Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Votes

Yes, once again this humble (cough, cough) blog has been nominated in Hugh Hewitt's "Blog of the Week" contest. Here is the nominated post regarding Senator Bill Frist. You can cast your vote (hopefully for me) at Radioblogger. Your support is very much appreciated. (I'd really like to not finish last.)


Broken Levees

We saw an incredible sight as the water poured over the levees of New Orleans. The flow of water cascading into the city was an unforgetable demonstration of the power of nature.

There's another break in our defenses. Because it is not as easy to show on the evening news, it does not draw the attention that the flood did. And there's no denying the tremendous devastation wrought by the flood of water. But the silent flood over our other broken levee poses a much greater long-term threat.

Two days ago, the "Fed Ex Bandit", Farzad Naroli, was apprehended at the Mexican border. This man, who confessed that he robbed more than 40 banks was not caught fleeing the country. Instead, he was caught trying to once again enter the country (again) even though he was an illegal alien! An Iranian national, this robber has been traveling across the border for years to rob banks, and then returning to Mexico to hide out.

The fact that in this day of the war on terror that an Iranian illegal immigrant can move freely back and forth across our borders is a terrifying threat to our national security. This guy only wanted to come in and take out our money...others of his countrymen and co-religionists would be delighted to come in and take out our people.

I voted for President Bush twice. I think he is a good man, trying to do a good job in difficult times. But if he does not get serious about illegal immigration--and make no mistake, right now he is not--he will not go down as a successful President when it comes to the most important resposiblity he has, that of protecting our nation.

PS Nominating the well-connected but poorly qualified Julie Myers to be the director of ICE shows Bush's lack of serious commitment to dealing with illegal immigration. If you don't know who Julie Myers is, check out Michelle Malkin for the gory details.



Tonight, in a very convincing victory over the Colorado Rockies, the Braves grabbed a lead even our bullpen couldn't blow and clinched consecutive division title number 14. No one in the history of baseball has managed such a string of successes. Of course we'll probably lose to the Astros in the first round, but the fact remains that this is a night for celebration. Our well-documented postseason failings notwithstanding, this is a team that overcome some incredible obstacles to do something very few thought could be accomplished. I'll make one prediction right now: next spring, a bunch of people will say "This is the year for the Phillies (or Marlins, or for a deluded few, Mets) to finally catch the Braves." And sooner or later, one of those "experts" will be right...but I wouldn't bet on it happening just yet!

The Non-Silence of the Phones

Few things in life are as annoying as the ringing of someone else's cell phone. Especially if they have the same ring you do. To that complaint, I hasten to add that the addition of phone rings (or a close facsimile thereof) is taking over commercials, and even background tracks for music. Several times recently the radio has sounded so much like a phone that I've turned it off to answer only to find no one there. Just tonight a Church's Chicken commercial had us grabbing for the phone again. Everybody who makes an ad or a background track like that should be sentenced to ten years hard labor chained to a wall while phones ring in discordant tones just out of their reach.

Frist, Do No Harm

He likes to remind people that he’s a medical doctor. In fact, he prefers to be known as Dr. Frist rather than Senator Frist. He’s already announced that he will not run for the Senate again in 2006, and he’s widely expected to be looking at a run for the Republican nomination in 2008.

However Frist is not well-respected by the Republican rank and file. During a conversation with John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics, Hugh Hewitt expressed amazement at his poor performance. Polls show Frist lagging his other potential competitors. His leadership of the Republican Senate majority has been marked by a consistent pattern of missed opportunities, defeat and disappointment. He has been anything but an effective leader. He continually backs away from confrontation—even confrontations he could win.

I’m sure he’s a personally likeable fellow. His good works have been well documented. And he’ll forever have my gratitude for knocking the pompous windbag Jim Sasser out of the Senate. But he just hasn’t shown himself to be the kind of leader that would make a good President. Of course the Senate hasn’t proven to be a strong farm system for the Presidency. Only two men were elected directly from the Senate to the Oval Office in the last 100 years. I don’t see any likelihood that Frist will be third.

The medical axiom Primum non nocere translates as “first, do no harm.” Frist may not have done a great deal of harm during his leadership of the Senate, but it’s hard to argue that he’s done much good, either for Republicans, for the country, or for his own Presidential ambitions.

UPDATE: Welcome to readers (and hopefully voters!) from Radioblogger. Thanks for dropping by. After you vote (hint, hint), please feel free to come back and look around some more.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Congress

Today Congress held "hearings" on the Hurricane Katrina response featuring as a highlight the ritual torture of Michael Brown, former head of FEMA.

AOL News reported that during the proceedings, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. told Brown: "I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans."

Well, Mr. Kettle meet Mr. Pot. You see, Congressman Jefferson (who is also a "person of interest" in an on-going FBI corruption probe) has been in the news before regarding Katrina.

AP News said, "After touring the flood-damaged city from the air and visiting evacuees at the Louisiana Superdome and the city's Convention Center, Jefferson said he asked his National Guard escorts to drive him to his Uptown neighborhood, several miles from the Superdome.

'I was intending to go to my neighborhood for sure if I could get there. I didn't know what the condition was,' Jefferson said Wednesday. 'I was curious to know and everybody in my family was curious to know: What was the condition of our house? Was it underwater? Was it looted?'

