep. The name stuck. Alben W. Barkley was forevermore referred to as the Veep. And ever since, it has been used as the common expression for vice presidents, whether in government or business. Barkley, born in Kentucky, was Veep from 1949 until 1953.
  • 1963   Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace prevented the integration of Tuskegee High School by encircling the building with state troopers.
  • 1963   ''The CBS Evening News'' was lengthened from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • 1969   North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh died.
  • 1985   It was announced that a U.S.-French expedition had located the wreckage of the Titanic about 560 miles off Newfoundland.
  • 1992   The United States and Russia agreed to build a space station.
  • 1998   A Swissair jetliner crashed off Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people aboard.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1918   Martha Mitchell (Beall) (socialite: wife of U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell of the Nixon administration; died May 31, 1976)
  • 1937   Peter Ueberroth (businessperson, promoter: 1984 Summer Olympics in LA; Baseball Commissioner [1984-89])
  • 1948   Christa McAuliffe (Sharon Christa Corrigan) (teacher, astronaut: Challenger space shuttle; killed in Challenger explosion Jan 28, 1986)
  • 1964   Keanu Reeves (actor)


Thursday, September 01, 2005

A major problem for the Democrats

Emmett Tyrrell wrote in Townhall A news story is creeping into our major newspapers. From there it is making its way into the broadcast media. It is a story that bodes ill for the Democrats. Once a story spreads like this it takes on the nature of Truth to journalists, and they then repeat it or variations on it for a mercilessly long time. The headline is this: "Democrats Fragmented and in Disarray." The story has two aspects that must trouble those Democrats who understand media. The first aspect is that it is filled with dire portents. Journalists are attracted to dire portents whether the portents are true or palpably absurd. The second aspect that must trouble Democrats is that this news story happens to be true. The Democrats really are fragmented and in disarray.

We saw this late last month when their Joan of Arc, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, gave a perfectly sensible speech -- at least for her. The next day all hell broke loose, and it broke loose against her.... The problem for the Democrats is that their so-called liberals have been for decades living in a fantasy of self-congratulations. They see themselves as responsible for all that is good in America and the hated Republicans for all that is bad. Anything that the Republicans have done right the liberals see as bad, for instance, cutting taxes and thus encouraging the economic growth that has revived the country since the mid-1980s. They are smug and ignorant and now they are at each other's throats. What in terms of policy does the angry left offer, beyond abominating Republicans and the DLC? Well, they hate Halliburton and Wal-Mart. They love the environment and would improve the lives of whooping cranes and rare grasses in Nebraska. What is the American liberal? I conceive the American liberal as a fat, florid-faced archbishop from some declining episcopacy in New England waiting around the buffet table late in the dinner hoping to scoop up a few extra desserts, another bon bon to put in his pocket or her purse, an extra glass of sauterne, and to burp when no one is within listening range. Hillary, these are your constituents. Treat them well, or Mr. Hickey will field a candidate to the left of you.


Congress to Vote on $10B Katrina Package

SFGate reported The Bush administration intends to seek more than $10 billion to cover immediate relief needs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, congressional officials said Thursday, and lawmakers made plans to approve the request by the weekend. Several officials said $10 billion would cover immediate costs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the government's front-line responder in cases of natural disasters. Several hundred million dollars would also be provided to fund the Pentagon's disaster relief efforts, congressional aides said. FEMA is spending more than $500 million a day as it struggles to respond to devastating flooding in New Orleans and severe destruction that spans the length of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida. That requires an immediate infusion of cash, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., with at least two subsequent bills to follow.

I agree to this bill, which covers getting people out, but I would oppose any bill to spend federal funds on rebuilding.
He said a second bill would be needed in two or three weeks at current spending rates, with another bill to follow that one after better damage estimates are in hand....Asked in an interview with the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago paper, whether it makes sense to spend billions rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, a reference to New Orleans, Hastert replied, "I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me." He added it was a question "that certainly we should ask. And, you know, it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."
Hastert is right. No rebuilding should be done unless everything is built on columns at least 25 feet tall, and capable of being underwater for a long time. A city that is 10 to 15 feet below sea level, and subject to flooding should any levee break, is absolute foolishness.
Hastert expressed sympathy for victims of the hurricane and said "we are going to rebuild this city. We can help replace, we can relieve disaster."

