The miracles of modern science...
...have ushered in a new and glorious era.
...have ushered in a new and glorious era.
I confess that I find Bill Bennett annoying, obnoxious and largely insufferable. His remarks about aborting black babies were ill-conceived, to say the least. But to be fair, the man was arguing rather passionately against exactly the sort of sophistry he's being accused of. In response to a caller's argument justifying abortion on demographic grounds (involving Social Security in this case), Bennett proposed an intentionally outrageous hypothetical precisely in order to show where such a utilitarian argument can ultimately lead.
So that's all I have to say about that. I now intend to resume not giving a damn what Bill Bennett thinks or says about anything.
It's deja vu all over again. Cindy Sheehan met yesterday with North Carolina Senator Liddy Dole, and then promptly rushed for the nearest microphone to call her a "warmonger."
Sound familiar? I wonder if this meeting, like the one with McCain, was also scheduled under false pretenses?
Christ, when are these people going to learn? And does anyone still honestly wonder why Bush has declined to meet with her for a second time?
The handicapping of the 2008 presidential race has already begun. While everyone seems to agree hat the Republicans are in grim shape, Howard Fineman of Newsweek thinks the Democrats are in no position to exploit it.
A remarkably pessimistic assessment of the GOP's near-term prospects comes from none other than Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard. I'll be the first to admit that the Republicans are facing a strong headwind at the moment, but I seriously have to question some of Barnes' basic assumptions. First, there's this:
The field of Republican candidates is weak.... The strongest potential Republican candidates are Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Giuliani is a social liberal.
All right, as promised, I watched "Night Stalker" last night.
First of all, I found I really enjoyed the show. But it was next to impossible to think of Stuart Townsend as Carl Kolchak. Kolchak is a gregarious, fifty-ish newshound, pleasant and back-slappingly affable. Even though a bit sleazy, he's the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with... or seven. Last night's Kolchak, by contrast, was a brooding, sardonic, twenty-something metrosexual. (And how the hell did he afford that house?)
I'd read enough of the advance reviews to know that the original Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) was going to make a brief cameo appearance thanks to the wonders of digital technology. That was a nice touch, but I found it to be an almost painful reminder of how flat and uninteresting the new Kolchak is compared to McGavin's character.
All that being said, however, I thought the writing was strong and the story was decently filmed and acted. It's sort of an "X-Files" meets "The Fugitive" kind of a thing. It deftly avoids the fatal "monster of the week" flaw that plagued the original series, but I hope it also manages to avoid the "X-Files" pitfall of attempting to wrap up everything into one vast, overarching uber-conspiracy. In fact, if the writers are not careful, the entire series could easily devolve into an "X-Files" clone, especially given Kolchak's partnership with a (how's this for originality?) smart, skeptical woman who provides a reality check for some of Kolchak's more outlandish theories.
Still and all, I liked the first episode very much, and I plan to watch again. I think I'll like it better, though, when I stop trying to pretend that the protagonist is Carl Kolchak.
UPDATE: My source at ABC tells me the "Fast Nationals" for "Night Stalker" were disappointing. It got trounced by "CSI," apparently, but I guess that didn't come as a huge surprise. Hopefully, Kolchak will be given time to build an audience.
This story sort of defies ready explanation. I guess it's about a guy who stole an ambulance... and had a dead deer in the back... hooked up to IV's... or something.
Last night another of my conservative friends excoriated me for refusing to rush to DeLay's defense. Here's why I don't think that's a good idea.
First of all, I understand that the indictment against him is weak, and that he well may be innocent. He also may be guilty, but end up acquitted due to lack of evidence. I found it rather unlikely that he'll actually serve time.
But that's beside the point. We have a Democratic opposition that will oppose us at every turn. We have to choose our battles carefully. There are some very important ones coming up -- the next Supreme Court pick, for example. It is not a good idea to waste time, energy and political capital to defend Tom DeLay.
Why? The guy is a liability. He is ultimately damaging to our party and our cause. He has become emblematic of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party and with politics in general.
Look, Charles Rangel can't hurt us. Dick Durbin can't hurt us. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Howard Dean and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer can't hurt us. Every time they open their mouths, Karl Rove does the "happy dance."
But DeLay is a different story. Not only does he personify the political patronage system, and not only is he the primary author of the gerrymandering scheme that has turned 435 supposedly "elected" representatives into de facto tenureships, but he is openly hostile to the Republican ideals and principles that swept him into power in the first place. He is as careless and reckless a steward of the public fisc as we are ever likely to see. When principled fiscal conservatives (wherever such may still be found) dare to stand up for the taxpayer and oppose him, he browbeats, threatens and coerces them into compliance. And all the while, he has the stones to add insult to injury by claiming he and his Republican caucus have "trimmed" all the fat out of the federal budget.
Well screw that! He is not worth lifting out middle finger to defend. I'm sorry, but I can't see it any other way. And look, I'm not suggesting we roll over in the face of what may very well be a partisan political attack. But stay on the offensive. Don't let the Dems put us back on our heels, in the defensive posture we became accustomed to for so long -- and especially when the target in question is as indefensible as Tom DeLay.
Fight back. Stay on the offensive. Hell, start indicting their guys. Whatever. But don't get sucked into a draining political battle in which our side is guaranteed to lose even if we win.
I guess you've heard by now, but Judy Miller is a free woman. After nearly three months in jail, standing up courageously for journalistic principles, she has decided at the last minute to do what she could have already done at any time. She has called her super-secret source (Scooter Libby) and gotten an extra-special-double-for-sure waiver of confidentiality.
So yes, I guess her whole 3-month stint in the slammer was much ado about nothing. I wonder if the New York Times feels jerked around? Why did she voluntarily choose to spend almost her whole summer in jail, only to abandon her stand on principle at the last minute? Were the kids driving her crazy at home?
Presumably Miller will talk to the Grand Jury now, but what will she say? None of us will ever know. Grand Jury proceedings are secret, you know. None of the parties involved would ever violate the law by leaking Grand Jury testimony, right? Never happen. In a million years.
...has uncovered the real reason for the California wildfires.
Looks like there are no surprises here. Roberts was just confirmed by a final vote of 78 to 22. All 55 Republicans plus Jim Jeffords voted "aye." The Democrats were split almost right down the middle. The 22 "no" votes were:
Reed, J. (RI)
Reid, H. (NV)
As the old legal saying goes, you can indict a ham sandwich. This maxim is meant to be taken figuratively, I presume, but if any prosecutor were ever to indict an actual ham sandwich, my money would be on Ronnie Earle (Legal trivia: Is there anyone else in the history of American law who has ever indicted himself?)
Many conservatives rushed to DeLay's defense after the indictment was handed down yesterday. I held my fire, because I neither like nor trust the guy, and I've thought for a long time that the Republicans would be better off without him.
That does not mean that I believe this indictment has merit, however. It may well be politically-motivated BS -- or not. We shall see. But in the meantime, please note that it's not merely right-wing pundits and bloggers who find DeLay's indictment to be on the "thin" side -- today's Washington Post weighs in as well. The Post is no fan of DeLay, and they begin by stating the obvious -- that DeLay is no poster boy for congressional ethics. They go on, however, to express their reservations about yesterday's big bombshell:
Nonetheless, at least on the evidence presented so far, the indictment of Mr. DeLay by a state prosecutor in Texas gives us pause. The charge concerns the activities of Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), a political action committee created by Mr. DeLay and his aides to orchestrate the GOP's takeover of the Texas legislature in 2002. The issue is whether Mr. DeLay and his political aides illegally used the group to evade the state's ban on corporate contributions to candidates. The indictment alleges that TRMPAC took $155,000 in corporate contributions and then sent a check for $190,000 to the national Republican Party's "soft money" arm. The national committee then wrote $190,000 in checks from its noncorporate accounts to seven Texas candidates. Perhaps most damning, TRMPAC dictated the precise amount and recipients of those donations.
This was an obvious end run around the corporate contribution rule. The more difficult question is whether it was an illegal end run -- or, to be more precise, one so blatantly illegal that it amounts to a criminal felony rather than a civil violation. For Mr. DeLay to be convicted, prosecutors will have to show not only that he took part in the dodge but also that he knew it amounted to a violation of state law -- rather than the kind of clever money-trade that election lawyers engineer all the time.
Mr. DeLay's spokesman said this month that "to his knowledge all activities were properly reviewed and approved by lawyers" for TRMPAC. If so, the criminal law seems like an awfully blunt instrument to wield against Mr. DeLay. If not, we look forward to seeing the evidence. In the meantime, as required by party rules, Mr. DeLay has stepped aside as majority leader. Whatever happens in the criminal case, perhaps this latest controversy will cause his colleagues to rethink whether he is, in fact, the person they really want as their leader.
So of course I'll be watching the debut of Night Stalker tonight. I won't be live-blogging, because I want to pay attention, but I'll share my thoughts tomorrow. I'd been bracing for the worst ever since I heard that Stuart Townsend had been cast in the lead role. To me that's a little bit like redoing the Rockford Files with Leonardo DiCaprio or something.
But today I'm pleased to note that Linda Stasi has given it three-and-a-half stars, and pronounced it "very good." She's probably just setting me up for a fall, but I'm cautiously optimistic.
Am I the only one who didn't know about this? I only discovered it when it started showing up in my referral logs. Cool.
Michelle Malking observes that the MSM, privacy advocates, and civil libertarians are strangely silent on the "dumpster diving" escapades of Chuck Schumer's former staffers.
Gee, I wonder why that could be.
It looks like yesterday's reports about Dreier filling DeLay's post were premature. Now it looks like Roy Blunt, or else some strange power-sharing deal between Blunt and Dreier which I don't fully understand.
Either way, it sounds like the stage is being set for DeLay's return, in the (perhaps likely) event that he's acquitted. Acquitted or not, however, I'm not sure he's going to simply bounce back from this one.
It's only a movie. And a bad one at that, from what I've heard. Just shut up already.
...one idiotic remark at a time.
How's this for a method of cutting pork and paying for Katrina relief? From now on, every time a congressman utters that tired, hackneyed soundbite "turning back the clock" in the context of a judicial nominee, he or she must be forced to give up a pork project of at least $10 million or more.
"If the president sends us a nominee who is committed to an agenda of turning back the clock on civil rights, workers' rights, individual autonomy or other vital constitutional protections, there will likely be a fight," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democrats' Senate campaign committee and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Stephen Green asks which of the following will be the most popular justification floated for DeLay's indictment?
