Saturday, September 17, 2005

I Will Rebuild With You, Mr. President

Donna Brazile (yes, that Donna Brazile, the Democratic political consultant, managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign) editorialized in WaPo New Orleans is my hometown. It is the place where I grew up, where my family still lives. For me, it is a place of comfort and memories. It is home. Now my home needs your help, and the help of every American. Much of my city is still underwater. Its historical buildings have been wrecked, its famous streets turned to rivers and, worst of all, so many of its wonderful people -- including members of my own family and my neighbors -- have lost everything.
On Thursday night President Bush spoke to the nation from my city. I am not a Republican. I did not vote for George W. Bush -- in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

I never thought I would say this, but I agree with you, Donna
Bush called on every American to stand up and support the rebuilding of the region. He told us that New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast would rise from the ruins stronger than before. He enunciated something that we all need to remember: This is America. We are not immune to tragedy here, but we are strong because of our industriousness, our ingenuity and, most important, because of our compassion for one another. We are a nation of rebuilders and a nation of givers. We do not give up in the face of tragedy, we stand up, and we reach out to help those who cannot stand up on their own.

The president called on every American to reach out to my neighbors in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. The great people of this country have already opened their hearts in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and their tremendous generosity has done more than just provide extra comfort -- it has saved lives. Now the crisis of survival is over. But the task of rebuilding remains, and the president made it clear that every single one of us has a role to play.

Each of us belongs to some group -- a church, a union or a fraternal organization, or even a book club -- that can make a difference. It is those groups that can pool resources and then reach out to their counterparts in the stricken states and ask, "What can we do?" Schools, Girl Scout troops, Rotary clubs -- this is the time for every community group to step forward to lend a helping hand. We need it.
There has already been a very large response from individuals; in fact it dwarfs the response from government (Federal, State, AND local combined)
The president also laid out the federal government's goal for rebuilding. It is unprecedented in its scope and ambition, matching destruction that is unprecedented as well. He made the challenge clear: This will be one of the biggest reconstruction projects in history. But he also made it clear that we can and will do this. New Orleans, Biloxi, all of the Gulf Coast will rise again. And the residents are ready to pitch in and do their part.

I know, maybe better than anyone, that there are times when it seems that our nation is too divided ever to heal. There are times when we feel so different from each other that we can hardly believe that we are all part of the same family. But we are one nation. We are a family. And this is what we do. When the president asked us to pitch in Thursday night, he wasn't really asking us to do anything spectacular. He was asking us to be Americans, and to do what Americans always do. The president has set a national goal and defined a national purpose. This is something I believe with all my heart: When we are united, nothing can stop us. We will not waver, we will not tire, and we will not stop until the streets are clean, every last brick has been replaced and every last family has its home back.
I agree. I just hope that you can convince a few more Dems to join you.
Bush talked about how we bury our family and friends. We grieve and mourn. We march to a solemn song and then we rejoice and step out and form the second line. That line is now open to every American to join us in rebuilding a great region of this country. New Orleans will rise again. My hometown is down but not out, and with the help of every American, it will be back on its feet, bigger and brighter than ever.

Mr. President, I am ready for duty. I am ready to stir those old pots again. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The Left did not appreciate what Donna said

Melanie blogged Since Bush still doesn't have a clue, Donna, how are we supposed to stand with you and rebuild?

DesertDreamer commented Melanie, you sound more than a little concerned that President Bush might actually succeed in rebuilding the Gulf Coast. And, horror of horrors! Some Democrats and liberals might even help. You might as well face the facts, as Ms. Brazile has -- regular-Joe, outside the Beltway, Americans are tired of the partisan fights. We believe we can disagree and still do the right thing together, because there really is a right thing to do. In this case, it's the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

The right liked what she had to say

LGF blogged The Democratic Levee Breaks

PunditGuy blogged So, where did the old Donna go? Is this new love for George W. Bush temporary or a sign that Brazile has crossed the aisle? Yeah, I know the answer. This isn't about politics. It's about her family.
True, but family is important. It was important enough for Donna to lay down her anger. Let us hope that it is important enough for her to not pick up that anger again, but instead bring some other Dems over to cooperate.
Brazile's words are clearly led by her vulnerable emotions of the moment. New Orleans is her town. Her family was affected by the hurricane. Some of them had to evacuate to Houston. Her 46-year-old sister Sheila was missing and was rescued only after Donna appeared on CNN begging for someone to go find her. She's had a lot happen to her over the past few weeks.

We'll relish this moment for sure. But it'll be short lived. I'm sure the old "pot stirrer" will be back, involved in the next big democratic campaign throwing out quotes more like the ones she's known for. When things get nasty again, and they will, I hope Donna the "democratic party strategist" looks back to remember this moment when she locked arms (not horns) with a Republican president as an American ready to report for duty.

Jeff Goldstein blogged Good on you, Ms Brazille. And when we actually do get down to rebuilding, here are some ideas for how to proceed. Now if we could just have you maybe speak to Senator Landrieu (D-LA) about getting on board


Judge Roberts

Marshall blogged Judge Roberts made it clear that he respects the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. He demonstrated that he will not be an activist, pursuing an agenda on the Court. He made it clear that he will judge cases on the law and the facts as they are presented to him. He also established that he is brilliant, articulate and persuasive. In short, he more than demonstrated that he is an ideal choice to be Chief Justice.

Having declared that Judge Roberts has my full support for the foregoing reasons, I’m a conservative, and I’m human. I would be lying if I were to deny that I wasn’t hoping for certain policy outcomes myself. But I am not going to let my own hopes for righting of the judicial apple cart affect my evaluation of this astonishing nominee for Chief Justice.

The reason is simple: if we are to remain where the rule of law protects us all and stop the descent toward becoming a nation where the law can be used as a weapon, we’ve got to have judges who put the law first.

So, if you really want to know the reason that I’m supporting Judge Roberts’ confirmation, take a look at the so-called French fry case. That’s the case where a police officer arrested and put in jail a young girl for eating a French fry on a Metro train. It would have been easy to say that the little girl should prevail in her lawsuit. Given that she had obviously been mistreated, anyone listening to their heart (are you listening Senator Durbin?) would have looked for a way to help the young girl out. But that’s not what judges are supposed to do. And Judge Roberts looked at the law and ruled against her.

A judge that reads the law, and follows it, will be a welcome change to the USSC, and I am eager to see Chief Justice Roberts take his seat.
For too long, we’ve had judges who have said to themselves, “We really ought to [fill in the blank]…” and then went looking for ways to do it. Judge Roberts isn’t going to be that kind of judge, and that’s why I’m looking forward to his confirmation.

There’s another reason, as well, and I alluded to it in a much-discussed post earlier in the week. Chief Justice Roberts is going to be able to persaude his colleagues. And in the coming years, I am confident that we’re going to see the Court moving in ways that will please conservatives.


Price gap between cable, DSL widens

Dwight Silverman blogged This Associated Press story focuses on a survey saying the price difference between cable modem and DSL service continues to widen:

Cable-modem service was, on average, 75.8 percent more expensive than DSL during the month [of August], up from a 53.3 percent gap in July. While phone carriers cut prices - the average DSL price decreased by 9.2 percent - cable companies raised them. Leading the price decline was Verizon Communications which rolled out a slower service that cost just $14.95 a month, with a free month of service with a one-year commitment. By contrast, cable broadband service got 4.1 percent more expensive, on average. Comcast Corp. raised prices an average of 7.9 percent, while Time Warner Cable raised by 5.8 percent, according to the survey.
Cable markets itself based on speed; DSL, on price. In Houston, where Time Warner's RoadRunner is the primary cable-modem service, it costs about $45 a month, but the speed is 5 megabits a second. SBC sells its Yahoo-branded service at a fire-sale price of $14.95, with a maximum speed of 1.5 Mbps.
And that 1.5 Mbps only applies if you are almost across the street from the wire center. If you are closer to 3.4 miles from the wirecenter (the maximum for DSL), your speed will drop to 384kbps.
To my mind, these are two different audiences. RoadRunner goes for the online power users, consumers of digital media and gamers. SBC's offering is aimed at the masses, those who simply want to give up obsolete, pokey dialup and not pay much more than they are now. In the case of America Online users, you'd actually be paying less by making the switch.

At some point, expect to see RoadRunner moved to tiered pricing, where it offers slower speeds for less money. Time Warner executives have talked about doing this for years, and the price war with SBC is likely what will get them off the fence.
In Tulsa, both Cable (Cox) and DSL (Bell) offer tiered pricing. Cox's primary broadband is supposedly 4mbps, but they offer 5mbps for gamers at a higher price, and they have a much lower speed (I think it is 384kbps) priced to compete with DSL. Also I have heard that DSL has a higher priced package, but it is only 3mbps, and like the 1.5 mbps it is a function of distance from the wire center.


