Wednesday, September 28, 2005

With Apologies to Lewis Carroll...

"Oh frabjous day, so long DeLay! He chortled in his joy."

Not that this is going to change anything substantial, but it's still rather nice to read.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Republican Manipulation Made Easy... and Funny!

Everybody needs to go read this piece by James Kroeger - it's an excellent breakdown of the kind of tools and methods that the Republicans tend to use to influence and dominate the perceptions of voters, especially swing voters, when the "Issues" debate breaks down and elections start becoming about voters' impressions of the candidates. Most of this isn't new, but this is one of the better expressions of such that I've read in a while.

A sample:

So it’s not the words we use, Democrats; it’s the emotions we show when we use particular words. Consider the phony outrage that Lynne & Dick Cheney expressed after the third debate. At a time when it was crucial for Kerry to continue to build momentum after a solid debate performance, his advisors ended up losing the post-debate spin. They lost it because they didn’t understand how crucial Kerry’s response would be and they didn’t understand how a candidate absolutely must respond to an Angry Outrage Performance if she wants to win. The big story that Swing Voters saw on TV the next day (those who didn’t watch the debate) was that the Cheneys were really angry that Kerry had called their daughter a lesbian on national TV. What turned this into a home run for the Republicans was Kerry’s unfortunate response; a written statement that sounded a lot like an apology. The overall impression this gave to Swing Voters was that Kerry had apparently done some “dirty politicking.” Then, after the Cheneys apparently called him on it, he offered [what sounded like] a weak apology and then tried to change the subject.

Whenever Democratic candidates are the target of a Republican politician’s expressed anger, it is crucial that they respond properly if they want to win The Image Campaign. Impressions formed during such confrontations are usually remembered on voting day. John Kerry should have responded emotionally by calling for a televised press conference, and then using the spotlight to laugh at the Cheneys’ phony display of anger. Laughter is the appropriate emotion for a candidate to feel and express when he is guilty of no wrongdoing whatsoever. After laughing at the Cheneys, Kerry would then have been able to focus the media’s attention on the real story, which was/is the clever manipulations and deceptions that the Republicans always use to mislead voters. Anyone remember what Karen Hughes did to Al Gore in 2000 with the same kind of expressions of emotion (outrage, indignation)?

With this kind of response, Kerry would have told Swing Voters how they should respond to the reports they’re hearing. (Human Nature 101: people depend on you to tell them how to perceive you.) Generating a ‘rapid response’ doesn’t mean much if your response doesn’t communicate a message that will help your campaign. Additionally, holding a press conference would have given Kerry an opportunity to enjoy the humor of the situation with the members of the media who were present (it encourages the media to have a favorable impression of you as a candidate). In his initial remarks to the press, he would have wanted to smile broadly, shake his head, and express mild but sincere amusement at the Cheneys’ performance. Then, he would have wanted to review with good-humored stabs of ridicule the many times that the Cheneys had, themselves, mentioned their daughter’s lesbianism to the public.
Welcome to the realm of the Daily Show- THIS is why Jon Stewart has credibility to burn and is seen as so important politically. Comedy works. Mockery works. By making your opponent into a comical figure, you invalidate him and reinforce the division between him and potential voters. You don't need to be gifted at it, although it helps- what you need is to put across the impression that you think that the outrage is phony and ridiculous- that it's just transparently political gamesmanship.

In turn, it also reinforces the legitimacy of your own outrage. If you are perceived as being able to tell the difference between what is an obvious political tactic and a real issue, the issues that you bring up seriously will have their severity reinforced. That's why the most powerful moments on the Daily Show are when Jon puts away the comedy and drops the hammer on something that clearly REALLY ticks him off. That's how he got Crossfire cancelled and Tucker Carlson exiled from CNN.

That's also why Bill Hicks was such an amazing comedian.

There is a danger in people getting annoyed that you take something they consider important too lightly. That's why one needs to be careful to pick and choose what works politically and what doesn't. Rush Limbaugh's choice of comedic targets (he's not that funny, but he does delegitimize well) are made to maximize his reach among his targeted audience, accepting that he will alienate those who disagree. He doesn't care that feminists will be outraged by the "feminazi" label, for example- on the contrary, he can use it to reinforce his positions. He has more freedom than Republican politicians do, of course, but that's part of the game- commentators can and should go much farther than politicians, because they need not worry so much about alienation.

And, yes, this can win or lose elections. Ask any Canadian about the point where Stockwell Day "jumped the shark", and they'll tell you it was over the "Niagara Falls" controversy, where Day mixed up which direction the water flowed, and the controversy over young-earth creationism, where the fundamentalist Day was quoted as saying that he believed that dinosaurs and humans lived on earth at the same time. The dominant Liberal party ran with this all the way to another majority, laughing all the way.

Attempts by Day's party, years later, to paint Liberal leader Paul Martin as sympathetic to pedophiles was even more disastrous, and a textbook example of how to handle Rove-style tactics. The Liberal response was not pure outrage or (God forbid) a policy shift and/or apology, but a widespread mixture of amazed outrage and mockery.

Oddly enough, Canadian conservatives believed that they had a winning issue. After all, pedophilia is the worst taboo in the western world, but instead it doomed the party's chances of winning the government. The Liberals used the technique to paint the opposition Conservative party as a pack of opportunists and lunatics, either so out of touch as to actually believe that Paul Martin was a pedophile or so opportunistic as to make the claim as a cynical ploy. The attack was disasterous because the Liberals successfully turned the blade back on the Conservatives- PRECISELY the technique that Kroeger advocates!

Yes, folks, it works!

And that's just one small part of the essay. Kroeger has lots more. Go read it.

Edit: A pack of vicious cowardly thugs (who would be, no doubt, proud of the appellation) linked to this piece, attacking it through (as is usual) a rather inept "fisking" that substituted their own assumptions and prejudices for his own. I will not link to them; the site makes LGF look like the Well. Their inept rhetorical thrashings did, however, reveal two points worth response: swing voters aren't stupid, and that Democratic candidates don't actually stand for anything.

On the former, the problem is not stupidity but disengagement; it takes time to learn the complexity of issues, and those who haven't got the time but still want to choose a competent leader will rely on that thing that everybody believes they understand: morals and character. Not all swing voters decide this way, but enough do that it makes a large difference.

(Even if swing voters were dumb, however, there's no way the beneficiaries of that would every admit it. To paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, everybody's an idiot except those who agree with you: they are brilliant. Thus, the wankers lack credibility to judge.)

On the latter, I can only respond by saying that that's the problem you blind ignorant fool, but there is a difference between the candidates and the rank and file: the latter have verifiable and passionate beliefs. Even if you loathe and fear them, as these little fascist wankers do, you must acknowledge them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

For those criticizing NASA's "timing"...

Cutting NASA's budget will not feed poor people.

It will feed Lexus dealers.

Texas is in Deep, Deep Trouble

Rita's a Category 5, and it's on its way to Houston. The projections are of "massive devastation".

And because Houston, Galveston and Port Arthur are key to Texas' refinery capacity, we could be seeing $5-a-gallon gasoline.

Might I suggest filling up your tanks now?


Bill Scher and David Sirota have a pair of good articles about the utter failure of the media, the official Democratic party, and the Democratic establishment surrounding the party to do a damned thing to prevent the Republicans from railroading John Roberts to the Chief Justice position.

A while back I had said that if the Democrats don't do anything to block Roberts, they'll have demonstrated their weakness and lack of resolve. Lo and Behold. Once again, they come across as spineless and ineffective, thanks to a strategist class that fears confrontation and a political culture of fear in general. Once again, they are seen as having no committment to their principles. Once again, they give the American public little reason to believe that they're worth electing.

And, once again, they hadn't learned to SHUT THE HELL UP:

Yet, it was the same Democratic strategist class that helped create the perception in the first place that Roberts is "widely expected to win confirmation." If you recall, the very first day after the Roberts nomination was announced, Democratic strategists (most likely before they even gave a cursory review of Roberts' record) pitched a front page story to the Washington Post headlined "Democrats Say Nominee Will Be Hard to Defeat." Great strategy for a party that is perceived to stand for nothing: lead the biggest debate with an admission that you don't have enough guts to even make a fight of it.
I realize that I'm not a high-priced political consultant, but I think I speak for everybody when I say that the Dems need to learn to play their cards close to their chest, and not go blabbing to the Washington Post about everything that could possibly damage them.

The article linked quotes them as saying "they conceded [the nomination] could be hard to beat". Why on earth concede that? Why on earth concede anything? The press certainly isn't going to treat you any better- far from it. The Republicans don't do this. The inches of headline space it gets you aren't going to be complimentary. It cannot possibly be part of any winning political strategy- you won't get an ounce of credit with the public, which loves it when people take a doomed stand for what they believe in. Is anybody advocating this, or are they just not thinking?

