Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, September 30, 2005

After Katrina, What?


        The messed up response to Katrina shows the need to improve relief efforts.  What should we do?

  • Communications clearly broke down during the relief effort.  Austin Bay suggests we tie all emergency responders into the military communications network.

  • I have a technology to suggest too: Hy-Rail®.

  • On the human side, I suggest we send federal observers in during disasters, giving Washington eyes on the ground.  This story shows why that's important.

  • A lot of people, Mickey Kaus for example have suggested giving Washington total control during disasters.  Others, like Bay and Glenn Reynolds, are against that idea.  I'm not sure.  Your thoughts?

  • Regardless of what we decide, we need to make it clear who's in charge of doing what, and holding those in charge responsible for their acts.

At Length:

        Austin Bay has a good suggestion: making it possible for all military and emergency forces to tie into the same communications network for disaster relief.

        While we're on the subject of technofixes, let me mention Hy-Rail®.  Hy-rails are attachments for road vehicles that can be lowered onto railroad tracks.  When lowered, the vehicle can take off down a railroad track without falling off to either side.  When raised, the vehicle can drive on roads without damaging them.  If the five hundred or more school and city busses in New Orleans had had such wheel guides, NOLA could have moved about thirty-five thousand people out of the city at a time, and been back in for another load in maybe six hours (no traffic jams to worry about, after all).  Such things would also be useful for emergency vehicles bringing people and relief supplies in.

        In addition to Bay's communications net idea, another thing we should probably do is let FEMA send in armed observers/law enforcement people, possibly making them locally deputized (we could make this a condition of a state requesting emergency aid).  This would give the federal government eyes and ears on the ground, and speed response.  I'd also support requiring the governor to state rules of engagement (the observers are/are not to shoot people to prevent looting, for instance).  This Wall Street Journal story illustrates why that could be important.  (If the link ever fails, it's also here.)  The state and local authorities could have access to the observers reporters, and request them to check on things, but they would not have any authority over the observers.  If Mayor Negin and the former NOLA police chief were deliberately spreading false stories, as has been suggested, such observers would have cleared things up.

        But should we go farther, and enable the President to shoulder aside governors, then send in the military to handle law enforcement and rescue, while ordering around the National Guard and the state and local cops?  I can see arguments on both sides.  Leave your thoughts in comments, if you have a strong opinion.  Bay, by the way, is against that.

        This whole issue of who does what needs a lot more thought.  At the least, if every governor is going to remain in charge, then we need to make that clear.  FEMA's response to a request for disaster aid should then be an immediate inquiry into exactly what the state wants the feds doing and not doing.  At the same time, we should have the Feds get very publicly hardnosed with state governors.  'Well, Gov. X can't or won't keep order, and won't let us send in troops to stop looting and ensure the safety of rescue workers, so we're not doing much of anything till the situation stabilizes.  I'm not going to get federal employees killed because the of the Governor's failings.'

        I'm not as big a believer in federalism as, say, Prof. Reynolds, but I do think responsibility has to be commensurate with authority, and the lines of each need to be clearly drawn.

        Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds for both stories.


Some Discouraging News From Iraq

        The invaluable Global Geurrillas site asks "How Big is the Insurgency in Iraq?

        Very big indeed, says John Robb.  Probably around 185,000 men.

        The reports from the military that an ever increasing number of those killed or captured are foreign jihadis suggests a flaw in the analysis, but this issue is very much worth thinking about.


Well, Well.

        Judy Miller has agreed to testify.  Tom Maguire suspects she'll try to "run out the clock" on the grand jury.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Conspiracy Theory Flourishes

        At at Powerline.

        Personally, I doubt John Hindraker is correct.  More likely, the prosecutor acted on his own, for his own perceived advantage.  This may include the sorts of considerations Hindraker mentions, but I doubt he needed to be put up to it.

        But perhaps I'm wrong.  YOU MAKE THE CALL!


If the Truth Won't Help, Lie

        Wizbang catches a Democrat pretending to be a Republican, with the help of the press.


Hitchens on the "Anti-War" Movement

        As he points out, they're not anti-War at all.  They're pro-war, but they're on the other side.


An Amusing Glimpse Behind the Curtain

        Via Instapundit, we learn that a Senator has a form letter for people who are worried about pets lost in the wake of Katrina.


Why MSM Inaccuracy Matters

        The incredible brutality and slaying that were supposed to have happened in New Orleans, particularly at the Superdome, have turned out to be nonsense.  The figure I've heard that best sums it up -- there were four murders during the week of Katrina, in a city where four murders per week is the usual body count (see here.)  As the Prof. points out, the misinformation probably affected what was done during the relief effort, leading to delays in getting people help.

        Jeff Goldstein notes that the MSM is coming out of the closet.  The coverage of Katrina was an open political campaign, with advocacy replacing reporting.  They're boasting about getting things wrong.

        An interesting related point is the way so many people outside the media don't care much about truth any more.  For instance, immediately after Katrina hit, people complained that relief efforts were hampered because so many Guardsmen were in Iraq.  What was noticeable was, first, that it wasn't true (there appear to have been plenty of National Guard members available, but Gov. Blanco didn't use them).  But second, note that the people making this criticism were all opponents of the war in the first place.  They didn't bother to find out if the 'the Guard's all over in Iraq' story was true, or even probable.  They just adopted and spread a false story, because it was useful in bashing W. and the war.

        And then there's liberal racism.  The media heard stories of black people acting like psychotic jungle savages, and never expressed the least doubt.  Hey, the supposed murderers were black, so they must be guilty.

        We've now passed the point where we wonder if the MSM is biased.  Based on current events, we should treat all "news" stories as propaganda, and ask what they're trying to manipulate us into doing.


A Few More Words About Serenity

        First, I had 1100 visitors yesterday, which is pleasing, and over seventy today.  Look around, hope you like the site, hope you come back, hope you send me large sums of money in the mail. . .

        Second, Glenn has a bunch of links to reviews of Serenity, here and here.  I read all of them, and they frequently had links to other reviews, which I also read.  Interestingly, every single review is positive.  Some are much more enthusiastic than others, but all of them liked the movie.

        Third, as a long time Whedon fan, I wondered how the movie would be seen by those not familiar with the TV series.  Well, they liked it too (and several reviews by fans mentioned seeing the film with someone who wasn't familiar with the show, said person also liking the movie).

        In fact, I now almost dread going to the movies Saturday, when I'll see Serenity again with my wife and two good friends.  It's gonna be crowded.  But it looks like Universal's gamble has paid off.  Extraordinarily good marketing and promotion here, folks.  And good judgment in letting Whedon make his movie with little interference.

        Fourth, Powerline, in addition to giving the movie a very positive review, says they've heard from another studio who want to use the blog marketing scheme.  Great.

        Fifth, the most interesting comment I read in those other reviews was someone who told his significant other that George Lucas ought to be ashamed of himself, and was told in reply that Lucas should be flattered.  They're both right.  Whedon's film is the kind of thing that Lucas might have done, if he still had any talent.  But Mal Reynolds is so clearly redolent of Han Solo that Lucas can claim partial credit for him.  (Of course, Han Solo is himself reflective of other archetypical characters).

        Finally, films like Serenity make me wonder how Hollyweird keeps itself in business.  Judging by the movie, if Fox had just left Whedon alone, the Firefly TV series would have been a big hit.  But the studio execs just can't resist the temptation to muck things up.  "Who does things like this?  Somebody weird, I'll betcha."

        So, go see this flick.  Based on the reviews I've seen, you're almost certain to enjoy it — everyone else did.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oh Goody!

        Mary Mapes's book on Rathergate is out, and it appears she still doesn't have a clue.  Of course, I'd never consider buying this volume, but I just reserved it at the library.  Hours of mean-spirited fun await.