1. A sacrificial lamb to distract from Bush's low poll numbers.
2. A distraction from Bush's next Supreme Court pick.
3. A chance for Hillary/Kerry/Edwards to grandstand.
4. The guy had it coming.
5. All of the above.
By the way, I should make one thing clear. My personal dislike of Tom DeLay and my desire to see him gone do not necessarily imply that I believe this indictment to have substance. It may or may not, but I'm not closing the door on the possibility that it's politically motivated. For that, we will have to wait and see.
My own thought has always been that he was all liability and no asset. Granted, he had a near legendary ability to get the caucus to toe the party line, but when the party line is voting for pork-laden transportation bills, what's the benefit of that?
You know what I'm talking about: "Not that we believe there's anything wrong with that (Heavens, no!) It's simply about the hyocrisy you see? The Republican hypocrisy..."
The House Majority Leader has been indicted on a conspiracy charge, and, as a result of House rules, will be stepping down from his leadership position.
You know what? When I search this very site for references to "Tom DeLay," I notice that I've been calling for his head for almost an entire year now. But no, that didn't happen. Instead, Republicans rallied around him, once even changing the rules to protect him before thinking better of it and changing them back. And to what end? What did it buy us? Another full year of crap like this.
Oh hell, why not? Surely he can't be as bad a legislator as he is an actor.
But what does it say about the current state of the Democratic Party, that their hottest prospect is in actively trying to recruit... Ben Affleck. Think about that, people. Ben. Fricken. Affleck.
I swear, the Republicans have one thing, and I mean only one thing going for them right now -- their opposition.
(Hat tip: Ace)
Both of you? I mean, seriously....
Peace mom Cindy Sheehan didn't change her opposition to the war in Iraq after meeting Tuesday with one of its supporters, Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam veteran whom she called "a warmonger."
McCain, R-Ariz., also seemed disappointed in the meeting, which he said had been misrepresented as including some of his constituents. Only one person in her small delegation has ties to the state, and that person no longer lives there.
The two exchanged views about the war, and McCain described the conversation as "a rehash" of opinions already well known. He said he might not have met with Sheehan had he known none of his constituents was in the group.
Liberals must adhere to some alternative definition of the word "public" that means, well, "private." I don't know how else to explain either the Kelo decision or NYC mayoral candidate Freddie Ferrer's recent assertion that he'd been educated in "public" shools.
Fernando Ferrer is still doing damage control Wednesday after an error on his website over where he attended school was made public.
Ferrer pulled a statement on his weblog that claimed he was a product of public schools, when he actually attended Catholic School. The error was pointed out by the Bloomberg campaign.
All right, I did it. I watched "Commander in Chief" last night.
God, what is there to say? Yes, as expected, the villain was a ridiculously cartoonish parody of a staunch conservative (albeit played brilliantly by Donald Sutherland,) but what does one expect? You could see that one coming from a mile away. I also thought the overall premise of the show was howlingly unrealistic, but again, I didn't expect much in this department either.
I guess the thing that did strike me was how astonishingly un-feminist it was. We'd all heard the hype about how this groundbreaking show was going to pave the way for a real woman president, by shattering perceptions and getting America prepared to elect a female leader.
Frankly, I didn't see it. The Geena Davis character simply landed into both the vice presidential and the presidential offices through no effort of her own -- the former resulting from naked political expediency, and the latter from a simple quirk of fate. Moreover, the show led us to believe that Mackenzie Allen had been neither prepared nor qualified for either position.
And that "joke" about Moses stopping in the wilderness to ask directions? Please, people, that's just embarrassing! Any true feminists who were watching should have been insulted. They deserve better.
Next week I'm watching "House."
I almost missed this. I wonder why it isn't a bigger story? I guess it will be, as soon as they figure out how to blame Bush or the war in Iraq.
Reports: Plot to attack Paris subway, airport
PARIS - Authorities fear that a suspected Islamic terror cell broken up in France was plotting attacks on the Paris subway, an airport and an intelligence agency's headquarters, newspapers said Tuesday.
Police arrested nine people Monday in the sweep, including an Islamic militant previously convicted on terrorism charges and freed from prison two years ago, officials said.
Le Figaro and Le Parisien newspapers said the alleged cell's suspected targets included the Metro, a Paris airport and the Paris headquarters of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance, or DST, a police intelligence and counterterrorism agency.
This is why now more than ever, Bush's next nomination will be so crucially important.
When even the Kos-heads are starting to get sick of Cindy Sheehan, it's a pretty good sign that about 14 minutes and 59 seconds of her 15 are used up.
When Cindy Sheehan complained about wall-to-wall coverage of "a little wind and a little rain" (i.e., Hurricane Rita) robbing her of media attention, even the Kos Kiddies took offense. Here are some sample quotes.
I'm in Southeast Texas with family on the coast and in Lake Jackson, LA.
I'd like you to tell us it's just a little wind and rain. They've lost their homes, jobs and businesses and gone through fear and panic while you bask in your fan's adulation, party with your celebrity friends and play the star.
Shame on you, you're jealous of media coverage of other's suffering. You've become a caricature and I no longer support you. I'm ashamed I ever did.
You might also realize that the people in a hurricane's wake don't suddenly get happy and whole an hour after the eye passes over. It's still not a little wind and a little rain to them. Do you know they are still very afraid down there - right now, Cindy, trying to find 1,000 people lost in Vermillion as I type..
You can find the story now on CNN's website. I'm very sorry, it's slightly above the story about you - that's just so unfair too isn't it.
Well Joan Baez sang for you today, and you got your smiling-happy picture taken with Jesse Jackson today, and your story is still front page on CNN.com today. So it was a very good day. Yes it was a beautiful day for Cindy wasn't it?
Sorry Cindy, but I must say that the suffering in Texas right now is quite pertinent. In fact, at a time when we have people suffering, left homeless and devastated from "a little wind and a little rain," I think you can take a break from the camera just for a moment.
I have been a staunch supporter of the Anti-War movement, but when you make statements like these, you lose the credibility and support of most rational people.
Peoples lives are being destroyed and in many case ended by Rita and Katrina before it. You of all people should understand this! Every life is important, that has been your argument!
That is damn stupid. The death toll from these hurricanes is still rising, and you really think the Iraq war doesn't get covered? What a selfish woman! I'd be downright ashamed to read anything else you have to say from here on in.
I'm beginning to doubt Cindy Sheehan's veracity. It is about HER not Bush, or his war.
Do you wonder how many of the "100,000" "anti-war" protesters down in Washington this weekend were actually "anti-war?" Chris Hitchens does, and he points out that many of them are actually "pro-war," just on the other side. Of one of the event's co-sponsers, ANSWER, Hitchens points out...
..."International ANSWER," the group run by the "Worker's World" party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the "resistance" in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a "wide range of progressive political objectives" indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper -- to mention only two radical left journalists -- who have exposed "International ANSWER" as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism.
To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh. And this in a week when Afghans went back to the polls, and when Iraqis were preparing to do so, under a hail of fire from those who blow up mosques and U.N. buildings, behead aid workers and journalists, proclaim fatwahs against the wrong kind of Muslim, and utter hysterical diatribes against Jews and Hindus.
Some of the leading figures in this "movement," such as George Galloway and Michael Moore, are obnoxious enough to come right out and say that they support the Baathist-jihadist alliance. Others prefer to declare their sympathy in more surreptitious fashion. The easy way to tell what's going on is this: Just listen until they start to criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were invented or created by the United States. That bad, huh? (You might think that such an accusation -- these thugs were cloned by the American empire for God's sake -- would lead to instant condemnation. But if you thought that, gentle reader, you would be wrong.)
You may want to sit down for this one. It turns out that the MSM coverage of Hurricane Katrina was, in many cases, wildly exaggerated and, well, wrong.
Yes, friends, I know this is shocking! But difficult as it is to believe, the proof is right there in black and white.
The National Guard spokesman's accounts about rescue efforts, water supplies and first aid all but disappeared amid the roar of a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.
"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Bush said Monday of the Superdome.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified "rapes," and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of "scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials."
The wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling -- that an infant's body had been found in a trash can, that sharks from Lake Pontchartrain were swimming through the business district, that hundreds of bodies had been stacked in the Superdome basement.
Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bodies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.
Fox News, a day before the major evacuation of the Superdome began, issued an "alert" as talk show host Alan Colmes reiterated reports of "robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murder. Violent gangs are roaming the streets at night, hidden by the cover of darkness."
The Los Angeles Times adopted a breathless tone the next day in its lead news story, reporting that National Guard troops "took positions on rooftops, scanning for snipers and armed mobs as seething crowds of refugees milled below, desperate to flee. Gunfire crackled in the distance."
Now before I say anything else, I have a question. How many of us suspected from the get-go that the initial reports of disaster were grossly exaggerated, but didn't feel permitted to say so out of fear we might be seen as trying to downplay this tragedy? I certainly fell into this category. I mean, Christ, weren't things bad enough without such rampant hyperbole?
You know what's happened? With all the pressure to provide up-to-the-minute, real-time news, 24/7, and the increasing laxity in "nailing down" stories before airing them, the MSM has finally devolved into nothing more than an elaborate rumor mill.
Hell, they might as well just replace the evening news with a bunch of anchormen sitting around in a bar having conversations like
Anchor 1: Hey, I heard "Mikey" died from eating Pop Rocks!
Anchor 2: Yeah, well I heard "Beaver" died in Vietnam. And that dorky Jewish kid from "Wonder Years" is Marilyn Manson.
Anchor 3: Oh yeah? Well Rod Stewart got 50 gallons of jizz pumped from his stomach.
Think I'm too harsh? I don't. I think I'm being damn charitable, in fact. Because given the media's performance during Katrina, some unsophisticated, red-state rubes might be forgiven for believing that the media actually wanted things to sound as dire and desperate as possible.
Gee, I wonder why that could be?
And by now you've probably heard that Spain has sentenced an al Qaeda leader on a 9/11-related conspiracy charge. But did you know they also convicted an Al Jazeera journalist for collaborating with terrorists as well? I suppose no comment is really necessary.
And on the topic of the Roberts nomination, we have this quote from Eleanor Clift:
Here's a mind game: if the vote to confirm John Roberts were a secret ballot, would most Democrats vote for or against him? My guess is that Roberts would rack up numbers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg (96-3) and Stephen Breyer (87-9) -- both appointed by President Clinton -- if Democrats didn't have to placate party activists so angry at President Bush they believe he should be opposed at every turn.
And speaking of Ms. Clift, is anyone else going to be watching "Commander-in-Chief" tonight? I figure I'll give the premier a go, even though it's up against "House." Since Donald Sutherland usually plays slimy creeps these days, I'm guessing he's going to play the sinister, scheming Republican. Care to place any bets? I'm trying to decide if it's worth live-blogging or not. I'll probably just wait to see how I feel.
