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September 29, 2005

Kick that Field Goal, Charlie Brown!

I admit it, I'm a sucker for schadenfreude. I love to see my enemies crushed and driven before me, and to hear the lamentations of their significant others. I'm not proud of this, but nobody is without sin and at least my guilty pleasure is more harmless than most.

But to quote a famous bowler, "Better than the deed, better than the memory... the moment of anticipation!" So here we go... my friends over at Democratic Underground are lining up, eyes on the football, and getting ready for the charge. As always, they will be taken completely by surprise when Lucy yanks the football away, and loud will be their cries as they land on their collective backsides.

The particular setup for bitter disappointment this time is the indictment of Tom Delay. Let's go to the source:

DeLay won't recover from this

His best chance to even begin to try to clear himself is next year and that will be well into the midterm elections campaign.


Too Much Baggage

The party itself will beg DeLay not to run. If he wins, he'll still be convicted of a felony. In fact, he faces a much stiffer sentence if he makes trouble.

Thw question is whether Earle has the goods on him, and of course he does.


I'd Agree. He's Toast

I saw the video of the prosecutor making the announcement. No way is Ronnie Earle on a witch hunt. Betcha DeLay pleads guilty to stay out of prison
(ed note: really? I'll take you up on that. If you're serious, drop me a line.)

And then there's this charming post, titled Who giggled all day because of the DeLay Indictment?

Ah, this is gonna be great.

The evidence seems strongly to suggest that the actions of TRMPAC were not illegal... the very vague indictment notwithstanding. Not only has it not been proven (and been strenuously denied by the defendant) that a conspiracy existed, but there is nothing wrong with conspiring to do something legal. Nope, I don't think that Earle's conspiracy theory is gonna fly.

Check this out: it's the nonpartisan group Follow The Money's report of a six-year study of Texas campaign finance. Included is this gem:

THE SOFT-MONEY SHUFFLE

National party contributions to Texas state committees increased dramatically over the three
election cycles. These committees gave just $2.3 million in 1998, $5.2 million in 2000 and $16.3
million in 2002. The Texas Democratic Party received the bulk of the 2002 contributions, taking
in $11 million to the GOP's $5.2 million.

The Institute found eight trades of soft money for hard money, all between the Democratic
National Committee and the Texas Democratic Party.
In two trades in 1998, the DNC sent
$172,500 in soft money to Texas, and the state party sent back $150,000 in hard money. In two
trades in 2000, the DNC sent $150,000 of soft money and received $125,000 in hard money. And
over a series of four trades in 2002, the DNC gave the state party $255,000 in soft money, and the Texas Democratic Party sent $225,000 in hard money to the DNC.

This is exactly the behavior of which TRMPAC is accused. I do not mention this to make the argument "see, the Democrats do it too"... far from it! I mention this as evidence that the practice was legal under the Texas Code and was commonplace. Perhaps it's a loophole... but if it is, it's up to the Legislature to close it, not up to a prosecutor to indict people for nonexistent offenses.

I doubt this will make it to trial. I think it's very likely that either Earle will drop the charge when DeLay's defense team pushes for a speedy trial, or that the judge will toss the indictment. And I am almost literally drooling with anticipation as I envision the DU response. Will they blame the judge for being an incompetent Republican? Will they claim that GOP operatives somehow got to Earle and threatened him? Will they say that the Bush administration somehow exerted unfair (sinister, evil, etc.) influence on the justice system?

My money's on "all of the above".

September 29, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Sunni Side of the Street

One big hurricane has passed, one more is coming. One Supreme Court vacancy has been all but filled, the other is coming. Domestic issues glow brightest on the radar... but while all of this is going on, we are still fighting a war against terrorists in Iraq. A key battle will be fought on October 15, when Iraqis go to the polls to ratify or reject their proposed constitution. It's generally agreed that if the constitution fails to be ratified, it will be because of opposition from Iraq's Sunni Arab minority. (Note that it's important to say Sunni Arab and not just Sunni; the Kurds are mostly Sunni and they're wholeheartedly in favor of the constitution.)

The vote will be a federal vote: each province will vote independently of the other. A one-third minority is required to carry a province in favor of ratification. Ratification by 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces will put the Constitution into effect.

It's hard to find an issue on an American ballot that would fail to garner 33% of the vote, so one would think that unanimous ratification by all 18 provinces would be a sure thing. Unfortunately, Iraq's population isn't very homogeneous. The provinces are split between majority-Kurdish, majority-Sunni-Arab, and majority-Shi'a Arab.

Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, until recently in control of the nation, comprised mainly Sunni Arabs. (The Sunni Kurds, being of the "wrong" race, were not part of the ruling class.) For thirty years the Sunni Arabs have held dictatorial authority over the country. And, as it happens, they're maybe 15-20% of the population. And under the new Constitution, they feel they would be marginalized.