While Jefferson was checking out his house, the military truck that brought him there got stuck in the mud and a second truck had to be sent to rescue the congressman and his National Guard escort, said Maj. Ed Bush, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard.

Jefferson said the visit to his house, first reported Tuesday night by ABC News, would have been over quickly if the truck had not gotten stuck. He said the only things he removed from his house were two suitcases and two laptop computers belonging to his daughters, who were preparing to leave for college and an internship when the storm struck."

For this guy to critique anybody else regarding anything to do with a poor response to Katrina when he was more than willing to comandeer scarce resources to retrieve his personal property and slow recovery efforts is the height of hypocrisy--or in other words, business as usual for Congress.

The Lives of the Unknowns

In the military cemetery at Arlington, Virginia stands perhaps the most impressive of our national monuments. Inscribed on the monument are these words: "Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier, Known But To God." If watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns doesn't stir your emotions, you are what Sir Walter Scott called "a man with soul so dead." The unchanging granite and the unwavering guards stand as a tribute to all those who died for their country without notice or attention...except for the grief of those left behind.

Yesterday in one of the most moving events I've ever heard on the radio, Hugh Hewitt interviewed members of the Medal of Honor Society. It's hard to come to attention and salute while driving, but I sure wanted to! These men who won our nation's highest honor were humble, matter-of-fact and almost laconic as they described their acts of courage and sacrifice. They were reluctant to talk about themselves (though quite willing to brag on their wives and children). In reality, these heroes are nearly as unknown as the men lying in rest at Arlington.

Many of these great heroes have "faded away" now. Only one MOH winner from the Normandy campaign still survives. Three are left from the Battle of the Bulge. Soon they too will lie in silent repose. Yet our gratitude must never wane. The Medal of Honor Foundation has published a new book Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty highlighting their stories. It's time for the lives of these heroes to become well-known, and this is certainly a good first step.


Storm Warnings for the Tide

In a completely lackluster 24-13 win over Arkansas yesterday, Alabama demonstrated a couple of very disturbing tendencies. First, the defense gave up 253 yards rushing...to Arkansas! This is not a good sign. If we can't take the rush away from Florida and force them to be one-dimensional, next Saturday's game is going to be ugly. Second, they gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter. For a team that had only allowed one "garbage time" second half score all year, this represents a profound dropoff.

On the whole, the intensity and focus that marked the second half of the Southern Miss game and all of last week's sterling effort at South Carolina was nowhere to be found. I hope that's just becuase it was Arkansas coming off giving up 70 to Southern Cal and the fact that Florida's coming to town next week. It was a classic trap game, and we did win it. But the storm warnings are up. Yesterday's effort won't be close to what we'll need against the number five team in the country.

Andruw Jones Should Win the NL MVP

With Chipper hurt and out for nearly half the year, so many injuries to the pitching staff, and all the little papooses up from the minors, the Braves shouldn't be five games ahead with just seven games left to play. Sometime either Tuesday or Wednesday (if all goes well), they'll clinch their 14th straight division title. And almost all of the credit, on the field at least, has to go to Andruw Jones.

For the first time in his career, he has had an offensive season to match his incredible defensive abilities. He leads the majors in homers with 51 and the National League in RBI. (Note I did not fall into the trap of saying "rbis"--runs batted ins doesn't quite scan!) I think it's more likely than not that Albert Pujols will win as he's such a media darling. But while he is a great player, he's surrounded by a much stronger supporting cast. You can't really say he's carried the Cardinals. He leads them, but they share the load. Without Andruw this year, we'd actually be looking up at the Phillies and Marlins--but not the Mets!


Shameless Cry for Attention

This blog has been nominated for Hugh Hewitt's "Blog of the Week" Contest. I am shamelessly soliciting for votes!!! You can cast your vote (hopefully for me!) at http://www.radioblogger.com

Thank you for your support!


Achilles the Atlanta Brave

In Greek mythology, Achilles' mother Thetis dipped him in the River Styx which made him invulnerable to injury except for his heel where she held him. During the Trojan War, Paris, guided by Apollo shot an arrow and wounded Achilles in that heel, killing him. (Logic not being a major part of Greek mythology!) Thus the expression Achilles' Heel for an unguarded weakness.

My baseball team has the strength of the immortals in the regular season. Thirteen straight division titles, and leading the division by four games with nine to play...though not playing well lately. Which brings us to Achilles as a member of the Atlanta Braves.

Today's game showed exactly why the Braves collapse in the postseason pretty much every year. Bobby Cox is a brilliant manager for the long term. But when it comes to winning just one game, he has major flaws. He leaves his starting pitchers in too long. Tim Hudson came up in the eighth inning with a runner on third having already thrown over 100 pitches. Does Cox pinch hit for him? Nope. Do the Braves score? Nope. Does Hudson handle the ninth inning? Not so much. Four Phillies runs, and the game is over.

According to the tradition, given a choice between a long life of peace and anonymity and a short life of war and glory, Achilles chose the latter. The Braves have the glory of the regular season, but the short series of the playoffs remain their (repeated) downfall. At least Achilles only got killed once!


The Ice Caps Are Melting!!!!

Run for your lives! Head for high ground! Oh the humanity! Curses on the internal combustion engine, the aerosol spray can, and the evil Bushies for not signing the Kyoto Treaty!

Wait, it's the ice caps on MARS?????