        INSTALANCHE!  Thanks, Glenn.

        Visitors, I hope you'll look around, and enjoy what you find.  More on Serenity here, and the main page is here.


        Joss Whedon's new movie Serenity opens Friday.  I saw it last night, and thought it was a very good film, four stars out of five.  I expect I'll pay to see it again Friday or Saturday.
  • Serenity is based on the late TV series, Firefly, and stars the original cast of the show.

  • Whedon employs the same mixture of strengths that made Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel two of the all-time great television series.  The film has action, humor, and mystery, all blended very well.  The technical aspects are excellent, with one exception noted below.

  • Alas, Whedon uses the idiotic shaking camera technique again, courting nausea among the audience.  People like me had better sit in the back.

  • The movie turns dark and bloody in the last third.  I found it that part very satisfactory, but be prepared for a large body count.

  • But Whedon never loses sight of the moral issues he dealt with in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, and manages to deliver a message that's also crackling good entertainment.

  • Overall, this film "big hit" written all over it.  I think it deserves the success I expect.

        Note: My initial mispelling "reiver" has been corrected to "reaver."

At Length:

        Screenwriter/director Joss Whedon has had really bizarre luck with movies and TV shows.  In 1992, a film titled Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the theatres.  BtVS was Whedon's idea, story, and screenplay, but the studio and/or the director insisted on messing up the execution, and the result was a mediocre film — though I must admit, I enjoyed it.

        Yet somehow, in 1996, Whedon persuaded the WB to turn that mediocre movie into a television series.  During the next five years, it was, in my arrogant opinion, the best show on television, indeed the best TV show EVER.  Buffy ran seven seasons, and spawned a high quality spin-off in Angel, which was very good and ran five seasons itself.

        The reason those shows were so good?  Excellent writing, Whedon's skill in developing season long story arcs while creating episodes that stood on their own, a nicely balanced mixture of comedy and drama, great action sequences, marvelous humor, great casts who always turned in fine performances, wonderful sets, lighting, and special effects, and uniquely, a willingness to tackle important subjects.  Buffy and Angel dealt with the nature of good and evil, duty, courage, sacrifice, loss, human weakness, human strength, betrayal, bigotry, and honor, all without being preachy, dull, or simplistic.

        One other special feature of Buffy and Angel should also be mentioned, though not everyone liked it.  Whedon wasn't afraid to kill sympathetic innocents and continuing characters, even series regulars.  At least three died in the first season of Buffy, and the fatalities continued throughout both series.  Any character could die, and it made both the fear and the courage of the heroes more pointed.

      In 1992 2002, Whedon persuaded the Fox network to air a new series of his, FireflyFirefly was to be a combination of science fiction, western, and thriller.  Considering Whedon's record, you'd have thought that Fox would have refrained from interfering with him, but NO!, they just had to muck it up — they refused to open with a two-hour pilot that was already shot (it ended up being the last show ever broadcast), showed the one-hour stories out of the order that Whedon had intended, pre-empted the show frequently, and never broadcast three already filmed episodes.  Then, having ensured a small audience, Fox cancelled it.

        But in 2003 the DVD of the series came out, with all the episodes available, and in the order Whedon had intended.  It made much more sense this way, and sales were very high.  And somehow, Whedon repeated the BtVS trick in reverse — he talked Universal studios into making a feature film out of his failed TV series, using the show's original cast.

        The film's title is Serenity.  I saw it last night, and really liked it.  So much so that I expect I'll see it again over the weekend, with my wife and some friends.

        Earth is no longer inhabited (why, Whedon never revealed, but planet Earth was invariably referred to as "Earth that was,").  Mankind managed to spread to the stars, and terraformed numerous planets and moons.  Some colonies ("the Core Worlds") became rich, powerful, and smugly certain of their superiority.  Other places were primitive and brutal, and there were all stages of development in between.  Eventually, the two biggest factions among the Core Worlds decided that, for its own good, humanity should be united under one government, and formed "the Alliance", intending to civilize the barbarians (the main powers in the Alliance apparently spoke English or Mandarin as their main language; the result is that both languages are seen and heard everywhere in the series, and the crew of Serenity curses in Chinese).  While many people and planetary governments thought the Alliance was a great idea, others fought unification, with the rebel troops being known as "Browncoats" (there are conscious parallels with the USAmerican Civil War here).  Two of the Browncoats were Sgt. Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds and Zoe Last-Name-and-Rank-Unknown.  They were among those who kept fighting long after defeat was certain, till the resistance on their planet was crushed at the Battle of Serenity Valley.

        After the War, Mal and Zoe stayed together as partners trying to scrape a living "out in the black," the fringe area of human colonization, where the Alliance's control is still weak, where the Alliances "civilizing mission" isn't doing much, and where violent psychotics called "Reavers" periodically raid frontier settlements (in the pilot, the Reavers are described as raping to death anyone they capture alive; eating the captives' flesh; and using the captives' skin for clothing -- but usually not in that order).  Somehow, Mal found the money to buy and repair a used, broken down freight hauling spaceship, a "Firefly" model, which he named Serenity as a token of his continuing defiance of the Alliance.  Mal and Zoe recruited Hoban "Wash" Washburne, a pilot whom Zoe ended up marrying; Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye, a mechanic/engineer; and Jayne Cobb, a fairly tough and unscrupulous man who's an expert shot and all around crook.  Mal also rented one of the ship's two shuttles to Inara Serra, a member of the courtesan's guild, and thus a prosperous and highly respectable member of Alliance society (which brings up the question of why she'd want to go anywhere on a ship like Serenity, much less away from the Core Worlds and "into the black"; Whedon let it be known that she had a reason, but hadn't revealed it at series end).  When Serenity arrived somewhere, Inara would fly off her shuttle and conduct business.  Mal and Inara were highly attracted to each other, but they won't admit it to themselves act on it (Mal because he disapproves of Inara's profession, or at least her practicing it; Inara because of Mal's attitudes, rude behavior, and her desire to keep their relationship on a business footing).

        With Inara providing some steady income and respectability, Mal and crew set off to move freight, carry passengers, smuggle, hire out as gunmen, and heist things that weren't nailed down.  Mal and Zoe never were reconciled to the Alliance's victory, and operating outside the law appealed to Mal's continuing idealistic/romantic streak — though those same emotions sometimes led him to turn down profitable jobs, play Robin Hood, or otherwise get into trouble.  In the two hour pilot, they picked up three semi-passengers, semi-crew members: Book, a "Shepard," or traveling priest/monk who knows a suspicious amount about armaments; Simon Tam, a brilliant young surgeon; and River Tam, Simon's little sister, a super-genius seventeen-year-old psychotic.

        River was in some ways the key character of the series.  A child prodigy, the teenaged River was lured to a "school" where she could supposedly develop her talents to their full extent.  In reality, it was a secret Alliance research facility where surgery was performed on the "students'" brains, various horrible psychological conditioning was performed, and skills the Alliance would find useful were imparted.  In particular, the Alliance made River a super-humanly capable fighter and marksman.  They also managed to give her psychic abilities, or develop a pre-existing potential, something they may also have done with some or all of their other victims.  Why they were doing all this wasn't totally clear, but it did become obvious that River and the others were at least partly intended as covert agents, spies, and assassins.

        Fortunately for River, brother Simon grew suspicious.  He noticed that the phrasing in her letters home seemed wrong, that she referred to things that had never happened, and that words were misspelled (River had started correcting his spelling when she was three).  Convinced that his sister was trying to send him coded messages, he eventually managed to get intelligence on the "school" and mount a rescue operation.  As the pilot opened, he and River were on the run, and Alliance agents were both trying to recapture River, and killing people she and Simon had been in contact with.  Mal allowed the Tams on Serenity both because he hates the Alliance, and because his crew gets wounded often enough to need a surgeon aboard.  But as the series developed, there was increasing fear that River might be a danger to the others aboard ship.  Also, Inara finally admitted her feeling concerning Mal to herself, and decided to leave the Serenity.  For the rest of the series's events, watch the DVDs.