This Bob Novak column is as depressing as anything I've read of late. The few House Republicans who have any remaining desire to curb spending are getting their asses handed to them by the House leadership. And what's worse, the handful of principled Republicans in Congress typically term-limit themselves voluntarily. Jeff Flake, for example, is leaving the House next year, even though he could win re-election handily. I admire his principled stance, but there are so few voices of fiscal sanity in the Capitol now that we can scarcely afford to lose his voice.
You'd think Flake's distinguished colleagues might take a cue or two from his playbook. He was one of the only Congressmen not to request pet pork projects for his district in Arizona, and yet he was recently re-elected with more than 70% of the vote. We need a hundred Jeff Flakes in Congress, and soon we're going to have zero.
At the risk of sounding all Andrew Sullivan-y, I'm demoralized, and I don't know what to do. If I lived in Tom DeLay's or Dennis Hastert's district, I could campaign against them. If I lived in the district of one of the few "Flakes" in Congress, I would support them. But beyond that, what can I do? I can only think of one thing.
I know I've alienated some of my conservative readers with my recent positive remarks about John McCain (I alienated my liberal readers at this blog's inception.) You McCain critics have some valid points. Many of them I even agree with. But at some point, you're going to have to offer a better alternative. And believe me, I'm all ears.
For my part, I've given up on the Congress. My only hope is to elect a chief execute who has at least some stomach for controlling spending, and knows how to use a veto pen. So far I like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. If you've got somebody else who would be a better candidate, let's have 'em, by all means.
This had to be the most half-assed endorsement I've seen since '96, when Jack Kemp gushed on and on ad nauseum about how terrific Steve Forbes was, and then ended with something like "...but I guess you should vote Dole for president... I guess."
Actually, David Dinkins' endorsement of Ferrer for mayor was even worse than that. He essentially admitted that Bloomberg was doing a fine job, but that he was endorsing Ferrer out of a sense of obligation to the Democratic Party.
In a sane town, one might wonder why a candidate would even accept a Dinkins nomination, let alone seek one out. I can't explain it, other than to say that Ferrer is the same candidate who wants to repeal the ID requirement for welfare recipients. This is exactly the kind of indefensible, brain-dead liberalism that has helped guarantee Republican hegemony in recent decades.
For the moment, I'd say Bloomberg's job appears safe. All the less reason for him to be engaging in all the Bush-bashing he's been doing of late, in an effort to shore up his progressive base. I'm warning you, Mike Bloomberg! The Republican Party in New York is a force to be reckoned with! We will not take this lately, and we will see to it that you pay the price for your treachery!!
Ha, just kidding! We don't amount to jack shit, actually.
By the way, while I'm on the topic of the NYC mayoral race, I should point out that Dick Morris is less sanguine than most about Bloomberg's victory.
In one of those rare instances in which it becomes obvious that I've been paying too much attention to politics lately, I dreamed about Janice Rogers Brown last night. No, it wasn't one of those kinds of dreams, but still, I think it's time for me to take a step or two back.
Speaking of potential SCOTUS picks, Bob Novak is saying it's going to be Priscilla Owen. I find that encouraging, because if I know how this White House works, that almost certainly means it's going to be somebody else.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District in Louisiana today sided with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and issued a restraining order to bar further gun confiscations from peaceable and law-abiding victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
"This is a significant victory for freedom and for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The court's ruling is instant relief for the victims who now have an effective means of defending themselves from the robbers and rapists that seek to further exploit the remnants of their shattered lives," said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
Hat tip: Glenn
Two national gun rights groups yesterday joined individual Louisiana gun owners in a federal lawsuit to stop authorities from confiscating firearms from private citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the seizures of guns from law-abiding citizens. They described the confiscations as "arbitrary," "without warrant or probable cause" and thus "illegal."
New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III "completely overstepped his bounds ... when he announced two weeks ago in the New York Times that only law-enforcement personnel are allowed to have weapons," Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the 3-million member NRA said in an interview yesterday.
The police superintendent's comments were echoed by the city's Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley, who told ABC News: "No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons."
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb called the gun seizures "outrageous" and "illegal." He said New Orleans officials have refused to tell gun rights groups why they are now leaving citizens, already devastated by the Category 4 hurricane, "defenseless against lingering bands of looters and thugs."
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia committed an apparently unpardonable sin before a Juilliard audience yesterday. He audaciously suggested that if the government pays for art, that it should be able to, you know, choose what art it pays for.
I know, it doesn't sound especially inflammatory to me either. Still, there must be something we're missing, because it clearly touched a nerve or two over at DU. Check out the first few comments on Scalia's offense against humanity:
All I want is 45 seconds alone with Fat Tony.
Fat Tony is a perfect name for that slug
i'll hold him down for you... gladly
Any time this asswipe shows up in public we need people with cameras just to annoy this fuck
what nut case invited that mutant worm there to speak?
Republicans like Scalia are retarded socially.... He's simply sick.
The Nazis liked to pick their own art too, and burned or stole the rest.
I mean, maybe it's understandable. Maybe it has very little to do with Scalia's remarks and everything to do with personality. Perhaps if someone started a DU thread in which Scalia was quoted as saying "The sun is big and round!" we'd be treated to a barrage of "Fuck YOU, you fat FUCKING Nazi Guido Wop!" Who knows? Anyone with posting privileges over at DU want to undertake a scientific experiment?
As expected, I caught some conservative flack for some of my John McCain comments yesterday.
My post wasn't meant as an early endorsement (I still prefer Rudy, as, it seems, do most Republicans.) I just see what I think are the makings of a McCain boomlet, and I take that as a positive sign for my party's future.
I've disagreed frequently with McCain in the past, and sometimes passionately. As "John of Argghhh!" pointed out in the comments section yesterday, my biggest disappointment with McCain is his abysmal record on the Second Amendment.
Still, I think there's a lot to be said for "the right man at the right time." When I try to identify the top three problems plaguing the Republican Party at this time, I come up with something like this:
And as a practical matter, I think he'd romp over whatever Democrat would oppose him in 2008, particularly if that Democrat should happen to be Madam Clinton. That can't hurt.
I'm still stunned by yesterday's committee vote on Roberts. We have the best qualified and least controversial nominee anyone could reasonably expect, and yet 5 of the 8 committee Democrats voted to deny him an up-or-down vote before the whole Senate. In addition, more and more Senate Democrats are announcing their opposition to Roberts, the latest being Hillary Rodham Clinton.
All of this telegraphs the following message to President Bush: "We will oppose whoever you nominate to the High Court. You will have a fight on your hands, regardless."
That's their prerogative, of course, but they shouldn't be surprised if Bush infers that he might as well go for broke. Under the circumstances, I'm hoping for either Michael Luttig or Janice Rogers Brown. (By the way, whatever happened to Richard Posner? It seems you never hear his name mentioned anymore in this context. Is he just too old now, or what?)
House Republican Study Committee document recommends huge cuts
An internal Republican Study Committee document which is now available online and was simultaneously leaked to RAW STORY Thursday outlines an array of huge cuts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, including the elimination of funding for Amtrak and the National Endowment for the Arts.
It sounds like the Senate Judiciary Committee just voted 13-5 to send Roberts' nomination to the full Senate. Think about that. The president appoints a superbly qualified and largely uncontroversial candidate to replace a conservative jurist, and a solid majority of committee Democrats don't even think he's entitled to a vote.
UPDATE: Here's the final vote:
Specter, A. (PA) - Y
Hatch, O. (UT) - Y
Grassley, C. (IA) - Y
Kyl, J. (AZ) - Y
DeWine, M. (OH) - Y
Sessions, J. (AL) - Y
Graham, L. (SC) - Y
Cornyn, J. (TX) - Y
Brownback, S. (KS) - Y
Coburn, T. (OK) - Y
Leahy, P. (VT) - Y
Kennedy, E. (MA) - N
Biden, J. (DE) - N
Kohl, H. (WI) - Y
Feinstein, D. (CA) - N
Feingold, D. (WI) - Y
Schumer, C. (NY) - N
Durbin, R. (IL) - N
Okay, who's going to do it? Who's going to fire on Fort Sumter? Am I going to have to be the one? (I suppose there'd be a certain logic to that, since I spent most of my formative years in South Carolina.) Or maybe Fort Sumter has already happened? Maybe Rick Santorum fired the first shots at us.
Either way, I think the battle must be joined. I believe a civil war for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is inevitable, just as I believed a final showdown with Saddam was inevitable.
All right then, let's have on with it.
As I've been writing over the past few days, the aftermath of Katrina and Bush's "rebuilding" speech have once again highlighted the growing chasm between the libertarian and religious conservative wings of the party.
As much as I admire Ronald Reagan (Peace be upon him) there are times when duty demands that his Eleventh Commandment be broken. Nobody enjoys in-fighting in the face of a common foe, but we've reached the point where we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend that we don't have a problem.
Check this out. It's a letter to Andrew Sullivan from a Republican who was trying to make the case for withholding criticism of Bush during the 2004 election.
Many of us either withheld or tempered our criticism before the election for the practical reason that (1) its detrimental effect on Bush's election chances outweighed any curative effect it would have on his governance (which curative effect it could still have post-November); and (2) Bush, even with his weaknesses, was a better choice than Kerry. You obviously concluded otherwise. That doesn't make you any more responsible for criticizing Bush or me any less responsible for holding my tongue.
Many Democrats, it would seem, have yet to learn this. Rather than focusing on building a positive message and grooming attractive candidates for 2008, they're focused with a single-minded obsession on destroying the current president -- who will not be allowed to run in another election.
Fine. If they want to do that, fine. But continuing to defend him against the relentless onslaught of Bush-hating moonbats who are never going to be deterred is no longer worth expending the time and energy that could better be spent in working toward our party's future.
I believe a growing number of people are demanding fiscal sanity. Let's be the party that will give it to them. I believe the American people would rather use our federal resources combating terrorism than combating pornography. Let's shape our party's priorities accordingly, and if the religious conservatives don't like it they can damn well vote for Hillary Clinton.
We've got an opportunity to take our party back, people. It won't be easy, but it'll never be easier than it is right now. For the moment, we have the winds at our back, and even the most ardent Bush apologists are beginning to look beyond the next forty months. Witness, for example, Jonah Goldberg on John McCain from five minutes ago:
It seems to me that conservatives should really only care about three things these days: Killing the bad guys, Cutting government, appointing good judges. On the surface, it seems McCain is well-qualified on all three.
And the rest of you Republicans should remember this: Bush is the party's past, not its future. And before you bristle, I mean that not as a judgment, but as a simple statement of undeniable fact.