Owen at Boots and Sabers has the link to the BBC news story. There's been so much energy (and blind faith) invested in the whole "global warming" concept...and almost all of it is based on a complete lack of historical perspective or a political agenda (or both) rather than good science. There are long term weather cycles for planets (and things like hurricanes) that are independent of human activity. Intellectual honesty would acknowledge that.


In Other Breaking "News"

The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has announced that he will vote against the confirmation of John Roberts as Chief Justice. Interestingly enough, Reid is one of the few pro-life Democrats in national elected office. Still, he will listen to the puppet masters of the party and march in lockstep over the cliff into oblivion.

I sure didn't see that coming! I'm shocked (doing my best Claude Rains impression)!

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.


Oh That Lying Media

Remember the emotional breakdown of Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press with Tim Russert? In angry tears he recounted the death of the mother of a colleague in a nursing home because "the cavalry didn't come." Only one problem...IT WASN'T TRUE. Not just a little bit false either, but false in practically every detail.

The man's mother did die along with more than 30 others in the infamous St. Rita's Nursing Home. But that was on Monday when the hurricane hit, not on Friday because of a slow federal response.

Wuzzadem has the whole story (via Instapundit). You need to read it all to understand the depths of deception that led people to blame Bush and the feds for the failures of state and local officials. We have reached the point where you simply cannot believe anything you see, hear or read from a mainstream media source without independent confirmation. By the way, while NBC has issued a "clarification" of the story on the web, there was no mention of this or retraction from Tim Russert yesterday.

More Really Good (and Mostly Unreported) News

Afghanistan, once the home of the Taliban and the base of operations for Bin Laden, held their elections yesterday. Millions of people voted...and despite threats from the terrorists, violence was almost non-existent. Seeing the pictures of donkeys carrying ballot boxes into the remote mountain villages filled me with pride---the hard work and sacrifice of America made this day a reality. (It also filled me with contempt for those who take our right to vote for granted and stay home on election days.)

The Fourth Rail has an outstanding rundown of the news...as well as very insightful analysis into the impotence of our enemies in Afghanistan. It's doubtful that the media will ever fully credit President Bush with this outcome, but he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize far more than Jimmy Carter ever will.

The Korea Deal

For years I've been reading the critics of President Bush slam him for refusing to engage in direct talks with the North Korean government. They've derided his decision to decline following the Clinton administration in drafting unenforceable agreements that the Kim regime ignored without consequence.

Today comes news that, in the six nation talks held in China, the North Koreans have agreed to give up their nuclear weapons program. While any agreement they make is subject to doubt pending verification, this is certainly good news. For one of the most unstable world leaders in history to have his hands on nuclear bombs is frightening indeed. It seems like the combination of carrots and sticks, while perhaps not an appetizing salad, has made for a diplomatic breakthrough.

I think the real genius of the Bush approach was to strong-arm China into helping make his argument. China is probably the only nation on earth with any real pull with North Korea, and their involvement was crucial in reaching this accord--and will be crucial in making it stick. Somehow I get the feeling that while nothing is being said about it publicly, the meeting between President Bush and President Zemin of China at the UN last week put the final touches on what we saw announced this morning.

There is still work to be done, but as with Libya's decision to give up their WMD program, the world is a safer place because of it. Bush will probably never get full credit for his successes around the world, but there have been many...and this could be the biggest one yet.


The Tide Rolls On

Yesterday Alabama laid a thorough whipping on South Carolina 37-14 (in a game that, as they say, wasn't as close as the final score). Outside of the first time SC had the ball and one drive late in the fourth quarter against the scrubs--aided by our only two penalties of the game!--the famed Coach Superior offensive genius was nowhere to be found. I'm sure he'll get some guys in there that can play his brand of ball eventually, but I'm sure going to enjoy this year a lot! We've got Arkansas next...maybe we can review tape of their game against Southern Cal for a few pointers! OUCH.

And on another happy note: Michigan State 44, Notre Dame 41 and Florida 16, Tennessee 7!


Janus, Katrina and the Avian Flu

Water is still being pumped out of New Orleans, and the recovery plans are just now being laid out. But while much of our national attention is rightly focused there, new threats loom on the horizon. Today Hugh Hewitt made a fairly impassioned plea for people to pay attention to the threat of avian flu while there's still time to do something about it.

The similarities of this threat to Katrina are striking. Warnings are being given by experts of devastating consequences. Long studies have been issued showing worst case scenarios. And a near-fatalistic determination to ignore what could happen if the "big one" strikes seems to have infected (pardon the pun) both the general population as well as many of our leaders.

The Roman god of gates and doors, Janus, was pictured with two heads, facing in opposite directions. While we need to look back at the wide-spread destruction of Katrina and respond to it promptly (and fix the things that went wrong), we must also look forward to other threats coming down the road. It's not enough to merely have a plan--Ray "Buses" Nagin and Kathleen "Hamlet" Blanco prove that. The prerequisite of a successful plan is that it be prepared to be executed by cold-eyed, serious men and women who know what they are doing and have the experience and authority to carry it out.

In our history, America has rarely spent too much time looking forward and planning for the worst...it's just not part of our national character. But we need Janus to be more than just a mutual fund or a Roman god right now--we need to learn the lessons of Katrina to prepare for what almost certainly lies ahead.


The Problem with Punting

Despite my near-obsession with football and the title above, this is a post about something other than the greatest game! Yesterday a Federal judge in California ruled that schools having students recite the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional due to the words "under God." Michael Newdow, who brought the last suit on this issue, is behind this one as well.