With such ineptitude, it's no wonder that a one-trick pony like Rove seems like a genius.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

One Beeeelion

Erm, yeah, tip to those in the Bush administration who are chattering about how well the training of the Iraqi army is going:

All the training in the world won't matter when the defence minister hightails it with the money that was supposed to buy weapons.

Well, ok, that's not quite fair. They did get weapons:

The "robbery" is believed to include the signing of multimillion-dollar deals with companies to supply equipment that was sometimes inappropriate for the new army or was years out of date. It is also alleged that the ministry paid huge premiums for some military hardware.

Mr Allawi said the rampant corruption and fraud at the defence ministry had left the new Iraqi army with second-rate weapons with which to confront the insurgency. "Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal," Mr Allawi said.
Guess what the guy's excuse is?

Mr Shaalan, who is understood to be living in Jordan, has denied complicity in the scandal, saying that his actions as defence minister were ultimately the responsibility of the US authorities in Iraq.
This is likely true- the Iraqi government isn't going to say "boo" right now without the US authorities holding up a cue card. Either the US authorities didn't know, or didn't care. "Didn't know" is possible, but "didn't care" is much scarier, because it implies that the authorities know that they aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and that all this "training" is a mirage.

Considering that the people describing Iraq as a "permanent base" haven't exactly gone anywhere except under political cover, it seems that "didn't care" is likelier as well.

Even had Katrina not already ruined its credibility, the Bush administration seems doomed to it in Iraq anyway. Katrina just sped up the timeline.

Friday, September 16, 2005


this ain't me, but it's funny that the concept comes so easily to other people as well.

To be clear, though: Just like these fellows, I have no connection to Orson Scott Card, nor his work. I don't share political beliefs with him, and I'm not running any sort of complex scam. I merely wanted to use a pseudonym that reflected both on the value of pseudonymous debate and on political rhetoric in general.

Besides, Ender's Game was a brilliant book, and the two subsequent series had a lot of bright moments as well, even if the "Shadow" series had Heinlein-esque issues with conservative preachiness.

(This came up wayyyy back when I was having issues with ol' Steven Den Beste, but as the link to my first post that I had on the old site isn't on this one yet, I thought I should make things clear.)

What interests me, though, is that according to the google blogsearch, I'm about the only "Demosthenes" that stays pseudonymous. Not sure why that is.

"Yard Apes"

Wow, you can probably smell the racism going on in the US right now from somewhere in Chile.

A Greenville Technical College official who twice referred to New Orleans evacuees in Greenville as "yard apes" has resigned, school officials said. Renee Holcombe, formerly an associate vice president for student services with a staff of about 40, told employees in two separate briefings last week that the school's aid for the mostly black hurricane victims staying at the Palmetto Expo Center would include sending yellow buses to pick up the "yard apes," said Barton and senior vice president Ben Dillard....
Story's on Crooks and Liars.

On the Bush speech: didn't watch it, been catching the reactions, though, and it looks like he's getting cover from pretty much everybody he's promised money to. Makes sense- they want turkee, and being able to nail the president on his "too little, too late" isn't worth poverty. The question is whether or not the media raises the question of why the hell Karl Rove is running this thing. Unlikely.

Meanwhile, can somebody explain to me why the "we'll nuke them before they nuke us" thing got practically no attention, especially from the big players? A technorati search brings up precious little, and a google blogsearch brings up a number of blogs, but few that are considered the "big blogs", whether conservative or liberal.

People can write about whatever they please, of course, but it is odd.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Talking Pointacide

Yet another one bites the dust: the Congressional Research Office has concluded that Governor Blanco did everything she needed to to get the federal help that didn't come. Admittedly, it also said that the President made the appropriate formal declarations to get the help moving too.

So, once again, we go back to where we started- the unserious attitude towards disaster relief and public service that characterizes the modern Republican party and the Bush presidency.

(Source: Atrios)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Twisting in the wind

Brown is out.

Well, somebody had to get fired. Might as well be him. It's not like Bush is going anywhere.

Still, the core question isn't resolved, and it isn't "how much is Bush responsible" but "how much is Republicanism responsible?"

LDP landslide

Over in Japan, Junichiro Koizumi's LDP has just won a massive victory, one of the biggest in decades of LDP rule. Oddly enough, the leader of one of the most powerful political dynasties in the democratic world won it by being a "rebel", supposedly against the forces trying to stop him from privatizing Japan Post.

(Which is, by the by, not about postal delivery, but about something like 3 trillion dollars in assets- the post office serves as a kind of public bank, and a lot of people in Japan employ it as a safe and conservative investment. While understandable, Japan's predilection for safe and conservative investment is one of the reasons why the country is having problems in the first place.

The key question for me is what this says about foreign policy. This election was not fought on foreign policy, but the enormous win is going to embolden the LDP to seek "normalization" of Japan's foreign policy (read: move away from pacifism), and Koizumi's controversial visits to the Yasukuni war shrine are clearly not ending anytime soon.

While this election may be a good thing for the Japanese economy, I do wonder whether or not it will increase the tensions between Japan and China. Hu Jintao is a pragmatist, so I expect that he'll read the situation correctly and understand that this isn't a full-out endorsement of the controversial normalization process...but not everybody in China is going to see it this way, and they're pretty paranoid about Japanese militarization.

Absolutely Batshit Insane

Impolite, perhaps, but what would you call the Bush administration apparently adopting a policy of PREEMPTIVE NUCLEAR ATTACKS.

A PRESIDENT of the United States would be able to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against enemies planning to use weapons of mass destruction under a revised “nuclear operations” doctrine to be signed in the next few weeks.

In a significant shift after half a century of nuclear deterrence based on the threat of massive retaliation, the revised doctrine would allow pre-emptive strikes against states or terror groups, and to destroy chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.

Presidential approval would still be required for any nuclear strike, but the updated document, the existence of which was confirmed by the Pentagon at the weekend, emphasises the need for the US to adapt to a world of worsening proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in which deterrence might fail. In that event, it states, “the United States must be prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary”.
This isn't even pre-emption, because that implies immediacy that doesn't necessarily exist here. This is prevention. This is a doctrine of nuclear annihilation based on the potential of attack.

It's also terrible, TERRIBLE strategic policy. First strike doctrines only really exist for one reason: you have territory that you want to protect so badly that you're willing to use nuclear weapons to protect it from conventional attack, in situations where your conventional power isn't up to snuff.

(Western Europe in the Cold War is the paradigmatic example- the US couldn't defend it conventionally.)

It has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with defending against WMD. The core rule of MAD is that you defend against WMD with WMD... that is, nuclear weapons. The reason is simple- you don't want to provoke escalation or preemption yourself. If you say "only defense" and the other guy says "only defense", then neither of you attacks, as long as you're sure that both of you are credible. Both are safe. There exists the possibility that conventional conflict could ramp up to nuclear, but it's supposed to be so vanishingly remote that it would have to take something enormous (like the Soviet Union conquering western Europe) for it to happen, and even then it's a crapshoot as to whether or not it will escalate to nukes.

In this case, we've got Bush saying "we'll nuke you before you can nuke us". That throws the whole logic of MAD to the wind. Saying that will not stop anybody from getting weapons- far from it, they'll be rushing to do so on the off chance that you might nuke them for some other reason that you haven't stated yet- after all, you set the precedent. Once they get them, they'll use them, because they'll have nothing to lose, and the #1 rule in conflict prevention is making sure that nobody EVER ends up in that situation, because I for one don't want to see Tel Aviv, Damascus, Tehran and New York as nothing more than smoking craters of radioactive glass.

And in this case, it could be for something as nebulous as a state unwittingly hosting a terrorist group that a faction in DoD believes may have a cache of Sarin gas.

This is utter lunacy. You couldn't come up with a worse, more dangerous strategy if you tried. Even proposing it is a disaster. Somebody PLEASE tell me that it's a hoax or a distraction from the New Orleans disaster or red meat for Republicans or SOMETHING. Anything to stop those three horrible little words that every thinking human being should be really, really worried about right this fucking SECOND:

What about China?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blame the National Weather Service?

Ok, the attempts to pass off blame have gone from irritating to evil to, as Capitolbuzz highlights, just plain goofy.

U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is suggesting that early mistakes in predicting the path of Hurricane Katrina may be a symptom of lost focus at the National Weather Service. Santorum, who introduced legislation earlier this year to curb the output of government weather forecasters, says tracking life-threatening weather must be central to what the agency is doing.