It's time we think about the future, and look for the party leaders who will take us there. For now, at least, I'm encouraged by where we seem to be looking.
Now let's roll. Stay the course. All that.
Trent Lott finally said something that makes sense.
Congress could help pay for rebuilding efforts in Mississippi and other areas hit by Hurricane Katrina if it halted the $700 billion Medicare prescription drug program, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said Tuesday.
Lott, R-Miss., told reporters his vote in November 2003 for the Medicare drug program, which has nearly doubled its projected cost, was one of two he most regretted in his 34 years on Capitol Hill.
The new Medicare drug benefit is scheduled to take effect in January. President Bush and House Majority leader Tom DeLay say the program is too far along to stop.
Lott was unconvinced by that argument.
"I never saw anything you couldn't stop if you made up your mind to," he said.
Yeah, it may be wishful thinking, but I'm beginning to see signs that the whole anti-pork movement may be gaining traction. And have you checked out The Corner lately? They're gushing over John McCain. Yes, I'm serious. This could spell a sea change.
Yes, I know that congressmen are addicted to pork. But why? They think their constituents are addicted. If the voters continue to demand responsible custodianship of their tax dollars, who know? Fiscal conservatism may make a comeback after all. I realize that tight-fisted money management may never be the majority view in Washington, but I'd settle for it being a sizeable faction at this point.
I realize that in posting it I'll be deluged with by readers from both parties who'll claim I'm fantasizing and deluded by wishful thinking. They'll echo the "conventional wisdom" that Rudy Giuliani is anathema to social conservatives, and has zero chance of capturing the GOP presidential nomination. They'll say John McCain is anathema to the party establishment, and has zero chance of capturing the nomination. They'll say that Condi Rice makes social conservatives a bit queasy and has too much neocon baggage and is a black woman besides, and has zero chance of capturing the nomination.
Well what can I say? Maybe they're all correct. But check out this latest GOP preference poll from Rasmussen.
Rudy Giuliani 31%
John McCain 28%
Condoleezza Rice 19%
And perhaps even more important than who's in this poll is who isn't. Namely, there's not a single religious conservative in sight. No Santorums, no Romneys and (thankfully) no Bushes.
Yeah, I'm sure those who want to dismiss this poll can easily find reasons to do so. At this point, however, I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of my party.
I've been entirely neglecting my household chores of late, and it's all Annie Jacobsen's fault. Ever since her new book "Terror in the Skies" arrived in the mail, I've been unable to put it down.
I recommend this book to everyone who flies (and not just because yours truly makes a cameo appearance therein.) During the past four years, I'd clung stubbornly to the naive belief that 9/11 was a "one-off" success that the terrorists would never be able to duplicate. This book single-handedly shook me out of that complacency. Not only do I think it can happen again, but I think terrorist "dry runs" and abortive missions are far more common than any of us would like to believe.
"Terror in the Skies" is scrupulously documented and well researched (as I expected), but also delivers a compelling, harrowing narrative that caused me a severe case of the willies as I stayed up late reading it in the dark quiet of my living room.
You can buy "Terror in the Skies" by clicking on the link below. But prepare to be unsettled.
If I'm under-blogging today it's probably because I'm extremely tired and have a bit of a lingering headache. But that's okay. It was well worth it.
I was out very late last night, attending the marathon Hurricane Katrina benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. I swear, New Orleans has more talent per capita than any other city on the globe, and last night was living proof.
Despite the amazing number of performers and speakers during the six-hour show, the evening was remarkably free of politics -- except, of course, for this vapid, obnoxious tirade from the loathsome Bette Midler.
Stupid whore. If they ever make a CD of this concert, try to see if you can hear me on it. I'm the one shouting obscenities at the overrated hag from the orchestra section. And although I was clearly outnumbered, I was hardly alone. In fact, I had a number of people shake my hand afterward.
But aside from the PMS fit from a fugly, tarted-up has-been, the evening was truly amazing. The stellar New Orleans line-up (including the Nevilles, Alan Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, the Dixie Cups and others) was joined by Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, John Fogerty (yeah baby, yeah!), Dave Matthews, Simon and Garfunkel and probably tons more that are slipping my mind at the moment.
Since I've long held the belief that CCR was The Greatest Rock and Roll Band of All Time, seeing Fogerty was a special treat for me. To make things even better, he was introduced on stage by former president Bill Clinton. No, I shit you not. That's a much-deserved honor for someone who has recently suffered the indignity of having to open concerts for John-Cougar-Marshall-Whatever-his-name-is-this-week-Mellencamp. O, the injustice of it all!
In addition to Clinton, there were many other non-performing dignitaries of note, including Senator Mary Landrieu, Jessica Lange, Ed Bradley and Scarlett Johansson (no, I have no idea why.) These people mercifully refrained from singing and kept their remarks mercifully brief. Yes, even Clinton.
I spent more money on the tickets than I probably should have, but since the Garden was underwriting the entire cost of the concert, 100% of the proceeds are supposed to go to relief efforts, so I suppose I can't feel too guilty about it.
And actually, I wouldn't have anyway. It was a night to remember, and well worth it.
UPDATE: For those of you who missed the show, here's a brief sample, courtesy of my bootlegger, "Greasey" Carmichael.
How else can one justify the creation of a new FBI porn squad task force? And mind you, this is not one of those token little projects that nobody really cares about that they hide in the basement the way they did the X-Files. This is "one of the top priorities" at Justice.
Like many of my fellow conservatives, I'm also opposed to the idea of Al Gonzales sitting on the Supreme Court. Unlike many of my fellow conservatives, however, it has nothing to do with his squishiness on abortion, and everything to do with crap like this.
In case anyone cares, Andrew Sullivan is sick of George W. Bush.
I'm not saying we don't need to spend money on the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I'm saying I don't want to hear it from this guy. As a friend of mine commented last night over a drink, I don't hate this president and never have. I'm just sick of him. Sick of the naked politicization of everything (Karl Rove over-seeing reconstruction?); sick of the utter refusal to acknowledge that there is a limit to what the federal government can borrow from this and the next generation; sick of the hijacking of the conservative tradition for a vast increase in the power and size of government, with only a feigned attempt at making it more effective; sick of the glib arrogance and excuses for failure that dot the landscape from Biloxi to Basra.
But enough about Sullivan! I also know how he feels about the president. Eight years is a long, long time for a president to be in power. It seemed interminable under Clinton, and (although this borders on heresy) even Reagan had begun to wear thin at the last. With a president whom I was never overly enthusiastic about in the first place, it's definitely going to be a long eight years. God, you've got to wonder how the French do it, with their seven-year presidential terms! To think of it is to weep.
Conventional wisdom holds that Hurricane Katrina was a watershed event, clearly delineating the moment at which the era of big government being over was, officially, over.
This may be wishful thinking, but there's a chance the conventional wisdom could be wrong. The past week or so has seen something of a groundswell movement against runaway government discretionary spending. Citizens in Montana and Alaska have petitioned their local governments to return a portion of their federal largesse so that it might be redirected to the Gulf states, where it could actually do some good. Congressional pork cops like Jeff Flake in the House and John McCain in the Senate are getting more and more exposure. Best of all, the blogosphere is all over it. With the power of the internet, citizen oversight of federal budget line items is possible in a way it never was before.
With a little luck and a lot of hard work, Katrina could become a different kind of watershed. It could become the point at which we learned government resources are limited, and must be spent wisely. It could, in short, usher in the rebirth of fiscal conservatism. Surely that is a goal towards which we can all, left right and center, work toward together.
Amir Taheri seems to think so.
On the one hand, I resent the fact that the elections in Afghanistan were scarcely covered by the American media. On the other hand, no news is good news, I guess. The elections were relatively uneventful and unmarred by violence, with an estimated turnout of just over 50%.
That's what Cindy Sheehan called it.
I don't care if a human being is black, brown, white, yellow or pink. I don't care if a human being is Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or pagan. I don't care what flag a person salutes: if a human being is hungry, then it is up to another human being to feed him/her. George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power. The only way America will become more secure is if we have a new administration that cares about Americans even if they don't fall into the top two percent of the wealthiest.
Cindy Sheehan, your fifteen minutes of fame are up. Shut up, go home, and stop making a fool of yourself.
Dear Michael Moore,
Mr. Brown may have been a "horse show runner" and may eventually be shown to have been an abject failure at running FEMA. But when I look at John Kerry, I know I made the right decision.
And yes, I do believe in Jesus.
Michael Moore has written an open letter to everyone who voted for Bush. I'm trying to draft a suitable response, but every time I start to drop my trousers, someone walks into the copier room.
...Charles Krauthammer is begging to write like Yoda?
Circumspect and clever Roberts has been....
"I promise to spend money on an unprecedented scale. Thank you, and good night."
Now aren't you glad we elected a "conservative" president?
...as if you needed another reason. "[The] Nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice is an Outrage to Women", according to NOW. But none of this is new. Check out what hysterical feminists have said about past justices, even the liberal ones:
1975: According to Nan Aron, then the president of the Women's Legal Defense Fund, John Paul Stevens should be opposed because had shown "blatant insensitivity to discrimination against women."
1990: With the nomination of David Souter, Molly Yard, then the president of NOW, declared that confirming Souter would mean "ending freedom for women in this country." NOW howled that his confirmation meant "Women will die."
Hat tip: Kate
John Derbyshire exposes some of the ridiculous hoops (e.g., sexual harassment awareness training) that FEMA volunteers must jump through before being allowed to help out in an actual disaster.
I'd like to think this is just more government stupidity, but sadly, this kind of thing is by no means limited to FEMA. My wife is a mental health professional with two master's degrees and several years' experience in working with trauma victims. Immediately after Katrina, she contacted the American Red Cross to volunteer. They assured her that they'd love to have her, but that she'd first have to undergo a multi-week training session before being allowed. This is apparently required of everyone, education and experience notwithstanding. It seems kind of unfortunate that we have trained, skilled and experienced people eager to help and they're being held back by nonsense bureaucracy.
In case you missed it, you can listen to it here (thanks, Liz Ard!) It's definitely worth your time. The venue and the audience were a bit stacked against Hitchens, but I was surprised and gratified that he got his fair share of applause from the crowd. Hitchens' first 15-minute opening statement is among the most compelling arguments I've heard yet in support of the invasion of Iraq. That alone is worth the bulky download.
UPDATE/BLEG: Does anyone know where/whether the Arianna Huffington/ Victor Davis Hanson debate might be available? I'd be interesting in hosting that as well... if, that is, it's not too painful to listen to.
Check out one of the "talking points" the Democrats are distributing as part of a coordinated letter-writing campaign to oppose John Roberts.