Brad Plumer blogged Dennis Hastert of all people asks the offensive-but-important question: Should New Orleans even be rebuilt? No, really. Looking at this New York Times article drives home the point that this man vs. nature fight going on in the Mississippi Delta will ultimately be won by nature. The patchwork of dams and levees erected alongside the river over the years have prevented much-needed sediment and other minerals from being deposited on much of the land, including the area on which New Orleans sits. As a result, the riverbed and lake keeps rising, while the city keeps sinking further and further down into the ground. And diverting the river has allowed salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to erode the wetlands of southern Louisiana, crumbling the state away into the sea.

How much longer is this sustainable? Maybe Hastert's right; maybe it would make more sense to take this opportunity to just pack up and move the whole city somewhere else; because it's ultimately unsustainable, and nature is going to work faster to attack the city than the labyrinth of city boards and councils will work to defend it.

Barbara O'Brien blogged House Speaker Dennis Hastert is getting flack for something he said this morning


New Orleans' most vulnerable

Leonard Witt wrote on AJC.COM Each time you hear a federal, state or city official explain what he or she is doing to help New Orleans, consider the opening paragraphs of a July 24 story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own." The story continues: "In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation."

What do you suggest they should do. Everytime a hurricane is coming that might hit the city, should they load all of their homeless people up and bus them to some other city. A city might be willing to accept them, as Houston did this time, when they knew the conditions they were in in New Orleans, but what city would be stupid enough to allow another city to dump all of its homeless on them, just because "something might happen", and then they would have been left to deal with more homeless in their cities
The officials made those statements fully knowing that those 134,000 people were very likely to end up in dire circumstances or even die. Here is what National Geographic magazine wrote in an article published in October 2004 about a possible hurricane scenario for New Orleans: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great."
I don't blame them. I dont think people should live in a city that is 10 to 15 feet below sea level, where all it will take is a failure of a levee, and everyone would be underwater. We should help the people get out, but I would hate to see ANY federal funds spent to rebuild in that "bowl", unless new structures were built on columns at least 25 feet high.
In that article National Geographic predicted with eerie accuracy that more than a million people would evacuate, but some 200,000 would remain, including "the carless, the homeless, the aged and infirm." The New Orleans Times-Picayune ran its own series in 2002 in which it wrote: "If enough water from Lake Pont-chartrain topped the levee system along its south shore, the result would be apocalyptic. Whoever remained in the city would be at grave risk. According to the American Red Cross, a likely death toll would be between 25,000 and 100,000 people, dwarfing estimated death tolls for other natural disasters and all but the most nightmarish potential terrorist attacks. Tens of thousands more would be stranded on rooftops and high ground, awaiting rescue that could take days or longer. They would face thirst, hunger and exposure to toxic chemicals."
Which is why I say New Orleans should not be rebuilt
And yet apparently there was no emergency plan and no resources to evacuate "the carless, the homeless, the aged and infirm." In this era when we are a nation at risk of terrorism and natural disasters, we can only hope that what is happening in New Orleans is not built into the fabric of our national homeland security policy. We should provide security for everyone, including the poor, aged and infirm.
Nice to say, but what do you want to do for them. Give a free car to everyone that is carless?
We have the resources. On Wednesday, it seems FEMA found 475 buses to help with the belated evacuation effort. Unfortunately, when it comes to looking after the carless, homeless, the aged and infirm in our country, we — in our quest to become an ownership society — seemed to have allowed our good senses, good will and compassion to go on vacation.
A lot of people with cars stayed despite mandatory evacuation notices (those cars are now underwater). How many do you think would have gotten on buses before the hurricane hit, and what city would have been willing to accept them (knowing New Orleans might well have just left them there after the hurricane went through)
Joe Gandelman blogged An even larger question that's already being asked is whether plans in place tried to find way to help people who might have more problems getting out of the city — or strictly wrote those people off as a kind of unspoken collatoral damage....which is what a columnist in the Atlanta Constitution suggests.

Ezra Klein blogged FEMA's other two doomsday scenarios were a terrorist attack in New York and a powerful earthquake ripping through California. Two out of three have happened. I hope my state, the Golden State, has taken notice.

La Shawn Barber blogged Those who had the means to leave but defied warnings bear a lot of responsibility, and if the government starts ordering people to evacuate an area en masse, they’d better provide the means for people who can’t do so on their own.


Waiting for a Leader

NYT editorialized George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast.