Asked about Katrina by WITF, Santorum described weather service warnings for Florida, where the storm first made landfall, as “not sufficient." Santorum’s bill instructs the government to abandon weather prediction and data reporting efforts that duplicate private-sector activity. He came under fire when it was revealed that the head of State College-based AccuWeather, which would benefit, has given his campaigns thousands of dollars.
Honestly. I can actually understand how this argument could be made, had the NWS not done its job... but it did, and everybody knew what was happening. As Atrios reminds us, the warnings were direct and frightening, predicting the fallout of the storm with stunning accuracy.

Face it, Santorum, you've just had your argument utterly rebuked. Give up, tell Accuweather they'll have to try again down the road, and move on.

Open Tip for Matthew Yglesias:

When you say something like "I know you're not supposed to quote Steve Sailer because he writes stuff like this"... stop right there. Go make a sandwich or something. Quoting a racist bastard like Sailer making an obvious point about how the media likes people who do PR well only harms your own reputation in a way that quoting ANSWER or whoever never could.

That's like wading through the comments thread on Lizard Gulpin' Felons and hauling out someone opining "I like cake". Yes, we all like cake, but linking to that fetid hole still doesn't make sense.

Nice Summary

From Garance Franke-Ruta over at tapped:

Think about it. What if Bush had personally gone down to the Superdome last Thursday or Friday and started handing out water himself? Sure, it would have been a P.R. stunt, just like his staged photo-ops with fire-fighters and rescue personnel were. But it would have been an effective stunt, rather than a transparent flop, because it would have demonstrated leadership and resolve. Handled properly, Bush's response to Katrina could have massively shored up Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman's effort to attract black voters to the GOP and helped lift his falling poll ratings. Certainly Bush would have faced the anger of those trapped at the Superdome had he gone there -- an unpredictable situation -- but he could have used his fleet of presidential aircraft to bring in supplies for them to mitigate that, or turned Air Force One into a relief conduit that dropped off supplies before bringing the president in, giving him a grateful and relieved audience. Or he could have worked with the Red Cross to get some kind of private relief effort in place. At such a moment of crisis, who cared what the chain of command was or whose responsibility it was to act? Anyone with the power to mitigate the horror had a personal obligation to do so, and Bush, as commander-in-chief, personally could have done a lot to help people out if he'd wanted to; the nation would have cheered him if he had. Instead, his visits to Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi did little to shore up his support, show leadership, or change facts on the ground.

Bush's obvious detachment has likely torpedoed the GOP effort to attract African-Americans for another generation, led to on-air discussions on major national networks about whether or not he's a racist (talk about P.R. nightmares), damaged his standing as a leader, thrown the press into open revolt, and scandalized the world.
I agree with him that this isn't really effective PR, and certainly not effective use of the symbolic power of the Presidency, but it's clear that all they really want to do is displace blame. I don't think that Rove thinks that he can really make Bush look good, that stupid "pleading" talking point aside... all he can do is obfuscate the blame long enough for the news cycle to end, and do what he can to get the media back on its leash.

In that, he's been slightly successful, but for what purpose? Re-election isn't an issue, and the eyes of history are going to say the same thing that the media was saying last week when it (to mix metaphors) got the bit in its teeth- that Bush could have done something, that he didn't, and that all the spin-doctor nonsense about seperation of powers doesn't make a damned bit of difference.

No matter how hard Rove spins it, the failure in New Orleans will be Bush's most infamous legacy.

At least, I honestly hope it will be.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hunter Heralds Horseshit

I had been annoyed with Hunter at Dailykos a while back for playing the moderation game; fortunately, there no moderation here , when he tears the living heart out of the new "Bush pleaded for the evacuation" talking point. Not only does he refute it (although it's been refuted enough already), but breaks down how it's even implausible:

Following the lie, however, we see that in order to even argue the point, you have to agree with a whole litany of other points:

* That President Bush himself, as well as presumably his entire team, knew full well that Katrina was a devastating storm requiring mass evacuations in front of it, and one which would wreak catastrophic damage.

* And yet President Bush, and the rest of his cabinet, remained on vacation while they knew that.

* And yet FEMA was utterly unprepared, apparently, to offer assistance for it.

* And yet Homeland Security did, apparently, nothing to ensure FEMA was prepared to offer assistance for it.

* And yet in spite of apparently knowing the danger to New Orleans in specific, both the President and the administrator of FEMA were completely unaware that anyone had "foreseen" that the levees would fail -- and apparently was only monitoring the levee condition via newspaper headlines.

* And yet, in the days following the storm, the FEMA director insisted that he wasn't even aware 15,000 evacuees had fled to the New Orleans convention center, a designated shelter area, until he was told by reporters.

* And yet, FEMA continued to reject assistance and turn rescuers away during the most critical days after the storm.
As Hunter points out, having Bush warn Blanco and the mayor beforehand makes his actions spectacularly worse, not better.

Here's the problem, with all these lies. There's a city gone. And during the period of time when the people of that city needed help most, that help was not there. That's not spinnable. That's simple fact. It's not going to go away.

So let's nail this down, exactly what Bush did know, and when he knew it. If the White House spin is that George W. Bush knew full well what was going on, even more than the local and state officials did, one would think that would predicate that George W. Bush has responsibility for government actions -- or lack of actions -- during these "death hours".

One would think.
One would think.

But many don't.


One useful action that I think needs to take place to sort out everything that's going on is to disconnect the different threads of criticism. Why? Because some critiques don't necessarily have that much to do with one another, and trying to mash them together into some organic whole allows for more effective use of the "shotgun" counterattack that the Bush administration is on about.

After all, if it's one big target, they're bound to hit something.

I'll discuss one example, the "Bush didn't stop his vacation" and "FEMA screwed up badly and delayed too long" critiques. They're related, but don't entirely overlap, and not making the distinction has obscured why the vacation is an issue. While Bush appointed the hapless FEMA execs, there was also the distinct possibility that I highlighted earlier that the "security at all costs" mentality that prompted FEMA to keep aid workers out may have more to do with hand-me-down military culture than anything else.

More importantly, though, it blurs the real reason why Bush needed to stop the vacation and get involved immediately: the symbolic role of the presidency. The president of the United States is essentially an elected constitutional monarch; there are major differences, but the symbolic role (if not the substantive role) is pretty similar. Bush couldn't, and shouldn't, have been personally responsible for coordinating the situation on the ground; that was the job of the people that he hired to do the job, and he hired them long before this vacation started. Instead, he should have cut his vacation short prior to the hurricane and done what he actually *could* to help in order to exploit that symbolic role to help remind the people of the United States and especially the people in the hurricane-afflicted areas that he does care about them, that the situation does bother him, and that through him they have the attention and sympathy of the United States of America as a whole.

It's kind of like why the Royal Family was picking through the rubble of London during the Blitz- it's symbolic, and symbols are important.

It's the symbolic element of what Bush did that outraged everybody. He showed that he didn't care. Repeatedly. Every public appearance, every stupid quip, every strummed guitar- he showed that he thought that the survivors were beneath his notice, like the kind of kings that the Americans rebelled against in the first place.

No matter what he does now, that damage is done. The political veil has been dropped over the symbolic role of the presidency, and any effort he makes now will just be seen as a political gesture, even were it genuine. That sense of unimportance will linger in the minds of all Americans, even those who defend the president's substantial actions.

He didn't care about New Orleans, so why should he care about them?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"Bus 'em" Responses

Pursuant to the bus issue: this Kos Diary destroys the "why didn't Nagant send people away on the school buses" argument.

The response is pretty simple:

1) "Compelled evacuation is unprecedented, unlikely to succeed, and unconstitutional, and therefore is probably not allowed, even in a state of emergency." (thus, those who wouldn't go, wouldn't go, but still need to be dealt with as much as possible.)

2) "There is no more dangerous place for evacuees during a hurricane than being trapped in a vehicle on an interstate." (If the hurricane had sped up or the buses had been caught in gridlock, those people would be dead, guaranteed.)


3) the mayor did plan, and DHS had to sign off on it: "In fact, he took emergency action, ordered evacuation, provided transportation, and otherwise helped 80% of his citizens evacuate. Although, as I diaried earlier, the State does have responsibility for designing emergency evacuation and response plans to natural disasters, when those disasters overwhelm local and state resources or when they are "incidents of national significance," which the breaches of the levees surely were (if not the threat of a Cat 5 hurricane itself), then the primary responsibility is upon FEMA and DHS to coordinate the response. Regardless, FEMA and DHS still have to approve of any state and local plans, not rubber-stamp them."

On this last one, stop and think about it. Who has the resources to properly vet and coordinate a plan like this? A mayor's office of a notoriously poverty-stricken city certainly doesn't. The state might, and certainly has a role in developing it, but they can't plan on using resources that they don't have.

Only the DHS had the ability to truly verify that a) the plan is workable (they should have experts on this, considering the likelihood of the hurricane) and b) that they can and will commit the resources. The state's plan (as Greuben's diary pointed out) was to do what they could while they waited for FEMA. The whole plan was predicated on FEMA's timely arrival.