My question is: why does anybody care? The Sunni Arabs were a religious and ethnic minority ruling harshly over a large majority that was of a different religion and/or race. Why is it necessary to take their feelings into account?

Let's set the Wayback Machine to 1994. For decades, South Africa's white minority has been ruling over (and oppressing) its black majority. International and internal pressures have battered that regime to the breaking point, and it's coming down. A new Constitution is drafted. While the previous Constitution gave special privileges and immunities to whites, the new one guarantees equal rights to all, regardless of race.

Now, imagine the white minority protesting this. "Wait a minute," they say, "that's fair! Under that system, we'd only have influence proportional to our population! That isn't right! We object, we object, we object!" Can you imagine the world's reply? Can you imagine any reply other than, "Shut the hell up, Oppressor!" What chutzpah! Years and years of enjoying unequal rights and unequal privileges, and they have the gall to object to equality? They're lucky that they're given equal rights rather than being strung up by their thumbs!

Except this is exactly the situation the Sunni Arabs of Iraq find themselves in... except whites formed a slightly larger minority in apartheid South Africa than the Sunni Arabs form in Iraq. Why is anybody treating their objections seriously? Why are we bending over backwards to accomodate their sensibilities?

What exactly are the Sunni Arabs bitching about? Well, what else is there to bitch about in the Middle East? Oil, of course. See, as it happens, most of the oil is under the provinces that are dominated by the Shi'a in the south and the Kurds in the north. The fields near the Kurdish city of Kirkuk are particularly rich. Under Ba'ath rule, the oil of the entire country, including that under the Kurdish provinces and that under the Shi'a provinces, went to enrich the Sunni Arabs. Here's what the draft Constitution says about the oil:

Article (109): Oil and gas is the property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces.

Article (110):

1st -- The federal government will administer oil and gas extracted from current fields in cooperation with the governments of the producing regions and provinces on condition that the revenues will be distributed fairly in a manner compatible with the demographical distribution all over the country. A quota should be defined for a specified time for affected regions that were deprived in an unfair way by the former regime or later on, in a way to ensure balanced development in different parts of the country. This should be regulated by law.

2nd -- The federal government and the governments of the producing regions and provinces together will draw up the necessary strategic policies to develop oil and gas wealth to bring the greatest benefit for the Iraqi people, relying on the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment.

See that? It distributes the oil fairly. Now, I'd much prefer the Constitution mandated the privatization of the oil fields, but this is about as good as I could have expected. Oil belongs to all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces. That's a heap sight better than "Oil belongs to the Sunni Arabs, neener neener neener." Naturally they're squawking. But the world should do more than ignore them. The world should counter them. I can't believe that the Sunni Arab people are as pigheadedly determined to achieve an unfair distribution of oil revenues in Iraq as their leadership.

Much has been made of the Arabic cultural sense of honor. In fact, barbaric practices have been condoned or at least excused on the grounds of violations of that honor. Let's let the Sunni Arabs prove that they are honorable. Let's shame them into agreeing to a fair distribution of oil revenues. Anybody who votes No on the Constitution because it distributes oil fairly is a thief. Thieves are traditionally viewed as socially anathema in Arabic cultures, and are also traditionally dealt with harshly but effectively when caught. You hear me, Sunni Arabs?

September 23, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Absoluter Moral Authority

I realize that the adjective absolute is itself an absolute, like optimal and ultimate, and as such has no comparative, but if Madison can write of a "more perfect Union", I can write of "absoluter moral authority."

"Absolute moral authority" is of course the status bestowed upon Cindy Sheehan by Maureen Dowd, and it's not hard to see why. Setting aside the fact that other parents of dead soldiers, whose moral authority is presumably equally absolute, have very different views than Sheehan, she is after all a grieving mother whose son lost his life in Iraq. Whose moral authority could possibly be greater?

How about an actual soldier who was killed in Iraq?

As reported in the Everett (WA) Herald, Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Starr was fatally shot in Ramadi, on his third tour of duty in Iraq. After his second tour, he wrote a letter which he never sent and didn't show anybody. He stored it on his computer, intending it to be found by family if he never returned. The Herald quotes his letter:

Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this - that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom.

It's a haunting letter, addressed to his beloved girlfriend Emmylyn, expressing Cpl. Starr's regret that he didn't have more time to spend with her. But the Marine faced his death without fear, without regret, knowing that he was fighting for a worthy cause, knowing that when he fell he would join a long line of American heroes who sacrificed their lives for something far larger than themselves. Again, from Starr himself:

It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.