In the wake of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, it's never been more important that all Americans receive equal protection under the law, particularly those who are most vulnerable. John Roberts' career has been defined by the argument that the constitution requires no such equal protection.
And where is the supporting documentation that Roberts' entire career has been "defined" by his opposition to equal protection? Such a charge, I would think, begs corroborating evidence -- evidence I would think the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee would like to have at the moment.
Contrary to popular belief, corporations do not expend significant energies trying to figure out ways to set the cause of environmentalism back 20 years. They don't have to. Greenpeace is all too willing to do it for them.
A friend and I are considering opening a place in the East Village called The "Fuck Bush" Coffee Shop. I figure we're guaranteed a certain amount of clientele regardless of the quality of our products or services. we could also sell logoed merchandise, from which a portion of the proceeds would go to benefit political causes that the management deems worthy. Brilliant, no?
Yesterday I mentioned that Anthony Weiner (mmph) had decided not to oppose Freddie Ferrer in a runoff election. The problem is, it looks like it's not really up to him. The runoff is mandated by state law, and may cost the city up to $12 million.
But I have a question. The turnout for the mandated runoff is likely to be extremely low, given that one of the candidates has, you know, quit. If only half a dozen people bother to vote, anything could happen. What would happen if Weiner wins?
It's all very messy, but I'm guessing that at the end of it all, career moron and habitual race hustler Fernando Ferrer will emerge with the nomination. And that begs an even more important question. In a city of eight million people, including the best and brightest this nation has to offer, are these four Democrats truly the best we can come up with?
The Wall Street Journal has some pretty good ideas as to what Bush should say in his prime time address tonight.
President Bush addresses the nation on Hurricane Katrina tonight, and after keeping too quiet for too long there's a lot for him to say. We hope he tells Americans that such a demonstrable failure at all levels of government is a rare opportunity to change that government, not another excuse to expand it willy-nilly.
Only in Washington... could so much government failure be used to justify expanding the size and scope of government. Some emergency money is essential. But Congress has already appropriated some $62 billion, with essentially zero accountability, to be spent by such models of compassion as the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Another $100 billion may soon follow. Ted Kennedy has proposed that Congress create another Tennessee Valley Authority for the Gulf region. Give them one more week to panic, and Republicans on Capitol Hill will be demanding another Great Society.
Mr. Bush has a chance tonight to turn all of this around. Instead of channeling more cash through the same failed bureaucracies, he should declare the entire Gulf Coast region an enterprise zone, with low tax rates for new investments and waivers for any regulatory obstacles to rebuilding. He can also learn from California's 1994 earthquake experience--which former Governor Pete Wilson described here on Tuesday--and demand emergency powers to waive rules and allow bonus payments for contractors that finish projects ahead of time.
Above all, he can reframe the entire debate on how to help the poor of New Orleans. The people who couldn't flee the storm were not ignored by "small government conservatism," as if that actually still exists outside of Hong Kong. The city's poor have been smothered by decades of corrupt, paternal government--local, state and federal.
While Chicago and other cities leveled their public housing projects, the Big Easy has continued to run nasty places like the Lafitte homes. The city's crime rate is 10 times the national average, even as New York and other big cities have seen their rates fall. Its public schools are as bad as any, and its city government more corrupt than most. The last thing the poor need is to be returned to such tender, loving care.
This would include killing the idea, floated by the White House, of buying 300,000 mobile homes for the displaced. Governor Blanco wants to build communities of thousands of trailers for a year or more near Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Such shelter makes sense in some parts of the Gulf Coast where there literally is no housing stock left. But it is an act of insanity--defined as repeating the same mistake over and over--to recreate trailer-park versions of Lafitte on military bases, isolating the poor once again and returning them to dependence on the government. Far better to give them vouchers to find housing of their own, especially where there is unused rental space.
The same goes for the city's 77,000 displaced public school students. Their parents should be given vouchers for the equivalent of their tuition, with the option of using it at any school where they can find an opening, public or private. Charter schools should be allowed to expand immediately, and the Bush Administration could seek an emergency federal waiver of state charter laws to let them accept New Orleans kids now swamping other public schools.
Yesterday I bitched about Tom DeLay and other House Republicans ludicrously claiming to be fiscal conservatives while spending tax money like a drunken Kennedy. I did, however, point out the Jeff Flake and a few others still carry the lonely banner of fiscal restraint.
Today I'd like to point out that the Senate has some heroes as well -- chief among them, Tom Coburn and John McCain.
Sen. Tom Coburn, playing his familiar role of skunk at the Sunday school picnic, is arguing that massive federal spending in the wake of Hurricane Katrina must entail some sacrifice. By that he meant the pork so dear to his colleagues. That has evoked an icy response, not only from Congress but from the White House as well.
Coburn, a freshman Republican from Oklahoma, telephoned Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to ask support for $15.3 billion in offsets based on the administration's own proposed terminations and spending reductions. Bolten politely informed the senator that the administration's hands were full dealing with Katrina's aftermath.
Coburn told me he did not blame Bolten but his superiors. The superior he meant was George W. Bush.
On the Senate floor last week as the emergency Katrina bill was passed, Coburn declared: ''I am disappointed in our president for not bringing forward with this bill recommended spending cuts that would easily be achieved in the discretionary budget of this country to pay for the disaster assistance.'' Citing calls for ''sacrifice'' by Americans, he declared that ''it is no sacrifice on the part of Congress to steal $51.2 billion from our grandchildren.''
When Congress was called back before Labor Day to pass a $10 billion first installment, Coburn on Sept. 1 declared Congress should ''make budget sacrifices of its own if we expect the American people to do the same.'' On Sept. 6, Sen. John McCain, a longtime anti-pork crusader, joined Coburn's effort. They declared: ''Members of Congress should, at least temporarily, deny themselves a few of the comforts of political office.'' But there has been no word of support from Republican leaders or the administration.
The $15.3 billion in OMB proposed cuts is just the beginning of the Coburn ''sacrifices.'' He would cut into $27 billion of spending earmarked by individual senators and House members in this year alone. As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on federal financial management, he has found $41.5 billion in government overpayments because of poor accounting practices, $1.2 billion in an ''over-priced'' renovation of United Nations headquarters, $18 billion in General Services Administration middle-man fees and $46 million in cost overruns at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
By now, most people have probably heard the stories of New Orleans doctors euthanizing dying patients in the chaos of Hurricane Katrina.
Horrible though this is, I won't sit in judgment of the doctors' decisions. But am I the only who's astounded that this isn't a huge news story? I could barely find anything about it at all, days after it was first reported. After all the barrels of ink that was spilled over Terry Schiavo, you'd think there'd be a little more attention paid to this.
So what's going on? Are they having trouble nailing the story down? Is it apocryphal, like the stories of cannibalism? What gives?
There is no more fat to trim from the federal budget. Seriously. None at all. Zero. Because Tom DeLay said so.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.
Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.
Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."
On a brighter note, a lonely voice of fiscal sanity took issue with DeLay's asinine comment. Not surprisingly, it belonged to Jeff Flake.
"This is hardly a well-oiled machine," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."
I suspect it's probably a little of both. God only knows how bad things will have to become before our lawmakers get serious about reining in spending.
For those of you following the primaries in New York, Anthony Weiner (heh, heh) has decided to concede to Freddie Ferrer. Ferrer beat Weiner (heh) handily in yesterday's primary, but couldn't quite muster the 40% required to prevent a runoff. Now, however, it appears a runoff will be unnecessary, and Freddy Ferrer can march unopposed into November and be slaughtered by Mike Bloomberg.
Have the Dems bailed on the Roberts hearings?
If so, it would put lie to all their high-minded rhetoric about their "advise and consent" role, and how seriously they take it. Maybe it was all about preening and posturing after all.
UPDATE: It looks like the Democrats aren't really needed anyway, given the way Specter is grilling him right now.
UPDATE: Well it looks like Leahy is there at least. Perhaps they realized that their absence was noted on the Drudge Report.
UPDATE: Kennedy's there as well. Must be a quorum. I guess they'll just be marked "tardy."
Did Arlen Specter honestly refer to Roe v. Wade as a "super-duper precedent" during yesterday's hearings? Honestly, and we thought Rick Santorum was the Keystone State's biggest embarrassment.
If I weren't so damned lazy, I'd attend this debate in person. Still, it might be less stressful to sit home and watch it on TV while drinking beer.
Anyway, iconoclastic writer Christopher Hitchens will be taking on that vilest example of idiotarian Eurotrash, George Galloway. They'll be debating the Iraq war. Should be fun.
I just re-read Glenn Reynolds' excellent list of questions he'd like to ask Judge Roberts. It's a pity we're not likely to see anything approaching this quality from actual senators on the Judiciary Committee.
Ah well. I guess we can always rely on the old trick of making their questions sound more interesting by appending the prepositional phrase "in bed" after each.
Examples of gross negligence and sheer ineptitude on the part of local officials in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have been extensively cataloged elsewhere. I will not rehash them here, but suffice it to say, none of them made their way into Newsweak's latest hatchet piece, entitled How Bush Blew It.
The story itself is nonetheless interesting, if for no other reason than as a case study for the pathetic state of journalism in American today.
By the way, does anyone else remember how after that whole "Koran flushing" debacle Newsweak pledged to rely much less heavily on "unnamed sources?" Yeah, well, I guess they changed their minds about that.
Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, we shouldn't forget that Afghanistan will be holding elections Sunday. This is an important story; too important to ignore.
Every time I think I'm going to quit reading "The Harridan Post," I realize I'd miss gems like this one from John Zogby.
Bush Still Beats Kerry: What Am I Missing Here?
In our new poll, every president since Carter defeats Bush. But Kerry still loses to Bush by one point. What am I missing here?
These Senate hearings are just excruciatingly boring. The one bright spot is that the senators have, for the most part, managed to stay under their allotted time for opening statements.
The exception was Dianne Feinstein, who was in the middle of some boring anecdote about copper shoes in Budapest when the clock ran out. She professed shock, and begged for enough extra time to finish her shoe story.
Memo to Arlen Specter: The next that happens, the correct answer is this: "No. No one cares about your story anyway. You get the same amount of time as everyone else. It's up to you how you use it. Next." What the hell does he think that hammer's for? Roberts, of course, still hasn't spoken.
Screw it, I'm going to the gym....
I'm listening to the Roberts hearings on C-SPAN radio. I am damn close to gnawing my own arm off from sheer boredom....
Tony Blair is being urged to ditch the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day. Why? It's offensive to Muslims.
The Gaza pullout, that is.
After rushing into the settlements, Palestinians set fire to empty synagogues in the Morag, Kfar Darom and Netzarim settlements, as well as a Jewish seminary in Neve Dekalim. Later, a Palestinian bulldozer began knocking down the walls of the Netzarim synagogue.