The arrival wasn't timely.


If the plan wasn't workable, it was DHS's job to say "wait up... if the highways are damaged, we will have difficulty getting in, you might need to rethink this plan" or "we will need martial law declared in case of looting" or whatever else they thought they needed. If they mistook or underestimated what was required, that isn't the fault of the mayor and governor. How could either know what resources the DHS had at its disposal as well as DHS?

Vetting a plan makes you responsible for it as much as the person who designed it. If DHS vetted the plan, they have responsibility for it.


Post on Disaster and the Political Response

Via Swopa on needlenose (and a chain of other bloggers) comes this decent piece by Dan Froomkin about the political response to the outraged criticism of the Bush administration.

It's pretty much what we all expected, and what Steyn exemplified below- blame everybody but Bush, and haul out any and all arguments that can be deployed to serve that goal, no matter how silly, in the hope that one will stick.

(That's about the only reason for the ridiculous "school bus" attack on Nagin... there were neither enough buses nor enough drivers to get anywhere near enough people out for it to matter, but it LOOKS bad.)

Funny thing? The media really does seem too ticked off to care. They've figured out, rightly enough, that any failures of the state and city officials doesn't excuse FEMA's poor response, and the whole "we can't get people in" excuse is countered not only by the horde of reporters there, but also the simple fact that the storm's effects were predictable, and FEMA's inability to manage worst-case scenarios (which this wasn't) can not be used to excuse said inability.

(The logistics were tough? Too bad, hurricanes do that.)

The hail of bullshit we're all getting drenched with from Rove and his online tools and hangers-on isn't going to get the Bushies out of this one. When even the SCLM is just wiping it away and continuing to ask unfortunate questions, the "blogosphere" isn't gonna do shit.

(Yes, I've had my fill of blog triumphalism, but that's a story for another day.)

Edit: Judging by what I'm seeing in the comments of this Kos entry, I may have spoken too soon, because it looks like the media is starting to push the "blame the mayor, blame the governor" claims.

Let's make no mistake about this. If the Bush administration walks away clean from this, there is no hope for the Union, because I cannot think of any worse situation being more poorly handled by the federal government than this.

Can Somebody Punch Mark Steyn?

Blaming everybody but the president deserves some sort of response.

Consider the signature image of the flood: an aerial shot of 255 school buses neatly parked at one city lot, their fuel tanks leaking gasoline into the urban lake. An enterprising blogger, Bryan Preston, worked out that each bus had 66 seats, which meant that the vehicles at just that one lot could have ferried out 16,830 people. Instead of entrusting its most vulnerable citizens to the gang-infested faecal hell of the Superdome, New Orleans had more than enough municipal transport on hand to have got almost everyone out in a couple of runs last Sunday...
Oh, right, the school buses.

Never mind that 16,830 people is just slightly less than the OVER A HUNDRED THOUSAND who were forced to remain, never mind that you'd need to find people to drive all those buses at a moment's notice, never mind the people that couldn't move due to health issues, never mind that the Mayor had no authority to dump thousands of people on, say, Houston, never mind that the plan already existed to move people into the Superdome and Convention Centre before the hurricane started and that the Mayor enacted that plan, never mind that the whole point of the Superdome/Convention Centre plan was that FEMA was going to come in and help those people, never mind that FEMA was blocking people from letting people in...'s all the Mayor's fault.

On 9/11, the federal government failed the people; last week, local and state government failed the people. On 9/11, they stuck to the 30-year-old plan; last week, they didn't bother implementing the state-of-the-art 21st-century plan. Why argue about which level of bureaucracy you prefer to be let down by?

My mistake was to think that the citizenry of the Big Easy would rise to the great rallying cry of Todd Beamer: "Are you ready, guys? Let's roll!" Instead, the spirit of the week was summed up by a gentleman called Mike Franklin, taking time out of his hectic schedule of looting to speak to the Associated Press: "People who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society."

Unlike 9/11, when the cult of victimhood was temporarily suspended in honour of the many real, actual victims under the rubble, in New Orleans everyone claimed the mantle of victim, from the incompetent mayor to the "oppressed" guys wading through the water with new DVD players under each arm.

Welfare culture is bad not just because, as in Europe, it's bankrupting the state, but because it enfeebles the citizenry, it erodes self-reliance and resourcefulness.

New Orleans is a party town in the middle of a welfare swamp and, like many parties, it doesn't look so good when someone puts the lights up. I'll always be grateful to a burg that gave us Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima, and I'll always love Satch's great record of Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? But, after this last week, I'm not sure I would.
"Self-reliance"? What the hell were these people supposed to do, Mark? Aside from the underwater bus BS, what the hell does this have to do with anything? What exactly were they supposed to do? Eat each other? Swim through the horrible oil-and-sewage ridden water? Fight their way past the FEMA barricades that were PREVENTING THEM FROM LEAVING THE CITY?

Die in an orderly fashion?

Most of the looting happened because people wanted to survive, you tendentious steaming faecal mound. The looters were the self-reliant ones- they realized that their government, their FEDERAL government, had failed them and took matters into their own hands. Whether or not somebody took a TV from Wal-Mart is absolutely immaterial; the focus on it says more about the Steyn and the other critics than the victims.

As for the "let's roll" crap... that's beneath contempt. It has absolutely nothing to do with this.

Chris Bertram over at Crooked Timber noted the "let them eat cake" element of Steyn's piece, but it's worse than that. It's a transparent attempt to foist the blame on anybody but Steyn's beloved Bush, to blame the victims, and (bizarrely and shockingly) try to leverage the tragedy of 9/11 to try to distract from the tragedy here.

I really, really hope we can get Steyn, Anderson Cooper, Geraldo and maybe Olbermann on the same panel. Let's see how "self-sufficient" the bastard is when he's being ripped into meaty chunks.

Holy Crap

Zarqawi has conquered territory?

Fighters loyal to militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi asserted control over the key Iraqi border town of Qaim on Monday, killing U.S. collaborators and enforcing strict Islamic law, according to tribal members, officials, residents and others in the town and nearby villages.

Residents said the foreign-led fighters controlled by Zarqawi, a Jordanian, apparently had been exerting authority in the town, within two miles of the Syrian border, since at least the start of the weekend. A sign posted at an entrance to the town declared, "Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim."
Locals aren't even bothering to fight- they're waiting for the marines to show up, those that aren't simply leaving.

I'm sure the Marines will show up, but the question is, which town will be hit while they're doing it?

"FEMA Failures"

Go check this site out; it collects together all the stories about FEMA's failures.

And remember, folks, FEMA is part of DHS, so anything that FEMA screwed up, DHS is responsible for. That isn't in question- the question is whether or not FEMA's atrocious behavior is due to simple incompetence, or due to the organization and reasons for DHS's creation.

If DHS was created primarily (and haphazardly) as a political tool for Republicans, and FEMA's actions are due to that, this may be more of a partisan issue than a bureaucratic one at the end of the day.

Monday, September 05, 2005

And So, at Last...

...the truth comes out.

FEMA was turning people away because they were waiting until "the national guard has secured the city". Firefighters, relief supplies, aid workers, NGOs, everybody was kept out until the city was "secured".

This is ludicrous.

It also makes sense.

It's not about the oil supplies, however; it's about (oddly enough) military and strategic culture. FEMA operates under the aegis of the DHS, and the DHS exists because of the "war on terror"; the creation of an administration that sees everything through the lens of warfare.

How deeply the DoD is tied to the DHS is indicated by (among other things) the Democratic Underground post that I saw in this Daily Kos comment, which had aid workers blocked by FEMA people saying that "it was all up to the DoD". Why defer? What does DoD have to do with this? DoD (through the national guard) may be the only ones able to say whether or not the situation on the ground is "secure", but it's DHS and FEMA that (at least theoretically) get to determine whether or not people can go in. It's DHS and FEMA that have control over what kind of risk they're willing to take, and yet they deferred to DoD.

DoD is a military organization. Their chief concern is not the number of casualties (except of their own personnel), but ensuring that security and order are preserved, especially such security is necessary for the national interest. (Hence the Ministry of Oil fiasco in Iraq.)

DHS's priorities should be different, especially in this kind of situation, but they aren't. The chief (and, let's be honest, practically only) priority in NO was keeping order, and letting in dozens of different aid organizations would threaten that. Plus, DoD is notoriously averse to casualties, and that carrying over to DHS would leave FEMA obsessed with the fear that the "insurgents" would hurt aid workers.

The aid workers were willing to accept the risk; the hand-me-down military culture would not let them take that risk. "Civilians" are to be kept out of a conflict zone, period. New Orleans was not a conflict zone on Tuesday, and probably would not have become one had people not been propelled to desperation and convinced that they had been left behind to die. That kind of cause-and-effect logic isn't exactly DoD's strong suit, however. "Breakdown of order + no military control = civilians verboten" pretty much sums it up.