Cindy Sheehan has repeatedly asked for what noble cause her son lost his life. Jeffrey Starr knew. I think Casey Sheehan probably knew, too. Starr gives Cindy Sheehan her answer from the grave.

Rest well, fallen hero, and go with the gratitude of a nation that is fiercely proud of you.

September 19, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

Specter of ignorance

Liveblogging Arlen Specter's initial questioning of John Roberts:

9:40 AM: Aren't there times when you just want to grab Arlen Specter by his scrawny chicken neck and shake some sense into him?

Right now he's using the Roberts hearings to raise his pet theory of "superprecedents", or, as he put it, "superduperprecedents." Someone tell me if I'm wrong about this, but it sure seems like he's asserting that the hierarchy of the federal courts goes like this:

  1. District Courts
  2. Courts of Appeals
  3. Supreme Court
  4. Roe v. Wade

Yes, according to Arlen Specter, because Roe v. Wade has achieved the venerable age of 30, and has been affirdmed a couple of times, it's beyond the Supreme Court's grasp. I wonder if he'd accord the same deference to Plessy v. Fergusson.

9:52 AM: Judge Roberts just claimed the Third Amendment, a matter of much concern to us all, is part of the Constitutional protection of the right to privacy.

9:55 AM: Sheesh, Specter's going on again with his novel "if we've gotten used to it, it can't be changed" theory, this time in reference to a case that found that Miranda warnings had become "routine" and were "part of the national culture". So was slavery.

I like how Roberts is tweaking the Chairman by declining to answer certain questions based on the precedent set by earlier nominees.

10:00 AM: Has Pat Leahy not heard about eyebrow trimmers?

10:05 AM: Leahy is blasting Roberts for an argument he made as an advocate for the executive. I know Leahy isn't stupid enough to think that an advocate's advice represents his personal opinion, so he must be deliberately grandstanding.

10:09 AM: Oh goodie, now Leahy is bringing up Iran-Contra, as though that has anything to do with anything.

10:11 AM: Yes, I said I was going to be liveblogging Specter, but I got carried away. Won't be able to keep liveblogging all day.

10:15 AM: I don't know if John Roberts will make a good Chief Justice, but he'd make one hell of a politician. He's good-looking, well-spoken, and he thinks well under pressure.

10:19 AM: Ah, Korematsu.

10:21 AM: In response to a question along the lines of, "Could you interpret the Bill of Rights the same during peacetime and wartime", Roberts answers with a citation from the Aaron Burr trial. Talk about precedent...

10:27 AM: Once again Roberts is forced to explain to a Senator -- slowly and carefully -- that an opinion on whether something is legal has nothing to do with whether or not it is right, just like in the infamous French fry case.

10:29 AM: "There was no issue in the case about condoning the behavior. I found it abhorrent then, and I find it abhorrent now."

10:30 AM: Hatch up. Gonna have to stop liveblogging now, oh well.

September 13, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

It points towards Mecca

Today is September 11.

Michelle Malkin and other bloggers are buzzing about the proposed Flight 93 memorial, which bears a striking resemblance to an Islamic crescent. Zombie produces an animated image consisting of the memorial (rotated so the arms of the crescent point to the right) overlapped with the crescent of the Tunisian flag. The juxtaposition is nearly perfect.

Zombie also links to this image credited to "Etaoin Shrdlu". What you're seeing is an azimuthal equidistant projection of the globe centered on the Flight 93 crash site. On such a projection, the concentric circles represent a fixed distance from the center, and the angle of a straight line from the center to any point represents the azimuth between the two points. Etaoin's image shows that a line perpendicular to the endpoints of the crescent (that is, the direction the crescent faces) appears to pass very close to Mecca. Mecca sits near Saudi Arabia's western coast with the Red Sea, and as Etaoin's image shows, the crescent points right at it.

But I've always been one to go for cold calculations over pretty pictures, so I set to find out if indeed the crescent points towards Mecca. Here's what I came up with:

According to this site, the latitude/longitude coordinates of Mecca are 21.4234, 39.8262 and the coordinates of the Flight 93 crash site are 40.052, -78.8963. Using the calculator from this site, I determined that the azimuth between the two points is 124.80°.

Next I went to the Flight 93 National Memorial website and found the biggest overhead view of the memorial I could find with north oriented up. I measured the distance from tip-to-tip of the crescent and came up with 64px east-west and 90px north-south. The arctangent of 64/90 is the angle between north and a line drawn between the tips, which works out to 35.42°. Adding 90° to this angle gives the direction the crescent faces as 125.42°.

Conclusion: the crescent points towards Mecca with an error of 0.62°, or 0.17%. If you take a circle and divide its circumference into 580 equal arcs, the angle subtended by one of those arcs is the error. (Bear in mind that any error in my figures could change this value; the figure most open to interpretation is the distance in pixels between the tips of the crescent.)