Of course the Supreme Court ruled on this issue before. But because they dismissed the case on procedural rather than substantive grounds, it's coming back. If they had just made a ruling on the merits, the issue would be settled. Putting off till tomorrow is neither a good strategy for work or for facing difficult legal issues.

I suspect the Court punted because they realize that the tangled web they've woven over the years in a series of inconsistent (not to say incoherent) rulings on religion in public life means that any way they rule will contradict something they've said before. I also suspect they realize the popularity of our cultural religious icons, and are reluctant to apply their "reasoning" to the Pledge. Perhaps now that the law of the land won't depend on what mood Justice O'Connor is in on a given day, we can come to an actual solution rather than continuing to issue rulings based on how many reindeer are included with the creche and whether they're positioned to the left or right of Mary and Joseph. One could hope...


The Silly Party (Part 48,905)

Today Joe Biden said this to John Roberts: "Don't talk about the Constitution, tell me how you feel."

I know, I know. It was just an expression he was using to try to get Judge Roberts to open up. But still...what a revealing glance into the mindset of the modern Democratic Party. Forget the rule of law, forget the facts of the cases, tell me how you feel! And they want to courts to make laws on that basis as well. We see this in so many areas. In fact it's hard to find a single issue that the Democrats are committed to being serious about--except hating George W. Bush.

Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson, FDR, and John F Kennedy...serious guys who dealt with serious issues in a serious way. Not a one of them would have spared a second for Joe Biden and his "feeling" stuff. This world needs grownups. America needs serious guys right now. We're in a war (not that the silly party remembers that most days). We've just had one of the largest natural disasters in our history (used as an excuse by the silly party to slam the President for the failures of state and local officials from their side of the aisle.) This country needs two serious political parties...right now, we only have one.

(from Monty Python's Election Night Skit)
JOE: "Well, there's a big swing here to the silly party; but how big a swing I'm not going to tell you."
NORMAN: "I think I should point out that in this constituency since the last election a lot of very silly people have moved into a new housing estate with the result that many of the sensible voters have moved furthur down the road the other side of, number, uh, uh, twenty nine."

UPDATE: Welcome readers from Betsy's Page! Please feel free to look around and come back anytime.

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

It is my duty as a self-admitted political junkie to keep up with the Roberts confirmation hearings. But man is it hard...Listening to the bloviating Senators (both parties) who love the sound of their own voices and make statements disguised as questions (Biden went nine minutes yesterday before allowing Roberts to speak--and then interrupted him!) is just about too much to take.

And the worst thing about it all is that it's completely meaningless--at least as far as the voting goes. There is a better possibility of me being named a starting NFL quarterback than there is of a single Senator changing his (or her in Feinstein's case) mind about Roberts. The vote has been 10-8 ever since Bush nominated him, and nothing that's said or done during this process is going to change that.

I know there's positioning going on for the O'Connor seat yet to be filled and all that, but the truth is....

That vote's going to be 10-8 too! And unless the Democrats can hold 5 votes to sustain a filibuster, the "Justice to be named later" is going to be confirmed just like Roberts.


Russ Feingold Is an Idiot

Proving once again that wealth and elective office do not require intelligence, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who is rumored to be running for President in 2008, today asked John Roberts during the confirmation hearings: (loose transcription on the fly)

Speaking to Judge Roberts of 9/11, "On that day, did you realize that the attack meant it would be harder to protect individual liberties?"

I thought of hundreds of things that day...who did it? why? how many were killed? what would happen next? The list goes on and on. I take a back seat to no one in my respect for and commitment to individual rights. I enjoy and celebrate my freedoms as an American. I recognize that many people are concerned about the potential erosion of rights during wartime, particularly in reference to the Patriot Act.

But how in the name of all that is holy and decent does the "respected gentleman" from Wisconsin expect to be taken seriously when he asks that kind of question about 9/11? There is a marked difference in the public perception of Republicans and Democrats on the issue of national security. Feingold has, by his nearly unhinged question, demonstrated exactly why people think that way. (And for what it's worth, if that's the first thing he thought of on 9/11 or if it's something he thought of at all on that day...well that just further proves the point!)


False Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

This morning on the Today Show, Tim Russert (with barely concealed glee) was discussing the President's falling job approval poll numbers. He made some atypically dumb remarks, including saying that the "hard-core Democrats will never vote for Bush" -- as if he were going to be running again! Anyhow, the thing that really triggered my attention was his comment about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the President and the perception that the federal response has been too slow. Russert said, "First impressions are lasting impressions."

That's true. But it's also true that first impressions are often false. From "Dewey Defeats Truman" to "New Orleans Dodged a Bullet," the first news reports we get are frequently filled with inaccuracies. The general knowledge of the public is filled with things that aren't true. People "know" that George Bush 41 didn't know what a supermarket scanner was or that Bill Clinton closed down LAX just so he could get a haircut on Air Force One. Neither of these is true, yet the "knowledge" remains. The same is true of the current disaster.

Everyone "knows" that the federal response to Katrina was slow. Yet how many people can name one specific thing the federal government should have done but didn't? (As a hint, "get stuff there faster" is not an answer.) The early estimates that the death toll might reach or even exceed 10,000 now turn out to have (thankfully) been greatly exaggerated. But much of people's perceptions of the tragedy have forever been set by that reported number.

Everybody who watched Shepard Smith or Geraldo Rivera (my sympathies) or Anderson Cooper "knows" that FEMA failed to deliver relief supplies to the Superdome--but how many of them know it was because of "Hamlet" Blanco's refusal to allow them to deliver the relief that was there and ready to go. Everybody "knows" the evil Republicans cut the budget which is why the levees weren't high enough--yet how many know the first levee that broke was recently strengthened, or that Louisiana gets more money every year from the Army Corps of Engineers than any other state---hundreds of millions more!

Changing the mindset of the nation after these false early reports is difficult if not impossible. The accepted conventional wisdom becomes what people internalize and hold as fact. And that's really too bad. It leaves us ill-prepared to make long term improvements for the future if we do not understand what happened in the past. One final note...today's politicians (of both parties) are addicted to polling data and hardly make a move without it. They poll everything, including famously where Bill Clinton should go on vacation!--yet what sort of government does that leave us? Asking the blind for guidance through the darkness is not wise. As Jesus said, "Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?" (Luke 6:39)


Four Years Ago Today

I was running a little late that morning, and we hadn't turned on the news like we normally did. So when I got in the car and turned on the radio, I heard for the first time that our country was under attack. Since we're three hours behind the East Coast, it had been some time since the planes hit the World Trade Center. I called Brenda and told her to turn on the TV. She said, "Which channel?" and I replied, "It doesn't matter." I turned around and drove back home, arriving just before the first tower collapsed.

We sat in shock and horror as the news unfolded before our eyes. I remember talking to my dad about Pearl Harbor. He was at church on Sunday evening when the news of the attack was announced. One of his cousins was engaged to be married, and her fiancee was stationed at Pearl Harbor. They later learned he had been killed on that awful day. Those two days stand alone in our nation's history.

There are many lessons to be drawn from 9/11. I want to focus on just one. There are people in this world who want to kill us. They do not shrink from violence against innnocents, and they do not value life--including their own. They hate America and Americans. Hiding our heads in the sand will not make them go away. Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird rather than the eagle. Fortunately he lost that argument! But either of those is better than the ostrich. We cannot afford to lose sight of this crucial fact.

UPDATE: Because of the media's refusal to use the actual images (can't stir up people's emotions after all), our memories tend to dim with the passage of time. I found this incredibly moving "27,000 word essay" (it won't take that long to read)...it's worth a look just to be reminded of what and why we are fighting.


No Hurricane Relief for You

Although they made several donations to Southern Miss in the first half, the Tide came back in the second to retake the lead and win the game. Brodie Croyle had the best passing game of his career, and if you missed Prothro's catch at the end of the first half, you missed what may have been one of the most amazing displays of concentration ever. He reached around the defensive back--one arm on each side--and caught the ball!

Next week we get Coach Superior and the Gamecocks on the road. They played Georgia tough today but fell short by a couple. As our first road game, it will be a real test of how far the team has come.

Bah Humbug!

I really do like Christmas. It's true that my favorite Christmas character is the Grinch (pre-reformation!), but still...it's a wonderful holiday. I enjoy celebrating it with our family. We have traditions that go back nearly twenty years now, and I look forward to them every year.

I do not look forward to walking into WalMart on the 10th of September and finding two full aisles of Christmas decorations! Could we please have fall first? And Halloween? And Thanksgiving? Looking at the calendar, it's still more than 100 days until Christmas. (And I refuse to start counting them yet!) This rush to get to the most profitable time of the year (with apologies to Johnny Mercer) is revolting.

The humorist Ogden Nash wrote:
Christmas was once the season of peace and goodwill
Now it's the holiday that there's so many shopping days until.

I think he was right.


A Little Focus Please!

Instead of whining about Michael Brown's resume and whether it was or wasn't padded, can someone please pay attention to things that really matter? The news media is showing pictures on every stinking broadcast of poor little Rover and Fluffy stranded by the flood. Why isn't somebody skipping the human interest stuff and heading for the human survival stuff?

Scribal Terror said
Spooky Stuff
From DefenseTech.org:
In and around the Big Easy are a number of Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) labs, meant to handle some of the nastier biological agents out there -- stuff like anthrax, plague, and genetically-engineering mousepox. Louisiana State University’s Medical School and the State of Louisiana both ran BSL-3s within the city. Tulane kept 5,000 monkeys for biodefense studies in its "National Primate Research Center," located in nearby Covington.
"What's happened to the infected animals? Are they free and roaming?" Russ [of Memory Hole] wants to know. "Are they dead, with their diseased bodies floating in the flood waters? And what about the cultures and vials of the diseases? Are they still secure? Are they being stolen? Were they washed away, now forming part of the toxic soup that coats the city?"

A Basic Misunderstanding of Human Nature

The sad truth is now emerging that there actually was a plan ahead of time to evacuate the people of New Orleans...it just wasn't followed. But even if it had been, it suffered from the same basic failure to understand human nature that so much of the rescue effort has.

1) When the wolf finally comes, after being warned about so many times, people are not likely to respond. The way the media, especially the cable news networks, hype every hurricane builds a complacency toward the really big ones. Those insane shots of reporters leaning into the wind as the rain blows sideways and the palm trees whip in the wind further reinforce the notion that it really isn't that bad. People tend to shrug when they hear an evacuation order when they've left before and nothing happened.

2) People worry about their stuff. This one will be an even bigger problem next time after all the looting that following Katrina. They don't want to leave their homes and businesses. Those places represent a sanctuary to them, even if that's a false hope of security. Further, homes that have been in the family for generations are not easy to leave behind.

3) People love their pets. Many people, especially older people, will not leave if it means leaving their pets behind. Any evacuation plan that doesn't work in either separate shelters for pets and owners, or at least for pets is going to leave a lot of people behind.

4) People worry about their incomes. One of the most heartbreaking things I've seen in the last two weeks are the elderly people who want to stay in their homes because they worry about their Social Security checks finding them if they leave. Of course this amount of rain is "staying these carriers from their appointed rounds" and no checks are going to be delivered there any time soon. But to people clinging to that check as a lifeline, evacuation is not something they will consider.

5) People who rode out a "big one" are at great risk. I don't know how many people I've heard say "We made it through Camille, and nothing could be worse than that." Most of the people who lived to say that (and not all who would have said it did) know now, but...

All of the plans that we put together (and I fervently hope somebody somewhere is learning some lessons from this travesty) for the future need to take these considerations into account. If we don't, we'll be suffering the same chaos again next time.


What Happens Next?

Now that much (though not all) of the immediate life and death crisis with Katrina has passed, what happens next? What can the estimated 200,000 evacuees living in Texas and the thousands scattered elsewhere expect? I still haven't seen any realistic estimates of the time needed to rebuild/repair/replace housing in New Orleans...probably because it's still too early to know. But I'm certain that it's going to be much longer than the people living in shelters want to wait.

Today, Daniel Drezner posted a proposal from Ed Olsen of the University of Virginia to use existing vacant apartment spaces. Frankly the number of available apartments was staggering. From Olsen's piece: "The largest metropolitan areas in the south central region have some of the highest vacancy rates – 15.6 percent in Houston, 14.4 percent in San Antonio, 12.8 percent in Dallas, 12.2 percent in Memphis, 13.1 percent in Birmingham and 18.5 percent in Atlanta. Vacancy rates for smaller metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas are also at historically high levels." This is undoubtedly the consequence of the low interest rates and the rise in homeownership. But it certainly presents a short-term solution better than anything else I've seen so far.

One final note. Some of the left-wing nutcases have suggested this is an intentional relocation by the Bush administration to obtain political advantage. "Move them to red states" they claim as the secret motive they have discovered. Ummm...have people forgotten that Bush won Louisiana by 15 per cent in 2004? Not much motivation there to move voters out that I can see!

Why the Internet Matters

Back in the olden days (oh say ten or fifteen years ago) we had very few means of readily obtaining information that wasn't filtered through the media's biases before reaching us. Now the Internet has opened the floodgates.

Exhibit A: The valuable Mudville Gazette (which you should read for the real news from Iraq too) has dredged up an eye-opener on the source of tension between "Buses" Nagin and "Hamlet" Blanco. Here's the heart of the matter (from a 2003 Times Picayune news story):

In a bold and potentially risky move, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin crossed party lines Monday to endorse Republican Bobby Jindal, who is locked in a tight governor's race with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the Democratic standard bearer in the Nov. 15 runoff. <...>In recent days, Nagin said he faced considerable pressure from the state Democratic power structure to go with Blanco, citing U.S. Sens. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu in particular.
Without naming names, Nagin said Blanco supporters attached words like "risk" and "consequences" and "repercussions" to the prospect of his backing Jindal.
"They talked about this not being in the best interests of the city of New Orleans and that they would let people know that," Nagin said.

Exhibit B: From Hugh Hewitt's producer Duane aka Radioblogger comes this transcript of an interview with Major Garrett of Fox News.

MG: Well, the Red Cross, Hugh, had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. They're not really big into medical response items, but those are the three biggies that we saw people at the New Orleans Superdome, and the convention center, needing most accutely. And all of us in America, I think, reasonably asked ourselves, geez. You know, I watch hurricanes all the time. And I see correspondents standing among rubble and refugees and evacuaees. But I always either see that Red Cross or Salvation Army truck nearby. Why don't I see that?
HH: And the answer is?
MG: The answer is the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state's homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come.

People who are relying on the networks and the big papers and the weekly newsmagazines (how can it be news if it's already a week old?) just aren't getting the scoop. You have to go to the Internet for that!


Can't Be Said Any Better Than This

Came across this piece on the situation in New Orleans written by a Louisiana native, Voyle Glover. I couldn't even come close to saying it as well as he did. Here's just a sample:

"Instead of what appears to be a gathering storm of indictments against President Bush, made for purely political purposes, it would seem more rational to ask some very, very hard questions to Mayor Nagin and his administration. Have the politicians asked those hard questions of Louisiana officials? Has the media focused on those issues raised here? I hope the poor stand and shout their questions at the mayor and his government. It remains to be seen whether they will stand and give honest answers to those folk."

Ronald Reagan Was Right

Listening to all the complaints about the "slowness" of the response of the Federal government to Hurricane Katrina, I'm struck by the eagerness of people to increase the size and power of the government. That of course ignores the fact that adding additional layers of bureaucracy makes the government less responsive, not more. As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, "A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you've got."

The call for more centralized government power ignores the fact that there is a reason we have multiple levels of government. Jefferson felt that the closer the government was to the governed, the more freedom we would enjoy. He was a big fan of local government, and with good reason. The President doesn't just take over from incompetent local and state officials (Yes, Mayor Ray "Buses" Nagin and Governor Kathleen "Hamlet" Blanco, I'm talking about you.) even if it would make it easier to get things done. We have a system of laws that circumscribe the behavior of even our most powerful leader.

The answer to this problem is not to increase the size, scope and power of the federal government. To every crisis or disaster, the response is to layer on another level of government to respond to it. That misses the point entirely.

The disaster of Katrina stems from a human failure. The failure is not one of imagination. Brendan Loy, a 23 year old grad student at Notre Dame by the way, blogged the entire storm--correctly predicting what was coming several days in advance. It's not that he is a brilliant meteorologist; he just took time to read what the National Hurrican Center said and read the reports issued by state and federal governments about what would happen in a hurricane. The bottom line is that we knew what was coming...we just didn't want to believe it and act on it. Had the local and state governments done what their own disaster preparedness plans called for, the human tragedy would have been greatly abated. It still could not have been completely prevented.

As Americans, we have a wildly unrealistic view of the world and our place in it. We think somehow that we are (or should be) immune from natural disasters that strike others. And on a certain level, many blame the government when reality sets in and we find out we are not. It is not the government's job to prevent every imaginable bad thing that could happen. Reagan was right...a government that size is a threat to every freedom we cherish, not just a protection from disasters.


I Blame George W Bush

George Bush has been President now for five years. What a wasted opportunity! If he had any shred of decency and compassion for the American people...if he had any concern for those "dealt a losing hand by life" (as the elegantly coifed Brian Williams described them)...if he wasn't so focused on prosecuting his immoral war for oil, he would have acted.

That's right. If he cared, by now he would have forced Congress to pass legislation outlawing hurricanes. After all, they're bad for America. His job is to protect every single one of us citizens from anything worse than stubbed toes. I hold him personally responsible for every casualty, every lost home and business, and every dollar spent on hurricane damage. Why didn't he just get a law passed? Think of the suffering that would have been avoided...if only he cared. It's all his fault.

Pointing Fingers

The media's blaming Bush. Nagin's blaming Blanco (having apparently realized that all those school buses sitting under water made it pretty hard to take seriously the claim that it was the fed's fault). Blanco's still trying to decide who to blame--or maybe trying to decide if there will be a hurricane season next year. Perhaps when they select the first woman to play Hamlet...Bush isn't blaming anyone, continuing his trend of loyalty to a fault.

None of this is particularly helpful to the people still stranded in New Orleans. The relief and recovery efforts that are ongoing are what they need. And they're happening at full speed now. The hard part is still to come. There are decisions that need serious consideration before we pour billions into rebuilding a city below sea level in a hurricane-prone region. One of my great concerns is that the political pressures to make up for the "slow response" will lead us to ignore those concerns and just barge ahead...leading to yet another round of tragedy and recriminations in the future.


Hurricane Relief

There are numbers of good organizations through which you can donate to help the victims of Katrina. The Red Cross is not one of them. Given their history of mismanaging funds following 9/11 and their refusal to repudiate the racist remarks of Kayne West made on their behalf, I strongly encouarge you to not support them.

If you'd like to know for sure where your money is going, you can consider helping a local church congregation. I have one to recommend to you: Lakeshore Baptist Church This church is pastored by a man I know and can personally recommend for his integrity. He lost his home, along with the homes of every member of the congregation, and their church building as well. As you can see at their website, the damage is beyond description. We sent them a donation, and I'd like to encourage any and all of my readers to join in helping them rebuild the lives of their church members. There's a PayPal link at the site so you can give without worrying about mail service. Thanks for helping.


Off to a Good Start

Yesterday the Alabama Crimson Tide beat MTSU 26-7. Not an overwhelming victory, and certainly the first half was much closer than I would have liked. Still, there were good signs. Darby and Croyle both performed well coming off of last year's injuries. The defense did a pretty good job, holding a pretty wide open passing attack to only 150+ yards. All in all, definitely a better start to the season than some. And I was really glad to see Mike Shula was smart enough to take Croyle out this time!

Oh and for the record: Georgia Tech 23 Auburn 14!


Yellow Belt

Our son's been taking Aikido for the last few months, and today passed his test to earn his yellow belt. At the first class, I talked to his teacher (the second highest ranked man in the US) and he told me something I found fascinating. Everything in Aikido is based on physics--maybe that's why the kid takes to it so well. Anyhow, he has been learning a great deal, and enjoying it.

Congratualtions Bryant!

It Isn't Enough

All over America, we've seen a generous response to the great devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. People have opened their homes, their wallets, and their hearts to help. This response hasn't been limited to those of us who were not directly affected either. All through the disaster area, generous people have shared food and water even when they had very little. They've shown kindness to strangers, reaching out to help those who share their pain and loss. It isn't enough.

At the same time the good people have been helping and sharing, others have taken advantage of the breakdown in social order. Looting, raping, killing...they have mauraded across the region, especially in New Orleans. I don't know what fraction of the population these folks comprise, but I'm sure it's fairly small. Yet those few undo all the good that is done by the law abiding. It's not enough just for people to do good; there must also be authority to punish those who do wrong.

The wise king Solomon wrote, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." (Eccl. 8:11) We've seen that truth proven this week. Man has an evil and depraved nature--despite the propganda of our school system and society, we are not "basically good." Given the opportunity, many will throw off the restraints and do very wicked things.

I'm all for those who are doing good...I applaud and support their efforts, and hope they continue...but it isn't enough.

Economic Illiteracy

If I hear one more person suggest (or even ask as if it were a legitmate consideration) putting limits on gas prices, I think I'm going to lose it. Look I don't like paying $2.99 for gas like I did yesterday. I am looking forward to the resumption of gas flow and a (hopefully) quick decline in prices. But the worst possible thing the government could do at this point would be to cap the price. All that would do is guarantee shortages and gas lines that would make the 70s look tame. Yet the blather continues. And for the record, if the government wants to help us out, how about copying Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia who rescinded the state gas tax till the end of September? Now that's something that actually helps!

And as for the suggestion that we should "do something" about the profits the oil companies are making....anybody that dumb should be kept out of polite society for their own good!


The Most Revolting Display I've Ever Seen

I don't know who Kayne West is. I guess I lead a sheltered life. He was part of the NBC Concert for Hurricane Relief. He said, "America is set up to help black people as slowly as possible." Then he said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." That is the most outrageous thing I think I've ever heard on television, and that's going some.

For someone to stand there and talk about the gift he would give and then turn around and slam this country for racism is revolting. EVERY person still in New Orleans needs our help--black and white. I cannot believe MSNBC aired this. I cannot believe the Red Cross expects to receive any money from this offensively racist campaign.

I know it's politically incorrect to complain about a relief effort, but I won't sit silent while this kind of garbage is spewed out over the airwaves. It is wrong. Those people need help. I want them to get it. But this is not the way to go about it.

UPDATE 1: Welcome Polipundit readers! Please feel free to look around and come back any time.

UPDATE 2: AP DOES IT AGAIN. In the AP story about this travesty, Frazier Moore wrote: "West's comment about the president was cut from NBC's West Coast airing, which showed three hours later on tape." Only that's not what happened! I live in Tucson, Arizona. And since we have enough daylight as it is, we don't do daylight savings time here! So we're on Pacific time for half the year. Those remarks were not cut. I watched it again (having caught it live on MSNBC) on NBC at 7 local time, and they were still included. I taped it! They did not cut the remarks out. Associated Press simply cannot be relied on as an accurate source of news.

The Fire Next Time

Knowing that the same people who are in charge of responding to the disaster in New Orleans are in charge of our Homeland Security fills me with a sense of dread. How can there possibly not be any planning in place for responding to disasters? I fully understand the scope of Hurricane Katrina as being the worst natural disaster to ever hit the US (and don't understand why people keep saying "one of"--it is). I get it that it's hard to get things together.

But do we seriously think that this level of devastation and destruction is worse than we would suffer if terrorists had set off a dirty bomb or blown the levees themselves? Do we really not have plans for worst case scenarios? It is disheartening to realize that, for all the talk about how things have changed, for all the reshuffling of boxes on the organizational charts, and for all the money that has been spent, we are completely unprepared for things to go badly wrong.

Yes, I know much of the responsibility for this rests on the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. (I have never seen a public official behave as poorly following a disaster as Gov. Blanco) They failed their people miserably. But do we really not have a federal level backup plan in place already? I'm not talking about the response that's being put together now...I'm asking why it wasn't prepared ahead of time. The hurricane gave us a lot more advance warning than the terrorists will...

Nine days from now we will mark four years since 9/11. The sad reality is that, based on the evidence at hand, we are not much better (if any) prepared now than we were then.


Verizon Won't Hear Me Now

There are no printable words to describe the depths of contempt I have for Verizon right now. We've had phone service with them for almost five years now, and have been loyal customers who paid our bills. So when the time came to get phones for the kids, especially Rhonda getting ready to go off to college, we went to them first.

We specifically asked the "customer service" (sic) person if there was coverage available where Rhonda was going. She looked it up and said yes there was. Well when we got there...you guessed it. If you go up on the hill and stand on your left leg and there are three geese on the pond, you might get a signal. We called and complained. After getting several different run arounds, today we were finally told it was "a known problem area."

But despite the deceptive (to be polite) tactics that were used to get us to sign the contract, they are refusing to let us out of it! With increasing frustration, we have moved through several different levels of their management, only to be met with increasing levels of rudeness. After repeatedly insulting my wife tonight their third-level manager hung up on her!

If you have not yet fallen into Verizon's clutches, let me highly recommend any other wireless service to you. You'll be very glad you didn't sign up with Verizon...trust me on this one.

Law and Order

Today both evacuation and search and rescue efforts were halted after gunshots were fired at helicopters and anarchy and fires broke out around the Superdome. This is the culmination of what started two days ago. When the police and National Guard failed to restrain the looters at the beginning, lawlessness, being tolerated quickly grew. It's very similar to what we saw in Iraq immediately after our military success. The failure to maintain law and order then planted the seeds of much of the harvest we're still reaping today.

Ted Frank says it better than anyone else I've seen recently. Here's the highlight: "I fully acknowledge that shooting looters is an inappropriately disproportionate response if one views looting as mere larceny. But one doesn't shoot looters to protect property, one does so to protect order. Somebody is going to suffer unjustly when society breaks down. I don't understand why Muller thinks it preferable for the law-abiding citizens to be the cost-bearers. History has shown repeatedly that the way to stop an anarchic riot is an early display of substantial force." (Hattip Instapundit.)