Even if it didn't, though, the assumption that guided the right-wing focus on looting would win through: that without the police to control them, people will steal anything they can get their hands on. It doesn't matter where it comes from: whether that's due to assuming that they are amoral "rational actors" and thus discounting the sociological and social-psychological influences entailed in the abandonment, or whether it's due to distrust of human nature, or whether it's due to the belief (whether expressed or not) that blacks will steal and kill and rape anything they can get their hands on, the end result is the same: FEMA keeping people out.

And, yes, race does fit into this, although I don't think it's for the reason most people think it does. The people running the show are wealthy and white, and the people affected are poor and black. While they may not be overtly racist or classist, they're simply not going to identify with the victims as much as they would otherwise. If they did, they may be more likely to say "screw order, these people need help", and be less inclined to believe that only the imposition of order will keep them from running wild. The victims are seen more as part of "us", rather than "them".

That didn't happen, though. "They" were left to die.

And, by the by, this isn't just a DHS/DoD thing- it also explains the White House's insistence on total control that possibly lengthened the delay. The Bush administration is used to insisting on total control in foreign military operations and on complete sovereignty. If New Orleans is seen through a military lens, why on earth should we expect anything different? They won't accept any authority by the United Nations; ceding it to a Democratic governor is completely out of the question. Whether this comes from adopting the DoD's culture or whether it has created the DoD's culture (or whether both stem from neoconservatism) is important but irrelevant in this case- it's what appears to have happened. That's also why they wouldn't accept international help, and may have exacerbated the unwillingness to allow private assistance- they wanted to be in total control and show people that they could handle this themselves.

Finally, the defenses of Bush that stem from this are little different. The argument that Blanco was responsible by not ceding total authority to Bush presupposes that that's necessary. As I've said before, not having expansive rules of engagement and the ability to force evacuation would not stop the national guard from protecting themselves and aiding in voluntary evacuation. The argument, besides being contradicted by the FEMA policy I linked to below, is based on false premises.

It's odd to think that the responsibility here might link back to DoD, I'll admit. Still, it does fit. DHS needs to be reformed, at the very least, but DoD may need attention too.

Krugman on "Contempt"

Look here.

Experts say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the crucial window during which prompt action can save many lives. Yet action after Katrina was anything but prompt. Newsweek reports that a "strange paralysis" set in among Bush administration officials, who debated lines of authority while thousands died.

What caused that paralysis? President Bush certainly failed his test. After 9/11, all the country really needed from him was a speech. This time it needed action - and he didn't deliver.

But the federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution. Why should we be surprised that when we needed a government solution, it wasn't forthcoming?
Krugman nails it here. When you're hostile to the very idea of government and public bureaucracies, you're going to be inept at employing them, and you're going to select people (like Michael Brown) to run them; people whose qualifications have nothing to do with being able to run said bureaucracy and everything to do with politics.

Why not? Politics are self-evidently important to politicians. if bureaucracy doesn't matter, hiring Brown was a very rational calculation.

Of course, Krugman doesn't get into the class issues here-he's still a neo-classical economist at the end of the day-but they're very much real, and they aren't going away.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Well, Well, WELL!

LOOKY HERE, folks!

Seems like somebody's over at TPM Cafe unearthed a rather damaging policy document that says that "standard procedures regarding requests for assistance may be expedited or, under extreme circumstances, suspended in the immediate aftermath of an event of catastrophic magnitude!"

And, also, "Identified Federal response resources will deploy and begin necessary operations as required to commence life-safety activities....notification and full coordination with States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources. States are urged to notify and coordinate with local governments regarding a proactive Federal response."

So the standing policy fits the moral case: that the situation was bad enough that the federal government...the most powerful organization in the WORLD... had a responsibility to step in and help. They were needed, and the people of New Orleans had every reason to believe they were coming.

The policy was ignored.


Watch This

Seriously. Watch this. It's the Broussard clip that's been talked about. I hadn't seen it before, and now that I have, you need to as well.

The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night! [Sobbing] Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us…
The quotation doesn't do it justice.

Nobody came. Regardless of the reason, regardless of the Stafford act, regardless of the issue of state's rights (although Broussard said that the Governor sent in the national guard she had at her disposal), regardless of the issue of declaring martial law to protect the property that is so much more valuable than the lives, the simple fact is this: the dead don't care about the legalities.

The dead only care about one thing: nobody came.

Steve, Hal, and the Cajun Dome

Steve Gillard linked to a Kos diary that describes what's going on Lafayette's Cajundome.

For those complaining about how FEMA is doing the best they can and that it's locals that are screwing things up:

I've been working an information table at the Cajundome for the past two days and it's amazing how little information we actually have to give them. FEMA, notably, has yet to appear on the scene even once, which raises questions like, why bother to have a federal emergency agency at all?? We hit capacity at the Cajundome before the end of Wednes night, and then we doubled capacity on Thursday, and now we're turning people away...

...I also hope heads will roll in the government for what's happened here this week. I agree that now's not the time for that, but there is no conceivable excuse for having let thousands of people preventably die on our shores. You can't imagine the shock in people's eyes as we explain again and again that there's still no federal agency here to help them, no state agency, only a handful of Red Cross workers and a bunch of utterly untrained volunteers.
This is intolerable, and yes, Bush gets the blame. As I said, it's his job.

(Besides, the DHS is his creation, isn't it?)

It's "Blame the Locals" Day!

Quick everybody, get your flags and sparklers, because this is what Bush's America is really about.

Go read Josh to find out more, but I'll point out a problem: most of the complaints I've read that aren't propelled by the bullshit about "no declaration of emergency" are either that a) the Governor didn't let the feds take over securitization of the area and b) that the mayor could have bussed people out, but didn't.

Both of these, whether true or not, are irrelevant. Having the national guard impose order in NOLA was nowhere near as important as having the national guard (and, of course, FEMA) helping people to NOT DIE. Sorry, but the looters were a side-story. As for the mayor, he did bus people where the plans said they were supposed to go... the Superdome. Although the underlying economic issues that led to that becoming necessary are part of this, they aren't why people are blaming Bush.

For the last time- they're blaming Bush because of what happened AFTER. The days and days of waiting, and the arrogance of refusing help (even from Americans!) that could have saved lives.

Yes, he is to blame. He is the symbolic and functional head of an organization-the Department of Homeland Security-that failed in its task, and that carries responsibilities. As I've said elsewhere, it's PART OF THE JOB, and the main reason why the bureaucratic/political balance that is the American federal government can work. We know that the Governor asked for help, and we know for CERTAIN that the mayor asked for help, and we know that the DHS had the capability to do something, and they failed.

Shit flows uphill, Mr. President. Open wide.


Well, this is new. I realize that the man has had a change of heart recently, but still, it feels weird to do this. Still, it has to be done. Take it away...

..Andrew Sullivan.

"I've worked closely with Corps personnel for 6 years in various scientific and regulatory capacities on wetlands issues. While the Corps is often maligned by environmentalists, I will be the first to defend the professionalism, commitment and skill of their regulatory field staff.
The Corps, however, is Army - the institutional culture is one of top-down control and damn-the-torpedoes, and a deeply-ingrained instinct against criticising the chain of command. In an email yesterday that eventually ended up on Wonkette, I predicted that they would be good soldiers and insulate Bush against charges that the levees weren't finished, and indeed I woke up to Al Naomi saying just that on NPR. And General Strock from HQ had to be brought in to do the real damage control: "I don't see that the level of funding was really a contributing factor in this case," said Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the corps. "Had this project been fully complete, it is my opinion that based on the intensity of this storm that the flooding of the business district and the French Quarter would have still taken place." (from Chi Trib).
But there are really TWO questions that must be answered:

1) Was the levee complete and at design spec?

2) Would a design-spec levee have withstood Katrina?

1) The truth is that short of a whistleblower, we may never know the condition of that levee on 8/29. My source on its inadequate condition isn't solid enough. But I know the following things:

a) You don't finish levees and walk away. They need regular maintenance - even when you haven't built them on dewatered organic soils that settle every year.

b) A District that had just taken a one-year budget cut of $71 million will have had to make some very hard choices about whether maintenance on this particular levee fell (in Corps parlance) "above the line - priority" or "below the line - optional". Their SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) guidance might tell us, but somebody needs to get a FOIA cookin' on this right now.

c) The question of levee adequacy breaks down at least into "was it at spec height?" [yes!] and "was it structurally sound to spec?" [oops!]. Because of the nature of the levee failure (not overtopped, but burst), watch for Corp HQ to focus on the first question (which pins the deaths on nature), and ignore the second (which might pin the deaths on budget decisions).