I don't know if the architect deliberately made his design look like an Islamic crescent, or if it's coincidental. I don't know if the architect deliberately made his crescent point almost directly towards Mecca, or if it's coincidental. What I do know is that a memorial in the shape of a swastika would never be permitted, whether the resemblance was intentional or a coincidence. Nor would a memorial resembling a Confederate battle flag.

The strong resemblance of this memorial to an Islamic symbol, whether intentional or accidental, is grossly insensitive to those of us who find it offensive. The commission needs to go back to the drawing board.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from too many sites to individually thank. Alec at Error Theory uses a different method to calculate the bisector of the crescent and comes up with nearly identical results.

September 11, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

SHAME!

Welcome visitors! I hope you like what you see here enough to stick around. I've been railing against the possibly criminal failures of the Louisiana state government for quite some time. In addition to this post, see Pointing the finger, Bring on the commission!, and Crime against humanity.


Well, Michael Moore's fondness for writing open letters seems to have rubbed off on me, so here's an open letter to the following:

To CNN President Jonathan Klein, who claimed that Fox News Channel covers "meaningless nonsense."

To Andrew Heyward, President of CBS, under whose watch CBS shamefully relied on obviously forged documents to support a story and then for two weeks even more shamefully ridiculed the bloggers who uncovered the fraud.

To whoever's in charge at MSNBC, the news arm of the General Electric corporation, which refused to correct a clear anti-Bush error on its web site even when prompted to do so.

To the alleged archconservative Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation empire includes the Fox News Channel, as well as the Fox television network which this very day is broadcasting a benefit for Katrina victims starring Kanye West. Are people allowed to spew racist garbage at a frickin' benefit now and be rewarded for it?

To Robert "Bob" Iger, who will be taking the place of Michael Eisner at Walt Disney, owner of the ABC television network and specifically ABC News. Good luck, sir, and under your stewardship may ABC News pull back from the brink over which all its competitors are going.

To all of you men who, in one way or another, influence the nation's media, I say:

SHAME!

Shame on all of you, with the exception of the Fox News Channel, which is the only one of your networks that is giving any airtime at all to the biggest story of the year, a bigger story than Abu Ghraib, a bigger story than Enron, a bigger story than Valerie Plame, a bigger story than both Natalee Holloway and the Runaway Bride combined. Jonathan Klein, pay attention to this "meaningless nonsense."

Louisiana authorities prevented the Red Cross and the Salvation Army from delivering food, water, medicine, and care to the people trapped in the Superdome and at the Convention Center and all throughout New Orleans.

This is not an opinion, it is a fact. Easily verifiable. Talk to the Red Cross, they'll tell you. Tell me, is this not newsworthy? Two multibillion-dollar charities, flush with donations from an anxious America, physically barred from delivering aid to desperate people, and you guys are mute? What, you think taking part in the lynching of Michael Brown is more important than this?

But wait, it gets better. There's more.

The reason Louisiana authorities prevented the Red Cross and the Salvation Army from delivering food, water, medicine, and care to the people trapped in the Superdome and at the Convention Center and all throughout New Orleans was that to do so might have encouraged some people to stay longer than necessary, and might have encouraged others to come to one of the two mass congregation locations. To avoid this undesired outcome, they made a conscious decision to block attempts to make the city any less unlivable.

Do you get it? They wanted people to leave, not stay. Never mind that they were actually preventing people from leaving and that very very few would choose to stay in a sweltering stadium stinking of feces for a second longer than necessary. The fact is that if food and water and medicine and care were delivered to the suffering people in that stadium, in that convention center, that would have made life just a little bit less intolerable. And that could not be tolerated.

Why aren't you screaming this from the rooftops? I know why. Because the mayor who so failed his people, the governor who thwarted the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, the chief of police who rewarded his troops with Vegas vacations after they engaged in mass desertion and in some cases joined the looters... these people are all Democrats. That's the reason.

Don't try to deny it. Let's climb in the What If machine and ponder Hurricane LaTonya bearing down on the city of Jacksonville, Florida in a slightly different reality.

Jacksonville sits on Florida's Atlantic coast, just south of Georgia, and has thus far been spared major hurricanes, which means it's due. It's the most populous city in Florida and the 13th most populous city in the United States, about 60% larger than New Orleans. Its mayor is Republican John Peyton, its chief of police is probable Republican Donald R. Cook, and of course the governor of Florida is Republican Jeb Bush [1]. Duval County voted for Bush over Kerry by 16%.