        The movie opens with a flashback: River is in the experimental facility/prison, and Simon breaks her out.  An anonymous Operative of the Alliance Parliament shows up, and reviews the records of the escape.  It becomes clear that one of the reasons the Alliance government wants River so badly, and kills those she's talked to, is her psychic ability.  Various high level members of Parliament foolishly toured the facility while she was there.  They knew things that the Alliance is desperate to keep secret, and they fear River will reveal them.

        The Operative would have fit in well with Felix Dzerzhinsky's CheKA.  He is, in his own words, a monster, but a monster with a faith and a cause.  Someday, the Alliance will bring about a civilization without evil, and he will do anything to help that along.

        Meanwhile, out on the edge of the Alliance, Mel and his crew are pulling a payroll robbery.  When he involves River, Simon gets angry and decides he and his sister will leave Serenity, but no sooner do they split than River happens to look at a television in a bar, and becomes fixated.  She utters the word "Miranda," then suddenly attacks the patrons and staff indiscriminately, leaving almost everyone dead or unconscious before Simon manages to stop her.  Mal happens to be in the bar, and takes the Tams back to Serenity and tries to find out what happened.  He soon learns it was a trick — the Operative caused the television to display subliminal messages that triggered River's "lethal weapon" mode, but in places where there was a security camera.  Now the Operative knows who's been helping River and Simon.  The rest of the film is a fairly straightforward scifi/action plot, with the Operative doing anything he can to get River, and Mal and crew trying to dodge the Operative, figure out what's going on, and resolve the situation once and for all.  I thought it all worked very well.

        I won't give any more of the story, not wanting to spoil it for anyone, though I will mention we learn more about the Reavers, whose history and habitss turn out to be highly relevant.  As mentioned above the movie has Whedon's characteristic virtues.  The screeplay's well written, there's a good deal of verbal and physical humor (the audience frequently laughed out loud), the action sequences are exciting, the acting is first rate, and the design and lighting are excellent.  But Serenity also has Whedon's habit of knocking off good guys and innocents.  The film becomes somewhat dark in the last third, and horrible things happen to characters who don't deserve it.  The bodies really pile up.  I found the climax satisfying and fitting, but don't expect a Star Trek finish where everyone important either lives, or will be brought back to life in the next flick.  The characters who died in this movie are staying dead.

        Whedon also retains his strong moral commitments.  The Operative is fighting for his cause, and Serenity's crew end up fighting for against it.  It's clear which side Joss Whedon favors, but he doesn't make the Operative's side a caricature.  Instead, Whedon addresses basic questions of morality and human society, all while being marvelously entertaining.

        Well, that's what's right with Serenity.  What's wrong with it?  The camerawork.  Whedon is one of these people who believes that if you shoot with a handheld camera, and don't use the steadycam, it gives the work the feel of a documentary, or an improvisation, or something assembled from "found footage" taken by a non-professional.  He used the technique in the TV series, and he uses it here.

        Whedon is wrong.  The lighting, the camera angles, the seamless integration of story with shots, the costumes, the effects — there has never been a documentary, improvisation, or "found footage" work that looks like this, and there never will be.  What the film looks like is a highly professional, thoroughly scripted movie, made by a director with pretensions.

        Now, shaky camera work on the big screen can make me vomit, and I've walked out of more than one movie because of this nonsense.  I wish Whedon hadn't done it.  Fortunately, he didn't indulge in it too often or too violently, and I had a seat in the rear (a suggestion from my friend A., who has the same problem).  I managed to endure it fairly well, but if you're sensitive to this too, be warned.  And I hope you'll write the studio, producers, and directors of any similar film, and complain.  This idiocy needs to be stamped out.

        Having gotten that off my chest, I don't have much else in the way of complaints.  I was surprised that Shepard Book wasn't on the ship when the film started, since he was when the series ended.  There were a couple of places where someone did something slightly stupid as a plot requirement, but not often, and not terribly stupid (still, if [deleted] had made sure [deleted]was dead, things would have developed much more happily.  Overall, the film is excellent, and I give it four stars out of a possible five.  If Whedon had used a steadycam, I'd add the at least another half star.  I suspect that if you don't enjoy this flick, you dislike all action films.  I'm certain Serenity will do a big box office, and in my opinion, it deserves to.

        And I'm looking forward to Serenity Two.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Horror of the Superdome

        Reported here, hat tip Glenn.


More MSM Fraud

        The Daily Howler points out a big lie by the New York Times, which got repeated by the Raleigh News-Observer, namely a claim to have created great schooling results in Wake County, NC, by busing.  The great results in question are an improvement over the statewide average by a few percent.  The lie consists of comparing the Raleigh area results with the results of a decade ago, and claiming dramatic improvement, while not noting the similar results all over the state.

        Hat tip: Instapundit, who is far too generous to the Times.


TimesDelete, Part Two

        A few days ago, I mentioned Mickey Kaus's idea for
Timesdelete,.  You'd pay the New York Times, and you'd get to vote on which columnist has to go on vacation for a while.  The "winner" would be paid, but not allowed to write for a month or so.

        Now, Kaus suggests that TimesDelete is already in place, it's just called TimesSelect.  If conservatives will just buy TimesSelect for a year, the Times will continue its experiment.  But since huge numbers of people who used to be exposed to Dowd, Krugman, and Friedman won't read them, their influence will dwindle.  A year from now, we could refuse to renew, but by then the columnists would be hasbeens.

        I must say, it is a tempting thought.  Still, recalling Napoleon's adage to never interfere with an enemy when he's making a mistake, I'll have to think about this for awhile.  Would it be worse for the Times if they had to dump TimesSelect a year from now, or very quickly?


Monday, September 26, 2005

Babs, Weather Scientist

        From Drudge [Note, the picture captions are mine]:

Big Wind
Hurricane  Rita

More Wind




NEW YORK -- This summer's back to back superstorms are proof positive we have entered a new period of "global warming emergency," artist/citizen Barbra Streisand warns.

Streisand is back on the scene to promote her reunion disc with Barry Gibb.

As hellstorm "Rita" churned in the Gulf, Streisand sat down for a promotional interview with ABCNEWS's Diane Sawyer.

"We are in a global warming emergency state, and these storms are going to become more frequent, more intense," Streisand urgently declares.

But Sawyer did not remind Streisand that a Category 5 hurricane struck the Bahamas with 160 mph winds -- when the singer was five years old, in 1947!

And when Streisand was 8 years old, a Cat 5 hurricane -- named "Dog" -- packing 185 mph churned-away in the Atlantic.

When she was 9, a Cat 5 storm named "Easy" ripped the seas with 160 mph sustained winds.

Streisand was 13 years old when "Janet" hit Mexico with 150 mph winds.

Streisand was celebrating her sweet sixteen as "Cleo" formed with 140 mph.

At 18, Streisand read news about "Donna" AND "Ethel" -- both storms carried 140 mph winds and formed 9 days apart in 1960!

One year later, when Streisand was 19, it happened again: Two Category 5 storms scared the world: "Carla" and "Hattie!"

"Carla" maxed out at 175 mph winds the year Streisand made her television debut on "The Jack Paar Show."

And who could forget Hurricane "Camille" -- which smashed into the United States with 190 mph, just as "Funny Girl" garners eight Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture and one for Barbra as Best Actress.

Up next on the weather warning watch, Streisand says to ABC: "There could be more droughts, dust bowls. You know, it's amazing to hear these facts."



A Revealing Moment . . .

