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September 10, 2005

TODAY WAS THE ANNIVERSARY OF Jonathan Klein's "pajamas" remark. I'll bet he wishes he hadn't said that, now.

READER JIM MARTIN EMAILS ABOUT DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY:

I read your PM article, it's very good, and I recommended it to a friend in Virginia looking for a digicam to use in his work. What amateur-made documentaries and Katrina brought to mind is something I have been considering for a long time: documenting historic homes and buildings.

As inexpensive as digital images are and having the ability to archive them on DVD discs everyone should take the time to photograph, in detail, the histOric structures where they live. The huge damage Katrina wrought to the Gulf Coast is a hard lesson for the rest of the coutry. Most of the old antebellum mansions are totally erased and will never be recontsucted. It would have been nice to have had detailed photos of them for posterity in a safe place far from hurricanes.

There are hundreds of old buildings, some on the National Registry of Historic Sites, which need to be photographed from all angles: up close, inside and outside to show minute detail of construction methods. Molded ceiling plaster motifs come to mind. If any of these structures are damaged by fire or storms and enough remains for restoration, architects and builders will find photos taken as special projects by archivists a great advantage.

A weekend is all many would require, a great Fall project to get started. Go to the mountains and take photos of log cabins when the leaves have changed. Go to historic sites in your hometown, all of them, large and small. They aren't important until they are gone and it's too late.

Good suggestion.

AERIAL PHOTOS FROM GULFPORT AND BILOXI showing the damage. Roads and bridges are especially hardhit.

LAPEER LIVING is photoblogging hurricane damage in Biloxi.

UPDATE: Major John Tammes -- InstaPundit's Afghanistan correspondent turned Belle Chase, Louisiana correspondent -- sends this photo and observation:

"I walked by a Louisiana National Guard signal unit and noticed their morale seemed to be OK. One of their NCOs invited me back to watch the LSU game but I had to politely decline..."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tammes was too modest to send a link, but I see he's been posting pictures and reports to his own blog, too.

tammeslasigunitsm.jpg

THE GUARDIAN seems to have scooped other media in reporting on the SENS2 aging and longevity conference at Cambridge:

Admittedly, yes, it's a hard science conference, but when you have Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk, Michael West of Advanced Cell Technology and many others of equal note - such as Ellen Heber-Katz and Amit Patel - all coming to the same Cambridge conference on advancing a cure for aging, it is suprising to me that only the Guardian turned up to see what was going on.

Luckily, the conference was blogged.

HERE'S MORE ON THE NEW ORLEANS GUN-CONFISCATION, from Dave Kopel:

The good gun-owning citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding areas ought to be thanked for helping to save some of their city after Mayor Nagin, incoherent and weeping, had fled to Baton Rouge. Yet instead these citizens are being victimized by a new round of home invasions and looting, these ones government-organized, for the purpose of firearms confiscation.

It's especially striking to see this at a time when New Orleans-area police have been abandoning their posts, engaging in looting, and trapping refugees in a flooding city at gunpoint. "Rely on the police to protect you" has never seemed like worse advice.

UPDATE: On the other hand, I might be persuaded to support efforts to disarm Sean Penn.

THE NEW YORK TIMES HAS PICKED UP ON the Gretna bridge-blocking story.

Tom Maguire, however, thinks that the Times is whitewashing the racial angle.

UPDATE: Two thoughts: Yes, this does sound like something out of Lucifer's Hammer. And, yes, maybe the reason the NYT isn't mentioning the race angle has something to do with this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Related racial coverage here.

JOHN TIERNEY thinks a Katrina investigation might turn up some uncomfortable facts for the investigators:

Suppose, for instance, investigators try to find out who had the brilliant idea of putting the Federal Emergency Management Agency inside a new department with an organizational chart modeled on the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture and Food Economy. One Democrat, Hillary Clinton, did question whether FEMA would suffer, but the idea was originally championed by her colleagues, particularly Joe Lieberman.

Mr. Lieberman joined Mrs. Clinton this week in calling for a "re-examination" of FEMA's status, but he was against independence before he was for it. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he helped lead the charge to create the Department of Homeland Security.

Republicans first resisted, as the Democratic National Committee pointed out during the presidential campaign last year. Its radio advertisement declared: "John Kerry fought to establish the Department of Homeland Security. George Bush opposed it for almost a year after 9/11." . . .

A few outside skeptics may suggest letting this money be spent by mayors and governors in flood-prone areas who can lose their jobs if they earmark it for too many boondoggles and allow disasters to occur. But members of Congress would conclude that only they can be trusted to dispense the money. Of course, should there be another flood somewhere, they would be glad to investigate.

As I've said before, I don't think Congress should be spared.

THE PRESS WANTS TO SHOW BODIES from Katrina. It didn't want to show bodies, or jumpers, on 9/11, for fear that doing so would inflame the public.

I can only conclude that this time around, the press thinks it's a good thing to inflame the public. What could the difference be?

UPDATE: Heh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ed Driscoll thinks that CNN is displaying the same situational ethics about body counts that it showed while shoring up Saddam's position during the Eason Jordan days:

I wonder if next time Hugh Hewitt has someone high up at CNN on his show, he could ask them, "In light of your decision to show the bodies of Katrina victims, do you think it was a mistake for networks like yourself to hide the images of victims of Saddam Hussein or 9/11? Really? Well, why didn't you at least show the latter on its fourth anniversary?"

Which is tomorrow, incidentally.

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Julian Sanchez is deliberately obtuse here, I think -- as should be especially obvious after reading Ed Driscoll's post.

Hey, CNN's just lucky it's not 100 years ago.

MORE: For the benefit of those who are -- deliberately or involuntarily -- still obtuse, reader Martin Shoemaker spells it out:

I think the difference lies in what they think an inflamed public might do.

In the case of 9/11, the elites in the media (who are so much more worldly than us folks in the masses, ya know) feared that an inflamed public might start burning Muslims at the stake. After all, all those Christian redneck hicks in the red states are just one step away from barbarians. And maybe they might even, I dunno, start a war or something, when what we need is to make apologies at the UN for our racist, imperialist past.

In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the elites in the media hope that an
inflamed public might start burning Republican leaders at the stake. After all, the elites all know how easily the masses are manipulated. (What was that Gallup figure again? Only 13% blamed the President? Don't those masses understand that we're trying to manipulate them? I guess we'll just have to look for even MORE negative stories. Bodies! That's it: we need BODIES! Somebody dig up some bodies for us, right away!)

I hear a lot of folks in the media ask how this disaster is different from 9/11. I feel the answer is: the folks in the media. 9/11 happened to THEM: to their home town, and to people they knew. They saw it happen, and it was something too momentous and awful for business as usual. The time was too solemn for their usual agenda promotion and self promotion. It hit home, and they were shaken. They saw people, not stories and angles and opportunities.

But Hurricane Katrina? That only hit a bunch of poor black folks (in their racially divisive view -- it's like they can't even see the white victims) down in a rural southern reddish-purple state, far from their day-to-day lives. It's not like it happened to anyone they knew, anyone who mattered to them. So that left them free to look for stories and angles and opportunities. And thus, they can pursue their ideological and professional agendas full bore.

The story coverage is different, because in their hearts, the media don't care about black people.

And if anyone in the media think that's an unfair, outrageous statement, I'll apologize on a case by case basis: any of them who condemned Kanye West's remarks can have an apology. The rest of them can go to hell.

Ouch. I'm getting a lot of email like this, and I think the press -- despite its orgy of mutual congratulation -- will see its reputation and influence shrink again before this is over.

I'VE GOT A PIECE ON DIGITAL FILMMAKING in the October issue of Popular Mechanics. The web version has a lot of extras, including interviews with John Farrell and J.D. Johannes.

UPDATE: Roger Simon comments: "I have to admit to some ambivalence about the implied possible demise of the studio system."

September 09, 2005

NEW ORLEANS GUN CONFISCATION ILLEGAL: Dave Kopel has done some legal research and concludes:

I'll have an article on the New Orleans gun confiscation on Reason.com. But there's one part of the story that's too important to wait: the confiscation is plainly illegal. . . .

The particular Louisiana statute which allows emergency controls on firearms also clearly disallows the complete prohibition being imposed by the New Orleans chief of police.

I hope that some civil rights organization -- the NRA, say -- will help the injured parties bring suit.

NOT SO EASY ON THE BIG EASY:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than half the people in this country say the flooded areas of New Orleans lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the vast sections of New Orleans that were flooded by Hurricane Katrina moved to a safer location. About 80 percent of the city was flooded at the height of the disaster. The city, home to about 484,000 people, sits six feet below sea level on average.

The fate of the flood-prone areas of the city is an open question. The aid pricetag already runs tens of billions of dollars. In the days since the hurricane, House Speaker Dennis Hastert has questioned whether the worst-flooded areas should be rebuilt.

"But the fourth one stayed up!"

A REPORT from the 82d Airborne.

KANYE WEST BOOED.

LIKE ME, Les Jones is guestblogging over at Michael Silence's place. He's got a post on two-way radios for emergencies.

His choices are good ones, though fancier than anything I've got (I have one of these for the car, which I guess counts).

GRETNA BRIDGE UPDATE: Johnny Dollar has video.

CRONYISM AT FEMA:

Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative.

I have to say I agree with Rod Dreher, who writes:

This is a scandal, a real scandal. How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize? The main reason I've been a Bush supporter all along is I trusted him (note past tense) on national security -- which, in the age of mass terrorism, means homeland security too. Call me naive, but it's a real blow to learn that political hacks have been running FEMA, of all agencies of the federal government!

Yes. It's not that these guys have campaign ties -- it's that they don't seem to have anything else. What's sad is that if Bush were packing the NEH or NEA with people like that, there'd probably have been an outcry. It's true, of course, that FEMA's record has never been that great, and that the response time here is no worse than it was for Hurricane Andrew. But as Dreher notes, this is post-September 11 so that "no worse than before" is no accomplishment.

UPDATE: Going beyond FEMA, read this post on systemic problems with disaster preparedness:

1. The keystone cops response in New Orleans stems, in part, from a flawed model of how to train for disaster.

Training drills almost never prepare officials for the worst. New Orleans conducted disaster exercises in 2000 and 2004 for hurricanes, but these drills did not include the possibility of a levee failure. In Los Angeles, a major port security exercise, Determined Promise 2004, tested a new mobile radio patch unit that enables different emergency response agencies to talk to each other. Surprise surprise: the system worked well. Of course it did. When everyone knows disaster will begin at noon on Monday, they miraculously remember to bring the right radios and brush up on instructions about how to use them properly. Even worse, not only do many exercises avoid facing truly disastrous scenarios, they define success by how smoothly everything goes. This gives a false sense of comfort, or to use a technical term, it's STUPID. Instead, we need to drill into officials that the right measure of success is how much they learn. If things do not go wrong in a drill, then the exercise was not useful.

Read the whole thing. And note that both of these problems are far more unforgivable than miscues made in the teeth of a disaster like Katrina, because they're mistakes made when there's plenty of time to get things right.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein thinks Dreher and I are making mountains out of molehills: "I just want SOMEBODY to point out FEMA’s actual failures instead of using a disputed resume blemishes and a lot of showy handwringing to suggest Brown’s failures." And reader C.J. Burch emails: "Isn't the real question here whether FEMA as it is desgined could do any more than it has done? I'm not defending cronyism, but I'm still not convinced that FEMA could accomplish more given the monumental problems it faced at the state and local level. And for that matter, how different are these men's bona fides from previous FEMA heads? Shouldn't we know that as well?"

I'd be interested to hear that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Merv Benson emails:

People forget that Katrina is not the first hurricane FEMA has worked under Brown. He handled all four of the hurricanes that hit Florida last year. Since Florida has a competent governor, there was no indication that he was inadequate to the task.

People are overblowing the response to terrorism fear. Al Qaeda can only fantasize about causing the damage Katrina did. What few comments they have made suggest they are somewhat envious of the power of nature. At this point al Qaeda has been reduced to back pack bombs outside of Iraq and in Iraq they are incapable of making a militarily significant attack. Perhaps they wish they had thought of blowing the New Orleans levee, but they are clearly having difficulty getting their troops into the US despite our border problems.

I hope he's right.

MORE: Coyote Blog: "After watching the relief effort over the last couple of days, I am more convinced than ever that part of the problem (but certainly not all of it) with the relief effort is the technocratic top-down 'stay-in-control' focus of its leadership. . . . Unfortunately, I fear that the lessons from this hurricane and its aftermath will be that we need more top-down rules and authority rather than less. It is the technocrats on the sidelines who are most appalled by the screw-ups, and will demand more of whatever next time."

NO WIGS IN THE SUNSPHERE: Dipti Vaidya takes you on a video tour of Knoxville's World's Fair landmark and discovers that Bart Simpson misrepresented some things.

OKAY, THE KATRINA RELIEF BLOGBURST is over, but -- given the wide array of bitching and fingerpointing that's going on -- I think I'll strike a constructive note and point to it one more time. Here's a list of places where you can help. And here's N.Z. Bear's roundup of participating blogs.

Also, this Katrina fundraising effort seems to have stalled a bit, so if you'd rather give through a lefty outfit, please consider donating there. As Skippy said: "this is not about red states v. blue states...this is not about left v. right...this is not about liberal v. conservative... the people in louisiana, mississippi and alabama are americans."

THE MICHAEL BROWN DEBACLE has inspired some thoughts by Joseph Britt.

UPDATE: Wrong link before. Fixed now. Sorry.

IRAQI SOLDIERS donate to Katrina victims.

GIVING UP on The Daily Show.

It never did much for me -- I always saw it as a pale shadow of Weekend Update.

SOME REPORTS AND PREDICTIONS from a reservist who's been in New Orleans.

THIS MAY BE GOOD NEWS:

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- Authorities said their systematic sweep of New Orleans to get voluntary evacuees out was nearly complete, and far fewer bodies than expected or feared were found during the operation.

Estimates of the death toll have ranged up to 10,000.

"I think there's some encouragement in what we've found in the initial sweeps that some of the catastrophic deaths that some people predicted may not have occurred," said Terry Ebbert, New Orleans homeland security chief.

Let's hope it turns out that way.

UPDATE: An I told you so. And another.

SOMETHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT: What happened to New Orleans' anthrax labs?

IT'S THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY of RatherGate.

MSNBC reports that Michael Brown is out. No link yet. [LATER: Here.]

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin: "While the president is getting rid of dead wood, can he do something about Norman Mineta now?"

POLICE TRAPPED THOUSANDS IN NEW ORLEANS: This report from UPI seems to confirm the item I linked earlier:

Police from surrounding jurisdictions shut down several access points to one of the only ways out of New Orleans last week, effectively trapping victims of Hurricane Katrina in the flooded and devastated city. . . .

"We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been "a closed and secure location" since before the storm hit.

"All our people had evacuated and we locked the city down," he said. The bridge in question -- the Crescent City Connection -- is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River.

Lawson said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the river.

He added that the small town, which he called "a bedroom community" for the city of New Orleans, would have been overwhelmed by the influx.

"There was no food, water or shelter" in Gretna City, Lawson said. "We did not have the wherewithal to deal with these people."

"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

But -- in an example of the chaos that continued to beset survivors of the storm long after it had passed -- even as Lawson's men were closing the bridge, authorities in New Orleans were telling people that it was only way out of the city.

An absolute disgrace. (Via Rogers Cadenhead). I renew my suggestion that the Civil Rights Division look into this, as there's some reason to think it was racially motivated.

UPDATE: This satellite photo shows the Crescent City Connection bridge as a "dry route to safety." (Compare with this map.) But it was a blocked dry route. So while the Red Cross was being kept out of New Orleans, refugees were being kept in.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Chief Lawson. Meanwhile, reader Jim Chandler doubts there was racism involved: "Most of the police officers I've seen there are black, so where does the racial motivation come in?" The article suggests otherwise, but I don't know. I think DoJ should look into it, though.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Chief Lawson. And here's an article that makes me wonder if he was worried about the fate of his video poker machines.

MORE: Bruce Rolston thinks that the New Orleans authorities are at fault.

A WIN FOR THE GOVERNMENT IN THE PADILLA CASE:

The exceedingly important question before us is whether the President of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with al Qaeda, an entity with which the United States is at war; who took up arms on behalf of that enemy and against our country in a foreign combat zone of that war; and who thereafter traveled to the United States for the avowed purpose of further prosecuting that war on American soil, against American citizens and targets.

We conclude that the President does possess such authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution enacted by Congress in the wake of the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001.

Whole opinion at the link above.

IN THE MAIL: Annie Jacobsen's book, Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again. It's certainly not the week to argue that Homeland Security has everything under control . . . .

GOV. BLANCO: "Nobody told me that I had to request that."

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus continues to blame federalism. "When things screw up, these days, we hold the president and the federal government responsible. It follows that the president and the federal government should have the power to stop things from screwing up." He makes a fairly strong case -- except that bureaucratic confusion and cross-purposes occur quite strongly even in unitary states with strong leaders at the top.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've mentioned this in passing before, but The Daily Howler has a lengthy post (scroll down) about FEMA's history of taking days to respond: "Perhaps most surprisingly, in the first three days after Andrew, there was little outside help coming into South Florida, no federal cavalry riding over the hill. Local governments and charities were scrambling to do what they could."

MORE: Jeff Goldstein has a much lengthier look at the issue.

MORE STILL: So does Michael Young.

UNSCAM UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal editorializes:

So it was that the largest fraud ever recorded in history came about. Press reports often cite the overall size of Oil for Food at $60 billion, but Mr. Volcker's report makes clear that the real figure was in excess of $100 billion. From this, Saddam was able to derive $10.2 billion from illicit transactions. But the important point is that he was able to steer 10 times that sum toward his preferred clients in the service of his political aims. None of this happened by accident. . . .

As for the U.N., it proved its worth to Saddam as the one hall of mirrors in which such shenanigans could take place. Yet even now we are told that "at least" Oil for Food fed the Iraqi people when they were on the edge of starvation, and this is accounted a U.N. success. That is false. Oil for Food offered a lifeline of cash and influence to a regime that was starving its people. The program did not corrupt the U.N. so much as exploit its essential nature. Now Mr. Annan wants to use this report as an endorsement of his "reform" proposals. Only at the U.N. could he dare to think he could get away with this.

Indeed.

INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY says that FEMA has never been fast:

Hillary Clinton says FEMA was more effective when her husband was president. The victims of Hurricane Floyd might venture a different opinion, and it wasn't FEMA that kept supplies from the Superdome.

During a post-Katrina conference call with reporters, Sen. Clinton said, "Helping localities do what they needed to do to mitigate damage — that philosophy governed FEMA during the Clinton administration. It obviously was rejected by this administration."

Does that mean Clinton's FEMA was the model of government efficiency and effectiveness? Or was it closer to the DMV and post office? Just ask the tens of thousands of people left stranded up and down the Eastern Seaboard by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Read the whole thing, which suggests that today's problems aren't an aberration, but part of a pattern.

UPDATE: Reader Bill Furr offers perspective:

Regarding remarks by Sen Clinton and others both left and right: It's called a disaster because it overwhelms our ability to respond and to mitigate the disruption in communications, supplies, medical services, and everything else in daily life. If we could respond completely and immediately, the it would just be a minor inconvenience.

Good point.

ANOTHER UPDATE: FEMA -- a history of failure?

September 08, 2005

LEON KASS HAS STEPPED DOWN from the White House Bioethics Council, to be replaced by Edmund Pellegrino, who supports a ban on even privately supported embryonic stem cell research. Ron Bailey writes: "The bottom line: Pellegrino's appointment as chairman of the President's Bioethics Council will, if anything, increase that body's opposition to a lot [of] biotechnological progress."

"EVERYBODY CARES:" Heh.

ED DRISCOLL, CATHY SEIPP, RUSTY SHACKLEFORD, ERIC UMANSKY AND MORE: Lots of blogger interviews on the Pajamas Media site. Just keep scrolling.

THE OPPOSITION IS CLAIMING MASSIVE FRAUD in Egypt's election. Publius has a roundup.

WALT MOSSBERG reviews the iPod Nano and loves it. "All I can say is: It sure is small and it sure is cool."

Unfortunately, you can't buy one just yet.

UPDATE: Actually, it is available at the Apple Store.

BRENDAN LOY IS ON THIS BACKUP SITE due to server problems.

RED CROSS KEPT OUT OF NEW ORLEANS: Ian Schwartz has the video.

UPDATE: Much more here.

KATRINA COVERAGE JUMPS THE SHARK: Entertainment Tonight has Richard Simmons blubbering in a sequined tanktop as he makes his "heartbreaking return to Bourbon Street."

No, really.

NEW ORLEANS: WE CAN'T PROTECT YOU FROM LOOTERS -- but we can confiscate your guns!

Unless you're hired security for rich people. (More here).

UPDATE: Cam Edwards: "Talk about class warfare. If you're rich enough to hire someone to defend your property, you're okay. If you're not... you're SOL."

ATTENTION SHOEBLOGGERS: The Manolo is having an essay contest about the shoes. The prizes, they are fabulous.

GERALDO VS. THE NEW YORK TIMES: Johnny Dollar has the video.

JERRY POURNELLE SAYS THAT FEMA SHOULD BE ABOLISHED and replaced with Tennessee Colonels. As a Tennessee Colonel myself, I find it hard to argue. . . .

UPDATE: In a related item, Jesse Walker writes on disasters and social cooperation.

SANDY BERGER UPDATE:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A judge on Thursday ordered Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, to pay a $50,000 fine for illegally taking classified documents from the National Archives.

The punishment handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson exceeded the $10,000 fine recommended by government lawyers. Under the deal, Berger avoids prison time but he must surrender access to classified government materials for three years.

"The court finds the fine is inadequate because it doesn't reflect the seriousness of the offense," Robinson said, as a grim-faced Berger stood silently. . . .

The sentencing capped a bizarre sequence of events in which Berger admitted to sneaking classified documents out of the Archives in his suit, later destroying some of them in his office and then lying about it.

After initially saying it was an "honest mistake," Berger pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, which contained information relating to terror threats in the United States during the 2000 millennium celebration.

Bizarre, indeed. (Via The Corner).

YES, IT IS, because you just want to do it again and again.

GREG GUTFELD ISN'T AFRAID to ask the tough questions.

MORE ON THE DIFFERENCE between the federal DHS, and the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security -- which seems to elude some journalists -- here.

BOBBY JINDAL notes that bureaucratic red tape can be deadly. Tim Worstall notes that this should come as no surprise.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from New Orleans native Thomas Lipscomb.

SPEAKING OF INVESTIGATIONS, The Mudville Gazette has been looking into the political background of the past week's events. I predict that many politicians, in both parties, will regret starting up the finger-pointing operations so soon.

IN THE MAIL: Eric Weiner's oral history of modern Wall Street, What Goes Up: The Uncensored History of Modern Wall Street as told by the Bankers, Brokers, CEOs and Scoundrels Who Made It Happen.

INTERESTING SURVEY IN THE ECONOMIST:

American influence has helped to tip the balance of forces in the Middle East towards reform. The changes remain shallow for now—even in Egypt, which is holding its first contested presidential election this week—but democracy is no longer a pipe dream.

Read the whole thing.

A UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT SHAKEUP: King Banaian, who knows much more than me about this, thinks it's a good thing.

THIS REPORT is appalling, if true. Someone -- say from the Civil Rights office at the Justice Department -- should look into it.

UPDATE: Apparently -- see the comments -- there's reason to doubt its truthfulness. Hold your outrage for now.

GERALDO UPDATE: Howard Kurtz is back from vacation, and reports that, with regard to the Geraldo story that I excerpted yesterday: "Fox News says that's absolutely, positively not true."

UPDATE: Much more on Geraldo here.

WELL, THIS WILL HELP: A finger-pointing storm erupts in Congress. Congress, of course, is in no position to point fingers. While we're assigning responsibility, perhaps those who had committee assignments relating to the Katrina response should lose those assignments, and their seniority. . . .

UPDATE: Here's another idea -- maybe members of Congress should give up some existing pork-barrel projects to fund Katrina reconstruction.

Defund things we don't need to pay for things we do! That's so crazy it just might work!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Varifrank predicts an invasion of lawyers that will destroy existing political arrangements in Louisiana.

ACCORDING TO THE WASHINGTON POST, the problem with New Orleans flood-control wasn't insufficient money, but an excess of pork-barreling that diverted the money from where it was needed to where Louisiana politicians wanted it:

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon. . . .

Pam Dashiell, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, remembers holding a protest against the lock four years ago -- right where the levee broke Aug. 30. Now she's holed up with her family in a St. Louis hotel, and her neighborhood is underwater. "Our politicians never cared half as much about protecting us as they cared about pork," Dashiell said.

I think we should set up an independent commission to look at Congress's responsibility for this tragedy. Oh, and somebody send a copy of this story to Paul Krugman.

UPDATE: Nick Gillespie: "Let's hope the pols involved get investigated along with everyone else."

Maybe this idea will catch on. In the meantime, folks might want to start comparing what members of Congress are saying now with how they talked, and voted, before Katrina.

SHAMELESS EXPLOITATION.

OUTDOING FEMA AND THE NEW ORLEANS CITY GOVERNMENT:

When their homes began to sink in Katrina's floodwaters, elders in the quarter here known as Uptown gathered their neighbors to seek refuge at the Samuel J. Green Charter School, the local toughs included.

But when the thugs started vandalizing the place - wielding guns and breaking into vending machines - Vance Anthion put them out, literally tossing them into the fetid waters. Anthion stayed awake at night after that, protecting the inhabitants of the school from looters or worse.

"They know me," he said. "If a man come up in here, we take care of him."

In the week after Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, Anthion and others created a society that defied the local gangs, the National Guard and even the flood.

Inside the school, it was quiet, cool and clean. They converted a classroom into a dining room and, when a reporter arrived Monday, were serving a lunch of spicy red beans and rice. A table nearby overflowed with supplies: canned spaghetti, paper towels, water and Gatorade, salt, hot sauce, pepper. . . .

In the days after the storm, the Samuel J. Green school also served as their base for helping others in the neighborhood.

They waded through filthy water to bring elderly homebound neighbors bowls of soup, bread and drinks. They helped the old and the sick to the school rooftop, so the Coast Guard could pluck them to safety by helicopter - 18 people in all.

All the while, they listened to radio reports of the calamity at the Superdome and the Convention Center. They heard that evacuees were dying and left to rot. There were reports of looting, gunshots, rapes, and no food or water. "There was no way we were going down there, to be treated like that," said Sarge.

Life at the school seemed far more civilized.

Bravo. (Via Daily Pundit).

September 07, 2005

DEREK LOWE sees a major step toward nanotechnology.

JOSEPH BRITT: Don't forget about Darfur. It is, in fact, worse than a hurricane.

MY FOCUS ON KATRINA and Katrina Relief has led me to drop the ball on linking to various blog carnivals. Here's a make-up post for at least most of them:

The Virginia Blog Carnival; The Carnival of the Vanities; The Carnival of Liberty; Grand Rounds; The Carnival of the Capitalists; The Carnival of the Liberated; Blawg Review; The History Carnival; The Carnival of Revolutions; Haveil Havalim; The Carnival of the Recipes; The Carnival of the NBA and, last but not least, the Carnival of the Podcasts.

Sorry it's just a bunch of links and no witty banter, but I'm pretty tired and a bit ill, so this is the best I can do this week. I'll try to do better next time.

UPDATE: I forgot the Carnival of Personal Finance!

THE BEST ARGUMENT YET for seeing heads roll at FEMA:

Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. . . .

The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for "austere conditions." Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."

This does sound like a bureaucracy that doesn't understand the urgency of the situation.

UPDATE: Of course, there seems to be a lot of dumb decisionmaking at all levels:

The Fox News Channel's Major Garrett was just on my show extending the story he had just reported on Brit Hume's show: The Red Cross is confirming to Garrett that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center.

That's consistent with this report. Apparently, they wanted people hungry, thirsty, and anxious to leave.

Video of the Red Cross story here, from Ian Schwartz.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Readers who are telling me that it was the Department of Homeland Security that was behind blocking the Red Cross are confused. Here's the Red Cross statement:

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?


Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

That's the state DHS, not a federal agency. This is also made clear in the video linked above.

FRANK RUMMEL is blogging from the ongoing Cambridge conference on Scientifically Engineered Negligible Senescence.

SOME KATRINA LESSONS: We're going to see a plethora of commissions and inquiries (most about as useful and non-partisan as the 9/11 Commission), but here are a few lessons that seem solid enough to go with now:

1. Don't build your city below sea level: If you do, sooner or later it will flood. Better levees, pumps, etc. will put that day off, but not prevent it.

2. Order evacuations early: You hate to have false alarms, but as Brendan Loy noted earlier, even 48 hours in advance is really too late if you want to get everyone out.

3. Have -- and use -- a plan for evacuating people who can't get out on their own: New Orleans apparently had a plan, but didn't use it. All those flooded buses could have gotten people out. Except that there would have had to have been somewhere to take them, so:

4. Have an emergency relocation plan: Cities should have designated places, far enough away to be safe, but close enough to be accessible, to evacuate people to. Of course, this takes coordination, so:

5. Make critical infrastructure survivable: I think that one of the key failures was the collapse of the New Orleans Police Department's radio system. Here's the story on why:

Tusa said the police department’s citywide 800 MHz radio system functioned well during and immediately after the hurricane hit New Orleans, but since then natural gas service to the prime downtown transmitter site was disrupted and the generator was out. Transmitter sites for the police radio system “are also underwater with the rising water and [are] now disabled,” Tusa said.

Owners of the sites that housed police radio transmitters would not allow installation of liquefied petroleum gas tanks as a backup to piped gas, meaning generators did not have any fuel when the main lines were cut, Tusa said.

Radio repair technicians attempting to enter the city were turned away by the state police, even though they had letters from the city police authorizing their access, Tusa said.

This is absurd, and I'm pretty sure it's the major factor leading to the disintegration of the New Orleans Police Department. That sort of gear should be survivable -- and there should also be a backup plan for how to get messages back and forth if the radios go out anyway: Messengers, broadcasts on commercial radio, etc.

(There should be a separate post-disaster communications plan for survivors, too -- so that they can locate relatives and let people know they're alive).

Other crucial infrastructure should be hardened as much as possible, too. There's only so much you should do, but disaster survivability should be considered at every stage of design, procurement, and construction.

6. Stock supplies and prepare facilities: The Superdome didn't have adequate food, water, and toilet facilities, even though everybody knew it was going to be a shelter of last resort. The Convention Center was worse. All public buildings that might be used for refugees should be ready. We used to stock fallout shelters that way; we could do it again.

7. Be realistic: Here's what the Los Angeles Fire Department tells people about an earthquake aftermath:

To those of us who live and work in the Greater Los Angeles area, earthquakes and other natural emergencies are a reality. In order to deal with this situation, emergency preparedness must become a way of life. In the event of a major earthquake or disaster, freeways and surface streets may be impassable and public services could be interrupted or taxed beyond their limits. Therefore, everyone must know how to provide for their own needs for an extended period of time, whether at work, home, or on the road.

That's just how it is. People need to be encouraged to do this. Whenever I say this, I get responses along the lines of "poor people can't afford to stockpile food." But here's a family survival kit for $50 and it's pretty good. Most poor people in America can afford food (that's why so many poor people are fat). They do have other problems that make preparation less likely, though (if you're the kind of person who thinks ahead and prepares for emergencies, you're much less likely to be poor to begin with) and local authorities have to be ready -- see the stockpile advice above.

8. Put somebody in charge: Politicians and bureaucrats thrive on diffusion of responsibility, because it helps them escape blame (as they're trying to do in the fingerpointing orgy that's going on now). Somebody needs to be clearly in charge. Right now it's mostly state governors, but this needs to be made inescapably plain, regardless of where it is. I don't agree with Mickey Kaus that we should ignore federalism and just put the President, or the FEMA Director, in charge and empower them to override state and local officials, but even that would be better than leaving no one in charge.

There's much more to be done on this topic, but it awaits clearer information on who dropped what balls when. However, it's worth noting that structural problems are always soluble when the people involved are willing to cooperate, and that no structure works well when it's staffed by idiots or people who don't take the problem seriously. Which raises another point:

9. Make people care: Actually, Katrina may have done this. Most people -- and politicians are worse, if anything -- have short time horizons. Disasters are things that just don't happen, until they do. Planning for them is ignored, or even looked down on, often by the very same people who are making after-the-fact criticisms that there wasn't enough planning. People usually get better after a big disaster, for a while. Beyond that, voters and pundits need to treat the subject with the importance it deserves instead of -- as is more typical -- treating it as the silly obsession of a few paranoid types.

I'm sure there's a lot more to be learned, but this is a start. If you think I've missed something important, send me an email.

UPDATE: Aaron Taylor emails: "I'd add: Err on the side of overwhelming law enforcement presence."

Yes, and show zero tolerance for truly lawless activity. The "broken windows" theory applies in spades, I think, when windows are already broken . . . .

And reader Deena Bevis emails:

Clear chains of command are definitely essential, but so is oversight/accountability. New Orleans didn't have any of that until it failed. We need a system that tells us if someone in that chain of command is failing to complete their responsibilities, and we need to know that BEFORE something happens.

Basically: States and the feds should grade each other on disaster preparedness, and those reports ought to be public.

I'm afraid log-rolling and backscratching might interfere, but it's a thought.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

I read your post on lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. I am a nuclear engineer working at a Midwest nuclear plant. We are required to have emergency plans. They are relatively detailed and many aspects are regulated. This includes communications, getting information to the public, recommendations to take shelter or evacuate, and coordination with federal, state, and local authorities. We are required to perform drills and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission grades us annually on one of them.

I'm not sure how well all of these steps would scale up to a large geographical area or the legality of grading states and localities on how well they execute their emergency plans. But people are acting as if this is an entirely new concept and it isn't. Why do we need another worthless commission to tell us what we already know and some of us already do.

Jim Hogue writes:

Maybe it's time to put that little Civil Defense logo (or something similar) back on AM/FM radios so people will know exactly where to tune in the event of an emergency?

And speaking of "In the event of an emergency" I haven't heard anything about the Emergency Alert System in relation to Katrina. Was it on? Did it work? Did it provide any useful information? I would think that a system that's been tested weekly since the 50's would have been pretty reliable.

Beats me. Emily Bennett has another communications question:

I find myself wondering if passenger cars equipped with OnStar could be used for communications in an emergency situation. OnStar constantly advertises its ability to get emergency personnel to its subscribers, and it seems to me that an ambitious FEMA or Homeland Security employee might begin talks with the OnStar folks to see if OnStar equipped vehicles could help manage evacuation traffic flows, provide communications to rescue personnel, and assist some of Bill Whittle's sheepdogs.

Probably not enough bandwidth and switching ability, but I could be wrong.

Reader Jay Johnson emails:

Having made it through the F4 tornado that blew through Jackson, TN in 2003 relatively unscathed, brought the importance of having an emergency kit such as that to light for the missus and me. We did go to our friendly, neigborhood "Everything's a Buck" store, and stocked up on things like cheap canned meals (beef stew, soup), dry foods, matches, water, batteries, cheap flashlights, copies of important papers, a change of clothes, a sealed container with purely emergency cash, some rudimentary tools (hammer, phillips and flat screwdriver, adjustable wrench, and a couple of pocket knives), and cheap first aid kits. It doesn't cost much, and an ounce of prevention is worth the extra peace of mind that comes from it.

Of course, nothing can completely prepare you for such an event, but everyone should do something to prepare for their short term survival in this spot.

Indeed. Reader Jeanne Jackson makes a point that seems trivial but isn't, in light of experience:

One important item you missed is providing evacuation plans for citizens with pets. One reason many people remained behind in New Orleans was that the emergency shelters barred pets, as did the buses, etc. for transporting evacuees. For many pet owners, especially childless and/or older people, pets are surrogate children. It is cruel, heartless, and unnecessary to insist, as a condition of rescue, that one's beloved dog or cat be abandoned to its fate. Were I to be told I must abandon my dogs in order to get out of a life-threatening situation, I, too, might choose to remain behind and take my chances.

I think you should leave the dog behind. But lots of people feel differently, and evacuation plans should recognize that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Harvey Schneider has some excellent advice for individuals:

One of the things my family has done is designated a contact person in the event of a catastrophe. My entire family (Mother, 2 Brothers, 2 Sisters in law, sister, brother in law, 4 nephews and 2 nieces) lives in Orange County California. We have designated a family friend in Phoenix Arizona as the person for everybody to contact as soon as possible and to leave any messages regarding health or other vital matters. Also, in the event that the entire area is unlivable, we have agreed to meet at our friends house in Phoenix and make further plans from there.

Good point. Meanwhile, Jim McMahon writes:

I would add another player to your list of lessons learned - listen to the insurance companies.

They assess and manage risk for a living. Since insurance rates are based on risk of loss, the easiest scorecard available to judge how well any particular area is prepared is the cost of commercial and homeowners insurance.

For disaster mitigation purposes, I would suggest an expanded system similar to car crash test ratings, where the disaster risk of a community or neighborhood is scored based on the lessons you list, including:

The inherent environmental risk of the area (flood plains, forest fire fuel, earthquake susceptibility)
Preparedness of the local & state gov - budgets, experienced people, drills, publicity
Individual preparedness based on site inspections, nature & number of voluntary associations, etc.
The costs of maintaining and replacing infrastructure.

These ratings can then be used as promotional tools by highly rated areas, and as cattle prods during elections. I would expect that most of the components of these ratings are already compiled and ready to use, needing only the imprimatur of the Fed.

Then FEMA's job becomes one of ongoing improvement of ratings in high-risk areas. They can grant tax breaks for real estate developments and local policies that improve the risks, and restrict the use of highway funds to prevent the construction of the Foghorn Leghorn Memorial Bike Path, Library and Fan Cub until the essential infrastructures are at their target ratings.

I'm sure some wags & wastrels will have issues with this, but show me another low-government way to honestly rate how well the lessons have been learned.

Well, insurance companies do have money riding on the outcome, which encourages honesty.

Christopher Johnson has more thoughts:

I would only add that churches ought to be urged to stockpile both food and other emergency supplies for people who don't have or can't immediately access their own. Many churches are very strong buildings, they're in just about every neighborhood and people aren't afraid of them. I know that if I needed immediate help to get me through the next few days after losing everything I owned, I would much more likely to try a church for help than to take my chances with a government bureaucracy.

Good suggestion.

MORE: Reader Jeff Cook emails:

5. "Make critical infrastructure survivable: I think that one of the key failures was the collapse of the New Orleans Police Department's radio system."

No, sorry. The collapse was in incident command.

It is axiomatic (lesson #1) that the first thing to fail in ANY emergency is communication. The NOPD incident command training should have taught them this. There is no way to assure that radio communications will continue after winds and power outages. This is the kind of thinking that has Blanco and Nagin in their bunkers giving orders and then wondering why they weren't carried out instantly. No one was listening. My experience has been that even seasoned dispatchers, who may or may not have power and transmitting ability themselves, have a hard time keeping channels clear in an emergency. I've seen communication break down during DRILLS.

This is why you need AT LEAST 72 hours notice for evacuation and why the NOPD should have default posting positions and "runners' assigned in the event of communications failure. There is no fail-safe communications system and there never will be. If they harden this technology for floods and hurricanes, will they survive an EMP? a nuclear device? Well, dammit why not??!! Who throws the switch from natural gas to lpg? How long does lpg in the tank last? Who refuels them? Are the refuelers available during a hurricane? Is it in our response plan to throw the switch? Is the switch thrower a police employee or a private contractor? Do they know their responsibility? Is the switch thrower even still employed? Answers to these questions can never be known for any extended period, especially when elected officials try to be the incident commanders. What can be known is that communications fail. Always.

Plan, plan, plan, practice, review, plan, plan, plan, ad nauseum.

They also appear to have forgotten lesson #2. "It is always easier to scale back than to scale up once the emergency has begun."

I've heard the words "incident command" and "unified command" exactly once each in the mainstream media since the blame-laying began. That tells me that all the really knowledgeable people are too busy to comment right now, and haven't been interviewed yet.

Finally bear in mind that emergency response and incident command is very, very, very difficult even in the best circumstances, which never exist.

Very interesting.

IS IT THE vindication of Tom Ridge?

I'LL BE ON MICHAEL GRAHAM'S SHOW shortly, talking about Katrina. Click on the link to listen live.

VIA EMAIL, A BIZARRE CORRECTION FROM THE LEGAL TIMES:

CLARIFICATION: In the Aug. 29, 2005, issue, the “Inadmissible” item “Warning: This Case May Contain Conflicts” (Page 3) stated that George Mason law professor Ronald Rotunda “may have his own conflict of interest” in commenting on John Roberts Jr.’s involvement in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. That was not meant to suggest that Rotunda violated any specific legal ethics rule.

Likewise, I believe the Legal Times may be controlled by baby-eating space aliens. This is not, however, meant to suggest that the Legal Times is controlled by any specific baby-eating space aliens.

MAX BOOT:

SOMETIMES I HAVE a strong urge to resign in disgust from the Amalgamated Federation of Pollsters, Pundits, Politicians and Pompous Pontificators. This is one of those times.

No sooner had Hurricane Katrina roared through Louisiana and adjacent states than every blockhead with a microphone or a word processor felt compelled to spout off about What It All Means — and, more important, Who Is to Blame. . . .

Ordinary people are sitting at home, transfixed by the spectacle unfolding on their television screens. Their hearts are breaking as they watch the horrifying spectacle of an entire city drowned. Many have already contributed what they can to the American Red Cross, to the Salvation Army, to the other armies of compassion, and only wish they could do more.

What must they think of the talking heads who treat this as if it were another bit of minor grist for the political mills? As if this were another story about some politician's war record or a nominee's nanny issues. The callowness now on display goes a long way toward explaining why politicians and the media are held in public esteem somewhere above child molesters and below bankers.

Sounds like he's channeling Foamy the Squirrel. But hey, when you're right, you're right, even when you're a talking cartoon squirrel.

UPDATE: Judging from the latest Gallup Poll Max and Foamy may be onto something.

And then there's this:

Geraldo Rivera arrives in a Fox News truck. An elderly woman with blond hair grips his elbow. She's wearing thick dark glasses and a pink shirt. He carries her small white dog in his arms. He's wearing thigh-high waders unzipped to below his knees. We shake hands. "Her relative called one of our stations," Geraldo tells me, explaining how that call went to another station, and then another, and finally to him.

The woman had been stranded in her home for six days. Geraldo picked up the woman and her dog and brought them here. The woman looks frail on his arm, though not as bad perhaps as a lady collapsed on a chair nearby, unable to move. Or a woman in a wheelchair being lifted from the truck, carrying her prosthetic leg on her lap.

"That's the second time he brought her here," one of the doctors tells me, nodding toward Geraldo.

"What?"

"They did two takes. Geraldo made that poor woman walk from the Fox News van to the heliport twice. Both times carrying her dog."

"Are you serious?" I ask. He says he is.

Jeez.

MORE: On Geraldo, according to Howard Kurtz: "Fox News says that's absolutely, positively not true."

ADRIAN MOORE WRITES on why we're so short of refineries.

EVERYONE IS RESPONSIBLE BUT NO ONE IS TO BLAME: The Volcker Report is out.

"MR. BUSH: Tear down this levee!"

MORE KELO BACKLASH:

Three states have already passed new laws in response to the Kelo decision.

The statutes in Alabama and Texas sharply curtail eminent-domain condemnations for private development. "We don't like anybody messing with our dogs, our guns, our hunting rights or trying to take property from us," said state Sen. Jack Biddle, a sponsor of the Alabama law. Delaware's new statute permits condemnation but sets new procedural requirements for local governments.

Larry Morandi, an analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, predicts a rush of new laws next winter, when 44 state legislatures will be back in session.

"Most if not all state legislatures will be dealing with eminent-domain laws next year," Morandi said. "The outcry has been so sharp that many states already have task forces or study committees at work on this issue this summer. Most of the proposed legislation is designed to restrict the kind of governmental action that the court upheld in Kelo ."

I'm glad to hear it.

WANKER OF THE DAY? Heh.

TELLING THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR? Austin Bay notices something interesting.

GETTING THE GULF BACK ON THE GRID: Xeni Jardin reports:

Hurricane Katrina wiped out communications systems throughout the Gulf states, and much of the impacted region remains cut off from voice and data service. But some connectivity is coming back from unexpected sources, thanks in part to tech industry volunteers who've teamed up with the Federal Communications Commission.

On Friday, the FCC held a conference call with wireless internet service providers and infrastructure experts to coordinate volunteer efforts for storm-ravaged areas. FCC staff asked organizers to help gather data from those offering to donate resources -- from satellites to power generators to spare parts -- to help reconnect the effected areas.

Very interesting.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett has more on the latest oil-for-food developments. Excerpt:

The problem here is that whatever the truth about the secretary-general’s family ties to U.N. business, he was responsible for a great deal more than simply that particular U.N. contract. Even after the many scandals broken so far, a full account of the U.N.’s management of Oil-for-Food — starting with Annan’s starring role as head of the organization — would be an eye-popping thriller, and probably the healthiest thing to hit the U.N. since its founding. Oil-for-Food was not a bookkeeping exercise. It involved oversight of Saddam Hussein, an oil-rich war-mongering tyrant who gamed every angle of one of the most corruption-prone relief programs ever devised. Out of more than $110 billion in oil sales and relief purchases supervised by the U.N., Saddam by some estimates grafted out anywhere from $10 to $17 billion. While the U.N. praised the program, Saddam used his ill-gotten money not only for palaces, but to rebuild despite U.N. sanctions his networks of secret bank accounts, illicit political payoffs and arms traffic — and squirreled away billions that congressional investigators say may be funding terrorism today.

She seems to expect a whitewash, though.

MICKEY KAUS: "The U.S. should take Fidel Castro up on his post-Katrina offer to send over 1,586 doctors from Cuba. It could be a PR victory--how many do you think will go back?"

I HAVEN'T PAID MUCH ATTENTION to the Air America scandals, but Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney have been working hard on the story. It looks like their effort has paid off.

UPDATE: A follow-up here: "In this case, smoking guns seem to abound."

September 06, 2005

THE FASHION DEATH PENALTY: "Perhaps a simple, 'you know, David Bernstein had that look twenty years ago,' will do."

I should think so.

HERE'S the U.S. Navy's Katrina rescue photo gallery.

Lots of interesting pictures.

Meanwhile, here's a Katrina relief report card from RealClearPolitics.

And Chuck Simmins reports that total donations for Katrina relief have reached $465,769,985. And they're still growing.

BRENDAN LOY remains unimpressed with Michael Brown.

BRUCE KESLER: "The mass media has begun its self-congratulations for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The party may be premature."

UPDATE: No congratulations here. Or here. (WARNING: Talking squirrel at second link. SECOND WARNING: Squirrel makes more sense than Keith Olbermann or Anderson Cooper. And don't get me started on Geraldo.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Or here!

MORE: Or here! And don't forget here: "I blame the media. In this country nearly everybody has a TV set. 80% of poor people have TV sets. The private media are the principle means of the public dissemination of information. They didn’t get the word out."

I guess now we know why it's mostly self-congratulation . . . .

IN RESPONSE TO MY EARLIER POST ON GILLIGAN, Steve Hayward emails:

Never mind FUTURE scholars:

See Paul Cantor's fine book Gilligan Unbound which makes your exact point about mid-20th century Americanism.

I haven't read it, but it's self-evidently brilliant!

J.D. JOHANNES emails:

Back in Iraq.

You know, the war, the news story that doesn't involve flooding, FEMA and blaming Bush for people who refused to comply with an evacuation order.

The guys saw on the news how the Dems were blaming Bush and it really ticked them off.

As usual, I think that eagerness to make Bush look bad has led some people to overplay their hand.

OUCH: "We never go after Maureen Dowd anymore, because there isn't any sport in it. Poor Paul Krugman is rapidly getting into the same category."

Jacob Sullum, on the other hand, is still blasting away at the barrelfish: "Paul Krugman offers the least plausible explanation I've seen so far for the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina."

Likewise Radley Balko: " A government-planned Brasilia-like New New Orleans would be an atrocity. The Paul Krugmans -- or the Jonathan Alters -- simply can't win this debate."

UPDATE: Tim Blair is still reading Dowd:

Maureen Dowd believes that a “cultural shift” is “turning 2005 into 1968”. Oh, how she must wish that it were so; in 1968, Dowd was 16.

Ouch. Er, but remind me again: How long was it after 1968 before a Democrat was elected President?

EUGENE VOLOKH: Does God dislike poor people?

YES, I'M BLOGGING ABOUT SOME OTHER STUFF, but don't think that gets you off the hook if you haven't donated to Katrina relief! Go here and give somebody some money. And if you've contributed, but haven't logged your contribution over at N.Z. Bear's place, and I'll bet that's most of you, well, go do it. (Bumped up on page). [LATER: Bumped up again.]

UPDATE: So far, this has raised about $865,000 $900,000 $970,000 $1 million $1.1 million $1.2 million (about $185,000 $200,000 $260,000 $282,000 $319,000 $360,000 from InstaPundit readers) based on people's self reports. Let's see if we can get it into the seven-figure range before the blogburst ends at midnight. [LATER: Made it! But don't let that stop you!]

There are two kinds of people out there: Those who haven't donated yet and those who have donated, but haven't logged your contribution over at TTLB. If you haven't donated, how about it? There's a list of charities here, or if you just want to give where I gave without having to choose among the many choices you can go to the Salvation Army and donate there. (Just noticed that this is almost 1/8 what Amazon has raised, which is a pretty impressive achievement for the blogosphere).

If you haven't logged your contribution yet -- and I'm guessing that's a lot of you -- well, go do it.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

How widespread is the corruption at the United Nations? The multibillion-dollar Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal was just the beginning.

Now the issue is becoming the scale of corruption in the U.N.'s normal operations — and which individuals and corporations are reaping the benefits of a network of bribery and conspiracy that investigators have just begun to uncover. So far, those identities are still a mystery — but perhaps not for much longer.

Last Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted the head of the U.N.'s own budget oversight committee, a Russian named Vladimir Kuznetsov, on charges of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes paid by companies seeking contracts with the United Nations.

Kuznetsov, who has pleaded innocent, allegedly took a cut so openly that he had part of it deposited into the United Nations' own staff credit union in New York.

Kuznetsov's arrest is the latest twist in the scandal involving the U.N. procurement department, which was the longtime post of Alexander Yakovlev (search), another Russian U.N. official recently fingered by U.S. federal investigators.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Much more (including video) here.

YAHOO! HELPS TURN THE SCREWS:

According to Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders), Information supplied by Yahoo! helped Chinese journalist Shi Tao get 10 years in prison

The text of the verdict in the case of journalist Shi Tao – sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for “divulging state secrets abroad” – shows that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided China’s state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict him. It reveals that the company provided the Chinese investigating organs with detailed information that apparently enabled them to link Shi’s personal e-mail account (on the Chinese Yahoo! service at yahoo.com.cn) and the specific message containing information treated as a “state secret” to the IP address of his computer. More details from RSF here.

Shi Tao was jailed because he e-mailed sensitive political information to be posted on dissident websites hosted outside China. His case is a cautionary tale to bloggers around the world: If you are publicizing information and views that your government doesn’t want exposed - even if you believe you have the right to do so under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - companies like Yahoo! will not shield you from your government.

I don't like this.

HE FINALLY ESCAPED THE ISLAND:

Bob Denver, whose portrayal of goofy first mate Gilligan on the 1960s television show ''Gilligan's Island,'' made him an iconic figure to generations of TV viewers, has died, his agent confirmed Tuesday. He was 70. . . .

TV critics hooted at ''Gilligan's Island'' as gag-ridden corn. Audiences adored its far-out comedy. Writer-creator Sherwood Schwartz insisted that the show had social meaning along with the laughs: ''I knew that by assembling seven different people and forcing them to live together, the show would have great philosophical implications.''

Future scholars will regard the show as a profound critique, and celebration, of mid-20th Century America.

AS PEOPLE PONDER THE ROBERTS NOMINATION, it's worth noting that despite a fairly strong and consistent ideological core and a long term on the Court, Rehnquist's Chief Justiceship didn't, in the end, produce especially dramatic change.

Brannon Denning and I have an article on the Raich opinion and federalism (part of a symposium on the decision) that discusses that point.

UPDATE: Related thoughts on Rehnquist from Bill Stuntz.

HUGH HEWITT HAS QUESTIONS FOR TERRY NEAL.

HERE'S ANOTHER BLOG FUNDRAISING EFFORT FOR KATRINA: This one seems to center mostly around lefty blogs, but that doesn't matter. The money's all the same color, and it's all needed. If you haven't donated via my appeals, and would prefer to give through a lefty initiative, go there! (More background here, but for some reason people keep sending me the link above.)

HARDENING SYSTEMS AGAINST DISASTER: My TechCentralStation column is up.

DISASTER KITS: My earlier post on radios produced more emails with suggestions. Here's one, from reader John Jones:

One of the first things I would grab in an emergency is the water filter that I normally use for camping. A filter like this is small, and can easily produce enough potable water for a family for weeks. The only problem I would foresee in a major flood is the presence in the water of chemicals such as pesticides and oil that the filter cannot remove. Still, for filtering rain water or questionable water from a city water supply, a basic water filter could literally be a life saver. I prefer this one.

Yeah. Stored water's best, of course -- and you don't have to be rich to store water, all you need are old milk jugs and a few drops of bleach. You can also store bleach, and use it (in higher concentrations) to purify water, though it won't get rid of chemicals.

I don't think there's much of anything that would clean out the toxic sludge in New Orleans. This list of survival goods may be over the top, though.

UPDATE: Reader Stanley Tillinghast, MD emails:

The MSR Miniworks is a good filter but doesn't kill viruses. This system includes a small bottle of bleach that is added to the water that chlorinates it, killing viruses.

That would be better for emergencies. I'm pretty sure that nothing would make that New Orleans floodwater safe to drink, though.

Meanwhile, reader Sarah Marie Parker-Allen sends this link to emergency water storage advice from the University of Wisconsin. Plastic 2-liter soft drink bottles are better than milk jugs, it says.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Robert Davis emails:

I'm mystified by all the instructions for cleaning milk jugs, filling them with water, spiking them with bleach . . .

For about $7 you can pick up three 2.5-gallon bottles of water next time you're at the supermarket -- enough to last one person a week in an emergency.

It's sterile and you don't have to worry about the top popping off. Your time would need to be worth practically nothing to have the do-it-yourself version make economic sense.

True, but whenever I post on disaster prep I get emails saying "that's all fine for rich guys, but poor people live hand-to-mouth, yada yada yada." I'm not sure that this is true in a relevant way -- poor people in America are disproportionately likely to be fat, suggesting that access to food, at least, isn't an issue. But the other point is that if you put things off until the last minute, store shelves will be empty while taps still work. And most people have bleach around.

Several readers also note that there are other emergency sources of water. Brad Mueller writes:

All fine and good, but most households also have a water heater which holds 40 gallons of potable water and the toilet tank holds about 3 gallons of drinkable water. A small amount of preparation could have prevented a lot of suffering. I'm left wondering if there isn't a segment of our population that, for whatever reason, steadfastly refuses to helped.

Well, yes, there is. Note that you should turn off the supply valve to protect the water heater from backflow of dirty water through the lines -- or leakage -- if lines are damaged. (Er, and turn off the heat!) Jugged water is also more portable than water in heater or toilet tanks -- but it's good to remind people that it's there.

It's aimed at earthquakes, primarily, but here's a page on disaster preparedness from the Los Angeles Fire Department. And here's a much longer PDF booklet from the LAFD, too, with instructions on water heaters, etc. Excerpt:

To those of us who live and work in the Greater Los Angeles area, earthquakes and other natural emergencies are a reality. In order to deal with this situation, emergency preparedness must become a way of life. In the event of a major earthquake or disaster, freeways and surface streets may be impassable and public services could be interrupted or taxed beyond their limits. Therefore, everyone must know how to provide for their own needs for an extended period of time, whether at work, home, or on the road.

That's reality. Take note. (Thanks to reader Susan Kitchens for the links).

JOHN LEO writes that the press is looking the other way.

VIRGINIA POSTREL reports that refugee relief in Dallas is going well.

CONDI RICE on foreign governments and Katrina response.

September 05, 2005

JOHN TIERNEY WRITES on the Magic Marker strategy for disaster relief.

I'LL BE GUESTBLOGGING ALL WEEK at Michael Silence's Knoxville News-Sentinel blog, while he's on vacation.

I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH BRAD DELONG'S TAKE on New Orleans' hurricane plan. Read the whole thing, but here's the clincher:

They were going to make a DVD. A DVD saying, "you all are on your own." They didn't even care enough to make the DVD before the hurricane season began.

No. New Orleans did not have a functioning government as of the summer of 2005. This is a catastrophic failure of local governance--much worse than FEMA's failures.

You would think that somebody--somewhere--would have called Washington and said, "You know, New Orleans doesn't have its act together enough to have a hurricane evacuation plan." And that somebody, somewhere--in Washington or in Baton Rouge--would have cared.

I'm not sure, but I assume this was the hurricane plan that James Lee Witt was involved with.

But lest you think the problem is solely New Orleans, there's this take by Mark Steyn:

"One of the things that's changed so much since Sept. 11," agreed Vice President Dick Cheney, "is the extent to which people do trust the government -- big shift -- and value it, and have high expectations for what we can do."

Hard to see why he'd say that. Sept. 11 was an appalling comprehensive failure of just about every relevant federal agency. The only government that worked that day was local and state: The great defining image, redeeming American honor at a moment of national humiliation, is those brave New York firemen pounding up the stairs of the World Trade Center. What consolations can be drawn from the lopsided tango between slapdash bureaucrats and subhuman predators in New Orleans?

To be fair, next door, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has been the Giuliani of the hour, and there are many tales of great courage, like the teams from the Children's Hospital of Alabama who've been helicoptering in to New Orleans to rescue newborn babies.

The comparison with Sept. 11 isn't exact, but it's fair to this extent: Katrina was the biggest disaster on American soil since that day provoked the total overhaul of the system and the devotion of billions of dollars and the finest minds in the nation to the prioritizing of homeland security. It was, thus, the first major test of the post-9/11 structures. Happy with the results? . . .

Oh, well, maybe the 9/11 commission can rename themselves the Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, America's enemies will draw many useful lessons from the events of this last week. Will America?

Will we? Read the whole thing. You can argue about the details, and God knows people are. But it's clear that we're nowhere near ready for primetime on this stuff -- and unfortunately, it's primetime already.

UPDATE: While not minimizing Katrina, Daniel Drezner reminds us that the Bush Administration has other balls in the air that shouldn't be neglected.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Micah Sifry (whose permalinks are buggered for some reason) isn't happy with the Bush Administration, but doesn't trust the Democrats, either:

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

Nita Lowey, was just in my local paper bragging about $2 million she got for revamping a highway overpass nearby in Ardsley. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, another Democrat, loved the highway bill, proudly citing the 30% increase in transportation funding that she secured for her state. Where was she when the Army Corps funding request was turned down? (Thanks to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for noticing that bit of news.)

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

Lots of things are broken. It's up to us to see them fixed. It would be easier, of course, if one of the things that was broken wasn't the political system. As I write in tomorrow's TechCentralStation column, "I wonder if our political classes possess the requisite maturity and self-discipline to take constructive action."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus has more thoughts, continuing his anti-federalism theme. I don't think that structural issues are the most important here, though. You can have management failures under any sort of governmental structure. Kaus writes, correctly, that "Anyone who knew anything about New Orleans would know that they wouldn't get it together." But that's not a problem of federalism, really. And federalism compartmentalizes the problem -- Louisiana may have done badly, but Alabama and Mississippi seem to be doing better. A hierarchical, unitary system opens the possibility of blowing it everywhere at once. On average, the feds are arguably more competent than state and local governments, but the difference isn't all that drastic. Norm Mineta, after all, is a fed.

MORE: Reader Tom Brosz emails that James Lee Witt is disavowing any connection with the New Orleans hurricane plan, and notes that the IEM press release from last year has been updated to read: "James Lee Witt Associates was a member of the original team, but did not participate in the project."


SEARCH AND RESCUE IN NEW ORLEANS: Gateway Pundit has a roundup, with video.

WHAT THE NAVY IS DOING for Katrina relief. Short answer: A lot.

HERE'S A Katrina response timeline from Rick Moran.

NOT JUST BORING, BORING FROM WITHIN! "I used to hate seeing Frank Rich's byline on NYT op-ed columns, but no longer. Like Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman, Rich has become an active embarassment, an unwitting ally in the ongoing destruction of the Times as a respectable news organ."

I'm guessing that goes for Bob Herbert, too. . . .

UPDATE: Read this Fisking, if you're interested.

LIKE BOB HOPE IN WORLD WAR II, Sean Penn is able to take a devastated nation and make it laugh:

Movie star and political activist Penn, 45, was in the collapsing city to aid stranded victims of flooding sparked by Hurricane Katrina, but the small boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak.

The outspoken actor had planned to rescue children waylaid by the deadly waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch. . . .

Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."

But with the boat loaded with members of the Oscar-winner's entourage, including his personal photographer, one bystander taunted: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"

Thanks, Sean! (Via Kobayashi Maru). I'm pretty sure I know which one of Bill Whittle's tribes Penn belongs to. The personal photographer is the giveaway . . . .

UPDATE: Picture (presumably not by the personal photographer) here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Also with a personal photographer -- but at least she didn't leave the plug out.

JASON DEPARLE thinks that New Orleans is all about race. So -- in a not entirely different way that DeParle should find troubling -- does Steve Sailer.

But I think Bill Whittle is closer to the truth when he says it's not about race, but about tribes. His colors aren't black and white, or red and blue, but -- well, read the whole thing and see what you think.

UPDATE: Some people who have come late to the party seem to think I'm endorsing Sailer's analysis. Nope. I think that -- like DeParle's -- it takes a racial line that I'm uncomfortable with. Which was the point.

Meanwhile, here are some people who are members of Bill's tribe, whether they know it or not:

In the absence of information and outside assistance, groups of rich and poor banded together in the French Quarter, forming "tribes" and dividing up the labor.

As some went down to the river to do the wash, others remained behind to protect property. In a bar, a bartender put near-perfect stitches into the torn ear of a robbery victim.

While mold and contagion grew in the muck that engulfed most of the city, something else sprouted in this most decadent of American neighborhoods - humanity.

"Some people became animals," Vasilioas Tryphonas said Sunday morning as he sipped a hot beer in Johnny White's Sports Bar on Bourbon Street. "We became more civilized."

It happens that way, sometimes. (Via Kobayashi Maru).

THE DEA IS DEFENDING ALCOHOL PROHIBITION: More evidence that they're totally out of touch with reality.

MATOKO KUSANAGI thinks the Singularity is a lot nearer than Ray Kurzweil does.

A HURRICANE KATRINA "I'M O.K." REGISTRY: It's a good idea. (Via Virginia Postrel).

CASS SUNSTEIN ON JOHN ROBERTS: "He's conservative, but he's no fundamentalist."

JASON VAN STEENWYK has a number of interesting posts.

BUSH HAS NAMED JOHN ROBERTS to succeed William Rehnquist as Chief Justice.

UPDATE: Heh.

THE NEW YORK TIMES NOTES that the blogosphere was way ahead of the authorities on Hurricane Katrina. Particularly Brendan Loy. Excerpt:

Mr. Loy's posting that Friday afternoon came three days before the hurricane struck and two days before the mayor of New Orleans, Ray C. Nagin, issued an evacuation order. Posts over the next several days, in aggregate, seem now like an eerie rewriting of the tale of Chicken Little, in which the sky does in fact fall.

In the cooperative and competitive world of blogs, Mr. Loy's has gotten some serious praise. Mickey Kaus, whose kausfiles blog is featured on Slate.com, wrote on Friday that "Loy's blog for the past week is a pretty extraordinary document," adding that "it should maybe be in the Smithsonian, if you can put a blog in the Smithsonian."

Indeed. There's another Smithsonian-worthy record here, too.

UPDATE: Loy has a follow-up post that's worth reading in its entirety, but here's an excerpt:

It is true, as some have pointed out in comments, that Katrina was not "likely" to hit New Orleans as of Saturday morning, or even Sunday morning for that matter. New Orleans was the hurricane's most likely target -- it remained in the crosshairs of the official forecast track all weekend -- but in terms of statistical strike probabilities, even the most likely target at 24-48 hours out still has a less-than-50% chance of getting hit, thanks to the uncertainties inherent in hurricane forecasting. However, given the technology that we currently have, you simply could not have a greater threat to a specific location, 48 hours before landfall, than the threat that New Orleans faced on Saturday morning. It was, as I said, a "high-confidence forecast," and one with enormously catastrophic potential. Thus, if an evacuation was not appropriate then, then it follows that an evacuation must never be appropriate at 48 hours. And that can't be, because really, 48 hours is already too late; studies have long shown that it would take 72 hours to completely empty the city of New Orleans. So unless the city's hurricane strategy was to throw up its hands and say, "there's nothing we can do," a mandatory evacuation -- school buses and all -- was most certainly called for on Saturday morning. As I wrote on Saturday afternoon, "If you knew there was a 10 percent chance terrorists were going to set off a nuclear bomb in your city on Monday, would you stick around, or would you evacuate? That's essentially equivalent to what you're dealing with here. I sure as hell would leave."

Finally, one last point. As horrible as the catastrophe has been, please realize that it actually could have been far worse. What occurred was not the long-feared "worst-case scenario," which involved not a levee breach equalizing the water level in Lake Ponchartrain and "Lake New Orleans," but rather a storm surge over-topping the levees and causing the water level in "Lake New Orleans," hemmed in by the still-intact levees, to rise substantially higher than the water level in the lake. If the storm had wobbled a meteorologically insignificant 20 or 30 miles to the west, and/or had not weakened from a Category 5 to a Category 4 at the last minute, that scenario would have occurred, and instead of a slowly developing 10-20 foot flood, New Orleans would have suffered a rapidly developing 30-40 foot flood. (Jackson Square would have been underwater, whereas in the real-world scenario it remained high and dry.) The whole thing would have happened Monday morning, and at the same time as the city was rapidly and massively flooding, the devastating winds that demolished the Mississippi coastline would have been tearing New Orleans apart instead. All of those attics where people took shelter would have been either submerged or shattered to bits. The French Quarter would have been swamped, instead of mostly surviving the flood. Second-floor generators in hospitals might well have drowned. Bottom line, there would be a lot fewer refugees and a lot more corpses.

Yes. Read the whole thing.

MORE KATRINA RED TAPE: "Volunteer physicians are pouring in to care for the sick, but red tape is keeping hundreds of others from caring for Hurricane Katrina survivors while health problems rise."

UPDATE: More on this at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

After nearly a week spent waiting or driving from city to city chasing victims of Hurricane Katrina, the 31 doctors, nurses and paramedics arrived Sunday at Reunion Arena here expecting to find a shelter full of patients clamoring for care.

What they found instead were medical facilities already in place that were better than anything they could provide.

"They don't need us here," said Cari Spradlin, deputy commander the Georgia-3 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, activated after the storm hit.

Other volunteer physicians from across the country have poured into the South in week since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, but many are finding roadblocks keeping them from caring for survivors.

If they're just not needed, that's good. When there's red tape keeping them from getting where they're needed (which is true elsewhere) that's bad. (Thanks to reader Joseph Britt for the link).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jeff Cook emails:

Some of the red tape is about credentialing. Trust me. Nuts come out of the woodwork pretending to be physicians in situations like this and whatever organization is responsible for health care is also in charge of making sure doctors and nurses are credentialed, even if they're not licensed in Louisiana. Hugely important.

Makes sense. But there should be a way to do this quickly in emergencies.

September 04, 2005

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF posts a comparison of the situations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Various lessons are offered.

INTERESTING NEWS FROM THE RED CROSS:

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

So as I understand it, the Louisiana authorities don't want the Red Cross to provide services in New Orleans because that will discourage people from leaving? (Via Julian Sanchez).

THAT'S GOT TO BE GOOD NEWS: "An enormous portable toilet caravan."

"THE BAD GUYS WERE KILLED:" Good. But what kind of idiot shoots at the Army Corps of Engineers while it's trying to fix things?

The dead kind, I guess.

I NOTICE that some people have seemed pretty unperturbed by the attacks on Bush.

Perhaps they had advance news of polls like this:

Americans are broadly critical of government preparedness in the Hurricane Katrina disaster — but far fewer take George W. Bush personally to task for the problems, and public anger about the response is less widespread than some critics would suggest.

Considering the media hostility, these poll numbers are pretty good.

UNSCAM UPDATE: ROGER SIMON hasn't forgotten the oil-for-food scandal, where developments just keep coming.

ARTS AND CRAFTS in pre-calculus. And in law school!

What do they teach them in schools these days? How to make collages, I guess . . . .

KATRINA REFUGEES IN KNOXVILLE: If you're in the area, you might want to help.

BRENDAN LOY is extremely unhappy with FEMA Director Michael Brown.

It's beginning to look as if this column may turn out to have been prescient all along, notwithstanding what I said later.

UPDATE: On the other hand, a reader sends these comments:

Buried at the end of the WaPo's critical article on FEMA's decline is this crucial paragraph:



Other federal and state officials pointed to Louisiana's failure to measure up to national disaster response standards, noting that the federal plan advises state and local emergency managers not to expect federal aid for 72 to 96 hours, and base their own preparedness efforts on the need to be self-sufficient for at least that period. "Fundamentally the first breakdown occurred at the local level," said one state official who works with FEMA. 'Did the city have the situational awareness of what was going on within its borders? The answer was no."


Measuring from the passage of the storm from the target area -- say 1500 hours on Monday, THE PLAN would therefore expect federal aid at the earliest at midday Thursday.

Does this excuse any bureaucratic errors that we will find to have been made? No. But it should put the federal response in perspective.

Oh, and all the blithe comments on how quickly we were able to get troops to Iraq and the Navy to Sumatra shows a short-term memory loss. The buildup for Iraq took place over a period of months, and the Navy's trip from Asian bases to the Indian Ocean, unimpeded by crumbled infrastructure, took a number of days.

As I've noted before, it's not like calling Domino's. I think that all the efforts at political point-scoring now are misplaced. There's plenty of blame to go around, and plenty of opportunities to figure out how to do better in the future. Those are likely to get lost in the fog of name-calling.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This story from the Washington Post suggests problems with coordination between state and federal authorities:

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said. . . .

Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.

I'm all for federalism, but this doesn't seem like the time for that sort of thing. I'm not clear on what legal authority the President has to simply take charge over a governor's objections; I'm not aware of that problem coming up before. Presumably Congress could -- subject to some fairly limited Constitutional constraints -- address this via legislation if necessary, though it's probably too late for that to do much good now.

Meanwhile, Eric Muller thinks it was a mistake to name prosecutor Mike Chertoff as head of Homeland Security, even though he knows and likes Chertoff: "You can't cross-examine a hurricane."

We lawyers have many virtues, but management skills aren't high on the list. For that you want an MBA, usually. I've long been deeply unimpressed with the whole Homeland Security approach, but again, it's too early to say just how much difference it's made here.

MORE: A reader emails:

If I remember, wasn't there a non-lawyer, Bernie Somebody, who was actually first choice? Didn't all of "Official Washington" breathe a sigh of relief when he withdrew his name?

Indeed. I believe he actually had some relevant experience.

MORE STILL: Several readers note that the Post story seems to be wrong -- at least here is a proclamation of a state of emergency by Gov. Blanco from August 26. I suspect, however, that what the Post article refers to is a declaration that would place the National Guard under federal control. Here's a piece from the L.A. Times on that:

Although active-duty U.S. troops are being used in the relief effort, constitutional limits prevent them from performing law enforcement duties.

Pentagon officials stressed that only National Guard troops, which are under the control of governors when operating within the United States, may be given law enforcement duties.

Only a presidential decree would allow active-duty federal military troops to be brought into a law enforcement mission, and officials said they did not envision that would be necessary in this case.

Or am I missing something here? Meanwhile, Mark Levin emails:

In the end, the question is why weren't more people evacuated from New Orleans before the storm hit. There's simply no debate that this is the responsibility of local and state officials. And we keep hearing that everyone knew that this could be a massive disaster. You'd think local and state officials would know this best, as they live there. As for federalism, no this is not the time to make the case. But I have to wonder - if the federal government is to be the first-responder, then the local and state governments will have to surrender considerable control and resources to the federal government, including the military. And in the end, I wonder how much difference it would actually make, given all the finger-pointing at federal competence.

If there's any upside to this disaster, it's that local authorities are likely to be quicker to order evacuations in the future, and people are likely to be quicker to listen. Meanwhile, reader Ralph Tacoma emails regarding my federalism point:

I'd suggest that you take a deep breath and think that through. There are VERY serious reasons why for the long term good of nation the federal government cannot just preempt state and local governments whenever it feels like it. IF we start down the slippery slope of allowing such federal preemption, we'll soon wind up with no limits to the power of the federal government. There are strong constitutional reasons why that should not happen. IF we once give the federal government the right to merely assume powers, we've shattered the very basis of our government.

Good point -- I just meant that I thought it odd to see Gov. Blanco working so hard to "protect her independence from the federal government" at a time when, in fact, Louisiana is extremely dependent on outside aid. I wouldn't support legislation that would turn the National Guard into a force that's always under the control of the President.

STILL MORE: This sounds right, though I haven't researched it independently:

Here’s the quick legal skinny: There’s a difference between money and boots on the ground; the governor (surprise!) immediately asked for the former.

Under the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385), the president can’t use armed forces (including national guard in federal service) for law enforcement absent congressional directive. (Some courts, however, have held that this does not apply to the Navy (U.S. v. Yunis, 924 F.2d 1086 (C.A.D.C. 1991)) and the Coast Guard (U.S. v. Chaparro-Almeida, 679 F.2d 423 (5th Cir. 1982)), both of which seem to be more useful here, since it looks like that nobody without boats can provide any serious logistical or enforcement functions in NO.)

But upon request of the governor, or perhaps on his own initiative, the president can use the federal military by invoking the Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C. §§ 331-34). What’s happening in NO might be called “insurrection” or “rebellion,” but that’s a politically-dangerous stretch.

Much more here. Though I've taught National Security Law in the past, I've focused on espionage, surveillance and law enforcement issues, not so much on this sort of thing, suggesting that my syllabus has the same blind spot. . . .

YET MORE: Mickey Kaus has further thoughts on this, though I should note that federalism hasn't caused problems like this in the past, as far as I know.

CORRECTION UPDATE: The Post has now posted a correction referring to the Aug. 26 declaration of emergency, so I guess they were just wrong. As for the rest of the story, about "independence" -- no correction, so make of that what you will.

See also this post. And I'm not sure what to make of this: DHS was preparing for a terror attack subsequent to a hurricane?

And James Lee Witt was apparently involved in Louisiana's disaster planning already, for over a year, for whatever that's worth.

And Michelle Malkin wants Brown fired, too.

And here's more on the problem with the National Guard:

At this point, questions about why the troops weren't there quicker seem to be an exercise in bureaucratic finger-pointing. Pentagon officials last week said questions should be directed to the state. But on the ground, local officials like New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called on Washington for more troops.

The reason, Young said: State governors outside the hurricane zone wouldn't mobilize Guard troops in advance because they weren't sure they would be reimbursed by Washington.

Sheesh. The same article, which looks like a pretty good overview, notes the breakdown in communications systems, and also observes that planning was inadequate:

A FEMA spokesman said at the time that the exercise tested response to a Category 3 hurricane - rather than a higher-level Category 4 storm like Katrina - because they didn't want planners to face a hopeless scenario. He predicted that even the lower-level storm would cause lots of casualties. And a top Louisiana emergency official told The Associated Press that part of the plan was for people to be "on their own for several days in a situation like this."

Well, it worked out that way. And here's a Defense Department briefing on what happened on the law-enforcement side:

GEN. BLUM: It was not foreseen. When they put the original EMAC together it was really for disaster response. Law enforcement was not envisioned. So it has to be handled as a separate process. The governors may get together and modify their EMAC in the future so that it is all-inclusive, but this fills that gap and it makes the activity of the National Guard in this regard totally legally sufficient and supportable.

Q: Does that explain why it took several days to get to this point?

GEN. BLUM: No, there was no delay. The fortunate thing is with modern technology they faxed the agreement back and forth, the two governors signed it. It was a matter of moments. That was not the delay.

The delay was in, if you want to call it a delay. I really don't call it a delay, I'll be honest about that. When we first went in there law enforcement was not the highest priority, saving lives was. You have to remember how this thing started. Before the hurricane hit there were 5,000 National Guardsmen in Mississippi and 5,000 National Guardsmen -- excuse me. Let me correct the record. There were 2,500 National Guardsmen in Mississippi and almost 4,000 National Guardsmen in Louisiana that were sheltered and taken out of the affected area so as soon as the storm passed they could immediately go into the area and start their search and lifesaving work, and stand up their command and control apparatus, and start standing up the vital functions that would be required such as providing food, water, shelter and security for the people of the town. So it was phased in. There was no delay.

The real issue, particularly in New Orleans, is that no one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans. Once that assessment was made, that the normal 1500 man police force in New Orleans was substantially degraded, which contributed obviously to less police presence and less police capability, then the requirement became obvious and that's when we started flowing military police into the theater.

Two days ago we flowed 1400 military policemen in. Yesterday, 1400 more. Today 1400 more. Today there are 7,000 citizen soldiers -- Army National Guard, badge-carrying military policemen and other soldiers trained in support to civil law enforcement -- that are on the streets, available to the mayor, provided by the governor to the mayor to assist the New Orleans police department. . . .

Q: General, you mentioned a disintegration of the New Orleans Police Department. Do you know how many officers are still on duty?

GEN. BLUM: I would rather not say. I think you'd be better to refer that question to the mayor of New Orleans. I have my own estimate. I would say they are significantly degraded and they have less than one-third of their original capability.

Q: So is it fair to say it is the National Guard that's keeping law and order in New Orleans?

GEN. BLUM: No. As long as there's one uniformed police officer in the city of New Orleans, we will send as many National Guard soldiers to augment, support and work in support of that lone law enforcement officer as necessary. So if hypothetically there's only one left, who's in charge? It's still that lone police officer supported by the National Guard in their role as military support to law enforcement.

We are not in the lead. We have no need nor intention of imposing martial law or having the military police the United States of America.

Q: What happened to the other police, general?

GEN. BLUM: Again, that can be best addressed, but what was told to me by the Mayor day before yesterday is many of them lost their homes, many of them lost ability to get to the precinct, many of them who did show up found what they were dealing with so overwhelming and dangerous or threatening to them as an individual that they made the personal decision to not risk their life until the situation made more sense to them. That was an individual decision, it was not the police chief's decision or the mayor's decision. I think that the mayor and police chief are working right now to reconstitute the New Orleans Police Department, but that question would much better be addressed to them for detail.

So nobody anticipated the meltdown of the NOPD (brought about in part, I think, by the collapse of the NOPD's radio system, which wasn't designed to be survivable, and in part by the fact that the NOPD has never been a topflight force). And read the whole DoD briefing, which has a lot of other interesting and useful information.

YET MORE: Here's more on the late evacuation order in New Orleans:

President Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, authorizing federal emergency management officials to release federal aid and coordinate disaster relief efforts.

By mid-afternoon, officials in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, Lafourche, Terrebonne and Jefferson parishes had called for voluntary or mandatory evacuations.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin followed at 5 p.m., issuing a voluntary evacuation.

Nagin said late Saturday that he's having his legal staff look into whether he can order a mandatory evacuation of the city, a step he's been hesitant to do because of potential liability on the part of the city for closing hotels and other businesses.

Ack. I don't know whether there was an issue there -- but surely nobody had to wait until Saturday night before the hurricane hit to figure it out.

LATER: Now it's Nagin against Blanco!

And there's a fire Brown now blog.

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