The problem of too much government funding

Rich Lowry wrote in National Review Online Hurricane Katrina makes for a straightforward narrative for liberals: Big government could have prevented the catastrophe,

Big Government cannot stop a hurricane
but President Bush so distrusts government, he didn't spend enough on levees and other projects to save New Orleans. Leaving aside that the free-spending Bush is hardly a miser, this narrative has no connection to the grimy facts on the ground. Indeed, if this is "a big government moment," one wonders why government continues to look so bad. The "more funding for levees" argument perpetuates a common misperception. The long-standing earthen levees surrounding the city did not fail. It was the floodwalls around the drainage canals that protrude into New Orleans that were overwhelmed. One breach seems to have been caused by a barge breaking loose from its moorings and battering down one of the walls. Will Nancy Pelosi now accuse Bush of underfunding barge moorings? It is still a matter of debate what caused the other breaches. One expert at the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center told the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune that he suspects a "catastrophic structural failure." Another expert suggested that "the flaw may not be in the design but in the construction or materials."
And at least one of the floodwalls that failed had just been worked on; the ones that were not funded did not fail. Maybe fewer should have been funded rather than more.
So the flooding didn't result from old levees desperately needing more funding. In fact, the section of 17th Street canal where a major breach occurred had just been upgraded, and the New York Times writes "received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region." Even if Bush had larded more money on New Orleans — according to a broad-brush comparison in The Washington Post, he spent more in his first five years in office than Bill Clinton did in his last five — it wouldn't have stop such a breach.

In a key respect, too much government funding was the problem. A hurricane researcher at Louisiana State University has long warned that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet — built in 1965 as a shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of New Orleans — would serve as a "hurricane highway," magnifying storm surges and delivering them into the city. It appears that this is what happened.

The Washington Post reports that only 3 percent of the port's cargo comes through the canal, at a price to taxpayers of an estimated $12,000 per vessel. Still, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $13 million dredging the canal last year. Even though there were warnings about the dangers of MRGO, even though it was commercially marginal, the Corps wanted to spend up to $38 million on keeping it going. A former employee with the Corps' New Orleans district told the Post: "The general feeling was: 'There's no way we're closing that.' They wanted all the business they could get."

Here is the recipe for government, not as liberals imagine it, but as it actually exists: Take the Corps, for whom every project, no matter how unnecessary, is a "pressing need"; combine it with Congress, where Louisiana representatives eagerly diverted Corps money to their pet projects; and throw on top the corrupt officialdom of New Orleans. Then shake well — and get out of the way.

The Orleans Levee Board
See my earlier post here
, the state agency charged with protecting the levees, is so notorious that it makes Bush's FEMA look like a paragon of professionalism. Former president of the board Billy Nungesser, who was ousted after trying to reform it, says: "Every time I turned over a rock, there was something rotten. I used to tell people, 'If your children ever die in a hurricane, come shoot us, because we're responsible.' We threw away all sorts of money."

The board operates an airport, two marinas, and has a private police force that Nungesser says "wears more gold braid than Gen. MacArthur when he went to the Philippines." The board just spent $2.4 million on a Mardi Gras Fountain near Lake Pontchartrain. NBC News reports that the board spent $15 million on building overpasses to a riverboat casino, and paid $45,000 to a private investigator to find dirt on a board critic — followed by another $45,000 to settle the resulting lawsuit. Feeling dry yet?


When the plan gets washed away

Jack Dunphy wrote in National Review Online Even in the best of times and the best of weather, New Orleans is a dangerous place. There were 265 murders committed there in 2004, giving the Crescent City the unwelcome distinction of being America's most violent city, with a homicide rate of 56.3 per 100,000 in population. Those hoping to see New Orleans restored to pre-Katrina conditions might pause to reflect on these numbers.... What has come to pass in New Orleans was foreseen years ago, with grim accuracy, in such publications as Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and New Orleans's own Times Picayune, among others, yet when these predictions came true it seemed the city was utterly unprepared.

Both the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana had elaborate plans for how they would respond in the event of a major hurricane and levee failure. Rutgers University sociologist Lee Clarke labels such plans "fantasy documents," i.e. documents that purport to lay out the appropriate response to any foreseeable contingency. Such plans reassure the public, Clarke says, but in reality they have little chance of being implemented, even, as was the case in New Orleans, when ample warning is given.

If you dont intend to follow a plan, you should not write one. That will give the people, who are not reassured, the opportunity to elect a government that will come up with a plan that it can and will follow.
When the 17th-Street flood wall came down and Lake Pontchartrain came rushing into New Orleans, all those precious plans got washed away along with everything else, leaving the city's police officers to cope with a scenario that, though predicted, was nonetheless unimaginable. Making matters considerably worse, of course, was the fact that as many as a third of the city's 1,600 police officers remained unaccounted for even a week after the flood. Some of these cops may have died in the first hours of the disaster, others may have been stranded with no way of reporting to their assignments. In a city under water and without power or phone service, a certain amount of confusion is unavoidable. But it now seems clear that most of the no-shows simply decided they had better things to do than wade though the poisonous muck making rescues and engaging in gunfights with looters.
Regardless of why they did not show up, it was obvious that armed forces were needed, and the Governor should have authorized the President to send in the forces he had ready.
Even worse than those who didn't come to work were the two uniformed officers shown on MSNBC as they joined in the looting of a Wal-Mart. When the public sees the police fail to respond to lawlessness, the result is even greater lawlessness. When the police participate in it, well, you saw the results. Not even the presence of a reporter and cameraman deterred these two cops from continuing to fill up their shopping cart. "I'm looking for looters," one of them told the reporter. She wasn't looking too hard; she might have started with her own partner.
I hope those two cops are prosecuted.
But for every cop who disgraced the badge there were many others who bravely stood their watery ground and faced challenges beyond imagination, even to other police officers. And rather than wait for the bureaucratic machinery to offer direction, many cops simply went to where the trouble was and did their best. Jurisdictional lines were ignored as police officers and federal agents from across the country descended on the Gulf region, often at their own expense, and went to work. (A collection of police-related Katrina stories is available here.)

It's been my experience in more than two decades as a cop that Pareto's Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is just as applicable in law enforcement as it is in business. Put simply, 80 percent of the heavy lifting in police work is performed by 20 percent of the cops. When the danger is greatest, these are the ones who will be closest to it, while the others are directing traffic safely away from the action. The cops you saw risking their lives on television last week were New Orleans's 20 percent.
And may God bless them, and their families.
As for the ones who stayed home, the others were better off without them.


Africa needs more than just monetary aid.

President Mamadou Koulibaly of the National Assembly of the Ivory Coast wrote in National Review Online Five years have passed since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2000. It is time to step back and frankly assess the results. We can no longer ignore that aid policies for African states have had only insignificant effects; key research-and-development aid institutes consistently draw our attention to the failure of these measures. How can aid be increasingly provided to African governments without making sure that the rule of law and transparency are promoted as the strategic framework to improve living conditions?

Only provide aid to Democratic Countries, and even then, don't just hand it to the government, but allow NGOs to use it to bring in needed food, building supplies, medical supplies, and other needed services and products, and require the NGOs to account for the money spent.
Now seems an appropriate time to make new, more realistic and effective commitments for the future of the MDG. We would do well to question some of the irrelevant assumptions of those calling for an increase in the volume of aid. Numerous World Bank and IMF analysts, among others working at major research centers on international development, question the effectiveness of the policies adopted so far. Research increasingly shows that economic prosperity is primarily generated by private investment when states can stimulate economic freedom.

Reflecting on international development, global prosperity, common security, and a millennium of universal peace must become a matter of primary concern to all of us. Introspection should focus more on methods than on goals per se. No golden solution will fall from the sky. The main challenge we face is to develop the capacity to open up our countries to international actors who can foster prosperity for the poorest amongst us. We also cannot shy away from our responsibilities as Africans.
Precisely. Aid should be a hand up, not a hand out
.... There is now a good opportunity to begin advocating for freedom, democracy, and the enshrinement of clearer and more precise property rights regarding common goods that are all too often considered in Africa as state property. For common goals, we need common approaches based on rights and individual freedoms, which the signatory states should promote. Rich countries cannot be the only democracies in the world while poor countries are forced to content themselves with anti-democratic regimes. Developed countries should not maintain economic freedom exclusively for themselves and condone the collapse of countries receiving their assistance beneath the yoke of liberticidal regimes and protectionist pacts. Africa needs free trade and democracy.
Democracy, as a universal value, as well as equity and freedom should be the foundation for common approaches to the MDG. To reach thess goals, we need imaginative leadership rather than cautious leadership. The level and flow of aid dollars matter less than improving governance in poor countries and inter-state relations at the global level. We ask the developed world to work effectively with us to end unfair trade practices, to promote freedom, economic development and the rule of law, and to assure a better future for all the children of our continent.


What Bush’s “opportunity zone” should look like.