        . . . into the soul of La Belle France.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Law of Unexpected Consequences?

        It's been suggested that the New York Times new pay for the columnists policy may be the factor that rejuvenates the Democratic Party.

        Lord knows, nothing else seems likely to.


And You Thought I had a Low, Cynical Opinion of Europe?

        Strategypage is breathtakingly contemptuous towards the northwestern portion of the Old World.

        I won't say they're wrong, but even I find their disdain shocking.


We Have a Little List

        We call it Dishonest Propogandists.  One group that just went on it is the Center For Stategic and International Studies, the CSIS.  The CSIS just announced that, at most, only 10% of the terrorists in Iraq are foreigners, and only a minority of that minority consists of Saudis.  Less than 2% of the terrorists appear to be Saudis, [DANGER! PDF!] they say.  Their source: the Saudi government.



How NOT to be an "Ombudsman"

        Jeffrey Dvorkin's September 13th piece is almost a manual on doing the job badly.

        There's a lot of self-praise, stupidly disguised as listener comment.  Yes, I'm sure that the letters he prints are genuine.  I'm also sure I could have assembled a column twice as long that would have been nothing but listener vitriol.  What would be interesting is a statistical overview ('We're getting X e-mails and phone calls per day; A% are unqualified praise, B% are a mixture of praise and criticism; C% are completely negative.')

        Dvorkin doesn't just pat the his network on the back by quoting readers.  He also does it directly, saying:
I thought the timeline reporting on All Things Considered on Friday, Sept. 9 was especially impressive.

        That's very interesting, because soon he'll be printing a letter of criticism concerning just that timeline story.  The critic felt that the timeline story laid all blame on the Feds and W., and gave the Governor and Mayor a complete pass.

        The Strib our local substitute for a newspaper, used to have a "reader's representative" named Lou Gelfland.  I don't thing he was gigantically good at his job, but at least, when he ran a critical letter, he'd quote what was being objected to, ask the reporters and editors responsible for the story for their reaction, which he'd print, and then give his own view, which ranged all over the spectrum from support for the paper to condemnation.  Dvorkin first praises the piece (thus influencing the reader in favor of it), then prints a short reporter's response (which amounts to mostly "You've mischaracterized us;" no transcript, so no way to judge for yourself) then finally a letter that "sees it from another perspective," (Dvorkin's words), but which doesn't even touch on the criticism of the timeline story, but does bash the Adminstration.  It's yet another example of (all together now) editing as lying.

        After praising NPR some more, Dvorkin criticizes the BBC.  But it very muted and apologetic criticism, mixed with praise about how great the BBC usually is (translation, 'the BBC usually agrees with NPR;' and no, I'm not being snarky, that is a main point Dvorkin makes).

        Then he notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the BBC is portraying southerners as ignorant, bigoted, redneck idiots, which NPR would never do (not surprising, given that residents of Dixie can retaliate against NPR but not against the BBC).

        Dvorkin notes:
I am sure that the BBC is not inventing these interviews. But the effect is that it sounds less like reporting than like caricature.

        Yeah, the Beeb didn't invent the intervies, and Dvorkin didn't invent the letters.  But they're both disguising their opinion behind other people's views, by carefully selecting what they print>

        Pop quiz: do you think Dvorkin is so stupid, he doesn't understand what's going on, or is just reluctant to call attention to it, when he's been doing it in his column, and NPR does it regularly on the air?  Or what?


Play it Again, WaPo!

        Mostly, I'm ignoring the "anti-war" protests this weekend (none of the "anti-war" protesters seems to be opposed to the terrorists' violence, by the way; so they aren't really anti-war, they're on the other side).  But it is interesting the Washington Post in particular, and most of the MSM in general, refuse to report seriously on International A.N.S.W.E.R., a Stalinist group that is one of the main organizers of the rallies.

        Of course, if you read this blog at all regularly, that won't surprise you.  But it does allow me an opportunity to once again remind you that the MSM is playing that Golden Oldie,
Editing As Lying.

        Finding out what they don't tell you at all is even more important than seeing through their blatant falsehoods.  (Note to self: see if you can find out the Post's "reader's representative's" e-mail, and ask whether their paper is dishonest, pig-ignorant, or incompetent).


Thursday, September 22, 2005


        is a great new idea from Mickey Kaus:
        . . . for $19.95 a month, say, TimesDelete's premium subscribers could vote on one op-ed columnist to take an extended vacation.  If more people picked Krugman rather than Brooks, Krugman would get his salary plus a bonus on the condition that he maintain a meaningful silence for several weeks.  The race would be tight every month, I should imagine, with Republicans and Democrats trying to outvote each other.  But you can't play if you don't pay!  I'd say this is surefire, supplemental revenue stream would bring in way more than the puny $20 or $30 million dollars a year the Times might hope to make from TimesSelect, especially if the business model were extended to the news pages.  Adam Nagourney--your ship has come in!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Global Warming, but not this Globe

        Four the last eight years, Mars Global Surveyor has been orbiting the red planet, and it is picking signs of global warming on Mars.

        Question: what could possibly affect the Earth and Mars at the same time?  Answer: the Sun is all that I can think of.  If the Sun is putting out more energy, that would warm both planets.

        Second question: How often do you see the possibility that the Sun is responsible for global warming during discussions of this subject?

The Hat tip, Instapundit.


Update to my Previous Post

        The Opinionated Bastard has charts on casualty rates by month through the first half of September.  Double the September figures, and they still represent a steep drop from previous months.

        Bottom line: I think we're winning.


Some Pretty Good Military News From Iraq

        Posted by Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping, and Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit.  (Hat tip: Glenn.)

        By the way, it always amazes me that people forget just how quickly fortunes turn in war.  During August, 1864, the Late Unpleasantness seemed to be going all the Confederacy's way, and the Democrats adopted a platform declaring "The war is a failure," while Lincoln expected he'd lose re-election, and thought Jeff Davis would win for certain if he held out till March, '65, when McClellan would become President.  Then, suddenly, Sherman captured Atlanta, and everyone saw the writing on the wall.  In the spring, the Army of Northern Virginia seemed to be holding off Grant's second to last attempt to outflank them, just as they'd stopped every other attempt.  Then, hearing the news of the forces the Army of the Potomac was meeting on its left, Grant ordered a straight frontal assault all along the line.  The overstretched Rebel line broke, and over the next few days Lee's forces took tremendous losses, even before Sheridan got to Appomattox Court House to cut the Southrons off.

        The same could be said about WWI & II.  Imperial Germany launched four offensives in the spring of 1918 that pushed the Allies back on the Western Front, making it look like they'd take Paris -- then the fifth offensive was stopped cold, and a few months later the Allies were advancing all along the lines, while Germany sued for peace.

        In World War II, Hitler had things almost all his own way into 1942.  The Afrika Corps was closer to Cairo than ever before, the Army on the Russian Front was butchering the Red Army in droves, the U-boats were running wild off the coast of the U.S., Imperial Nippon ran wild in the Pacific.  On June 4th, from midnight to about 10:30, the Zeros and anti-aircraft guns of the Midway attack forces air component annihilated every USAmerican attack, for almost no damage -- then, in the course of about five minutes the aircraft carriers Soryu, Kaga, and Akagi were set ablaze uncontrollably, while over the next two days the heavy cruiser Mikumu was sunk, the carrier Hiryu destroyed, and the heavy cruiser Mogami was badly damaged, along with two destroyers.  Nippon had lost the war -- which didn't stop them from fighting another three years, or making things very nasty for the U.S. in the first of what were then called the battles of Savo Island, one through five.