In Netzarim, two young Palestinians waving flags stomped on the smoldering debris outside the synagogue, and others took turns hitting the building with a large hammer.
No matter. There are two important points here to remember above all else:
It's time that we stopped the Katrina blame game and started looking for solutions. Overlooked in the abundant incompetence shown by local, state and federal officals was the one group who executed their duties flawlessly:
The U.S. Coast Guard.
Soon there will be a plethora of plans offered to fix what went wrong, presented by both political parties. They will include privatizing the disaster relief effort, making FEMA independent of DHS, giving FEMA more funding or creating a whole new level of bureaucracy and giving it more funding. All of that will satisfy their desire to shift blame while spending more of our money, but it will not fix anything.
What we need to do is give the entire job to the Coast Guard along with restoring proper funding. The Coast Guard has always been the ugly step-sister of our armed services, asked to do increasingly more with less resources, and they do their job well, with nary a complaint.
And since 9/11, they've been asked to do a lot more and have come though. In addition to their typical maritime duties, the Coast Guard also performs law enforcement, search and rescue, and environmental protection. They have the expertise and track record to be the primary disaster emergency response organization.
New Orleans and the gulf states are finally getting relief and it is no coincidence that a Coast Guard officer is now in charge of the effort. Let's take the job away from the bureaucrats and give it to the Coast Guard, before the next crisis strikes.
I do have something to say about 9/11.
I just caught a few seconds of the observances being conducting at Ground Zero, and I think it's embarrassing that the entire world continues to see a huge freakin' hole in the ground four years later. In the time it takes to get a college degree we have scarcely put two sticks together. That's an effing disgrace.
I can't believe it's been four years.
Beyond that, there's nothing I can really say that hasn't been said a thousand times already, and usually by people much more eloquent than myself.
Say, did anyone else notice a fireworks display over Lower Manhattan last night? What was up with that?
And I think he does a pretty fair job of it. Here it is, in descending order from most to least culpable.
1. The mayor of New Orleans. He knows the city. He knows the danger. He knows that during Hurricane Georges in 1998, the use of the Superdome was a disaster and fully two-thirds of residents never got out of the city. Nothing was done. He declared a mandatory evacuation only 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit. He did not even declare a voluntary evacuation until the day before that, at 5 p.m. At that time, he explained that he needed to study his legal authority to call a mandatory evacuation and was hesitating to do so lest the city be sued by hotels and other businesses.
2. The governor. It's her job to call up the National Guard and get it to where it has to go. Where the Guard was in the first few days is a mystery. Indeed, she issued an authorization for the National Guard to commandeer school buses to evacuate people on Wednesday afternoon -- more than two days after the hurricane hit and after much of the fleet had already drowned in its parking lots.
3. The head of FEMA. Late, slow and in way over his head. On Thursday, Sept. 2, he said on national television that he didn't even know there were people in the convention center, when anybody watching television could see them there, destitute and desperate. Maybe in his vast bureaucracy he can assign three 20-year-olds to watch cable news and give him updates every hour on what in hell is going on.
4. The president. Late, slow, and simply out of tune with the urgency and magnitude of the disaster. The second he heard that the levees had been breached in New Orleans, he should have canceled his schedule and addressed the country on national television to mobilize it both emotionally and physically to assist in the disaster. His flyover on the way to Washington was the worst possible symbolism. And his Friday visit was so tone-deaf and politically disastrous that he had to fly back three days later.
5. Congress. Now as always playing holier-than-thou. Perhaps it might ask itself who created the Department of Homeland Security in the first place. The congressional response to all crises is the same -- rearrange the bureaucratic boxes, but be sure to add one extra layer. The past four years of DHS have been spent principally on bureaucratic reorganization (and real estate) instead of, say, a workable plan for as predictable a disaster as a Gulf Coast hurricane.
6. The American people. They have made it impossible for any politician to make any responsible energy policy over the past 30 years -- but that is a column for another day. Now is not the time for constructive suggestions. Now is the time for blame, recrimination and sheer astonishment. Mayor Ray Nagin has announced that, as bodies are still being found and as a public health catastrophe descends upon the city, he is sending 60 percent of his cops on city funds for a little R&R, mostly to Vegas hotels. Asked if it was appropriate to party in these circumstances, he responded: "New Orleans is a party town. Get over it."
...is now officially and permanently on my you-know-what list. I'm sorry, but there are some offenses which are simply irredeemable. From yesterday's live chat:
Crofton, Md.: Hi Marc -- Question about human behavior (mine). I am horrified at the destruction along the Gulf Coast. I see bodies in the water and felt terrible but sadly not half as bad as I feel when I see a dog, cat, etc., dead or in distress from the storm! Am I hopeless? I can look at CNN and watch coverage of body removal but I immediately turn the channel when it is an animal! Why?
Marc Fisher: Beats me. But then again, I cannot fathom why all these folks who stayed behind to take care of their pets would risk their lives for an animal that they could easily replace at any pet store.
What the hell? Via The Volokh Conspiracy, we learn this troubling bit regarding the forced evacuation of New Orleans. Not only are they compelling the residents to leave, they are also confiscating any and all firearms, including legal ones. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," the superintendent of police said.
I'd like more details than the article provides before rendering a final verdict, but this concerns me. Is this a temporary measure, to prevent guns being taken to shelters, or miscreants from seizing guns in abandoned homes? And if so, is there any provision for the eventual return of the guns? I hope someone besides me asks these questions.
From a Times-Picayune reporter.
Both Zora and I had too much beer this Labor Day.
Even a lab rat in a maze is capable of eventually learning where the cheese is. Bush's enemies, by contrast, seem wholly unable to learn certain fundamental political lessons. In short, they always overplay their hand.
With Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke, they had a pair. They played it like three of a kind. We called. They lost.
With Joe Wilson, they had two pair. We later learned they cheated to get it, but it didn't matter. They played it like a straight. We called. They lost.
With Abu Ghraib, they really did have three of a kind. But they played it like a full house. We called. They lost.
With Bush's TANG records, they had us believe they had at least two pair. They had jack shit. We called. They lost.
With the CBS memos, we caught them dealing from the bottom of the deck again. Misdeal.
They played the Downing Street Memo as if they held a flush.... Jack shit.
They played Plamegate like a full house. They had maybe a pair of threes... and that's being generous. We called. They lost.
Now? Well, all strings of both good and bad luck will eventually come to an end. They're finally holding a natural straight. Problem is, they're playing it like a royal flush.
Anyone care to place their bets?
Sandy Berger was sentenced to two years' probation and a $50,000 fine for stealing and destroying classified documents. That's less than I'd like, but more than I expected.
There are still those who'll leap to Mr. Berger's defense, of course, but the fact that he pled guilty doesn't exactly give them much to work with.
Up until now, I've been very cautious in giving Al Franken and Air America the benefit of a doubt regarding the financing scandal surrounding the liberal network. It's becoming increasingly difficult, however, for me to provide said benefit.
Too bad. Al Franken was one of the few people involved in the whole enterprise whom I actually respected.
What we say:
Mistakes were made at all levels, and while it's undeniable that FEMA's response time was not acceptable, we cannot absolve the local authorities of their responsibilities as front-line responders. From the botched evacuation to Governor Blanco's ridiculous turf battles with Washington, the people of New Orleans were poorly served by their elected officials.
yeah well if clinton was still presidint when it hapened he would probly be to busy gettin blojobbed to help with the hurricane.
The Bush administration is interrupting its efforts to kill black people long enough to try to strong-arm House passage of a Social Security bill, possibly including private accounts -- at least according to the Dallas Morning News.
Note that this largely speculative piece reads more opinion than news, so I take it with a grain of salt. Moreover, I have my doubts as to whether this will work, but I am encouraged that the administration hasn't completely abandoned the idea.
Congressional Republicans, persisting in hopes of enacting some form of private Social Security option despite opposition from the public and the Democrats, are considering the same kind of maneuver that enabled them to pass a controversial Medicare drug bill two years ago.
That would appear to be their hope for private Social Security accounts -- pass a bill in the House authorizing private accounts, accept any Social Security vehicle in the Senate that gets the issue to conference and write a final version letting the White House proclaim success.
I'm relieved, but not surprised, to learn that some of the more over-the-top accounts of post-Katrina New Orleans (Astrodome rapes, babies with their throats cut, etc.) are looking more and more like urban legends.
Compare and contrast this with the "fog of war" immediately following 9/11. The anecdotes we heard then were often as not tales of hope, like the 80-story windsurfing cop, for example.
Why would our reactions to these tragedies be so different? Why would the rumors swirling around Katrina only serve to exaggerate the horrors of an already nightmarish situation?
I'm referring to the use of Hurricane Katrina images to oppose the Roberts nomination in a MoveOn ad. Do we have any moonbat translators out there who can help us out? Or is it nothing more than an attempt at Pavlovian conditioning? Like showing alternating images of John Roberts and a dog turd, so that the viewer is finally conditioned to feel a sense of revulsion at the guy? Or is it merely an illogical and disingenuous attempt to tap into the wellspring of post-Katrina rage and divert it to a wholly unrelated topic? Because I gotta tell ya, the "official" explanation from MoveOn seems a bit of a stretch.
"The connection is obvious," Brandzel said. "The images after Hurricane Katrina show we still live in a society where significant racial inequities exist. We believe John Roberts' record on civil rights ... is clearly not the direction our country needs to head now."
Looks like the Roberts confirmation hearings are a go for Monday. Place your bets now on who will get the award for "Most Asinine Question." I guess my money's on Schumer, but you can never really write off Orrin Hatch when it comes to these things.
I remember during the Souter hearings when Hatch was prattling on and on, asking Souter whether he could truly empathize with the struggles and difficulties facing the American family since he was a (ahem) lifelong bachelor. I was screaming at the television, "That's not his job! His job is to interpret the written law!"
I swear, I would have paid a thousand bucks to hear Souter respond, "Well, Senator, I don't breed like a Mormon jackrabbit, if that's what you mean."
Alas, I was disappointed.
I've noticed the "Tribute in Light" over lower Manhattan the past two nights. I seem to remember that last year it was only up for the one day on September 11. I thought at the time that it seemed silly to go through all the trouble to set it up and not leave it in place for at least a week or so. Maybe they finally agreed. Anyone else know?
I could have sworn I just heard on the hourly news that environmentalists were now complaining because contaminated flood waters in New Orleans were being pumped back into Lake Pontchartrain.
Please, tell me I hallucinated that.