Mallory Factor wrote in National Review The reconstruction of the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a forgone conclusion. The question is not will the region be rebuilt; the question is how — and what role the government will play. The resources are there for successful reconstruction, but the challenge is to use them effectively.... If we have learned anything from this natural disaster, it’s that more central planning and greater federal control only help to make matters worse. Bush’s opportunity zone, if it is to succeed, must be a Liberty Zone, where limited government unleashes the power of individual initiative. What should the zone look like? Lawmakers have a unique opportunity to return us to free-market first principles and demonstrate the power of individual liberty to achieve economic success. The physical rebuilding of the Gulf Coast should encourage private ownership, which we know works, rather than public ownership, which badly exacerbated the hurricane’s impact in the first place.

And private ownership is completely consistent with Bush's idea for an Ownership Society.
Developers and insurance companies are the ones who should buy folks out and redevelop the area in an economically rational manner. As for the levees, they are too important to entrust to Washington bureaucrats. Instead they should be locally owned and controlled, ensuring that they are maintained by people who have a vital interest in their soundness.
Certainly government should not control them: Federal, State, or Local. Personally I dont like the idea of levees trying to protect an area that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level. I think reconsturction should be moved to an area that is above sea level, and if people in the parts of New Orleans that is above sea level want to continue living there, they should build new levees to protect their property, and then the old ones should be torn down, an allow the below sea level parts to become Lake New Orleans.
Federal flood insurance should be phased out or privatized, discouraging irrational building in areas where the true risks, as priced by private insurance markets, are too great. This would lead to a rational redevelopment of the region that would dramatically improve safety and end the irrational practice of subsidizing the very rich and their beachfront homes.
This should be true not just in New Orleans, but elsewhere in the country when Federal Flood Insurance or other FEMA funding just helps rebuilding over and over buildings that should never be built there in the first place.
Individuals, meanwhile, should be empowered with smart cards or vouchers for all vital government services, especially health care. Such cards should be linked to health savings accounts for purchasing insurance, which would create a consumer-driven universal coverage system. In other words, the Hurricane Zone should be transformed into a true Liberty Zone, where the policy mix will pare back the tentacles of Leviathan and allow the full creative force of individual initiative to restore the region.
Sounds good to me.
A Liberty Zone would suspend federal regulations by default unless they can be justified by cost-benefit analysis. Justifiable regulations should be implemented only through market-based mechanisms, not command and control. In such a zone, we should stop taxing capital gains and allow businesses to immediately expense their capital purchases. We should suspend all tariffs on imports to the zone, reducing the cost of materials and allowing the benefits of free trade to drive the reconstruction process forward. The possibilities are limited only by the scope of our imagination. The guiding principle should be the empowerment of individuals, whose new ideas would leave big-government bureaucracy behind. Unfortunately, calls for tax relief to spur redevelopment in the region are already being co-opted by every special interest in Washington. As the government does a notoriously poor job of picking winners and losers, what’s needed is genuine, across-the-board tax relief as part of the policy mix.

Along with complete suspension of all taxes on capital to encourage investment, the individual income tax for those who actually live in afflicted areas year-round should feature substantial rate reduction or be suspended outright. This would encourage the large-scale return of human capital — that is, people — to the region. It is critical that all of the tax and regulatory relief included in the recovery package be neutral, avoiding special-interest subsidies and tax breaks that substitute government whim for market rationality. If we are bold and pursue an agenda based on the principles of free enterprise, we will transform a region now suffering incredible hardship into an engine of prosperity — into a Liberty Zone that will show the world just how freedom works.


FEMA City in Florida

WaPo reported FEMA City, a dusty, baking, treeless collection of almost 500 trailers that was set up by the federal emergency agency last fall to house more than 1,500 people made homeless by Hurricane Charley, one of the most destructive storms in recent Florida history. The free shelter was welcomed by thankful survivors back then; almost a year later, most are still there -- angry, frustrated, depressed and increasingly desperate.

Why are they still there? FEMA provided them with TEMPORARY housing to give them a chance to decide what to do with their lives, whether to work on rebuilding what they had in Florida, or whether to move elsewhere and start a new life, but they should have been able to decide what to do in 18 months.
"FEMA City is now a socioeconomic time bomb just waiting to blow up," said Bob Hebert, director of recovery for Charlotte County, where most FEMA City residents used to live. "You throw together all these very different people under already tremendous stress, and bad things will happen. And this is the really difficult part: In our county, there's no other place for many of them to go."
We have a big contry here, and if they can't find a place for them here, there is the rest of the world.
As government efforts move forward to relocate and house some of the 1 million people displaced by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast -- including plans to collect as many as 300,000 trailers and mobile homes for them -- officials here say their experience offers some harsh and sobering lessons about the difficulties ahead.
People are just going to want to mooch off the government for the rest of their lives.
Most troubling, they said, is that while the badly damaged town of Punta Gorda is beginning to rebuild and even substantially upgrade one year after the storm, many of the area's most vulnerable people are being left badly behind. The hurricane began that slide, destroying hundreds of modest homes and apartments along both sides of the Peace River as it enters Charlotte Harbor, and almost all of Punta Gorda's public housing. Then as the apartments were slowly restored -- a process made more costly and time-consuming because of a shortage of contractors and workers -- landlords found that they could substantially increase their rents in the very tight market.
The law of supply and demand. Had they not raised their rents, the apartments would have still filled up, and there would have been a shortage of apartments, but the owners would not have the capital to build more units.
As a result, the low-income working people most likely to have been displaced by the hurricane are now most likely to be displaced by the recovery, too. The unhappy consequence is that FEMA City's population has barely declined -- its trailers are occupied by 1,500 check-out clerks, nurse's aides, aluminum siding hangers, landscapers and more than a few people too old, too sick or too upset to work. A not-insignificant number of illegal immigrants and ex-convicts live there as well.
Did the checkout clerks take advantage of the housing and study to improve themselves, and possibly become assistant managers? Did the nurse's aids study to become LPNs or even RNs? There is a shortage of both. Did the aluminum siding hangers try other jobs in the construction trade as all of the houses were being rebuilt? Or did everyone just spend their money on beer and sit there feeling sorry for themselves?
To the county's surprise, Hebert said, finding solutions to their ever-increasing problems is now the biggest and most frustrating part of the entire hurricane recovery effort. "Having lived through the last year here, this is my advice to New Orleans and the other Gulf Coast towns: Don't make big camps with thousands of people, because it doesn't work," Hebert said. "It takes a bad situation and, for many people, actually makes it worse."
Why would a bunch of small camps, which would provide a bigger problem for FEMA to get the necessary aid to, be better than a few big camps? The problem is not the size of the camps, it is the willingness of the residents to try to improve their lot in life.
Hebert was referring to the growing family problems, vandalism and criminal activity at the site, but even more to the deadline looming over FEMA City. By regulation, federal emergency shelter only lasts 18 months after a disaster is declared, and in Charlotte County the emergency period will end on Feb. 13. By then, everyone is supposed to be out of the trailers.


Saturday, September 17

This Day In History

  • 1787   The U.S. Constitution was completed and signed by a majority of delegates attending the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.
  • 1907   Warren Burger, the 15th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in St. Paul, Minn.
  • 1911   The first transcontinental airplane flight, from New York City to Pasadena, CA, was accomplished on this day. It took C.P. Rogers only 82 hours to fly across the U.S.
  • 1920   The American Professional Football Association   a precursor of the National Football League   was formed in Canton, Ohio.
  • 1939   The Soviet Union invaded Poland during World War II.
  • 1947   James V. Forrestal was sworn in as the first U.S. secretary of defense.
  • 1972   The comedy series ''M.A.S.H.'' premiered on CBS.
  • 1976   NASA unveiled the space shuttle Enterprise at ceremonies in Palmdale, Calif.
  • 1980   Former Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza was assassinated in Paraguay.
  • 1986   The Senate confirmed the nomination of William H. Rehnquist to become the 16th chief justice of the United States.
  • 1992   Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called a halt to his five-and-a-half-year probe of the Iran-Contra scandal.
  • 1994   Heather Whitestone of Alabama was crowned Miss America, the first deaf woman to win the title.
  • 1996   Former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew died in Berlin, Md., at age 77.
  • 1997   Northern Ireland's main Protestant party joined peace talks, bringing the major players together for first time.
  • 1999   President Bill Clinton lifted restrictions on trade, travel and banking imposed on North Korea a half-century earlier.
  • 2001   Wall Street trading resumed for the first time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks   its longest shutdown since the Depression; the Dow lost 684.81 points, its worst-ever one-day point drop. Pro sporting events resumed after a six-day hiatus.
  • 2003   New York Stock Exchange chairman Dick Grasso resigned amid a furor over his $139.5 million pay package.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1907   Warren (Earl) Burger (Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; died June 25, 1995)
  • 1923   Hank (Hiram) Williams Sr. (musician, songwriter, singer: I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Cold, Cold Heart, Take These Chains from My Heart, Honky Tonkin’, Jambalaya, Kaw-Liga, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Lovesick Blues; 1st country musician whose music crossed over into pop; wrote 125 compositions; died Jan 1, 1953)
  • 1931   Anne Bancroft (Anna Maria Louisa Italiano) (Oscar and Tony Award-winning actress)
  • 1939   David H. Souter (attorney: Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court)
  • 1948   John Ritter (Emmy Award winning actor: Three’s Company [1983-1984]; son of Tex Ritter; died Sep 11, 2003)


Friday, September 16, 2005

Gretna Circles the Wagons

LATimes reported After Blocking the Bridge, Gretna Circles the Wagons - Long wary of next-door New Orleans, the town stands by its decision to bar the city's evacuees. Little over a week after this mostly white suburb became a symbol of callousness for using armed officers to seal one of the last escape routes from New Orleans — trapping thousands of mostly black evacuees in the flooded city

Which we reported here
— the Gretna City Council passed a resolution supporting the police chief's move. "This wasn't just one man's decision," Mayor Ronnie C. Harris said Thursday. "The whole community backs it." Three days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Gretna officers blocked the Mississippi River bridge that connects their city to New Orleans, exacerbating the sometimes troubled relationship with their neighbor. The blockade remained in place into the Labor Day weekend.