So along comes LaTonya, and she's a big one. Several days before she makes landfall, she grows to alarming strength. President Kerry declares a state of emergency. But despite having ample warning and an ample supply of buses, Mayor Peyton fails to fully evacuate his city; an estimated 100,000 Jacksonvillians are left behind to ride out the storm. The mayor urges his trapped populace to go to Alltel Stadium... although for the purpose of this hypothetical, imagine Alltel with a dome. It's quite foreseeable that chaos will be the result, but the Mayor urges it anyway, while hundreds of transit buses and school buses sit parked in neat little rows.

When the storm hits, Chief Cook's police leap into action by deserting en masse. Some of the AWOL cops are videotaped looting a Wal-Mart. The police utterly fail to keep order, leading to near-riots at the stadium and at the Convention Center. Despite this, Chief Cook praises his force's performance unreservedly, and sends all the cops on taxpayer-paid Vegas vacations.

Meanwhile, Governor Bush has not been idle. While the federal government has the Coast Guard active and plucking people from the waters within hours, his troops move decisively to block the Red Cross and the Salvation Army from delivering food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, medicine to the sick, and hope to the desperate. While the United States Navy sends a highly sophisticated ship that had been swinging at anchor in the Gulf to ride out the storm close to shore and begins massive search-and-rescue operations, Governor Bush engages in a pissing contest with Mayor Peyton. While President Kerry shepherds through the approval of more than sixty billion dollars in emergency aid in record time, the stadium degenerates into a dank foul-smelling hellhole, with the people inside honestly having no idea if anybody's coming for them or if they will live or die. While FEMA and the National Guardsmen of neighboring states get buses to the crowds and helicopters to the individuals, Governor Bush makes sure to the end that absolutely no private aid reaches the people trapped in his city.

Now, are you telling me that in a situation like this, the press wouldn't have Peyton's, Cook's, and Bush's entrails for lunch? Are you telling me that you'd give a pass to these three Republicans and instead vent your rage on the President and his FEMA director? No matter what FEMA did, no matter what screwups were made by the director, how could it possibly be remotely close to as bad as what was done to the city by local and state authorities? Would you be mercilessly hounding President Kerry, or would you be too busy screaming about the outrage in huge headlines?

And in the hypothetical I didn't even put any repulsive race-baiting by politicians, rap musicians, and actors.

Governor Blanco let the people of New Orleans suffer, while truckloads of aid were poised and ready. Those in the Superdome sweltered in the late August heat inside what's essentially a big oven without air conditioning. Their plumbing ceased working and their toilets overflowed to the floor with urine and fecal matter. Several died. Violent assaults and rapes took place, and the most visible action taken by local police was to fire weapons over the heads of refugees seeking shelter across a bridge. If we did this to Iraqi prisoners of war, the outrage that would erupt is literally inconceivable. The largest worldwide outbreak of outrage in human history would cover the globe within minutes of the photographs of the dead bodies and the overflowing toilets hitting the wire services. But here we have an American governor inflicting this on American citizens. Mostly innocent American citizens. Old innocent American citizens. Poor innocent American citizens. Sick innocent American citizens. Black innocent American citizens. Why in God's name are you letting her get away with it?

Again, I know: because she's a Democrat, and President Bush is a Republican. Hell, you're even complicit in painting President Bush as an enemy of the black man. You're the exact opposite of nonpartisan and you're not even bothering to hide it anymore. Shame on you, shame on you all.

UPDATE: For crying out loud, now the Washington Post is running (and MSNBC is headlining) some crap whining about people defending their homes. Uh, yeah. Wouldn't you? What do you expect New Orleans's wealthy to do, abandon their property to the looters? Are they somehow less deserving of security and safety because they have good jobs?

UPDATE 2: Welcome readers linked from Lorie Byrd of Polipundit and Betsy Newmark of Betsy's Page! They're two of my favorite bloggers, and if any of my readers don't read them regularly, they should.

[1] Who is hip enough to own jeb.org

September 10, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

An open letter to some misguided people

Item: On Wednesday, September 7, Reuters publishes an article headlined FEMA Wants No Photos of Dead:

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims.
   
An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats.

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

(via Los Angeles Times)

Later that day, Reuters follows up with Media groups say FEMA censors search for bodies, which begins:

WASHINGTON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - When U.S. officials asked the media not to take pictures of those killed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, they were censoring a key part of the disaster story, free speech watchdogs said on Wednesday.

The move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in line with the Bush administration's ban on images of flag-draped U.S. military coffins returning from the Iraq war, media monitors said in separate telephone interviews.

"It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story," said Larry Siems of the PEN American Center, an authors' group that defends free expression.

The left-wing "watchdog" Media Matters responds with an article titled "Where is media outrage over purported government attempts to restrict Katrina coverage?"

Where is the outrage, indeed.