2) Over the coming days, the Corps' message will be this: "Katrina was greater than the design storm for this levee." This is at least an open question - purportedly the levees were designed to withstand a direct hit from a Category 3 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 4 at landfall, presenting her weak side to the levees at a distance of some 40-50 miles. The question appears debatable on its technical merits, and Strock's facile answer is far too politically expedient a conclusion to take at face value from Corps HQ. I have seen them fall on their sword for Presidents before, and the need has never been greater.

To sum up: Gen. Strock is asking us to accept that the Army Corps could maintain the structural integrity of every last mile of levee built on subsiding soils in a District that had taken a $71 million budget cut in one year. AND that they would admit it if they hadn't, when the reputation of the President is at stake. All my experience rejects both propositions."
This wasn't Sully, but one of his nameless "emails of the day". Still, this is important: one cannot necessarily take the word of the Army Corps of Engineers at face value, because although they did get screwed they are still the Army corps, and are required to support their Commander-in-Chief. We need independent analysis and verification before we accept the defense at face value.

Opposing forces

As I said in an earlier entry, outrages like NOLA motivate me to write.

News like this, however:

Poll: Bush Not Taking Brunt of Katrina Criticism, is what motivated me to stop in the first place.

Remember, kids, It's OK If You're A Republican.

A Shift in the Dialogue?

More horrible communist fun, this time featuring China relating the insights of Carl Freedman, a "marxist literary theorist".

(What, you thought I was kidding about the red thing?)

Here's the quote that grabbed me. From Freedman:

Yet, in Louisiana and Mississippi, Bush increasingly seems just irrelevant. Especially in New Orleans itself, the big story is of course the way that the class and racial chasms that divide American society have been made visible with a clarity that not even the mainstream press has been able to ignore. Yesterday, on Friday, a black man at the Convention Center was frantically shouting at a camera crew, "Look! He's a Caucasian! A Caucasian!", as he pointed to a white man lying prostrate on the ground. He clearly knew that nothing would improve the chances of help like having some white faces seen among the victims. But class has probably been even more powerful in all this than race—so emphatically, indeed that the word "class," long such a near-absolute taboo, is actually being used, seriously, in the mainstream media, an astounding turn of events in itself.
This has been one of the most striking aspects of the whole situation... that due to the economic disparities between those that left and those that didn't, the "c" word is rearing its ugly head. This might be part of the reason why this nasty socialist stuff is so interesting right now... because you can't really talk about class without bringing up ol' Karl.

This might also be why the Rock-Ribbed Free-Market Republicans have been so incredibly out of touch in their attitude and commentary since this whole thing started. Aside from the "Bush Good"/"Bush Bad" stuff (which is practically a sideshow), their attempts to deploy neo-classical rationalist economics and politics to try to explain the situation have been laughable at best, and have lead to their over-focus on the evils of looters (a crime against property) and under-focus on the desperation to survive (a crime against humanity.)

The key question, right now, is not whether FEMA was responsible for the disaster, or Bush, or the Governor. The key question is whether or not the underlying ideals and ideology of the United States of America have been dealt a debilitating blow. Hence the reason why I called it "Bush's Chernobyl"; just as Chernobyl undermined the USSR, people are already starting to wonder if Katrina has undermined the USA.

And, like with Chernobyl, the problem is not the accident. The problem is the reaction.

It's funny, but the best case scenario for the Republicans here may well be to have Bush blamed for it all. The alternatives may be much worse.


Somebody in florida right now is probably thinking "hmm, this is odd, FEMA did a good job helping *us* during our hurricane emergencies".

As Billmon points out, "It appears there's something special about years divisible by two -- and particularly every other year divisible by two -- that can inspire amazing feats of bureaucratic energy and competence, at least in large, populous swing states."

Maybe one of the lessons here is that it isn't healthy to be a deep red state. Especially one that, as that Horrible Communist birdie keeps whispering in our ears, got a little too excited about privatization.

Go read Billmon, he has lots more.

A Slight Bit of Indulgent Replication

The blame game has already begun, with people like Jeff Goldstein here quoting a Washington Post story saying that the governor delayed in declaring a state of emergency and engaged in a power struggle with the feds. He gloated about how the "Bush-haters" were sure to be "fact-checked" any second now.

As you can no doubt tell from the paucity of postings around here, I'm hurting for content, so I figured I'd be lazy and replicate it:

As this certainly looks like a declaration of a state of emergency.

Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today issued Proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005, declaring a state of emergency for the state Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent threat, carrying severe storms, high winds, and torrential rain that may cause flooding and damage to private property and public facilities, and threaten the safety and security of the citizens of the state of Louisiana The state of emergency extends from Friday, August 26, 2005, through Sunday, September 25, 2005, unless terminated sooner.

Yep, that’s a state of emergency all right.

As for the wrangling, well...

Dear Mr. President:

Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing…

...In response to the situation I have taken appropriate action under State law and directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan on August 26, 2005 in accordance with Section 501 (a) of the Stafford Act. A State of Emergency has been issued for the State in order to support the evacuations of the coastal areas in accordance with our State Evacuation Plan and the remainder of the state to support the State Special Needs and Sheltering Plan.

Pursuant to 44 CFR § 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal.

Bolding mine. You like bolding the incriminating stuff so much, Jeff, I figured I’d respond in turn.

It certainly LOOKS like Bush had the go-ahead. Happened on the 26th, too. Oh, and as you no doubt know, DHS/FEMA policy requires that in these sorts of situations, local and state officials defer to their coordination. Pity that such coordination was lacking, but them’s the breaks, huh?

So, how’s about that “fact-checking” now, chum?

More Filthy Red Wisdom

China Mieville introduces the latest twist:


I’m sorry, that’s crude of me: firms like Blackwater, the Steele Foundation and Beau Dietl & Associates prefer ‘security consultants’, or even, if you can get the media to play along, the coy ‘civilian contractors’. You know what we’re talking about though: soldiers-for-hire. There are 25,000 of them in Iraq – and judging that it’s them, not army soldiers, who guard the very generals who order that army around, they’re obviously the more efficient killers. And now they’re heading for New Orleans....

The ruins are filling up with gunmen loyal to the corporate bottom line.

Blackwater USA, The Steele Foundation, Kroll Inc, AKE Group, Beau Dietl and doubtless others are all in or sniffing the city, and the numbers, with the demand, are increasing. And unlike the citizens’ desire for food, this is effective demand, backed by cash, and the service will be provided.

The ramifications for ‘public order’ are unthinkable. We already know the population is dispensable, that the police and troops were ordered to stop search-and-rescue and told to shoot-to-kill ‘looters’. We’ve heard the weirdly prurient way the Louisiana Governor described soldiers as ‘locked and loaded’, 'more than willing’ to attack. Now the city will be subject to a public-private partnership in brute force....

So while most of New Orleans has been left to die of starvation, thirst, heat, disease and violence, a few people have some support. Despite the lack of doctors for the dying, there's medicine for business, and while the state won’t even let the Red Cross in to help the dying, because it will ‘keep people from evacuating', the soldiers of fortune can come and go, to minister to their clients.

You know what we're seeing? Another mercenary boss, Bill Vorlicek, director of Kroll’s emergency management group, knows, and tells us without hesitation or dissembling, but with pride.

‘Corporate America taking care of its own.’
This is only an excerpt... China has more, lots more.

(Obviously) tongue-in-cheek comments about his political positions aside, China Mieville is writing some of the best commentary on the situation right now. I'd tell him to quit his day job, were he not so bloody good at it too.

Here's hoping he doesn't get an attack of creativity soon, because right now, you're writing exactly what we need, China.

Kevin Drum and the Art of the Stage

Apparently, according to Kevin Drum (courtesy, in turn, of Laura Rozen), Bush's press conference was a stage-managed farce:

UPDATE: Good God. Laura Rozen passes along the following report from a Dutch reader:

There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

This goes beyond stage management. This is criminal.
This is Bush. This is Republicanism.

And, although this may be the wrong time for this, this is what you voted for, America. You hold some responsibility for this. Nowhere near as much as the criminal partisan mismanagers at the (now comically named) "Department of Homeland SECURITY", but Bush voters and nonvoters alike have their own small part in this.

They have their own thinking to do about exactly what this means and how their own behavior fits into this, just like Ms. Beast and her pet Randroids.

If nothing else, they need to learn just what fucking time it is.

Rehnquist R.I.P.

I'm not sure how to read the political implications of the news.

On the one hand, Bush could railroad through a candidate while the nation's attention is focused elsewhere. He's done it at a lower level, the Republicans are going to do it with the Estate Tax, there's no reason to think otherwise.