Gretna (pop. 17,500) is a feisty blue-collar city, two-thirds white, that prides itself on how quickly its police respond to 911 calls; it warily eyes its neighbor, a two-thirds black city (pop. about 500,000) that is also a perennial contender for the murder capital of the U.S. Itself deprived of power, water and food for days after Katrina struck Aug. 29, Gretna suddenly became the destination for thousands of people fleeing New Orleans. The smaller town bused more than 5,000 of the newcomers to an impromptu food distribution center miles away.
I bet that ticked off Mayor Nagin. He did not want people fed or given water, because that might make them want to stay, and yet he did not use the buses at his disposal to allow them to evacuate.
As New Orleans residents continued to spill into Gretna, tensions rose. After someone set the local mall on fire Aug. 31, Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson Jr. proposed the blockade.
i can't blame them. I suspect the mall fire was not set by Gretna residents, but rather some of the thugs that the New Orleans police failed to keep under control.
"I realized we couldn't continue, manpower-wise, fuel-wise," Lawson said Thursday. Armed Gretna police, helped by local sheriff's deputies and bridge police, turned hundreds of men, women and children back to New Orleans. Gretna is not the only community that views New Orleans with distrust. Authorities in St. Bernard Parish, to the east, stacked cars to seal roads from the Crescent City. But Gretna's decision has become the symbol of the ultimate act of a bad neighbor, gaining notoriety partly from an account in the Socialist Worker newspaper by two San Francisco emergency workers and labor leaders who were in a crowd turned back by Gretna police. Numerous angry e-mails to Gretna officials accuse them of racism. (Harris and Lawson are white.)
They turned back everyone, not just blacks.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said Thursday that Gretna officials "will have to live" with their decision. "We allowed people to cross ... because they were dying in the convention center," Nagin said.
Gee, if you had used the 600 buses at your disposal to get them out of New Orleans, perhaps they would not have been dying.
"We made a decision to protect people…. They made a decision to protect property."


Some of the Uprooted Won't Go Home Again

WaPo reported Fewer than half of all New Orleans evacuees living in emergency shelters here said they will move back home, while two-thirds of those who want to relocate planned to settle permanently in the Houston area, according to a survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Of course they don't want to go back. The Mayor of New Orleans told them to go to the Superdome, where there was no food, water, electricity, or portapoties, and he did not use the buses he had at his disposal to send them anywhere, so they were in hell for several days. When they got out they were taken to the Astrodome where there were cots, food, water, electricity, indoor plumbing, and people to take care of them. Can you blame them from thinking that Houston is a lot better place to live in than New Orleans?
The wide-ranging poll found that these survivors of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath remain physically and emotionally battered but unbroken. They praised God and the U.S. Coast Guard for saving them, but two weeks after the storm, nearly half still sought word about missing loved ones or close friends who may not have been as lucky.

Betsy blogged Yes, the transfer of so many people from one location to other locations will have an impact, but it could also provide the impetus for starting a new life. It reminds me of the adage that a crisis can also be an opportunity.

blogged Seven in ten have no checking or savings account. Seven in ten. There's something called the "ownership society." And it's not a catch phrase. It's not an abstraction. It doesn't mean that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. It means that every American owns something. Every American has assets. Let's go back to that 7-in-10 factoid. If you are reading this blog, there is a very good chance that you have a checking and/or savings account. It is difficult to fathom that 7-in-10 members of a community could have no bank account. But this fits right into yesterday's Social Security Reform Thursday. While African-Americans have made profound strides over the past century, far too many were left behind by the New Deal and Great Society spending sprees. Social Security reform would promote the personal ownership of savings, of assets, and of wealth, not just for the "fatcats" or "Wall Street" but for everyone.

AJStrata blogged Who would blame them after their city and state government left them there and bumbled getting food, water and a bus out of the flood waters for them.


A broader role for the armed forces?

William M. Arkin editorialized in WaPo Amidst all of President Bush's proposals last night was one decree that the Commander-in-Chief can implement without Congressional or public intervention: "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice".... I for one don't want to live in a society where "a moment’s notice" justifies military action that either preempts or usurps civil authority.

Neither do I
What is more, nothing about what happened in New Orleans justifies such a radical move to give the military what bureaucrats call "a lead role" in responding to emergencies.
What happened is that the media kept complaining that the White House did not do anything, when the president declared a disaster for the area BEFORE the storm struck and then kept asking for authorization to send in that aid, but the Governor would not authorize it, because she wanted to punish a mayor that had supported her opponent in 2003. If you are going to blame him for not sending in the aid, you need to give him the power to do it.
In the wake of Katrina, the military was standing by awaiting orders, as it should be. The White House and the federal government were for their part either on vacation or out to lunch. The problem wasn’t the lack of resources available. It was leadership, decisiveness, foresight. The problem was commanding and mobilizing the resources, civil and military.

Heather Hurlburt blogged We have a military, as is repeated ad nauseam by the political class, of unprecedented power and quality. Its excellence includes: tracking and destroying fast-moving enemies, be they large armies or small guerrilla groups; preparing for and fighting the large set-piece battles on land, sea and air that this generation of military leaders trained for; moving massive amounts of materiel and soldiers quickly; taking overwhelming control (when political leaders allow it) of the means of violence and of technology; and putting minimal humanitarian systems in place immediately after a battle or natural disaster.

But when a democracy reaches the point that the military is the first answer to any policy question that comes up, that is a scary place.
I agree. One must recognize that the Mayor and those that report to him are the first responders, and his backup, the second responders, report to the Governor. IThe Feds are the third responders, and you should not blame Washington for not sending in forces that had not yet been asked for by the Governor, and you should not blame aid workers for not wanting to go into a lawless area where truck drivers and aid workers were being shot at.
Scary for society as a whole, but also for the military. It's interesting that conservative military writers have been putting out novels and policy analyses for a decade now, some approvingly and some alarmingly, imagining a dystopian future where the military is the last competent organization on a decaying American landscape.

Now, it should be simple and straightforward to call in the military for help when a massive disaster occurs. And when someone without a dog in the blame fight documents for me how something other than Federal, state and local failure to appreciate Katrina's gravity prevented that from happening, I'll listen to suggestions about changes.
  • August 26 Bush urged Blanco for permission to mobilize military to help. She refused
  • August 28 Governor requests disaster declaration, which Bush does immediately
  • August 28 Mayor Nagin issues mandatory evacuation order, but does not use the 600 buses available to him to evacuate
  • August 31 residents are trapped in Superdome with no food or water, but state officials will not allow Red Cross in because the aid might make them want to stay, and Mayor wants them to evacuate (the buses he failed to use earlier are now under water).
  • September 1 Governor finally asks for federal control of the relief effort, and Lt Gen Russel Honore arrives and takes charge the same day. 10,000 people are evacuated the first 12 hours.
  • September 2 convoy of 50 relief vehicles arrive.


Instant Gratification

Ken Leebow blogged Yahoo understands that concept. Brand new; as you type, Yahoo takes you to a relevant site. For example, I typed -- Braves -- (as in Atlanta Braves) and it instantly gave me the scores for the past few days. Yahoo!: Way to go!

By the way, at the above site, with one-click, you can add the instant search feature to this site:

Additional details at Yahoo's blog.

And . . . if you want to learn more about Yahoo's strategy for simplification, read this article in Business Week.

Things That ... Make You Go Hmm blogged this tool works best in very specific search situations which might be served by going directly to the domain

I found the tool useful, and at the same discovered another very useful site, "Things That ... Make You Go Hmm"


I thought I was in an alternate universe

For a while I thought maybe I had slipped into some sort of alternate universe. First my RSS feed showed This “savior” talk has got to stop coming from The Anchoress, and then I read that Danny Carlton, a.k.a. Jack Lewis had started a new blog Let’s Blame Bush!!