        In Europe and Africa, everything came apart for Nazi Germany in the fall of 1942.  In 1943 the U.S. and Britain knocked Italy out of the war, and conquered half of it (the other half was held by German forces diverted from Russia, where they were desperately needed).  By the fall of 1944, the Wehrmacht had been pushed back on all fronts, had taken tremendous casualties, and was in a desperate supply situation as industrial production fell sharply (the bombing raids had chewed up a large portion of the Lutwaffe's strength, and the bombers were finally hitting the right targets, day and night).  And that winter, the Germany Army made one last attack on the Western Front that penetrated deeply, and made things look desperate -- until the 101st Airborne held Bastogne, Patton showed up, and the weather cleared, allowing the USAF and RAF dive-bombers to blow up the German supply lines.  In the spring, the Germany Army once again moved West, but it wasn't to fight, but to surrender to soldiers who weren't Russian.

        I predict that al-Qaida in Iraq will look really formidable to the MSM, right up till the time it collapses over the course of a few weeks.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Two Thoughts, and a Thought Experiment

        One of the reasons I haven't blogged much the last few days is my disgust over the Katrina commentary.  Hundreds of people are dead, and partisans are trying to use those deaths for political advantage.  I find it shameful and disgusting.

        I do have a thought to offer.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a good deal of competence in flood prevention.  They proposed to protect New Orleans from a category 5 storm.  How?  Well, first, they'd study things for a few years, to be sure their plans were right, and then they'd build the necessary levees, etc.  Building time estimate?  THIRTY YEARS.

        So, if you want to blame someone for the disaster, let Bush and Brown and Nagin and Blanco alone, and turn your fire on Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, along with the contemporary mayors, governors, congresscritters, and state legislators.  Because the project to protect NOLA would have had to start back then.

        The fundamental reason the New Orleans tragedy happened was because of the city's geography.  The principal secondary reason was because the political process was unwilling to make a tough choice: spend a lot of money to save New Orleans, or accept that sooner or later it would be destroyed, and decide what to do when that happened.

        And now, a thought experiment.  Are you in favor of rebuilding New Orleans?  Do you want to see more flood control projects?  Think we ought to be able to move relief supplies in faster in the event of an emergency  Fine, lets talk spending.  Go through the budget of the United States, and divide the spending into three parts: 1) the things you think we ought to spend more on; 2) the things you believe we're spending the right amount on; 3) the things you judge we're spending too much on.

        Now, figure out what you think it would cost to rebuild flood protect NOLA, set up the infrastructure for rapid relief delivery, and make other improvements.  Sum it all up.  Now, cut spending from the items in category one to fund half the total needed, in category two to pay the third, and in category three to cover one sixth the total.  Are you ready to endorse these cuts to pay for NOLA?

        If not, I submit you're not really serious about you said you wanted.


Varifrank Asks the Musical Question . . .

        Who's planning on invading North Korea?

        The answer he gives is 'Everybody.'  A very interesting post, go read it.  (Hat tip: Instapundit.)


Monday, September 19, 2005

The Anchoress Does It Again

        Bill Clinton was on TV over the weekend, claiming that Bush was no good.  This is mostly a *BIG YAWN* moment, but The Anchoress produced a great post about the ex-President, one very much worth reading.

        One of the things The Anchoress mentions is Clinton's wish to be a 'great' President, and his expressed regrets that nothing happened during his term that would allow him to demonstrate greatness.  As The Anchoress points out, this is bosh.  Clinton could have intervened in Rwanda to stop the genocide against the Tutsi, or invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein.  During his administration, he frequently said things that suggested he would go after Saddam.  But when you look more closely, it becomes apparent that he never contemplated using force to remove Saddam from power, or de-Ba'athize Iraq.  It was always going to be a last resort use of force to "damage" Saddam's regime, and take away some of his capabilities.

        In all this, Clinton reminds me of General McClellan.  McClellan talked a good fight, and was superb at training and administration, but when you study "his" battles, you find out that he was almost never on the field.  Instead, he nearly always found an excuse to be elsewhere, and on the few occasions he was present for battle, he was almost paralyzed.  There's a phrase for this kind of behavior, and the phrase is "moral cowardice."  Clinton is also a moral coward.  He had opportunities to show greatness, but they would have required hard, unpopular decisions.  He lacked the nerve to make them.

        Nerve is the big difference between Clinton and W.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Well, THIS is Interesting

From Strategypage.com:

LEADERSHIP: French Plans for Invading Iraq in 2003

        September 16, 2005: France was not always opposed to the American invasion of Iraq.  One persistent Pentagon rumor, however, might explain why the French came to oppose the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.  In December, 2002, a French staff officer visited the Pentagon with a proposal from his government.  France would send 18,000 troops (about what they contributed in 1991) to join the Iraq invasion force.  However, France wanted a specific area of occupation after the war, with full authority in that area for as long as Iraq needed to be occupied.  The American State Department backed the French proposal, but the Department of Defense didn’t trust the French, and were suspicious of their motives.  So the French officer went home empty handed, and the French government decided that invading Iraq was really an evil thing to do. 

        What exactly were the French up to?  No one is sure, but the most plausible theory was that the French wanted to be in Iraq, after Saddam fell, to make sure no embarrassing documents, or witnesses, showed up.  France had been supplying Saddam with weapons, and other assistance, for over three decades.  Moreover, how better to help get the Sunni Arabs back in power, than to have 18,000 French troops occupying, say, western Iraq.  This sort of arrangement is nothing new for the French.  Although France participated in the Balkans peacekeeping of the 1990s, France was known to be pro-Serb, and French officers were later caught helping out the Serbs in illegal ways.  Very embarrassing, but not unexpected.  The Pentagon was well aware of how the French pulled their pro-Serb stunts in the 1990s, and apparently wanted no more of that nonsense in Iraq.

        Hat tip to my Baen's Bar buddy Charles Prael.


Calame Slams Krugman and the Times

        Byron Calame is improving as a public editor for the New York Times. His second to last column got on Paul Krugman's case, for putting erroneous information in his op-ed column, and being reluctant to acknowledge his error.

        Calame's latest ups the stakes, as Calame points out that Krugman still hasn't printed a correction, and further notes that Krugman's editor is letting him get away with this, in violation of her own stated policy.  As Calame asks:
A bottom-line question: Does a corrections policy not enforced damage The Times's credibility more than having no policy at all?
        You can find the text of both articles here, in case it goes behind the Times pay-per-view wall.

        Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.

        Oh, one more thing: Krugman admits in an e-mail to Calame that he really doesn't care if he gets his facts correct.  Remember that, when someone quotes Krugman as an authority.


Friday, September 16, 2005

I's Back.

        I just was too tired to blog the last few days, but I hope to be back in harness soon.

        Meanwhile, Bill Hobb's site won't let me post this (some kind of computer problem), so I'll put it here. It was on the alleged NOLA evacuation plan.

        Pardon me, but many of your are arguing on a factually incorrect basis.

        The state of Louisiana DID NOT HAVE ANY REAL HURRICANE DISASTER PLAN.  They did try to pretend otherwisse, but it wasn't so.  I've misplaced the reference, and I'm over 24 hours without sleep at this moment, but if you google the state of Louisiana hurricane evacuation plan, you should find it.

        What the "plan" stated was that in tbe event an evacuation was necessary, the state would have extra highway patrolmen directing traffic.  The state government would also "co-ordinate" and "keep the media informed."  In English, they'd sit in the capitol and leave it all to the local authorities, while taking advantage of media coverage to look like they were doing something.  That's what the state was going to do.  Everything else governmental would be fobbed off on someone else.

        As for the City of New Orleans, IT NEVER PLANNED TO EVACUATE ANYONE FROM THE COAST IN CITY OR PARISH VEHICLES.  When I say neve, I mean it as in "not at all, wasn't going to happen, we've told everyone who asked it wasn't going to happen, and we will no even try." 

        I have a long post on this here, with links to the city's alleged evacuation plan, and a Times-Picayune article on the city's planning.  To summarize:

        1) If it became necessary to evacuate, the plan was for the population to drive themselves out, in their privately owned vehicles.

        2) If you didn't have a vehicle, better arrange a ride.  The city of NOLA didn't think it had the resouces to get you out, and in any case wasn't going ot try.

        3) If you don't get out, and your house isn't safe, NOLA would attempt to move you to some place within the city or parish, but that's it.  They weren't planning on evacuating people from the coast.

        Just in case you still don't get it, let me rephrase: the official "evacuation" plan was to bus people to the Superdome or other public facilities in NOLA.  That is exactlty what the city government did.

        4) In the event of a major levee failure or overtopping, hope that you can tread water.

        That was NOLA's plan in a nutshell.  The only part they didn't carry out was explaining to people that in an emergency, thousands would drown.  And that, they were working allegedly working on.  In other words, they gambled the Big One wouldn't hit while they were in office.  From the sixties through last August, that worked.  This year, their luch ran out.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

How Easy It Is To Forget

        A year ago, I was on my ninth day of blogging.  No mention of what day it was.  I was concentrating on that pathetic worm Dan Rather.   I managed two decent posts, and one good one, but none of them were about the most import public event of my lifetime since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

        Learn from that: it's easy and human to focus on the recent and the short term, and ignore what truly matters.


September 11th


Saturday, September 10, 2005

And Be Sure to Read Charles Krauthammer

      This piece identifies the many guilty parties quite well.


The Anchoress Nails It, As Usual

      Some excerpts:
      Want to castigate FEMA director Michael Brown and accuse the Bushies of Republican Cronyism?  Well, you can, and you’d be perfectly right to.  But then you have to recall that he was confirmed by a voice vote when the congress was controlled by Democrats [sic; should be 'the Senate'], and then you have to wonder what favors were exchanged by both parties in order to bring this mediocrity into his job. . . .

      Want to kvetch that FEMA should never have been melded into the Department of Homeland Security?  Okay…but again, that action was accomplished by a bi-partisan act of congress (one which - it must be pointed out - now-critical voices helped to vote in). . . .

      WE are, my dear friends, part of the problem.  WE contribute to all of this intertwined, incestuous political backscratching, playacting, cronyism and pork-funding, because we’ve put up with it, thinking it all a basically harmless, unfixable nuisance.  “It’s just the way things are done,” we said.  You want someone to blame?  Have a mirror handy?

      Read the whole thing.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Views and News About New Orleans

      I'm going to be away from the computer all day, so if you're hungering for further pearls of my ineffable wisdom, come back tomorrow.  This is my last post for Friday.

      When you're forced out of NOLA, your gun will be confiscated, if you're only a citizen.  If you're a security guard hired by the rich, however, you may keep it.

      One reason the government didn't take Hurricane Katrina seriously was hardly anyone did, including the media.  NBC dismissed the idea that Katrina might be as destructive as it turned out to be.  No one could take the realities seriously.

      Though they currently deny it, MoveOn reportedly had plans to use Katrina to bash John Roberts.  The idea was supposedly going to be 'Victims of Katrina were mostly poor and black; Roberts isn't sensitive enough to the problems of the poor and black; Roberts shouldn't be on the Supreme Court.'  Did USA Today get it wrong, or did they back down?  YOU MAKE THE CALL!  Me, I think they backed down.

      One reason the levees didn't hold: politicians at all levels had other projects they preferred to spend public works money on.

      Jerry Pournelle points out that one of the problems with government is that we centralized disaster relief, to take it out of the hands of the locals..  Surprise, it worked!  Now we don't like the results.

      Jerry also remarks: "The primary responsibility for domestic crisis is the State which means the Governor.  Everyone including the Governor knows this.  Louisiana and Arkansas have for years contested to see which can be the most corrupt and least efficient state, and both generally win."  Varifrank thinks the upcoming lawsuits will destroy LA's Democratic machine.


The Full Horror Sinks In

      Hurricane Katrina may NOT help the Democrats politically.

      Hat tip to Glenn.


Thursday, September 08, 2005


At Length:

      According to UPI, the London Bombings were definitely the work of al-Qaida.

      I'd never have guessed.

      Hat tip: Powerline.


Recommended Reading

      Bill Whittle's essay Tribes.


A Vision From an Alternate Reality

      What would have happened if a storm like Katrina had hit in 1999?  Craig Newmark is vouchsafed a vision.




      Al Franken, lying liar, has been caught in a lie about the Air America scandal.

At Length:

      Al Franken and Air America, that is.  Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney have found a notarized legal document signed by Franken, in which the Air America "loan" from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls club is acknowledged by Piquant Media, who bought Air America from Evan Cohen's and Rex Sorensen's original company.

      Kudos to Maloney and Malkin, for keeping after this.  Note that most of the MSM ignores the story, hoping they won't have to say bad things about their fellow liberals.

      If you're willing to put up with the utterly evil pdf format, you can find copies of the documents here.

      UPDATE: In an interview with The New York Sun, Franken claims he signed the papers without reading them, and that he's not an investor in Air America.

      Which leaves me wondering why he was signing them at all . . .


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Recurring Theme: Editing-as-Lying

      I wrote about it a year ago (and by the way, Friday was my blogiversary; I forgot).  Now, John Leo demonstrates how the press is using editing-as-lying to cover up the truth about Cindy Sheehan.

      Some things don't change, do they?



      Next weekend is the anniversary of 9/11.  Last weekend was the anniversary of the Beslan, Russia massacre.  Neo-neocon has a typically insightful post.


Katrina Timeline, and a Times-Picayune series

      There's a great timeline on Katrina and the response to it by people in various government departments, at Right Wing Nut House (once more, props to Glenn).  By the way, this story, linked to in the timeline, illustrates the problem in NOLA in a nutshell:
      About 26,000 New Orleans residents sought refuge from Hurricane Katrina at the Superdome, which authorities describe as the "shelter of last resort," Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said late Sunday.  To help keep them fed and hydrated, the Louisiana National Guard delivered three truckloads of water and seven truckloads of MREs — short for "meals ready to eat."  That's enough to supply 15,000 people for three days, according to Col. Jay Mayeaux, deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Preparedness.

      So, they put in 45,000 person/days of food and water.  With 26,000 already in the dome, that means they run out in 1.7 days.  Since FEMA's planning was for up to four days without relief from outside, they did less than half what was required.

      One of the things I've wondered about is when the National Guard was called out.  This Monday story said 4,000 Guards were mobilizing to assist NOLA -- in Nashville, TN.  How they were supposed to get from Nashville to NOLA isn't mentioned.  There were only one hundred fifty or so in the city when the storm hit.

      And here's a link to a five part Times-Picayune series on NOLA getting destroyed by a hurricane.  It was published in 2002.  This section is especially relevant.

      My wife K. said the whole situation reminded her of The Creeping Terror, in which people are menaced by a large rug that moves at less than a slow walk.  When they see it, everyone screams and huddles in the nearest corner or other place with no escape route, waiting to be eaten by the monster.  And that's about what NOLA did.

      Two other things worth reading here and here.


More on New Orleans Planning

      See this Newsday article.  As I said before, letting people die was part of the plan.


Good Op-Ed Column

      By John Tierney, in the New York Times.  You can read it here, if you're a registered Times user acting before Sept. 20th, or over here otherwise.

      But do read it.  It speaks directly to the point I made in my previous post about making decisions and getting things done.

      Hat tip: Instapundit.


Right Problem, Wrong Solution

      Micah L. Sifrey, a liberal, comments in his Sept. 2nd post "New Orleans Blues" (no permalink):
      But here's why I'm worried: it isn't just government that's broken, it's the whole system for changing government that is broken too.

      I hope I'm proven wrong, but right now it seems to me that we no longer have the ability to change direction.  People may be turning, en masse, against Bush's failure to provide the most elemental of government services, public safety.  But that doesn't mean they will turn to the only available alternative, the Democrats, when the next congressional elections roll around 14 months from now.

      But here's the deeper problem.  Democrats have to stand for something other than "not Bush"--and there are many reasons to doubt they can.  The dirty little secret of Washington insider politics is that both parties benefit from the game.  I hardly trust the Democrats to clean up the mess left by the Republicans, do you?

      Right now, if the Democrats were a real opposition to Bush, they'd be howling at him for cutting $75 million for Army Corps of Engineers hurricane and flood control projects in the New Orleans district, while signing a $286 billion highway bill that included $231 million for a bridge to an island inhabited by 50 people in Alaska, which is to be named "Don Young's Way" in honor of the House Transportation Committee chairman. . . .

      At any point in the process, Democrats could have stood together and objected to a bill that directed tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to questionable projects (more than 6,000 by the count of Taxpayers for Common Sense) while shortchanging essential needs like New Orleans flood control.  But they didn't. . . .

      Why should we trust these Democrats to fix our broken government?  They're part of the problem too.

      Take out the anti-Republican propoganda, and you have a good point, but the solution isn't quite the one he thinks it is.

      There's three things wrong with Sifry's post, two minor.  The first minor one is that the President proposes, Congress disposes.  Bush has never vetoed a bill, so if the Congress had passed the appropriation for $75 million more, Bush probably would have signed it.  The second minor problem is that even if the money had been appropriated, it probably wouldn't have mattered.  There've been many stories over the last few days about how the levees and floodwalls were up to standard, and one of the ones tbat broke had only recently been upgraded (I'm tired, google them yourself).

      The third problem, the major one, is that government can't make choices anymore.  One of the reasons the hurricane hit as hard as it did was that the Mississippi Delta has eroded.  The delta eroded in part because of natural processes, in part, possibly, because of oil drilling, and in part because of previous flood control projects.  The Mississippi used to slow down at the mouth of the delta, and drop silt, but the flood control projects made the outlet flow fast, dumping the silt in deep water.  There have been proposals to reverse that, and let the river flood again downstream from New Orleans.  But that would screw things up for people who are using the river the way it is now.  So it doesn't get done.

      The government could have gone with bigger levees and better flood control, of course.  But that's opposed by people who don't like the enviornmental damage the present flood control causes.  So it doesn't get done.

      By the way, the Army Corps of Engineers was working on a plan to make NOLA safe from a category 5 hurricane.  They figured the contruction would last thirty (30) years.  The plan in the meantime?  Hope the new works aren't needed.  It would have been very expensive, and Congress didn't want to pass it.  Nothing got done.

      Little gets done because the country is full of special interest groups and single issue voters, and they exert enough leverage to stop decisions they don't like.  What we need is something like a national initiative/referendum system to allow the people as a whole to make big, tough decisions.  But to do that, we'd need a Constitutional Amendment.  The amendment would have to be proposed by two thirds of both houses of Congress, or a Constitutional Convention called by for by 38 state legislatures.  The special interest groups would object.  So it doesn't get done.

      Maybe one day, the majority will get so fed up, the yellow dog Democrats will vote Republican if the GOP candidate supports such a process, and the Dem doesn't.  Maybe one day, Republicans will vote for lefty Democrats if needed to get such an amendment passed.  But it hasn't happened yet.  Till it does, nothing will be done.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Not Quite Correct, or 'Noah and Jehovah, Disaster Planners'

      Update: Welcome, Clayton Cramer readers.  Look around, see how truly opinionated one guy can be!


      There've been a lot of reports about New Orleans failing to implement its own disaster plans, especially about how the didn't use the buses it had available to get people without cars out of the city.  These claims are only partially true.

  • The City of New Orleans’s official plan for getting people out of "the bowl" was to tell them 'Leave town,' but do nothing to help them leave if they didn't have cars.  That's exactly what the city did.

  • The plan for those who couldn't leave was in two parts: a) tell them 'Hitch a ride;' b) move them around in the city.  NOLA didn't do a), it did do b).

  • The city could have evacuated over 40% of those without transportation in one effort, using city buses, and everyone in three trips — but the plan for evacuating people on buses was 'Don't even try.'  And they didn't.

      So New Orleans’s emergency plan was mostly implemented.  As predicted by many, thousands died.  Objectively, letting them die was the city's policy.

At Length:

      Well, this is interesting.  Just what was New Orleans officially supposed to do in the event of a major, "fill-the-bowl" hurricane?  Nothing much, as far as I can discover.

      New Orleans had an official hurricane disaster plan.  A lot of people are citing it, but very few seem to be reading it.  I can't find a date of issue, but it did envisage evacuating people in the event of a hurricane.  Only, the evacuations were to be to local schools.  The list of "Hurricane Evacuation Shelters was:
Laurel Elementary School

Walter S. Cohen High School

Medard Nelson Elementary School

Sarah T. Reed High School

Southern University Multi Purpose Center

Southern University New Science Building

O. Perry Walker High School

Albert Wicker Elementary School

      Googling these with the words "New Orleans" added brings up an address within the City of New Orleans for all of them.  Getting people out of "the bowl" wasn't policy.

      And even more interesting is a New Orleans Times-Picayune story, dated July 24, 2005, which I found on Brad DeLong's site, after following a link from Glenn Reynolds.  This would appear to be New Orleans final plan for a hurricane disaster.  And what was it?:
      City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own.  In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

      In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation.  "You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," Wilkins said in an interview.  "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area.  We can help you.  "But we don't have the transportation."

      Officials are recording the evacuation message even as recent research by the University of New Orleans indicated that as many as 60 percent of the residents of most southeast Louisiana parishes would remain in their homes in the event of a Category 3 hurricane.  Their message will be distributed on hundreds of DVDs across the city.  The DVDs' basic get-out-of-town message applies to all audiences, but the it is especially targeted to scores of churches and other groups heavily concentrated in Central City and other vulnerable, low-income neighborhoods, said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, head of Total Community Action.  "The primary message is that each person is primarily responsible for themselves, for their own family and friends," Truehill said.

      So the official New Orleans plan A for dealing with a hurricane that "flooded the bowl," as Katrina did, was to tell people "Leave."  Plan B, for those who didn't have their own transportation, was to tell them "Hitch a ride with someone."  That never got done.  Plan C, for those who hadn't made arrangements to leave, appears to have been devised by a fan of Bill Cosby's great Noah routines: "How long can you tread water?"  Or maybe he was a fan of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel Oath of Fealty: "Think of it as evolution in action."  That would explain why so little aid was available after the levees broke.  Or perhaps the planner saw Dirty Harry one time too many, and adopted the motto "Do you feel lucky?"  In any case, the policy was that people would be moved around inside the bowl, but NOT removed from the city.  Surviving with 80% of the city under water would be their problem.  That policy was implemented.  Thoroughly.  (Note that the story talks about category 3 hurricanes, but not categories 4 & 5.  They weren't even attempting to deal with those).

      Which brings up the question of what New Orleans could have done?  As I noted here, there were at least 569 school and transit authority buses available in New Orleans.  The Times-Picayune story linked above says there were 134,000 people who didn't have their own transportation.  Divide 134,000 by 569 and you get 235.  Since Jabbar Gibbson demonstrated that you could pack 100 people in a school bus and drive them from New Orleans to Houston, it would have taken two round trips and a one way trip to get everyone out of town.  So, contrary to the story’s claim, they did have transportation.  But the city chose not to try using it.

      It would be interesting to know when the Emergency Hurricane plan was issued, why the DVDs were never distributed, and especially why the hurricane plan didn't provide for mass evacuation from the city limits.  But it's wrong to say the plan wasn't followed.  The plan was, 'We're not doing anything, you're on your own.'  And lordy, but the city government implemented it.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ah, Now I Understand

      Eric Free explains modern history to James Taranto:
      The flood in Genesis was caused by Global Warming.  So was the Johnstown Flood.  So was Curt Flood.  So were the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea.

      The Chicago Fire of 1871 was caused by Global Warming.  So was the Panic of 1873.  So was the Panic of 1837.  The bubonic plague too was caused by Global Warming (how could you forget this?).  So was the fall of Constantinople (note the parallel with the war in Iraq).  And the Red Chinese onslaught across the Yalu River in the Korean War was caused by Global Warming.  So was the Normandy Invasion in World War II.  So was the Norman Invasion of 1066.  And the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and Haley's Comet.  And for that matter the Hale-Bopp Comet.

      The title weather in "Bartholomew and the Oobleck" was clearly caused by Global Warming.  So was the pink snow in "The Cat in the Hat."  So was Andersonville Prison during the Civil War.  So was the entire Civil War.  So was the Amityville Horror.  So was the Dunwich Horror.  So was the failure of the Colorado Rockies to make it to the World Series every single year that they've been a Major League franchise.  So was the failure of any of the three "Matrix" movies starring Keanu Reeves to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

      AND GEORGE W'S ELECTION TO THE PRESIDENCY IN 2000 WAS CAUSED BY GLOBAL WARMING!!!  (Why do you think he opposes an end to it, after all?)

      We must admit, we never thought of it quite that way.


Change of Policy

      I just found five comment spams on the blog, so I implemented the word verification feature.  Sorry if that inconveniences anyone, but I a) Don't like people using my blog to sell stuff without asking me.  b) Don't like not getting a cut of sales. c) And especially don't like "Anonymous" telling me 'Great blog, I'll bookmark it, meanwhile, why don't you check out . . . '.  If they said "We're using your site to make money, and we never actually read it, I just might let them get by with it.


William Rehnquist, Rest In Peace

Saturday, September 03, 2005

It's All Bush's Fault

      You can find proof of the blamelessness of all Louisiana officials here, here, here, here, here, and of course in the sources cited here.


A Major Failure

      New Orleans appears to have had 205 school buses and 364 or more regular buses that it could have used to evacuate people.  That's on the order of 28,000 people who could have been removed, before the storm, and about the same number again within a day or two after it.

      The Mayor of N.O. should shut up about the federal and state governments not doing enough, I think.

      OOPS, I forgot.  Hat tip: Instapundit


20/20 Hindsight

      At the New York TimesE. U. Rota tells how people who were clueless before Katrina are very wise afterwards.

      Hat tip: Instapundit.


Great Failures in Homeland Security, 1-3

      Why is bin Laden alive today?  We lacked the balls to kill him.

      Betsy Newmark has the story.


Well, Isn't That Special

      Instapundit tells us that a study reveals huge shale oil deposits in the U.S.

      BFD, folks.  Back in 1972, "Adam Smith," aka George J. W. Goodman, wrote a book called Supermoney, which mentioned shale oil, saying there were vast deposits in the U.S., but only a "kid" just out of business school would invest in them, because they were too expensive to extract the oil from.  Shale oil was an old story 33 years ago!

      When someone starts extracting shale oil successfully and selling it, I'll believe it.  Not till then, though.


Give For Katrina Recovery

      Last night, K. looked at her check book, and asked how much I'd donated to aid Katrina victims.

      "Fifty Dollars", said I.

      She thought a moment and said, "Give them another hundred."

      So just now, I donated another hundred dollars ($100.00) to the Salvation Army.  You, too, should find a reputable charity that's acceptable to you, and give what you can.  If you need suggestions, you'll find a bunch here.  Ours continue to go to:

The Salvation Army, 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).

      Afterwards go over to NZ Bear's, and you can log your contribution.

Technorati Tags: flood aid, Hurricane Katrina

Crossposted from: Cut Steve's Blatherings

Thursday, September 01, 2005

You Can Learn a Lot by Watching


      Though you may have some trouble if you're the New York Times, and the subject is looters.

At Length:

      The Times has an article on looting in New Orleans.  If you don't want to register, or if the article has expired, you can still find it here.

      So.  Notice the bias: A) sympathy for the looters:
      The desperate and the opportunistic . . .

      Many people with property brought out their own shotguns and sidearms. . . .

      All sizes and types of stores, from Wal-Mart to the Rite Aid to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop, turned into bazaars of free merchandise [This leaves out the jewelry stores and such; or the hospitals where health care workers cars are broken into while they try to save lives inside]. . . .

      Though no one excused the stealing, many officials were careful not to depict every looter as a petty thief.

      "Had New York been closed off on 9/11, who can say what they would have done?" said Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, vice president of the New Orleans City Council. "When there's no food, no water, no sanitation, who can say what you'd do? People were trying to protect their children. I don't condone lawlessness, but this doesn't represent the generous people of New Orleans." . . .

      "Yes, in a sense it's wrong, but survival is the name of the game," said the woman, who would not identify herself. "I've got six grandchildren. We didn't know this was going to happen. The water is off. We're trying to get supplies we need."

      B) 'Nothing can be done':
      . .. an overwhelmed police force . . .

      . . . Because the New Orleans police were preoccupied with search and rescue missions,

      . . . Besides the strain of having to rescue survivors, the police are bereft of much of their equipment, buildings and essential communications.

      Question, what do you think a few reports of looters being shot dead without warning would do?  But of course, that would be uncivilized.

      C) The most important bias is what isn't there.  Looting after a disaster, or during a riot, is nothing new.  But if the Times reporters mentioned that, they'd have to ask what was learned in other cases.  Reminding people would be unacceptable, because what was learned is 'Immediate, overwhelming force is the only response that works.'

      Meanwhile, learn yourselves from this.  There is a streak of evil in every person.  Force is the only way ever found to keep some people in check.  Be ready to use it yourself, or admit that you're a child and need an adult protector who can use force.

      Ted Frank at PointofLaw.com has a post on why looters should be shot.  Hat tip to Glenn.


And Remember . . .

      It's Katrina bleg day.  I just sent $50.00 I can't really afford to:

The Salvation Army, 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).

      Give what you can, and then a little more.


Thoughts on the Gulf Coast


      Will says the New Orleans disaster couldn't have been planned for.  He's 90% right.

At Length:

      Over at Free Will, there's a long post I almost agree with.  Basically, it says 'Shut up about "Why isn't any body doing anything, and why wasn't there a plan for this?", because the answer is, this isn't the kind of thing you can plan for.  When something like this happens, you're screwed.'

      My disagreement, such as it is, is with the difference between 'could' and 'would.'  At one point, Will asks what can be done about looters?  Shoot them?  Why yes, that would work nicely.  But the mayor, and perhaps the governor, can't bring themselves to make the decision.

      The same is true for some of the other things he mentions.  The levees weren't strong enough for a category 5 storm, only a 3?  They could have been made stronger decades ago.  There could have been better evacuation planning, but nobody wanted to face the nightmare, or do things that might turn out to be unnecessary.

      This is all very human.  'If we do nothing, maybe the problem will go away on its own.'  A few years ago, I was without power for a week.  I swore I'd buy an emergency generator as soon as possible.  Real Soon Now . . .

      And if the politicians had tried to do something, much of the public wouldn't have supported them, some would even have opposed them.  So, in terms of what was politically possible before the storm, yes, Will's mostly right.  But if we have the gumption, we can do better than this.  And we should.

      Hat tip: Instapundit.

Update: Some thoughts on disaster preparedness here, from Glenn Reynolds.