On the other hand, the smart money isn't on Bush right now, and those coattails are starting to look like millstones. The Republicans are going to need to be very careful, or they'll have their lackies' tentative complaints about political opportunism fired back at them tenfold.

It depends on how succesful their attempt to pass the buck will be.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Video That Everyone Needs to See

I finally watched the Fox News video with Shep Smith and Geraldo. I never thought I'd ever say this about a pair of Fox News people, but they showed the horrible reality of the situation more viscerally than anything I'd ever expected.

One thing Geraldo didn't mention that I will, though. That black baby living in squalid filth, locked in a stadium, with thousands of other desperate refugees?

That's Bush's legacy. I never thought I'd say this either, but Iraq may well be a footnote.

Because I needed to do this:

Go donate here.

To be honest and perhaps slightly contrarian, though, I don't think that donations will be the make-or-break for this. The money won't make a real difference until after this is over, and let's be clear: if the federal and state governments don't provide New Orleans every penny they need before a single cent of private money goes in, they've failed in the one duty of government that everybody agrees on: the security of the citizenry.

That said, the money is going to the Red Cross, and the Red Cross does a lot of good that you don't hear about. This money shouldn't be donated because of this disaster, but because of all the other, smaller disasters that happen all the time.

By the Way

We aren't going to stop criticizing your boy Bush, Ms. Beast, so stop trying to deflect the shame and embarrassment he's heaped upon the nation by hiding behind black bodies.

Public Service

Courtesy of the crew at corrente (and my man digby), I've had the distinct pleasure of reading a final, complete and utter moral repudiation of Objectivism, Libertarianism, and all other capital lettered insanity.

Take it away, Jane Galt (and her lovely bevy of posters).

From Ms. Galt herself:
But it is more tragic when someone dies because they have nowhere to go, than when only their own bullheaded stupidity is to blame
this refers to people who can't afford to lose everything they own in the flood, written by someone who's clearly never had to make that choice

From "sdb510":
It seems to me that the poor should have had the EASIEST time leaving. They don't need to pay for an extended leave from their home, they could have just packed a few belongings and walked away to start over somewhere else. What did they have to lose?

When the wealthy evacuate, they leave behind nice houses, expensive cars, possibly pets that they treat as members of the family, valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. This makes it emotionally difficult for wealthy people to leave. But by definition, the poor do not have this burden: they either rent their homes, or they are in public housing; their cars are practically junk anyway; and they don't have any valuable possessions. This is what it means to be poor. These people could just pick up their few belongings, buy a one-way bus ticket to any city and be poor there. Supposing they even had jobs in NO, it's not like minimum wage jobs are hard to come by.
ah, there's nothing like somebody with a view of the world shaped by "C" grade Econ101.

From "Rob":

What I can't understand is why they couldn't be bothered to take the bus or just walk over to the Superdome, where there was an organized attempt to help them out. They had 48 hours to gather up what they could carry and move to a shelter.

And how could anyone in New Orleans fail to grasp the problem so completely that they didn't even bother to stockpile a couple day's worth of drinking water? I couldn't believe it when I saw victim after victim going by on TV saying, "we haven't had anything to drink since the storm hit".

In the past, residents of Florida have been complacent about evacuating. After being pounded enough times, they've learned their lesson and evacuations go pretty well now. It's too bad that the lesson didn't extend as for as Louisiana.
Blaming victims is fun, and makes me feel better about voting Republican!

From "MarkJ"

I guess I'm one of those "closet racists" noticing that it seems to be almost exclusively black people who are doing the looting. I also noticed it during other previous disasters and riots - '92 Los Angeles, Hurricane Andrew, etc etc etc. I guess we're supposed to ignore the evidence of our eyes and continue repeating the mantra that race has nothing to do with behavior. But what if there really IS a correlation between race and a tendency to amoral, selfish, violent behavior? Wouldn't it be suicidal to ignore it just because it is unpleasant that life might actually be ordered that way?

I just feel sorry for any white people left in that city. I saw video of some white tourists walking aimlessly, dragging their suitcases behind them, looking for help. They said they hadn't seen any police. What a nightmare...white people abandoned in a lawless city full of black people with no police in sight, and no firearms to protect themselves. You can talk all you want about how awful it is to be a racist, but they are the ones who are finding out firsthand the brutal realities of race in this country.
"I'm sorry to call a spade a spade, but niggers love stealin'!"

From "Dan":

You can't explain that decision by saying "they're poor". Poverty wasn't the problem, ignorance was; they didn't understand how bad things were likely to be.
That's the ticket... they're ignorant! Just plain ig'nint!

And the king, the absolute monarch of utter discrediting of anything a Randroid ever says EVER is....

Floyd Alvis Cooper!



Speaking purely in economic terms, the situation in New Orleans is actually quite positive, long-term. Yes there is the destruction of the port and that's bad, but consider: 80% of the population evacuated. The remaining 20% stayed, either because they didn't have the means to leave, or because they were just foolish; how much of each is a guess.

But in EITHER case, you have to consider that these people were essentially surplus. In other words, the least-functional 20% of the population of New Orleans has been eliminated. That obviously INCREASES the overall functionality of the New Orleans population.

I'm not blind to the fact that the people who chose to stay behind are suffering, and that's not good, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL. But all things aren't equal. Consider: normally, disasters like this have ALWAYS served to help weed out the less competent. In these days of Mommy Government, these people are saved to drag down the rest of us. This hurts EVERYONE in the long run.

But of course you can NEVER get people to see things this way. It's all Boo hoo hoo look at that baby that Geraldo is holding, let's get the Government to Save That Baby.
I've gotta hand this over to Spider Jerusalem on this:

"It's how I think of you. A big black animal squatting in the heart of America, shitting huge steaming green turds into the country... You're the Thing in us that votes to fuck other people in the gall bladder, the lizard brain that says nothing but eat-kill-hump-shit...

...the beast

Thanks, Spider!

Oh, and for those who will complain that Ms. Galt isn't responsible for these comments... she blocked access from Corrente after the post went up. Instead of repudiating these horrible assholes, she's ran cover for them.

Eat. Kill. Hump. Shit.

Hope you're enjoying your hurricane footage, Ms. Beast. Your pets certainly are.

Edit: I'm not impressed by your pound cake either. Go read what the Filthy Communist wrote, Ms. Beast, and maybe, just maybe, think that his horrible Red ass might have a point. Pound cake doesn't make up for espousing the ideology that likely worsened the situation.

Hey, here's a solution to the New Orleans problem:

Kick the Red Cross out because you think that people will actually stay in NO if they aren't in danger of immediate starvation and dehydration.

Go see Talkleft.

While you're there, go read this posting, which carries the horrible implication that New Orleans is now a free-fire zone for Guardsmen protecting the property of wealthy whites from starving blacks.

Because, you know, you gotta have priorities.

Edit for clarity I'm not saying that this is about race. I'm saying this is about property. I'm saying that I don't give a rat's ass about the looters, and anybody who does at this point has such a warped sense of priorities it's nauseating. So people have grabbed TVs from Wal-Mart. So what?

I'm not advocating it, I don't like it, but I don't for a moment believe that it motivated a significant number of people to stay behind and I know for a fact that it's of far lesser importance than helping actual living, breathing human beings. If the tenor of the reporting that I'm reading is true, the priorities of the Bush administration's response are as horribly skewed now as they were when he was sitting on his hands.

I'm hoping it's wrong, but I don't expect it to be.

Steve's Angry Too

Steve Gillard, that is.

Well, motherfuckers, and that means you, fat ass Goldberg and your master, Rich Lowry, PNAC Bitch Beinart, the racist wannabe white Malkin and the little fucktards at LGF, Bareback Andy and 'Diversity' Instacracker, all you backstabbing, fag hating uncle tom ministers, you can see Dear Leader in action. America's largest port is gone, maybe forever, gas is $5+ a gallon and FEMA is coming. Whores come faster with old men than FEMA is getting to NOLA.

How did your wartime President react? Like Chiang Kai-Shek when the Yellow River flooded in 1944, with corrupt indifference.

Bush, the man your fever dreams built into the next Winston Churchill when he is really the live action Chauncey Gardiner, has failed to everyone, in plain sight, without question. Rick Perry is trying to save his ass, but it ain't working. NOLA looks like ANGOLA and that ain't flying.

Say 9/11 changed everything now, motherfuckers. Ooops, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11. Doesn't work anymore? Gee, maybe the sea of alligator MRE's once known as the citizens of New Orleans has something to do with that. Now you can shut the fuck up about 9/11. Bush just proved what would happen with another 9/11. Dead Americans as far as the nose can smell.