I could not have been any more surprised had I seen La Shawn Barber making racist statements.

But I am apparently still in my familiar universe. The Anchoress was just responding to some foolish headlines: Bill Clinton as World Savior and Bill Clinton, Savior of the World reporting on the Clinton Global Initiative, where Tony Blair pulled the plug on Kyoto, and Danny Carlton's new blog was inspired by the absurd and irrational blame game Liberals played during the Katrina disaster, so following the model of Rush Limbaugh, he chose to use absurdity to illustrate absurdity. The general theme is “Idiotic ways people try to blame things on George W. Bush or basically make fun of him”


Tony Blair Pulls the Plug on Kyoto

Tech Central Station reported Kyoto Treaty RIP. That's not the headline in any newspaper this morning emerging from the first day of the Clinton Global Initiative, but it could have been -- and should have been. Onstage with former president Bill Clinton at a midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was going to speak with "brutal honesty" about Kyoto and global warming, and he did. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some blunt talk, too.

Blair, a longtime supporter of the Kyoto treaty, further prefaced his remarks by noting, "My thinking has changed in the past three or four years." So what does he think now? "No country, he declared, "is going to cut its growth." That is, no country is going to allow the Kyoto treaty, or any other such global-warming treaty, to crimp -- some say cripple -- its economy.

That is the truth, particularly as long as countries like India and China have no restrictions, and are able to do more to increase global warming than all of the western countries combined could do to reduce it, even if all completely destroyed their economies.
Looking ahead to future climate-change negotiations, Blair said of such fast-growing countries as India and China, "They're not going to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto." India and China, of course, weren't covered by Kyoto in the first place, which was one of the fatal flaws in the treaty. But now Blair is acknowledging the obvious: that after the current Kyoto treaty -- which the US never acceded to -- expires in 2012, there's not going to be another worldwide deal like it. So what will happen instead? Blair answered: "What countries will do is work together to develop the science and technology….There is no way that we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology to do it."
That is what should have happened long ago. Why wait until 2012 to start?
Bingo! That's what eco-realists have been saying all along, of course -- that the only feasible way to deal with the issue of greenhouse gases and global warming is through technological breakthroughs, not draconian cutbacks. Blair concluded with a rhetorical question-and-answer: "How do we move forward, post-Kyoto? It can only be done by the major players coming together and pooling their resources, to find their way to come together."


What they're really saying in Louisiana

OpinionJournal wrote If you're wondering what citizens of New Orleans make of the plans to aid their city, try looking on, the Web site affiliated with the city's Times-Picayune. The paper's electronic edition and other services on the site have been a major destination for locals desperate to read and talk about the hurricane and its aftermath. Most important, has functioned as a lifeline. Since New Orleans and the communities dotting the delta below it began to flood, people have posted messages and directions there for potential rescuers. The subject lines say it all: "Elderly sisters may be in attic in Belle Chasse." "Injured woman, child need to leave Kenner." "Trapped In Plaquemines." "Missing on Seagull Lane." These days, you see fewer new notices like those and more reports of rescues. Yet alerts of all sorts still go out. A poignant S.O.S. this week came from Plaquemines parish, south of New Orleans: "Thousands of dogs, cats, goats, horses, cows, & other livestock are dropping dead or stumbling around everywhere. . . . Dogs, many of them beagles, healers, and other hunting or herding types of dogs, are wandering around helpless. . . . They keep trying to jump into the military trucks and go with the soldiers."

Also on, there is a large category of angry posts about the situation of New Orleans and its environs.... What's interesting about the angry messages is the choice of targets. The majority aren't about President Bush and the slow pace of federal assistance, for instance. Writers seem to be furious chiefly about the performance of local and state officials, specifically Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Messages blasting them for ineptitude during the crisis outnumber those about federal authorities.

They are right. FEMA did not do a fantastic job, but the big problem was that Gov Blanco did not anyone else to be in charge of anything, even though she was incapable of doing anything herself, and she was still mad at Mayor Nagin for supporting her opponent in 2003, and she wanted to punish him.
Then again, FEMA is not popular, in part because it represents the kind of bureaucracy that nobody likes even in good times and that Louisianans are wrangling with now. Indeed, suspicion of big government pops up in a number of posts, despite the federal largess that is about to rain down on the Gulf Coast. A generic lament on this subject seems to be: We need help, but a lot of it is going to be wasted and lost through corruption.


First Lady visits Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics blogged Editors from Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and other Hearst magazines had a chance to sit down with First Lady Laura Bush this morning for an informal Q and A. Having recently returned from touring the devastated Gulf Coast, Mrs. Bush focused particularly on hurricane relief and the wide array of efforts to aid the victims. "The encouraging thing is that the response has been so compassionate," she said. "I met Red Cross workers from all around the country." She noted how communities and local groups are taking a direct role in helping victims resettle in their areas. "I’m very encouraged how they are incorporating these people into their communities." (Hearst and its employees are doing their part for Katrina victims through the United Way and other organizations.)

I find it amazing that after Laura Bush referred to the Red Cross workers that were doing a fantastic job, Herst highlights its support of United Way. As I understand it, United Way made it clear that donations to it would not be given to Katrina Victims, but would be spent to build a new building for United Way
Mrs. Bush also stressed the importance of New Orleans in this country’s history and culture. "It has to be rebuilt," she said. "It is a city filled with talented people, artists, architects, musicians. I think those people will be drawn back to rebuild that city." She expressed the hope that some of the displaced will have the chance to work in the rebuilding effort: "If anything good can come out of this, perhaps it’s that people can learn skills and have new job opportunities."

So far, the responses to PM’s online poll on the topic of rebuilding New Orleans are running about three to one against reconstruction. However, once the floodwaters are drained and damage assessments completed, it seems likely that some compromise approach might appear most feasible. The more historic, higher-elevation parts of the city will be restored, while the most vulnerable low-lying areas could be converted to parks or wetlands and their former residents resettled in safer locales.
I completely agree with that. There should be NO attempt to rebuild in any area that is below sea level.
Certainly, these and other options will be matters of national debate. PM will be collecting ideas for the future of the Gulf Coast and presenting the most interesting and innovative ones here at over the coming weeks.


Praise Bush and Blame Nagin

Brent Baker blogged ABC News producers probably didn't hear what they expected when they sent Dean Reynolds to the Houston Astrodome's parking lot to get reaction to President Bush's speech from black evacuees from New Orleans.

ROF,LMAO Unlike Fox News, whose motto is "We Report, You Decide" ABC, like most of the MSM, follows the motto "We Distort, You Accept It As Gospel", and to their shock, people saw the truth.
Instead of denouncing Bush and blaming him for their plight, they praised Bush and blamed local officials. Reynolds asked Connie London: "Did you harbor any anger toward the President because of the slow federal response?" She rejected the premise: "No, none whatsoever, because I feel like our city and our state government should have been there before the federal government was called in.” She pointed out: “They had RTA buses, Greyhound buses, school buses, that was just sitting there going under water when they could have been evacuating people."

Not one of the six people interviewed on camera had a bad word for Bush -- despite Reynolds' best efforts. Reynolds goaded: "Was there anything that you found hard to believe that he said, that you thought, well, that's nice rhetoric, but, you know, the proof is in the pudding?" Brenda Marshall answered, "No, I didn't," prompting Reynolds to marvel to anchor Ted Koppel: "Very little skepticism here.”

Reynolds pressed another woman: “Did you feel that the President was sincere tonight?" She affirmed: "Yes, he was." Reynolds soon wondered who they held culpable for the levee breaks. Unlike the national media, London did not blame supposed Bush-mandated budget cuts: "They've been allocated federal funds to fix the levee system, and it never got done. I fault the mayor of our city personally. I really do."

Kevin blogged ABC News reporter Dean Reynolds gathered reactions to President Bush's speech last night in the parking lot of the Houston Astrodome. What Reynolds obviously wasn't prepared for was the answers to his leading questions that these black evacuees from New Orleans gave him.

B. Preston blogged Sometimes the MSM just can't catch a break. (Video of the attempted Bush-bashing here)

Dr. Sanity blogged People Are Smarter Than The MSM Thinks What a shock to the system -- the MSM system, anyway:


Sugar Daddy

La Shawn Barber blogged I didn’t listen to George Bush’s speech last night, but I’m told he plans to do what he does best: spend, spend, spend other people’s money. True?