Okay, this is addressed to all you good folks at Media Matters, especially the signatory to that article, S.S.M. (No person with those initials appears on Media Matters's masthead.) This is to the freedom-lovin' guys at PEN America Center and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. This is to Tom Rosenstiel, director of Columbia's prestigious graduate school for journalism's Project for Excellence in Journalism, who was quoted by Reuters as calling FEMA's request "an invitation to chaos". This is to all our friends on the left, to Kos, to Atrios, to the fine crew at Democratic Underground who I know without looking are outraged, outraged at Chimpy McBushitler's attempts to censor the media.

To all of you people, and might I say quite a crowd you make, fasten your seatbelts. We're going on a journey through the Land of Make Believe. We're going to play Let's Pretend. We're going to exercise that empathy thing you always accuse Republicans of lacking.

Ready?

Okay, here we go. Close your eyes and pretend... you're a poor black resident of New Orleans. You're a single mother with a five-year-old daughter. As Katrina approaches landfall, you have nowhere to go. You ride public transportation to work and don't own a car. The city isn't using its massive fleet of transit buses and school buses to ferry people out of town for the supposedly mandatory evacuation, so you obey your mayor and go to the "shelter of last resort", the Superdome.

And there you find Hell.

First comes the terrible storm, and the howling winds that tear off part of the Superdome's roof. But that's just the beginning of the nightmare. As the days tick by, you have little food, little water. You try very hard to sleep in a plastic stadium chair, but it's not easy, not with tens of thousands of other people making noise and the air gradually clogging with the stench of feces. You don't know it, but your governor has ordered Red Cross and Salvation Army trucks halted because she wants to encourage you to leave. And finally you do... but not before you lose your daughter.

One minute she's holding your hand as you stand amid the increasingly hysterical and violent crowd, the next minute she's swept away by the human horde and you can't grab her arm before she vanishes. You have no idea where she is. You pray she's all right, that she's somewhere in the flood of people around you.

Finally, after endless hours of worry, misery, hunger, nausea, and abject terror, an armed man wearing a uniform pushes you onto a bus. You don't know where it's taking you, but somehow you eventually find yourself somewhere where at least you can get food and water, and the toilets aren't overflowed to the floor.

You check the web for news of your daughter. You ask around. You manage to get in touch with some of your former neighbors and ask if they've seen her, but they haven't. You're more scared than you've ever been in your life, but you have hope. You know there are plenty of lost children who are perfectly safe, and you're praying as hard as you can that your daughter is one of them.

And then you're watching CNN footage of FEMA teams sweeping the city. A human form comes into view. The cameraman zooms in close... and there she is, your daughter. Her corpse is bloated from the gas excreted by her internal bacteria as they digest her from within. The rats have gnawed off a good portion of her face. Her body bears bruises as mute testimony to indignities suffered while alive.

Okay, that's enough imagination. Back to reality. You're not throwing yourself to the floor and crying hysterically while beating the television with your fists, you're in your comfortable home or office that never floods to the roofline. But did you maybe, just for a second, catch a hint of what she's feeling?

Just a hint, mind you. I know I could never fully understand that kind of pain and I doubt most of you could either, but you don't need to have somebody stomp on your heart to know that it'd hurt like a bitch. Do you understand? She's not a real person, but there are people out there like her. Web sites are filled with pictures of men, women, and children missing after Katrina, placed there by people who are desperately seeking news of their loved ones, people who are trying their hardest to cling to hope as it fades away. Do you want them to learn the tragic news by seeing a bloated corpse in the newspaper? Do you understand that getting a picture of a dead person that you can wave around triumphantly and shout Bush's fault! isn't worth it?

Think about it.

UPDATE: Welcome readers from Media Matters for America! Stick around, you may learn something.

September 8, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fisking Hobospider

My dear friend and colleague Hobospider has engaged me in debate in the comments to my thread exposing the crimes of Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin. I felt the quality of the debate was high enough to elevate it to a new thread, so here it is. Hobospider's comments are in indented italics, and have been left unchanged, spelling errors and all.

VoR, Your own Senate Leader Bill Frist (and don't pretend you are anything but a partisan Republican at this point)

No, don't you pretend that I am a partisan Republican. Bill Frist does not speak for me. He is not my spokesman. I freely reserve the right to disagree with him. I even freely reserve the right to think that he's an idiot... which as a matter of fact I do.

said "The initial response to Hurricane Katrina was unacceptable at the local, state and federal levels."

So, proving once again that Bill Frist is an idiot. Actually, no, that's unfair to idiots. Bill Frist is not an idiot, he's a politician, which is worse. Bill Frist is not a man of principle. Bill Frist, like Hillary Clinton, Pat Leahy, and Michael Moore, gambled that the FEMA response would prove woefully inadequate and chose to join the dogpile early. My guess is that Frist thinks he has to distance himself from Bush if he wants a chance in 2008. I suspect that he will find this strategy to be a fatal blunder.