If this poll has any accuracy, only 13% of Americans are willing to blame Bush for the Katrina debacle. Now 13% is not a negligible number, but you've got to realize that in today's climate, 13% of Americans would likely blame Bush for the crash of the Hindenburg.
I could even see polls such as this one culminating in the final mental breakdown of the hard left. After so many bitter disappointments, their hopes had been so high. You could almost envision the collective rubbing of hands, almost hear the collective mutterings of "We've got you now, you smirking Texas chimp!" through tightly clenched teeth.
It seems such reactions may have been premature. And the real irony here is that Bush does merit his fair share of criticism in this current disaster. At the very least, he displayed an appalling political tone-deafness in the early days of the crisis. And like it or not, symbolism, image and appearance are extremely important from our leaders at times like these.
In short, some of the left's complaints have some validity here. But guess what? Nobody's listening anymore. For four solid years, the blathering idiots of the lunatic left have been blaming Bush for everything from sunspots to the breakup of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. They've predicted looming fascism, complete with concentration camps, imminent theocracy, back-alley abortions and a return to legalized segregation. As with the boy who cried wolf, the country has become accustomed to filtering them out.
And when mouth-breathing imbeciles like Kanye West and Randi Rhodes start explaining natural disasters as racist conspiracies, it does nothing but reinforce the perception that their side has nothing of substance to say. Somewhere in the bowels of the White House, you just know Karl Rove is rubbing his hands together, saying, "Please, call us racists some more, pleasepleaseplease..."
It's sad. The whole damn thing is just incredibly effing sad. Once New Orleans is dry and cleaned up, the time will come for us to undertake a critical examination of exactly what went wrong and how to do it right the next time. But as highly politicized as the whole tragedy has already become, does anyone believe that such a dispassionate investigation can honestly take place?
Katrina has been blamed on everything from abortion to racism, and now we can add the Gaza pullout to the list.
I am so sick of people like this! My God, how blind can these folks be? Can't they realize that the whole thing is just a political Rorschach test upon which the ignorant and narrow-minded superimpose their own individual prejudices and bugaboos?!?
I mean, come on. It was clearly the fault of the U.N.
Mayor Nagin is demanding that New Orleans residents leave the city immediately -- or else.
Well, better late than never, I suppose.
There are those who will never forgive me for not being willing to begin handing out pink slips even while the levees around New Orleans were still flooding the city with billions of gallons of water. This alone, however, is enough to convince me that Michael Brown has more than outlived his usefulness at FEMA -- assuming he ever had any. (But please, Andrew, don't bother linking to me.) To tell the truth, I had my doubts about the Department of Homeland Security at its inception, and I have even graver doubts about it now.
Nevertheless, I do think some perspective might be in order. FEMA's response time, while clearly inadequate in this instance, was pretty much par for the course. As someone who lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989, I think the federal response to Katrina was, if anything, snappy by comparison. And that's in spite of the vastly more complicated logistics surrounding the Katrina response. That doesn't make it acceptable, of course, but perhaps the way FEMA is set up was never acceptable. It's a pity it took a tragedy of this magnitude to prompt a re-examination.
One more thing that's been bugging me is the complete lack of understanding regarding how our federalist system of government is set up. It's a bit more understandable for members of the foreign press, but it's downright inexcusable here at home. I'm talking about those demanding to know why Bush didn't order a mandatory evacuation immediately, and why Bush didn't federalize the National Guard and have them march into Louisiana to restore order immediately, and so forth. Ironically, much of these grievances emanate from the same quarters that habitually complain that the executive has amassed too much power under Bush, and is becoming almost dictatorial.
Pace Paul Krugman, Americans have not grown hostile to the idea of government service. Indeed, we have become conditioned to think of Washington as the default go-to guy -- our first, last, and only stop for meeting all our needs and redressing all our grievances, no matter how large or small.
Ah well. To be honest, I'm getting a bit burned out on the whole debate. At this point I can do nothing better than point you to two excellent posts by John Cole and Jeff Goldstein. They touch on some of these points and many others, and address them far more effectively than I can. Read them both. It's well worth your time.
Why is it that the folks from the Left can't just say "Iraq War"?
It's always "...the Iraq War, based on hyped and false information,..." or "the Iraq War, based on false intelligence,..." or something of that nature. And it's odd, but they all seem to do it.
Has anyone else noticed this?
Leading left blogger Atrios offers a message of unity and a refreshing break from the constant politicizing of the disaster.
I'm sure Katrina is bringing out the best in many -- donations, volunteering, etc... -- but it's shown the political Right to be the heartless racist fucks we always knew they were...Sick sick motherfuckers.
By now, we've heard Katrina's devastation blamed on everything from racism to abortion. I honestly believe, however, that the most farfetched explanation yet is that conservatism is at fault. Not the actions of a handful of conservative politicians, mind you, but the political philosophy itself. The idea seems to be that over the past quarter century, a band of heartless conservative ideologues led by Grover Norquist have eviscerated the federal government to the point where it is wholly unable to handle crises such as hurricanes and floods.
Astonishing, huh? Looking at a chart of government outlays from 1962 to the present, I would love for some of these people to help me to identify in exactly which years this evisceration took place. Indeed, the only year I can find in which government spending was actually cut from the previous year was in 1965, in which expenditures were "slashed" all the way to $118.2 billion from $118.5 billion -- under a Democratic president.
Hell, the abortion and racism scenarios are more plausible than this one. At least we knew that abortion and racism do in fact exist. But here we have supposedly intelligent people blaming the Katrina disaster on an entirely imaginary conservative gutting of the federal budget. Granted, conservatives have enjoyed talking about cutting government spending, but they have very seldom demonstrated any stomach for actually doing something about it.
And yet here's Russell Shaw in the "Harridan Post" who opines with a straight face that things in New Orleans might be going swimmingly right now (okay, that was a bad choice of adjectives) had Carter only beaten Reagan in 1980.
Economist Paul Krugman espouses a similar argument in the New York Times:
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?
The right may be denigrating the public sector in word, but it's doing so while massively expanding it.. I'm awestruck, here. Government leaves thousands dead, and Krugman lambastes people who are skeptical of government? How does that follow?
Krugman's making two false assumptions, here. The first is that the ruling GOP doesn't believe in government. In Iraq, this administration believes it can build a liberal soceity from scratch. It believes government can save marriages, convert convicts to Christianity, eradicate the drug supply, save public schools through nationalized testing, stop unwed sex by teaching abstinence, and solve the problem of high drug prices by forcing the rest of the country to pay for the medication of elderly people. That's an off-the-top-of-my-head list. This is an administration that has added an entire cabinet department to the federal rolls (also the largest bureaucracy in the history of U.S. government), spent money at record levels, expanded the regulatory state, and -- at the same time -- has been the most secretive administration in American history. If Krugman believes these to be signs of an administration, political party, and philosophy with "contempt" for government, I'd hate to see what "faith in government" looks like.
There's been much in the MSM lately about the White House's attempt to "shift blame" for the Katrina response to local officials. Actually, I find the White House's "blame shifting" to be extremely measured and restrained, considering that Nagin, Blanco, Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore and others scarcely waited for landfall before blaming Bush.
But now it looks like Mayor Nagin himself is pinning blame on the governor's office. Check out this video of a CNN interview with Mayor Nagin. It's fascinating. (And Soledad O'Brien is cute.)
The transcript is here, and it goes farther than the video segment.
S. O'BRIEN: You're telling me the president told you the governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision?
S. O'BRIEN: Regarding what? Bringing troops in?
NAGIN: Whatever they had discussed. As far as what the -- I was abdicating a clear chain of command, so that we could get resources flowing in the right places.
S. O'BRIEN: And the governor said no.
NAGIN: She said that she needed 24 hours to make a decision. It would have been great if we could of left Air Force One, walked outside, and told the world that we had this all worked out. It didn't happen, and more people died.
Nagin's attitude is perhaps understandable, especially in light of this piece from Sunday's WaPo:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.In other words, Blanco was still resisting federal control two days after Mayor Nagin was swearing at the president on the radio for not having taken over yet.
The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.
(Hat tip: lgf)
To date, I think I've been fairly restrained in criticizing the local officials for their handling of Katrina and its aftermath, even though I think it's pretty obvious that they failed their constituents in a time of need.
But this is a bit over the top (emphasis mine.)
"Today was a turning point, I think," [Mayor Nagin] said. "My philosophy is never get too high, never get too low. ... I always try to keep my emotions in check and yesterday I kind of went off a little bit. I was worried about that, but it maybe worked out. I don't know. If the CIA slips me something and next week you don't see me, you'll all know what happened."
It appears the spirit of New Orleans is not dead after all.
Amid the tragedy, about two dozen people gathered in the French Quarter for the Decadence Parade, an annual Labor Day gay celebration. Matt Menold, 23, a street musician wearing a sombrero and a guitar slung over his back, said: "It's New Orleans, man. We're going to celebrate."
Which brings me to another point about whether to "rebuild" New Orleans. I understand that the question has to be asked, but isn't it a bit presumptuous of us to have this debate at all? Particularly those of us who don't live there?
I understand the thinking of those who believe rebuilding would be more trouble than it's worth, and that to do so may court future disaster, but at the same time it begs the question: what is the alternative?
For example, much of the French Quarter is relatively dry and largely intact. What do we do with that magnificent, historical architecture? Bulldoze it? Pick it up and move it a hundred miles upriver? Abandon it as ruins? None of these options seem exactly tenable. And there will almost certainly be those who will try to rebuild, regardless. Should they be prevented from doing so? In short, those who would choose not to rebuild have some explaining to do regarding precisely what such a decision would mean. I honestly don't see as we have a choice.
Granted, there are probably many survivors who would just as soon leave and never look back. There are also, no doubt, many others for whom abandoning the city would be inconceivable.
New Orleans has been no stranger to calamity over the years. She has endured wars, hurricanes, devastating flood waters, fires that virtually leveled the city and plague outbreaks which decimated a far larger chunk of the population than did Katrina.
And yet New Orleans has survived. She will survive this, too. It may be many years, of course, before it's a vacation hot spot again. It won't be exactly the same city as it was 10 years ago, of course, but so what? As someone who first visited New Orleans in the 1970s, I can tell you that it had already become a different city in 2005, before Katrina, than it was when I first laid eyes on it.
I can't begin to predict, of course, what kind of city "New" New Orleans will turn out to be. But I am confident that it will always be there, and will always be New Orleans. Overall, I think that's a good thing.
The death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist has left two vacancies on the Supreme Court, and will no doubt throw Bush's opponents into a pitched state of heightened anxiety. What's unclear to me is why. After all, a Rehnquist departure represented the only realistic chance to move the Supreme Court to the left during Bush's tenure. There is almost no chance that Bush will be able to replace Rehnquist with an equally conservative jurist in the current political climate.
Also, I just heard on the news that Chuck Schumer is echoing Arlen Specter's (silly) idea of asking retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor to serve as chief justice, even if temporarily.
I have a much better idea. Bush should elevate John Paul Stevens, who is now the court's most senior member, to Chief Justice. In addition to his seniority, Justice Stevens is arguably the most liberal justice on the bench. I think such a gesture of goodwill may help ease the confirmation process that lies ahead, and which just became doubly difficult.
UPDATE: Well, it didn't happen. Bush will nominate Roberts for chief justice. I guess that makes sense. He probably doesn't relish the prospects of three SCOTUS confirmation hearings in the current climate.
Some are lobbying for Rudy Giuliani to run the ground response to Katrina's aftermath. An intriguing idea, I suppose. Of course it probably would have been more helpful to have had a Rudy-esque leader managing New Orleans in the first place.
As someone who lived in Manhattan during September 11, I've been thinking lately about how Rudy handled the 9/11 aftermath. For starters, he did not simply throw up his hands and cry (literally) and wait for the feds to come in. He recognized that his most important duty at the time was to rally the people of the city, to inspire them to pull together and appeal to their better angels of hope, determination and cooperation.
Equally importantly, he took charge. He gave orders. He bypassed bureaucracy, cut through red tape and almost certainly did not conduct everything strictly by-the-book, or even legally, in some cases. He asserted calm and determined leadership and got things done, while at the same time exhorting us all, by word and by example, not to despair, not to panic, but to come together and get New York back on its feet.
Now I know these two disasters were very different and that one can't draw a direct analogy. But don't you think just a little bit of that spirit would have gone a long way?
Well guess what? As offers of foreign assistance continue to pour in, we can now add the U.N. to the list.
It's been a while since unemployment has been under 5%, but it is now.
Sadly, we'd best not to get too accustomed to it. It almost certainly won't survive the economic impact of Katrina.
...and just as classy as ever.
No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh!
This site has been accused in recent days of (surprise, surprise!) "clamoring to Bush's defense." Believe it or not, that's not my primary concern at the moment.
True, I expressed disgust towards those parties who couldn't wait to make political hay out of this tragedy, even as the rains were still falling. Neither was this reaction confined to the usual suspects, of whom I expected no less. Some of these sentiments originated from more balanced and rational sources from whom I did expect better.
To be clear, I am not objecting to those who are simply asking, at this late date, why more was not done sooner. I am asking those questions myself, as is everyone else. I just don't pretend that I have all the answers.
In the fullness of time, however, we will have answers. There will be investigations and special committees six ways from Sunday to examine what went wrong and what went right. I don't know for sure, but I expect such investigations will indicate there is plenty of blame to go around. But to the extent that we find gross negligence or criminal incompetence to be the primary culprits, then heads must roll, quickly and ruthlessly, from the president on down, if necessary. But the point is that I lack enough information at this juncture to render such a verdict myself. And guess what? So does everyone else.
I first visited New Orleans when I was eight years old, and I was puzzled as to why I couldn't see the Mississippi River. I couldn't see it because it was above my freakin' head. I think people who are less familiar with the city and its layout are having a difficult time understanding why relief efforts are so logistically difficult.
Because of New Orleans' peculiar and precarious geography, a major American city has turned into a fetid lake. Like everyone else, I want the relief efforts improved drastically and immediately, but the notion that any amount of government planning or any level of preparedness can lead to a quick fix to this nightmare is fatuous in the extreme.
But the grimmest part to me has been the public reaction. No longer, apparently, can we Americans rely on being able to come together in a time of grave national crisis. The current political environment is poisoned to the extent that we are no longer able or willing to set aside our partisan squabbles for another day, at least long enough to help survivors and rescue the imperiled. That's a damn shame, and it may well be the single most tragic aspect of what is already an epic American disaster.
Reading some media outlets, it's easy to believe there are no National Guard troops anywhere near the Gulf States because they've all been sent to Fallujah or some damn place.
The good news is that we seem to have an adequate reserve to do the job.
Florida National Guard special forces were leaving Tuesday to perform search and rescue missions in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They are a part of the nearly 124,000 Guardsmen across 17 states available to help out Katrina's victims, officials of the National Guard said Tuesday.
Despite a heavy deployment of National Guardsmen to Iraq and Afghanistan, more than enough troops are on hand to assist with safety, security and relief efforts in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina, a spokesman for the Guard said.
Help, however, is on the way.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that 1,400 National Guard troops per day are being sent in to control looting and lawlessness in New Orleans, quadrupling the regular police force in the city by the weekend.
Already, 2,800 National Guardsmen are in the city to help local police since Hurricane Katrina produced devastating floods in New Orleans, Chertoff said at a news conference with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Another 1,400 Guard troops and military police units are being added daily, he said.
It's also worth mentioning that the Guard has reserves itself. Since the Guard is always susceptible to being nationalized, individual states have State Defense Forces which are strictly under control of the governor, to act in such capacities when the NG has been nationalized.
UPDATE: Much more here.
All these people who are second-guessing the relief efforts currently under way must have access to a lot more information than I've been able to find. Hell, I don't feel like I can even get any reliable, up-to-the-date news from NOLA, much less enough data to accurately diagnose all the inadequacies of the relief efforts.
I'm quite sure mistakes are being made. I'm quite sure that when the post mortem is done there will be plenty of problems found and plenty of blame to go around. We'll learn that we should have turned left instead of right at one junction, and north instead of south at another. No doubt about it!
But right now? I don't know what's going on, except that it's a disaster of biblical proportions, complicated by logistics that are beyond nightmarish. Whether the relief efforts are ultimately found to be lacking or not, it isn't the kind of situation that we can realistically expect a prompt remedy for four days later. Sorry, that's just the sad fact. I'd like to think that with the right government policy and the proper level of preparedness that we should be able to snap our fingers and make it all better. Much as I'd love to believe it though, it ain't reality.
With every news outlet and every blogger in the world doing NOLA reporting 24/7, I feel like trying to report any "news" in this space would be redundant at best. But have y'all heard that Fats Domino is missing? My God. Look, I know he's just one of many thousands, and no important than any of the others in the overall scheme of the things, but that sad, simple fact really does drive the enormity of this home. I'd actually been wondering about the status of many of NO's more famous residents myself. Anyone heard from Dr. John lately? Paul Proudhomme? Anne Rice?
Also from the Department of Redundancy Department, I'm going to link to something that Glenn Reynolds already has: Skippy is trying to get a million bucks for disaster relief. He's challenging all bloggers, left and right, to pitch in. Sounds good to me. This is one I don't mind being redundant on.
PS -- For those of you employed by large companies, don't forget to check into whether your employer offers matching funds.
This is kinda sad. If you go to 1-800-flowers to place and order and scroll down to the message area, you'll see this:
At a loss for words? We can help you express your sentiments.
Okay, I'm no Pynchon, but no consumers of my writing can ever claim they didn't get their money's worth.
I've long thought it ironic that the state that led the nation in a tax revolt with the Boston Tea Party has now become "Taxachusetts," represented by the likes of Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Barney Franks.
Well guess what? They're starting to redeem themselves a bit, by figuratively dumping Microsoft's proprietary Office formats in the harbor. Let's hope this, like the original Tea Party, is the beginning of a real movement.
THE STATE of Massachusetts, the people who brought you the Boston tea party, have joined in another revolution against good King Billy's Office software.
The state government has decided that all electronic documents saved and created by state employees have to use open formats from the beginning of 2007.
From then every state document must be in PDF or using Open Office formats. The big idea is to make sure that every citizen one can open and read electronic documents, something that it is convinced that VoleWare cannot do.
Microsoft is clearly worried. A lot of people live in Massachusetts and that is a big thumbs up for open sauce. However Vole is hoping to get around the problem by applying recognition from a technology industry standards body for recognition of its own formats as open standards.
However, since the new formats, soon to be seen in the next version of Office, will still include some proprietary elements, and are specifically excluded under the Massachusetts proposal.
I hope John Bolton hurries to offer our thanks and sincere gratitude to the international community for its outpouring of help and offers of assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Wait a minute, did I say "help?" I meant stern lectures about global warming. After all, with many thousands still fighting for their lives, there is no greater priority now than Monday morning quarterbacking, the proper assignment of blame, and scoring political points against your ideological foes, right?
This might be a helpful reminder going forward. All this crap about a "global brotherhood of nations" is often simply that -- crap. The more accurate picture of the international community is one of the United States as a vast pile of cash from which other nations feel entitled to demand largesse whenever it suits them. But make no mistake, it's a one-way street. We're there to serve them, not vice versa.
I'm not suggesting we turn our back when the world needs our help, but when we do help, let's have no illusions about what we're doing.
I should also point out that the exception which proves the rule is Israel.
UPDATE: Jill pointed it out in the comments section, but it merits mention up here. France and Germany are stepping up, and I suspect more will follow. Credit where credit is due. France, of course, has a particular connection to the region.
I also hear that Canada has offered assistance. I figured I might be deluged by these stories if I posted this piece, but I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. You know, it's kind of like how you can ensure rain by washing your car.
Oddly enough, my earlier remembrance of the Leon Everette song "Hurricane" prompted about a jillion Google hits to this site.
Now, unfortunately, I have a much grimmer set of lyrics stuck in my head.
Wasn't that a mighty storm
Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning, well
Wasn't that a mighty storm
That blew all the people all away
Wasn't that a mighty storm
Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning, well
Wasn't that a mighty storm
That blew all the people all away
You know the year of 1900
Children, many years ago
Death came howling on the ocean
Death calls, you got to go
Now Galveston had a seawall
To keep the water down, and a
High tide from the ocean
Spread the water over the town
You know the trumpets give them warning
You'd better leave this place
Now, no one thought of leaving
'til death stared them in the face
And the trains they all were loaded
The people were all leaving town
The trestle gave way to the water
And the trains they went on down
Rain it was a' falling
Thunder began to roll
Lightning flashed like hell fire
The wind began to blow
Death the cruel master
When the wind began to blow
Rode in on a team of horses
T cried, "Death, won't you let me go".
Hey, now trees fell on the island
And the houses give away
Some they strained and drowned
Some died in most every way
And the sea began to rolling
And the ships they could not stand
And I heard a captain crying
"God save a drowning man".
Death your hands are clammy
You got them on my knee
You come and took my mother
Won't you come back after me
And the flood it took my neighbor
Took my brother too
I thought I heard my father calling
And I watched my mother go
You know the year of 1900
Children, many years ago
Death came howling on the ocean
Death calls, you got to go