He said he was going to spend money, that is true, but his repeated references to ownership and incentives and handups rather than entitlement and gifts and handouts was definitely conservative.
And he didn’t sufficiently address the rampant Hurricane Katrina race-baiting. If he didn’t, that’s his fault. When it comes to liberals and the media, Bush is like the proverbial deer caught in headlines. What he’s afraid of, especially at this point in his presidency, I don’t know.
There is nothing he could have said on the race baiting that he has not already said.
Bush could easily disarm the whole lot with a few “Who cares what you creeps think?” speeches from the heart designed to communicate the essence of conservatism and why it works in ways liberalism can’t begin to. Liberals and MSM hate him anyway, so what’s he got to lose? I wish I knew why he’s so timid and…hate to say it…ineffectual.
The press is controlled by the left, but now that the American people have seen what Bush proposes, they are going to have a much more difficult task to distort and blame Bush.
Bill blogged But I think Bush went overboard in his relief proposals, and I'm worried because the federal government doesn't have a good track record when it comes to making sure our tax dollars end up where they're needed most. All I can see are a bunch of smiling members of congress looking on as Bush signs the big legislation check.
The governor says she expects the Feds to pay for everything. Bush said we would be paying a big part, but there would be a lot of Inspector Generals watching where the money went.
You'll think they're smiling because they're able to help victims of Katrina, but they're really smiling because the bill being signed also contains a healthy dose of pork for unnecessary programs in their home state.


Friday, September 16

This Day In History

  • 1630   The Massachusetts village of Shawmut changed its name to Boston.
  • 1638   France's King Louis XIV was born.
  • 1810   Mexicans began their revolt against Spanish rule.
  • 1893   Hundreds of thousands of settlers swarmed onto a section of land in Oklahoma known as the ''Cherokee Strip.''
  • 1908   General Motors was founded on this day. The man responsible for the beginning of the huge auto-manufacturing company (maker of Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Chevrolet) was William Crapo ‘Billy’ Durant.
  • 1919   The American Legion was incorporated by an act of Congress.
  • 1940   Samuel T. Rayburn of Texas was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • 1940   President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Selective Training and Service Act, which set up the first peacetime military draft in U.S. history.
  • 1966   The Metropolitan Opera opened its new opera house at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
  • 1972   ''The Bob Newhart Show'' premiered on CBS.
  • 1977   Opera singer Maria Callas died in Paris at age 53.
  • 1982   A massacre of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children by Lebanese Christian militiamen began in west Beirut's Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps.
  • 1987   Two dozen countries signed the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to save the Earth's ozone layer by calling on nations to reduce emissions of harmful chemicals.
  • 1996   Former national security adviser McGeorge Bundy died in Boston at age 77.
  • 2003   North Carolina Sen. John Edwards formally launched his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1914   Allen Funt (radio/TV producer, host: Candid Microphone, Candid Camera; films: What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?, Money Talks; died Sep 5, 1999)
  • 1924   Lauren Bacall (Betty Perske) (actress)
  • 1925   B.B. (Riley B.) King (musician, singer)
  • 1927   Peter Falk (Emmy Award-winning actor)
  • 1927   Jack Kelly (actor: Maverick)
  • 1944   Linda Henning (actress: Petticoat Junction)
  • 1956   David Copperfield (Kotkin) (magician, illusionist)


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Briefing on Operations in Northwest Iraq

DoD News reports Colonel Brown appears via teleconference from Mosul, Iraq.... One of the great pieces of information we got recently is 80 percent of the al Qaeda network in the north has been devastated.

It is hard to keep an insurection going when you lose 80% of your network.
And those are not our figures, those came from the last six leaders in Mosul, al Qaeda leaders that we captured; they informed us of that. We also had a letter that was captured from Abu Zaid (sp) going to Zarqawi. We recently killed Zaid (sp) and we had that letter, and it also talked about the desperate situation for the al Qaeda and the insurgents in Mosul and in the north. And then also, sources we have inside the al Qaeda network up here have also informed us of that. So we're very proud. We have a situation where the Iraq army is being rebuilt. The Iraqi police that ran away in November are standing and fighting. In fact, they recently found one of the largest caches certainly in the north, and maybe all of Iraq. And they're doing a very good job.... Right now, 80 percent of the folks on the street in Mosul and Nineveh province in the north here say that they will vote. And very interesting -- these are -- many of the folks I talked to are Sunnis who are very upset that they were lied to last election, told not to vote, and they were very excited to vote this election.
And if they are upset at the people that told them not to vote the last time, they are not likely to pay too much attention if they now tell them to vote against it.
And I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting enough ballots to the polling sites because so many people want to vote up here.... we have about 40 sources in each battalion, and these sources are a real combination. Our best source -- the terrorists killed his relatives, and he doesn't want anything but sheer revenge against these cowardly terrorists that would perform these acts.
I am not surprised these would be good sources. I have always been amazed at the stupidity of the insurgents and the foreign fighters targeting Iraqis, and then being surprised when some of them turn them in.
So we have a number of sources that provide information. We work very hard to develop these sources.


Disaster official at NY symposium

Newsday reported Emergency officials who prepared Louisiana's plan for responding to a major hurricane never guessed that one of their duties would be to protect aid workers from gunmen, one of the state's senior disaster officials said Monday. Speaking at a symposium in New York, Arthur Jones, chief of disaster recovery for Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness,

What is the chief of disaster recovery for Louisiana doing at a symposium in New York. Why is he not back in Louisiana working with everyone else?
said he was caught off guard by the violence in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. No disaster planner, he said, predicted that people would loot gun stores after the storm and shoot at police, rescue officials and helicopters. Jones said the flow of aid to the city was delayed because officials were not able to guarantee the safety of American Red Cross workers and other volunteers. "That's never been in any plan," Jones said in an interview following his speech to the emergency response officials at the symposium. "Unfortunately, in the future, it will have a place at the table."
Another thing that should be on the table is when the President has troops ready to send in, and the Governor refuses to allow it, and only calls up a few of her National Guard, that something needs to be done to get the Governor's attention.
Jones took time off from his disaster recovery duties Monday to participate in the symposium on emergency preparedness sponsored by New York Downtown Hospital. The event was planned months before Katrina hit.
And he wanted a vacation.
Jones initially was scheduled to lecture on lessons learned by studying a simulated storm, dubbed Hurricane Pam. The analysis of the fictitious storm was still under way when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The projections from the simulated hurricane proved strikingly accurate, Jones said. Planners had anticipated that the storm would cause a catastrophic flood that would leave much of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for months. Jones said planners learned better lessons from Katrina, including the need to have more satellite phones for rescuers and better funding for flood protections throughout the Mississippi delta.
That is a good idea. Cell phones went out when the cell towers were flooded and power went out.
He also said the humanitarian disaster in New Orleans could have been lessened if more people had heeded orders to leave the city as Hurricane Katrina approached. Jones complained that a mandatory evacuation order issued by New Orleans' mayor the day before the storm went "essentially unheeded" by tens of thousands of people. Many of those people later sought refuge in the Superdome, which Jones said hadn't been stocked with food or water because it was only supposed to have been used as a shelter of last resort.
Are people who go to a "shelter of last resort" not expected to be hungry or thirsty? Is that why the Red Cross was not allowed to bring them food and water? If you did not want them to stay there, which was the Mayor's excuse for not letting the Red Cross in, then why did he not move the buses to the Superdome so they could get people out as soon as they arrived.
"Should the people have gotten out? Should have," Jones said. "What does `mandatory' mean to everyone in here? If someone tells you it is mandatory to get out of this room right now, what are you going to do? I'm headed for the exit."


Orleans Levee Board

MSNBC reported Is the Orleans Levee Board doing its job?
Critics allege corruption, charge the board with wasteful spending

The unveiling of the Mardi Gras Fountain was celebrated this year in typical New Orleans style. The cost of $2.4 million was paid by the Orleans Levee Board, the state agency whose main job is to protect the levees surrounding New Orleans — the same levees that failed after Katrina hit. "They misspent the money," says Billy Nungesser, a former top Republican official who was briefly president of the Levee Board.

This sounds like Senator Mary Landrieu making sure money planned for flood control got redirected to other pork barrel projects.
"Any dollar they wasted was a dollar that could have went in the levees." Nungesser says he lost his job because he targeted wasteful spending. "A cesspool of politics, that’s all it was," says Nungesser. "[Its purpose was to] provide jobs for people." In fact, NBC News has uncovered a pattern of what critics call questionable spending practices by the Levee Board — a board which, at one point, was accused by a state inspector general of "a long-standing and continuing disregard of the public interest." Beyond the fountain, there's the $15 million spent on two overpasses that helped gamblers get to Bally's riverboat casino. Critics tried and failed to put some of that money into flood protection. There was also $45,000 for private investigators to dig up dirt on radio host and board critic Robert Namer. "They hired a private eye for nine months to find something to make me look wacko, to make me look crazy or bad." says Namer. "They couldn’t find anything." Namer sued and the board then spent another $45,000 to settle. Critics charge, for years, the board has paid more attention to marinas, gambling and business than to maintaining the levees. As an example: of 11 construction projects now on the board's Web site, only two are related to flood control.


Iran nuclear objectives

Remember how Iran has always said it is pursuing nuclear projects just for "peaceful energy" needs. This is similar to the idea that "Islam is a Peaceful Religion"

Yahoo! News reported Iran is ready to share its nuclear technology, considered to be a front for bomb-making by Washington, with other Islamic countries, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on Thursday.... "The Islamic Republic never seeks weapons of mass destruction and with respect to the needs of Islamic countries, we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries," the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

For the results, see this


Wiretap mosques

Boston Globe reports Governor Mitt Romney raised the prospect of wiretapping mosques and conducting surveillance of foreign students in Massachusetts,

This shounds like a very good idea to me. In fact I would be disappointed if we are not already doing it.
as he issued a broad call yesterday for the federal government to devote far more money and attention to domestic intelligence gathering. n remarks that caused alarm among civil libertarians and advocates for immigrants rights, Romney said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation that the United States needs to radically rethink how it guards itself against terrorism. ''How many individuals are coming to our state and going to those institutions who have come from terrorist-sponsored states?" he said, referring to foreign students who attend universities in Massachusetts. ''Do we know where they are? Are we tracking them?" ''How about people who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror," Romney continued. ''Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping? Are we following what's going on?"


Katrina's colorblind relief

Jeff Jacoby wrote in Townhall The slimy and toxic water covering much of New Orleans does not stink nearly as much as the slimy and toxic accusation that help didn't reach the victims of Hurricane Katrina quickly enough because most of those victims were black.... This America-as-lethally-racist theme is as factually dishonest as it is morally grotesque. No one denies that most of those stranded in New Orleans were black, but that is because two-thirds of the city's residents -- 326,000 out of a population of 485,000 -- were black. By the same token, most of those who got out before the disaster struck were also black. Katrina devastated more than black-majority Orleans Parish. Four other Louisiana parishes and three coastal Mississippi counties, all with substantial white majorities, suffered heavily too. Government relief reached them no faster than it did New Orleans. If this were truly a racist country, it would have.

If color is involved at all, it is because white Governor Blanco was ticked off at, and wanted to punish, black Mayor Nagin who had supported Republican Bobby Jindal against Governor Blanco in the 2003 election.
But those with an interest in perpetuating the idea that the chief cause of black misfortune is an American culture that "doesn't care about black people" decry racism whether it exists or not. "The ugly truth," declared Democratic chairman Howard Dean, "is that skin color, age, and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not." Likewise US Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat: "If anyone ever doubted that there are two Americas, this disaster and our government's shameful response to it have made the division clear for all to see." Well, there are two Americas, all right. One is the America of Lee, Dean, and Jackson, in which color is paramount and no time is the wrong time to play the race card.

The other is the America that has opened its hearts and wallets in a torrent of generosity and compassion for Katrina's victims. As of Monday, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy, more than $800 million had been donated, a pace of giving without precedent in American history. And that includes only the monetary contributions. There are also the immense offerings of in-kind goods of every description -- clothing, food, medicine, dishes, telephones, toys. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have enlisted in the relief effort. Americans across the country have opened their homes to evacuees from New Orleans. In the words of a Red Cross spokeswoman, "People are just pouring their hearts out." And all without the slightest regard to race. Americans of every color are helping Americans of every color, loving their neighbors as themselves, and proving by their selflessness yet again that racism is dead as a force in mainstream American life.


New Generation of Afghan Voters

NYT reports Late in the afternoon here the streets are full of young men, pouring out of private classes that teach English and computer skills or that offer the chance to catch up on years of missed schooling during two decades of war. With books under their arms, the young men jump on their bicycles or head home on foot across the dusty roads and parks. We don't want anything special; the only thing we want is the atmosphere and facilities to be educated," Abdul Rahim, 18, said after emerging from an English class. Another student, Abdul Hadi, 28, said, "We do hope that finally we will have a capable Parliament and they can make facilities for studying." The young people of Afghanistan stand out in this already industrious nation as particularly motivated and politically aware and are seen by some here as an important constituency in the coming parliamentary elections, on Sunday. Half of the population is estimated to be under 30, said Amena Afzali, who heads the new Ministry of Youth and Sports. "They have initiative and a readiness to learn - that is obvious," she said. "We want the desires of young people to be listened to." An estimated 70 to 80 candidates under age 30 are running for the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of Parliament, where the minimum age is 25; about 150 are under 35. That is relatively few of the 5,800 candidates, yet it is raising hopes that a new generation of leaders will start to emerge in this war-ravaged country. "I don't like the long beards," said Khaleda, 27, a teacher and mother of four who uses only one name, alluding to religious conservatives. "We want young people, enlightened people, and a new generation."

It is a good sign that the young people are getting involved with politics. They are more likely to embrace democracy than the older folks who have only known conflict all their lives.


Frustration and Chaos

NYT reported Hours after Hurricane Katrina passed New Orleans on Aug. 29, as the scale of the catastrophe became clear, Michael D. Brown recalls, he placed frantic calls to his boss, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, and to the office of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. Mr. Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he told the officials in Washington that the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and her staff were proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort and that his field officers in the city were reporting an "out of control" situation.

"I am having a horrible time," Mr. Brown said he told Mr. Chertoff and a White House official - either Mr. Card or his deputy, Joe Hagin - in a status report that evening. "I can't get a unified command established."

That is because the Governor wanted all of the money and supplies the government would provide, but she wanted to control it all
By the time of that call, he added, "I was beginning to realize things were going to hell in a handbasket" in Louisiana. A day later, Mr. Brown said, he asked the White House to take over the response effort. He said he felt the subsequent appointment of Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré of the Army as the Pentagon's commander of active-duty forces began to turn the situation around. In his first extensive interview since resigning as FEMA director on Monday under intense criticism, Mr. Brown declined to blame President Bush or the White House for his removal or for the flawed response. "I truly believed the White House was not at fault here," he said. He focused much of his criticism on Governor Blanco, contrasting what he described as her confused response with far more agile mobilizations in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in Florida during last year's hurricanes.

One reason Governor Blanco was slow to allow help come in to New Orleans, and why she wanted to maintain control over everything, is she wanted to punish Mayor Nagin, who had supported Republican Bobby Jindal against Governor Blanco in the 2003 election.


Thursday, September 15

This Day In History

  • 1776   British forces occupied New York City during the American Revolution.
  • 1789   The U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs was renamed the Department of State.
  • 1821   Independence was proclaimed for Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
  • 1857   Timothy Alden of New York City earned a patent for the typesetting machine. Newspaper and magazine publishers were very happy, as the machine made the production of these publications much faster and easier to accomplish ... making them more timely. We wonder what Timothy would have thought of the computer.
  • 1857   William Howard Taft   who served as president of the United States and as chief justice   was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • 1917   Russia was proclaimed a republic by Alexander Kerensky, the head of a provisional government.
  • 1935   The Nuremberg Laws deprived German Jews of their citizenship and made the swastika the official symbol of Nazi Germany.
  • 1940   The Royal Air Force inflicted heavy losses on the Luftwaffe as the tide turned in the Battle of Britain during World War II.
  • 1950   During the Korean War, United Nations forces landed at Inchon in the south and began their drive toward Seoul.
  • 1953   The National Boxing Association adopted the 10-point ‘must’ scoring system for all of its matches. The winner of each round must get 10 points, while the loser of each round must have fewer than 10 points.
  • 1982   Iran's former foreign minister, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, was executed after he was convicted of plotting against the government.
  • 1989   Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Penn Warren, the first poet laureate of the United States, died in Stratton, Vt., at age 84.
  • 1997   The IRA-allied Sinn Fein party entered Northern Ireland's peace talks for the first time.
  • 2001   President George W. Bush identified Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and told Americans to prepare for a long, difficult war against terrorism.
  • 2003   The WUSA soccer league shut down operations five days before the Women's World Cup, saying it didn't have enough money to stay in business for a fourth season.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1789   James Fenimore Cooper (writer: The Leatherstocking Tales: The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, The Pioneers, The Prairie; died Sep 14, 1851)
  • 1857   William Howard Taft (27th U.S. President [1909-1913]; married to Helen Herron [two sons, one daughter]; Yale University law professor; Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court [1921-30]; died Mar 8, 1930)
  • 1890   Agatha (Marie Clarissa) Christie (Miller) (writer: Murder on the Orient Express, 65 other mysteries; playwright: The Mousetrap [world’s longest running play]; died Jan 12, 1976)
  • 1903   Roy Acuff (‘The King of Country Music’)
  • 1907   Fay Wray (actress: King Kong)
  • 1908   Penny Singleton (Mariana McNulty) (actress: Blondie series)
  • 1922   Jackie Cooper (John Cooperman Jr.) (actor)
  • 1984   Prince Harry (Henry Charles Albert David) (third in line to the British throne; see 1984 [above])


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blanco's Refusal

The Anchoress blogged Northside Journal News has a timeline that - finally - focuses keenly on Governor Kathleen Blanco and her absolute refusal to allow the Federal Government into New Orleans either after Katrina hit, or even after the levees broke.