I'm going to take your postscript and place it here, because this goes right with your schtick about Bill-Effing-Frist:

One more thing- even Robert Novak, the Bush Administration's talking points parrot, is blah blah blah blah who cares yadda yadda blah Brown and Chertoff are bad.

You know, I don't remember ordering an argumentum ad verecundiam, but thanks anyway.

Now, moving on:

At this point there is no denying that the FEMA response has been inadequate.

I deny it. Or, at the very least, you certainly haven't proved it.

Only the degree of incompetance is debatable.

If one could win a debate by declaring an issue undebatable, you'd be entitled to a prize. Unfortunately, one can't.

OK, so the Feds screwed up.

In the Pink world (read Tribes right now... well, after you're done reading this) where begging the question is legal, this is correct. But I'm afraid that doesn't work for those of us in the reality-based community. Let's try an argument next time, shall we?

But who was in charge of the Federal response?

Michael D. Brown, the Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response. He's held the position since 2003, but he's been with FEMA for almost five years, including two as deputy director of FEMA. (The director of FEMA, formerly a cabinet-level appointee, is now the Under Secretary of EP&R since the government reorganization, but he's still usually referred to by the media and the public as the "head of FEMA".)

And how did he get his job?

Well, he was the deputy director of FEMA for two years before ascending to the top spot. He succeeded to the position when his boss, Joe Allbaugh, resigned. During the two years when Allbaugh was director and he was deputy director, the two of them saw FEMA through several dozen disasters. As Under Secretary, Brown was head of FEMA when four hurricanes struck Florida in a single season. Did you have any complaints back then?

Allbaugh, by the way, was confirmed by the Senate 91-0.

These are important questions because lives were at stake.

Well, then, if they were important questions, all you had to do was ask. The answers are very factual and apolitical. Why didn't you look them up, instead of treating them rhetorically?

I don't control who is in charge at a state level down there since I don't live in the area but as the Fed in charge 'Brownie' represents me and my tax dollars.

What an unbelievably lame argument. So consider this hypothetical situation: Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin are deliberately torturing the inhabitants of New Orleans. The federal government is sending aid and relief, but Kathleen Blanco is preventing it from reaching its intended recipients, because she wants them to suffer. Would you assign responsibility for that nasty situation to President Bush, because he represents you, while Blanco and Nagin do not?

You know, I described that as a hypothetical, but really, the scenario I described isn't too far from the truth. Instead of torturing the inhabitants, Blanco and Nagin merely put them in torturous conditions, in some cases luring them there with lies (walk across the bridge, there are buses waiting!), refused to let them leave, refused to let the Red Cross deliver them food, denied them water, stood by while many were assaulted or raped, and all but encouraged looters to take their property. I guess there might be a distinction between that and torture, but I don't think the Geneva Convention would say so. Let me put it this way: would you rather have been a New Orleanean called by your government to the Superdome, or be posed for pictures with panties on your head?

Hey, Abu Ghraib fetishists! This is worse treatment of civilians by a government, do you hear me? And they weren't even suspected of plotting to blow up anything! Where are you?

Look, let's say I were willing to stipulate that FEMA "screwed up", as you so very specifically put it. How much did they screw up? How much could they possibly have done? On this very site you've seen military personnel under federal command rescuing people hours after the storm's passing. You've seen a mini-aircraft carrier stationed in the middle of the Gulf during the hurricane so that it could rapidly deploy after the storm passed. I bet that wasn't too comfortable for the crew. And I bet running constant flight operations, getting search-and-rescue helicopters to New Orleans, getting exhausted citizens out, is a pretty tiresome operation. I bet a whole lot of the helicopter pilots, emergency medical technicians, evacuation specialists, aircraft mechanics, and sailors of the Bataan have been working pretty hard, and have been away from their families for awhile, and have even been risking their lives. So tell me, and tell the kids serving aboard the Bataan... what exactly is your beef with their performance? Should they have gotten there quicker? Should the flight crews be flying more shifts than they are? Is a fleet of military helicopters not enough? Well, the Feds also brought along the (federal!) Coast Guard and their experienced search-and-rescue crews and their choppers. Is that still not enough federal aid? Okay, we'll send along $50,000,000,000, approved in breakneck time. Do you still think the federal performance was inadequate? Well... the feds tried to send the Red Cross and the Salvation Army (which are coordinated by FEMA), but the governor wouldn't let them.

No matter how bad FEMA "screwed up", could it even remotely compare to what Blanco and Nagin inflicted on New Orleans?

I am disgusted that FEMA was treated as a reward program for Bush Campaign staffers and cronies rather than an organization with the awesome responsibility to respond to American crises.