You don't think they needed those things?
He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
Should they not send money?
We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.
He said "Our efforts are now focused on three priorities: Our first priority is to save lives.... Our second priority is to sustain lives by ensuring adequate food, water, shelter and medical supplies for survivors and dedicated citizens -- dislocated citizens.... Our third priority is executing a comprehensive recovery effort." That sounds to me like he understands the depth of the problem
While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?
Those are problems for State and Local governments to answer. Are you suggestion that the Federal Government should control zoning in a city? I don't believe they should rebuild in a city that is 15 feet below sea level, with just a levee system to keep out the water, unless they have all buildings built on 25 foot columns, and with ways of getting from one building to another if the "bathtub" (as New Orleans was referred to) is flooded.
It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.
Surface water temperature only accounts for 10% of a hurricane's force. They are cyclical in nature and have been for a very long time, and any "scientist" that blames them on global warning does not know what he is talking about.

Barbara O'Brien blogged I'm not just blaming the feds here. One wonders if the state of Mississippi had put half the energy and resources into disaster preparation that they've put into banning abortions, perhaps some lives would have been saved.

John Cole blogged I really am. I just guess I have different expectations for what government can and can’t do, and what government should do.

James Joyner blogged "A day late"? The disaster is ongoing and its extent is still only a guess. What is it that he would have said Tuesday that would have been of any help? And to whom would he have been speaking? The people most affected by Katrina were hardly gathered around Monday and Tuesday awaiting encouragement from the commander-in-chief.

And what sort of "words of wisdom" was he supposed to dispense? As wealthy and scientifically advanced as our country is, we haven't a clue how to deal with disasters of this scale. Indeed, that's what makes them disasters.

Apparently, the president was to come up with a comprehensive plan for preventing damage from future hurricanes in three days--actually two, since the speech was a day late. And, of course, he was supposed to tell people to stop driving SUVs, because we didn't have hurricanes before they became popular.


Bryan S. blogged I would like to suggest to the New York Times editorial board, Paul Craig Roberts, the Corner, and anyone else who is hoping to score some “I told you so’s” or other political points off of this incredible disaster that they sit down and pop open a big ole can of Shutthehellup.

Paul at Wizbang blogged If you think you are more qualified to run the city then the people running it, then by all means when the next election cycle comes around, come on down and throw your hat in the ring. If you think you could have stopped the hurricane if only everyone had listened to you... well I can't help ya.

Oliver Willis blogged There are high school kids who would be more up to the task.

If you know any high school kids that can stop hurricanes, let us know


Jewish gunman was no terrorist

Guardian reports Four Arab Israelis shot dead by a soldier opposed to the closure of the Gaza Strip settlements are not victims of "terror" because their killer was Jewish, Israel's defence ministry has ruled, and so their families are not entitled to the usual compensation for life.

This is sheer stupidity. If Israel wants the Palestinian authorities and the world wide press to call it terrorism when it is targeted at Israel, they also need to acknowledge, as Sharon did, that it is terrorism when a Jew does it.
The ministry concluded that the law only recognises terrorism as committed by "organisations hostile to Israel" even though the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, described the killings by Private Eden Nathan Zaada, 19, as "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist."

He shot dead four people on a bus in the Arab Israeli town of Shfaram on August 4 and was then lynched by a mob. Arab Israeli leaders have condemned the decision. Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament who lives in Shfaram, said: "The decision raises a strong scent of racism, which distinguishes between a Jewish terrorist and an Arab terrorist." The defence ministry proposes to pay the families of the Shfaram victims an undisclosed lump sum instead of a lifelong monthly amount. But Mr Barakeh says that denies the dead their recognition as victims of terrorism. He noted that Arabs who had committed individual attacks but were not members of armed organisations had still been branded by the Israeli government as terrorists.

Captain Ed blogged Ariel Sharon diagnosed this attack perfectly, and the Defence Ministry should be ashamed of itself. Openly targeting civilians with lethal force to lash out for political purposes is terrorism no matter who conducts it. The difference between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli terrorism is that the latter results in punishment by the Israelis, while the former results in praise and celebration by the Palestinian "government".

The denial that this terrorism exists in the few isolated cases that occur, such as Zaada, erodes the moral standing of the Israelis. One cannot make an argument that the exact same action undertaken by a Jew and an Arab amounts to two different crimes and still claim to represent justice and tolerance. Either both commit terrorism, or both don't. The Defence Ministry risks a revival of the Zionism-equals-racism charge with this extremely poor decision and should immediately reconsider it.

McQ blogged So tell me ... how was his act not "hostile to Israel"? It certainly wasn't in Israel's best interest. It certainly didn't help Israel's reputation. Nor does this ruling. Terroristic acts are just that. Acts of terror. And the singling out of Arabs by this murderer certainly points to an agenda.


Thursday, September 1

This Day In History

  • 1807   Former Vice President Aaron Burr was found innocent of treason.
  • 1819   The first plow with interchangeable parts was patented by Jethro Wood.
  • 1897   The first section of Boston's subway system was opened.
  • 1905   Alberta and Saskatchewan entered Confederation as the eighth and ninth provinces of Canada.
  • 1923   The Japanese cities of Tokyo and Yokohama were devastated by an earthquake that claimed 150,000 lives.
  • 1932   New York City Mayor James ''Gentleman Jimmy'' Walker resigned following charges of graft and corruption in his administration.
  • 1942   A federal judge in Sacramento, Calif., upheld the wartime detention of Japanese-Americans as well as Japanese nationals.
  • 1951   The United States, Australia and New Zealand signed a mutual defense pact, the ANZUS treaty.
  • 1969   A coup in Libya brought Moammar Gadhafi to power.
  • 1972   American Bobby Fischer won the international chess crown in Reykjavik, Iceland, defeating Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union.
  • 1983   A Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 was shot down by a Soviet jet fighter after the airliner entered Soviet airspace; 269 people were killed.
  • 1989   Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti died of a heart attack at age 51.
  • 1998   Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hit his 56th and 57th home runs, breaking the single-season National League record set by Hack Wilson in 1930.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1875   Edgar Rice Burroughs (writer: Tarzan of the Apes; died Mar 19, 1950)
  • 1922   Yvonne De Carlo (Peggy Yvonne Middleton) (actress: The Munsters)
  • 1923   Rocky Marciano (Rocco Marchegiano) (boxer)
  • 1933   Conway Twitty (Harold Lloyd Jenkins) (songwriter)
  • 1939   Lily (Mary Jean) Tomlin (Emmy Award-winning comedy-writer)


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Day-After Pill

NYT reported A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception. Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency.

Good. One less person there pushing to release it for over the counter sales.
The e-mail was released by contraception advocates. The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription -- a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.


Teaching of Creationism Is Endorsed in New Survey

NYT reports In a finding that is likely to intensify the debate over what to teach students about the origins of life, a poll released yesterday found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

I do not object to Creationism being taught along with Evolution, but I would also like to see Intelligent Design included as well. Creationism says that the story in Genesis is literally true, while the Secular Humanist version of Evolution that is being taught says that Creation happened completely by random chance, and there was no Supreme Being involved. I prefer the Intelligent Design approach, which says that God did create everything, and that evolution was one of the tools he used to allow various species to adapt to their environment, but that he was involved in the creation of the major species, including man.
In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.
I say teach all three. I respect religious people that believe that the story in Genesis is literally true, but I would also like to see my point of view taught as well.
The poll was conducted July 7-17 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The questions about evolution were asked of 2,000 people. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection. Mr. Green called it a reflection of "American pragmatism."
Actually they just want to be sure their version is taught too.
"It's like they're saying, 'Some people see it this way, some see it that way, so just teach it all and let the kids figure it out.' It seems like a nice compromise, but it infuriates both the creationists and the scientists," said Mr. Green, who is also a professor at the University of Akron in Ohio. Eugenie C. Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education and a prominent defender of evolution, said the findings were not surprising because "Americans react very positively to the fairness or equal time kind of argument." "In fact, it's the strongest thing that creationists have got going for them because their science is dismal," Ms. Scott said. "But they do have American culture on their side."
The science behind Creationism may be scant, but the science behind ID is not. ID accepts everything about Darwinism Evolution that has been proven, by fossil evidence, but it just substitutes its own solution where Darwinism tries to blow smoke in people's faces when it speculates how one species could "evolve" into another one, without fossil evidence for any intermediate species. ID has an answer for those gaps: "God did it"
This year, the National Center for Science Education has tracked 70 new controversies over evolution in 26 states, some in school districts, others in the state legislatures. President Bush joined the debate on Aug. 2, telling reporters that both evolution and the theory of intelligent design should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about." Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, took the same position a few weeks later.

Intelligent design, a descendant of creationism, is the belief that life is so intricate that only a supreme being could have designed it.
A decendant??? Are you saying Creationism evolved into ID? <grin>
The poll showed 41 percent of respondents wanted parents to have the primary say over how evolution is taught, compared with 28 percent who said teachers and scientists should decide and 21 percent who said school boards should. Asked whether they believed creationism should be taught instead of evolution, 38 percent were in favor, and 49 percent were opposed. More of those who believe in creationism said they were "very certain" of their views (63 percent), compared with those who believe in evolution (32 percent).

The poll also asked about religion and politics, government financing of religious charities, and gay men and lesbians in the military. Most of these questions were asked of a smaller pool of 1,000 respondents, and the margin of error was 2.5 percentage points, Pew researchers said. The public's impression of the Democratic Party has changed in the last year, the survey found. Only 29 percent of respondents said they viewed Democrats as being "friendly toward religion," down from 40 percent in August of 2004. Meanwhile, 55 percent said the Republican Party was friendly toward religion.
Sounds right to me, although I think the 55 percent number may be larger.
Luis E. Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said: "I think this is a continuation of the Republican Party's very successful use of the values issue in the 2004 election, and the Democrats not being able up until now to answer that successfully. Some of the more visible leaders, such as Howard Dean and others, have reinforced that image of a secular party. Of course, if you look at the Democratic Party, there's a large religious constituency there."
They just vote Republican
Survey respondents agreed in nearly equal numbers that nonreligious liberals had "too much control" over the Democratic Party (44 percent), and that religious conservatives had too much control over the Republican Party (45 percent).

On religion-based charities, two-thirds of respondents favored allowing churches and houses of worship to apply for government financing to provide social services. But support for such financing declined from 75 percent in early 2001, when Mr. Bush rolled out his religion-based initiative.

On gay men and lesbians in the military, 58 percent of those polled said they should be allowed to serve openly, a modest increase from 1994, when 52 percent agreed. Strong opposition has fallen in that time, to 15 percent from 26 percent in 1994.

Steve M. blogged So, if we're going to treat evolution as debatable in American schools -- if we're going to "teach the controversy," as an apparent majority of Americans would prefer -- why stop with evolution? There's lots of "controversy" out there, after all. Why not "teach the controversy" and give equal time to the theory that HIV doesn't cause AIDS? .... Or 9/11 -- there are lots of controversies surrounding that day. The juiciest, of course, says that 4,000 Jews got advance warning of the attacks and therefore escaped death. We should teach that controversy, too -- no?
Once you get over 40% of the American people believing them, then perhaps
Ann Althouse blogged I don't think it's so much that Americans are anti-science as that they are much less committed to scientific values than to the values of free speech and open dialogue. This is not not as antithetical to science as it may seem at first to people who strongly believe (as I do) that science classes should contain only bona fide science.
ID has a lot of science behind it, since it accepts the part of Darwinism that can be proven (has fossil evidence), and just offers another answer for the part that cannot be scientifically proven.
There ought to be better social studies classes to teach students about the relationship between religion and science.

Sloanasaurus commented I have a solution to the creationism issue. Make evolution a college course.


Firefox Problems

I love FireFox, and particularly its LiveBookmark support of RSS feeds, and only slightly less its Tabbed Browsing. I even wrote several articles on it, including this and this.

But there is one thing about Firefox which really makes me mad. Every hour my computer locks up for about 5 minutes, with almost 100% CPU utilization, interleaved with short periods when the CPU utilization seems to drop off, but I still cant use my machine, because the Hard Drive is being accesses solidly. All of this is caused by Firefox updating my RSS feeds. I do have a large number of Live Bookmarks (RSS Feeds), but then that is the reason I use Firefox in the first place.

I certainly have reported the problem, but what else is there I can do? I finally decided to create a new blog, Firefox Problems, in the hopes that others having the same problem could post their problems here as well, and maybe we can persuade someone to tackle these problems.

In my case, it would seem to me very reasonable if rather than just bitspinning while it is updating the RSS feeds, I wish the Firefox programmers would create a separate task to do the job, and give it a very low priority. It might not update as fast, but it could do its updates without disturbing what I am doing.

If for some reason they can't do that, then could they not make the one hour refresh a configurable time. If I could set the refresh to only happen every four hours, I could go eat lunch, or something like that, whenever they felt they needed to do an update. But not every 60 minutes, please.

If you have been having problems with Firefox, please go to Firefox Problems, and describe your problems in the comments. Please encourage any other bloggers you know with Firefox problems to participate there as well, and if we can get enough bloggers posting there, maybe we can get some attention from the folks at Firefox.