On the afternoon of August 29, in downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter, the brunt of the high winds had passed. Residents began to peek out and discovered the city was mostly intact. There was wind damage, and some water in the streets, but they had seen this before and weren’t concerned. Sometime during the night of the 29th or early morning of the 30th, water began to poor through the 17th Street Canal levee. New Orleans began to flood. By Tuesday, August 30, the federal relief effort began shipping food, water and medical supplies toward Louisiana for use in New Orleans. The same operation was underway in Mississippi and Alabama. The governors of those states had a already signed on to federal help and relief was pouring in. Governor Blanco was the lone holdout. She had still not made a decision. The Department of Defense sent search and rescue experts, doctors, nurses and support personnel. FEMA was there to help as much as they could but local and state officials would not allow them to participate because Governor Blanco still had not given her permission.

And even if she did not want to allow FEMA in, because she wanted to embarras George Bush, the Red Cross was there with supplies as well, but they could not get in either.
Residents of New Orleans watched as the flood waters continued to poor through the breach in the 17th Street Canal levee and by Wednesday their frustration began to boil. The summer sun baked survivors on rooftops. Those who made it to the Superdome were now wandering through the gutted building, waiting for relief supplies and help which never came.
They were also waiting for buses which were about a mile away, but they were being flooded out, because they were not at the Superdome where they should have been moved.
Mayor Ray Nagin cursed everyone who failed to move fast enough, but Kathleen Blanco toured the stricken city in a helicopter while she conducted a news interview for CBS. On the ground, state officials were struggling with the magnitude of the disaster, but were rapidly being overwhelmed. Federal officials were on standby, ready to move, but Governor Blanco had still mot made a decision to ask for federal help.
She had not asked yet, but she had started to complain that it was not there without her asking.
That evening, Blanco watched as reports of rapes and looting poured into the command center. National news agencies began to run video of looters breaking into stores and making off with garbage bags of goods. One policeman was shot in the head. Other rescue workers reported hearing bullets zinging around them as they tried to save lives. New Orleans was out of control, and the media was wondering who was in charge.
No one, because she could not bear turning things over to the Feds.
On Thursday, September 1, amid a growing clamor of questions about the lack of action being taken in New Orleans, Blanco finally signed Executive Order KBB-2005-23, giving permission for the federal government to enter Louisiana with military assistance. FEMA began to move supplies into the stricken parishes along the path of Katrina. The Red Cross was finally given permission to deliver the food and water it had stockpiled in the area. Lt. General Russel Honore arrived and began to take command of the military assets which were already in place. As he barked orders, things began to happen, rapidly.


Senate Kills Bid for Katrina Commission

AP reports Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina. The New York Democrat's bid to establish the panel _ which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government's disaster response apparatus _ failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

They are telling the truth that it failed to win a 2/3 majority, but it is a bit desceptive, since it failed to even achieve a majority. The vote was 44 yea, 54 nay, 2 not voting. It was a party-line vote.

Michelle Malkin blogged But Republicans have folded before, and may yet do so again...


Al-Qaeda avenging Talafar

Iraq the Model blogged Today Al-Qaeda carried out their threat and launched their "final battle" that has no apparent goal other than killing the largest possible number of Iraqis. Maybe Al-Qaeda wants to exterminate all Iraqis as a start for exterminating mankind!

Good point. I think they will fail in both objectives.
Eleven explosions till now in Baghdad alone and the news are coming while I type these words. I passed by two of the car-bombs on my way home, one of them-gladly-failed to detonate and the driver was arrested, he was apparently trying to attack the interior ministry, the crowd that gathered in the scene say the driver was Syrian. A few minutes later I saw a big explosion that was close to the green zone. The other passengers in the mini bus were discussing the explosion in Kadhimiya that killed more than a hundred construction workers who were waiting for employers to hire them.

The Al-Qaeda called it the "battle for avenging Talafar" and this gives us a clue of the extent of the losses inflicted upon Al-Qaeda by Iraqi and American troops and the anger and frustration associated with these losses.
The huge losses of Al-Qaeda in Talafar were in my opinion a result of the poor training of the new recruits as many of the old, well trained fighters were either killed or arrested over the past two years.
And if they are running out of experienced cannon fodder, and being forced to send in poorly trained recruits, they must realize their days are numbered.
The new Al-Qaeda recruits are even getting generous in giving information after being arrested as one advisor of the interior ministry said yesterday; these information and confessions are more and more revealing the ties of Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq with Syria and I guess that's why the American ambassador Khalilzad was so confident when he talked about Syria because the evidence now do not only indicate carelessness in monitoring the borders, they confirm the existence of cooperation in training and logistic support.

Obviously the continuous American-Iraqi armies' operations in western Iraq have pushed Al-Qaeda to announce this "final battle" but actually this reminds me of Saddam when he felt that his end was nearing and called the battle "the hawasim" (the final or decisive) and it was indeed as it ended his reign. Al-Qaeda has never won a war before and I don't expect things to be different this time, except that this time they want the battle to be final which means the terrorists will pour all their resources and power into this battle so their defeat this time will hopefully pave the way for ending their presence in Iraq.
And they need not worry about Allah running out of virgins, because the place they are going, they won't see any.


Time to talk to Al Qaeda?

Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou (associate director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University) wrote in Boston Globe As the war between the United States and Al Qaeda enters its fifth year, the nature of the armed, transnational Islamist group's campaign remains misunderstood. With the conflict viewed largely as an open-and-shut matter of good versus evil, nonmilitary engagement with Al Qaeda is depicted as improper and unnecessary.

And completely stupid, as is Harvard employing a nut case like you.
.... Since the attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have delivered, respectively, 18 and 15 messages via audio or videotape making a three-part case: The United States must end its military presence in the Middle East, its uncritical political support and military aid of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, and its support of corrupt and coercive regimes in the Arab and Muslim world.
In other words The West must allow al Qaeda to take over the Middle East, so that it can obtain a foothold from which it can achieve its ultimate object of turning the entire world into a large Islamic state.
Al Qaeda believes that the citizens of the states with whom it is at war bear a responsibility for the policies of their governments. Such democratization of responsibility rests, it has been argued by bin Laden, in the citizens' ability to elect and dismiss the representatives who make foreign policy decisions on their behalf.
In other words, we can't defeat the US, so we hope by getting the left wing Boston Globe to print this claptrap, to get America to elect people that will surrender to al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda is an industrious, committed, and power-wielding organization waging a political, limited, and evasive war of attrition -- not a religious, open-ended, apocalyptic one.
Over the past year, it has struck private and public alliances, offered truces, affected elections, and gained an international stature beyond a mere security threat. No longer able to enjoy a centralized sanctuary in Afghanistan after 2002, Al Qaeda's leadership opted for an elastic defense strategy relying on mobile forces, scaled-up international operations, and expanded global tactical relationships. It encouraged the proliferation of mini Al Qaedas, able to act on their own within a regional context.

Consequently, and aside from the war in Iraq, between 2002 and 2005 the United States and seven of its Western allies were the targets of 17 major attacks in 11 countries for a total of 760 people killed.
And how many al Qaeda middle and high level operatives were taken out in that same period of time.
In 2001, Ayman al-Zawahiri had explained the cost-effective rationale of these measures, namely ''the need to inflict the maximum casualties against the opponent, for this is the language understood by the West, no matter how much time and effort such operations take." Last month, he reiterated that commitment and announced new attacks against the United States.

How can the war be brought to an end? Neither side can defeat the other. The United States will not be able to overpower a diffuse, ever-mutating, organized international militancy movement, whose struggle enjoys the rear-guard sympathy of large numbers of Muslims.
At least you are afraid they might be able to, which is why you are resorting to this stupid attempt.
Likewise, Al Qaeda can score tactical victories on the United States and its allies, but it cannot rout the world's sole superpower. Though dismissed widely, the best strategy for the United States may well be to acknowledge and address the collective reasons in which Al Qaeda anchors its acts of force.
We are doing exactly that
  • The United States must end its military presence in the Middle East
    We intend to leave as soon as we have achieved our objectives
  • end its uncritical political support and military aid of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories
    We are pushing for a Palestinian state, living side by side, in peace, with the State of Israel (and if that is not possible), then we expect Israel will wipe out the Palestinians rather than attempting to occupy them
  • and end its support of corrupt and coercive regimes in the Arab and Muslim world
    we hope and expect that they will be replaced by democratic governments
Al Qaeda has been true to its word in announcing and implementing its strategy for over a decade. It is likely to be true to its word in the future and cease hostilities against the United States, and indeed bring an end to the war it declared in 1996 and in 1998, in return for some degree of satisfaction regarding its grievances. In 2002, bin Laden declared: ''Whether America escalates or deescalates this conflict, we will reply in kind."