Drunken Chris Hitchens muttered some nonsense about blacks having it so good here. The poor man needs to stay in his bottle or go to Betty Ford before someone beats his treasonous ass stupid. Islamofascism means what, now motherfucker? Shove Islamofascism up your well travelled ass. The most dangerous thing to average Americans is not some mullah in Iraq, not even Osama Bin Laden, but George Bush. If he doesn't get you killed in Iraq, he'll fuck up saving your city so it turns into Escape from New Orleans. Armed junkies roaming the streets, looking for a fix, robbing and looting like Serb paramilitaries and about as sober.

George Bush's ineptitude has killed far more Americans than Osama could have dreamed of.
A note: It wasn't just Bush that screwed up, of course: Landrieu screwed up too. At the end, however, he presides over the resources of the United States of America. He was the best placed to help, and he didn't.

And that's why Steve's mad.

Friday, September 02, 2005

At least it's something...

Relief supplies are on their way in. That's the good news.

Today's Friday. That's the bad news.

Goldberg=female organ?

According to Ethan at salto mortale, he's a "fat chickenhawk cunt".

Nasty language?

Here's what he said:

I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.
I have a modest proposal. I think this quote should be saved. Lovingly, carefully saved. NRO may delete it: don't let them. Then, after this is all over, a picture of Jonah Goldberg's fat, filthy, lying, cowardly face should be posted on every major street corner. Underneath that picture, that quotation should be carefully typed out in big block letters.

The people have a right to know.

What happens after that... well, let's hope he's a faster runner than appearance would imply.

Shoutout to Scott Lemieux.


I'm switching to Haloscan comments for now, due to the Trackback feature. The old comments from the previous system, sadly, are almost certainly gone, but I'll see if I can restore them for the old posts.

Also, links are up... requests for link exchanges are fine, provided that your blog is relevant and doesn't make me angry/bored. Not a tough bar to vault.

And yes, if you can't tell, Demosthenes is back. For real this time. I can't remember the last time I've been as angry about the Republicans as I am right now- they have demonstrated the complete bankruptcy not only of their party and their tactics, but their ideology.

I also have the opportunity to blog- not every fifty seconds like ol' Glenn, but often enough. I have Motivation, opportunity, and means (via this nice new template)...

...the question, now, is where to aim this thing.

Horrible Communist Bastard Makes Good Points

If you're averse to reading an account of the New Orleans situation from a horrible, awful, stinking commie bastard, then you'll probably want to avoid this piece by China Mieville, or this one, or this one.

You certainly wouldn't want to read, for example, that the complete lack of planning and direction is almost certainly because the job of planning for disaster relief was "outsourced" to a private firm called IEM. It might make you believe that there is a role for government after all.

If you aren't averse to horrible godless Reds, however, then feel free to give it a gander. Careful, though, because he's also a science fiction author, and a pretty good one, and we all know what that means.


HALLIBURTON is responsible for the reconstruction effort in New Orleans?

Yes, they're doing it for the damaged Naval facilities, but you'd think that the Navy would be handling it, not a pack of war profiteers who, apparently, are agnostic as to the type of tragedy they exploit.

TCS and pathetic exploitation

While I have some small sympathy for the idea that politics are not appropriate during times of tragedy, the criticism and anger that has emerged due to the chaos in New Orleans emerged for a reason: help took far too long, and was far too paltry for too long. There's a difference between legitimate criticism and political exploitation.

This, for example, is political exploitation. The chaos in New Orleans, according to TCS, can be best alleviated by... gutting EPA standards?

Yes. Apparently, the big issue in New Orleans is not food, or water, but air pollution regulations, which introduce "delay and unnecessary cost in the fuel supply process"; something that, apparently, is going to hurt their ability to "power their trucks, cars, generators, and pumps".

Ok, obviously this is opportunist, because this is so far down the list of things that people need in New Orleans as to be infintesimal. The reason why the tragedy in New Orleans happened was because these people didn't have cars, and thus were unable to comply with the evacuation orders that had not been accompanied by evacuation means. Those with the means left; those who didn't, drowned and starved.

Even were it not patently illogical, however, it would be clearly opportunist to any reader who noticed this:

The pollution justification for the gasoline standards is largely theoretical, and needs to be weighed against the genuine needs of people in a continuing emergency. Indeed, the Hurricane Katrina crisis provides an opportunity to see whether those requirements are genuinely beneficial. If air pollution does not turn out to be a problem during the period when the requirements are lifted, the federal government should reconsider their usefulness.

On the other hand, governments should be wary of interventionist measures intended to keep down prices. Gas price caps, which Hawaii recently adopted, would be a terrible idea, since they create the worst energy problem of all -- shortages. No one will be helped by long lines at gas stations like the ones we saw during the 1970s gas crises. Instead, unadulterated prices remain the best method we know of to allocate supply to demand. To that effect, rather than cap prices, governments should remove taxes that artificially raise gasoline prices until the Gulf Coast's recovery is well under way.
This is so obviously partisan zealotry as to beggar belief; no amount of Bush bashing can even begin to match the tortured logic of opportunism that this assault on environmental regulation and legitimate fuel taxation represents.

More than that, it's offensive: the comment that Katrina "provides an opportunity to see if regulations are genuinely beneficial" is an insult to everybody who died in Katrina and everybody who is working to aid the survivors. It is not an "opportunity", Iain Murray, it's a tragedy.

The ludicrous belief that this situation could or should provide some sort of litmus test for environmental regulation just shows how intellectually bankrupt Tech Central Station is.

Of course, everybody already knew that. Still, it's a reminder for the days and weeks ahead that the left has no monopoly on "politicizing tragedy"...

...and unlike this joker, they have a point.

A Thought

Remember back during the 80's and 90's, when conspiracy theories were rife about FEMA? How it was an organization of enormous hidden power and reach, that was just waiting for the opportunity to declare martial law and use their invisible black helicopters to seize control?

Where the hell is THAT FEMA? New Orleans could sure use them right now. I don't care if there are black helicopters, as long as they're dropping food and water into the Superdome.

(Another question: isn't there anybody with a private helicopter or plane who could do that? It's not like you're going to get shot down, and you'd be a hero.)

(I doubt I have too many wealthy southern readers, but if I do, and you have a helicopter, think about it. The worst that could happen is that you'd get arrested for doing something that would put a halo on your head in the eyes of every American.)

New Orleans has become Baghdad

From a columnist for the Toronto Star:Rosie DiManno.... well, I'll simply quote:

Nature wrought destruction but human beings have brought disgrace.

It is disgraceful that countless people are still stranded five days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf coastline, flattening communities and knocking a major metropolis on its ear.

It is disgraceful that hundreds of state troopers and National Guard soldiers have been deployed to protect property rather than help people.

It is disgraceful that thousands of hurricane refugees — including the elderly, the infirm, the sick, mothers with babes in arms, children separated from parents — have been essentially abandoned in the Superdome and the convention centre, left to fend for themselves without food or water.

It is disgraceful that not a single relief agency has any presence on the ground as far as those of us who are here can see. No Red Cross, no federal emergency administrators, no medical teams, no shelter officials, no angels of mercy.

That is why, beneath the damp and dank, New Orleans is seething.

That — and not rampant greed — is why there has been so much looting in recent days, to the extent that police and troops have been taken away from critical rescue operations and assigned to watch the inmates, or outcasts, who are being treated like vagrants.

And that's all they do: Watch. Patrolling up and down the main arteries, in their armoured personnel carriers — as if this were Baghdad — automatic weapons hoisted on their shoulders, never stopping to assist fragile citizens in wheelchairs and walkers or mothers with ailing, wailing infants.

I've seen better disaster response efforts for earthquake victims in India and the ethnically cleansed exiles of Kosovo. Even the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay are surely being cared for better than this.

Could it be because the overwhelming majority of these dispossessed are poor and black that their very lives are apparently of less worth than business properties in the French Quarter, deluxe hotels on Canal St., chi-chi mansions in the Garden District, and tourist casinos on the riverfront?
Bolding mine. Along with stories about gunfights between snipers and national guardsmen, this shows just how far America has fallen, and just how badly the Bush administration has mishandled this.

We will hear comparisons to 9/11. They would be wrong. This is worse than 9/11, far worse, because the blame lies not in a shadowy enemy, nor in the hurricane (which was, as has been pointed out, almost a week ago)...but ultimately in the total and complete incompetence of the American president, the deeply politicized Homeland Security agency that he created, and his gutting of FEMA.

We all know that DiManno is right about why this has happened, as well. We all know the reason why Bush and co. don't give a shit, demonstrably don't give a shit. They just can't care about a bunch of poor black people. I'm starting to wonder whether they can. This administration has never given us any reason to believe that they ever could.

I had thought that the Bush administration had sunk as low as it could go. I was wrong. New Orleans is drowning, its poor people starving, and it's steadily sliding into chaos, just like Baghdad.

DiManno quotes a labourer saying the only thing that can be said about this situation:

"I tell you, America has let us down."