Yeah, we have NO idea how competently Brown can handle a crisis, especially not a crisis like a major hurricane. Why, he's only been tested by the 2004 hurricane season. In case you don't remember it, there were four, count 'em, four hurricanes that struck Florida in 43 days. First came Charley on Friday the 13th of August, and he was a big one. Category 4, the strongest to hit Florida since Andrew 12 years earlier, and the strongest to hit the area in 44 years. Floridians (and FEMA) had three weeks to catch their breath before Frances came along. A former Category 4, she hit the coast with less powerful winds but moving verrrry sloooowly, dropping buckets of rain and spawning tornadoes as she went, making her the sixth-costliest hurricane in American history. It was but 11 days later when Ivan crashed ashore as a category 3. While we were still picking up the pieces from him, and Frances, and Charley, along came Jeanne and made landfall as a Category 3 in almost exactly the same place as Frances. Here, take a look. Can you imagine the people living there, having to dig out from under a hurricane, then do it all over again in 20 days?

Now I ask you:

Were there riotous crowds?

Were the Red Cross and the Salvation Army physically prevented from rushing aid to the victims?

Were there massive desertions of the police force?

Were there stadia filled with stinking feces?

I'll grant that Katrina was worse than any of these four hurricanes. But I think dealing with all four simultaneously proves that Michael D. Brown is a pretty capable administrator. I can't imagine FEMA being able to handle Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne with an incompetent boob at the helm. No, when incompetent boobs are in command, I expect to see something a lot more like Katrina.

Oh, and here's another thing. Take a look:

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That's the McDonald's in Biloxi, Mississippi. Looks like a normal shot at first, until you realize that the entire frickin' building's been blown out.

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That's Gulfport, Mississippi.

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This used to be an apartment and condominium complex in Biloxi.

2005_08_30t153401_450x324_us_weather_kat

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One of these pictures is New Orleans, one is Biloxi. If not for the tall buildings in the background, could you tell which is which?

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This also used to be Biloxi.

The Gulf Coast got hit hard, harder than New Orleans. Granted that the Biloxians didn't have any levees to fail (as levees tend to do in Category 4 winds, no matter how much we might wish it were otherwise), but then again the Biloxians didn't choose to live ten to twenty feet below sea level. As a percentage of total value, it's a sure bet that Biloxi sustained more damage than New Orleans, but... did the mayor of Biloxi force his citizens into cramped, unsafe "shelters"? Did he forbid them to leave and deny them food and water? Did his police force take up looting? Did he send his police to Las Vegas shortly after Katrina struck? Did the governor of Mississippi thwart the good will of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army? Do you want to bet that New Orleans is getting way, way more federal aid per capita than Biloxi?

Katrina was both a natural disaster and a man-and-woman-made disaster. The natural part is under God's control or nobody's. But the man and the woman who are responsible for the other part don't work for FEMA.

Bush's whole platform was making America more secure by rolling everything important under the umbrella of DHS.

Actually, I'm pretty sure Bush's "whole platform" included planks on taxes, the War on Terrorism, Social Security, and possibly one or two other issues.

I know this will make the Freeper troglodytes who are your target audience spit take from their Michael Savage sippy cups

Aw, now you're just being nasty.

but I have seen no evidence this past week that the federal government is any more capable of handling an catastrophe than it was under under Clinton

Nor have you seen any evidence that the federal government is any less capable of handling an [sic] catastrophe. You've seen plenty of evidence that the current administration can adequately handle an emergency. I'm pretty sure that Florida in 2004 didn't resort to rumored cannibalism.

(Whose FEMA head actually was qualified for the job)

Ah yes, James Lee Witt, currently employed by Kathleen Blanco to oversee the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Doing a bang-up job, isn't he?

September 8, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Lest we forget

On September 8, 2004, one year ago today, Sixty Minutes with Dan Rather proudly aired four memos, allegedly written by Bush's superior officer in the Texas Air National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Killian and supposedly vouched for by "unimpeachable sources", which painted the then-1st. Lt. in a very negative light.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I'm thinking of doing a longer, more in-depth retrospective later, but for now I wanted to ensure that in the middle of Katrina and Rehnquist we don't forget about a true watershed in New Media history.

History started here.

Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.

In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.

This should be pursued aggressively.

47 posted on 09/08/2004 8:59:43 PM PDT by Buckhead
And aggressively it was pursued. Not by CBS, though.

September 8, 2005 in Media | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

WHY?

The headline on every major newspaper should be:

LOUISIANA COPS PREVENT RED CROSS FROM DELIVERING AID TO SUPERDOME, CONVENTION CENTER

I want to know why it is not.

Actually, I have a pretty good idea why it is not. And you bastards should be ashamed of yourselves.

September 8, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack