Thursday, September 08, 2005

Has anybody thought about this???

Again, the reference for the post is the New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.

If you are in tune with just about any coverage of the debacle in New Orleans, you have probably heard the Superdome described as a "refuge of last resort". If you're wondering where that terminology comes from, then you need to follow the link above and, about 3/4 of the way down the document, where the big-brained people dicussed evacuation sites, you will find that the Superdome's ONLY POSSIBLE FIT into the Hurricane section of the CEMP is to describe it as a refuge of last resort.

From that statement above alone, you know that the MSM isn't playing on a level field. If they have the ability to find the reference that describes the Superdome is such a bizarre manner, then they also have the entirety of that document at their disposal. That document is pretty damning with regards to the performance of the local government. . .and yet most outlets are failing to connect the dots. But that's not what I wanted to write about today.

IF everyone agrees that the Superdome was never designed to handle the chore that the city government asked of it last week, what about the places that were designed to handle that chore?

In truth, there probably isn't a place "designed" to handle the sheltering needs of 100,000 evacuees (that's a number straight from the document--no kidding, look and you'll find it yourself!). BUT there are a number of places--8, to be exact--that the writers of this important document found to be suitable places to provide shelter in the face of an oncoming tropical system. (Exact words: "The following schools have been inspected and approved as Hurricane Evacuation Shelters for the City of New Orleans", and then 8 schools/school-type facilities are listed) I have to ask: how did these facilities fare during and after the storm?

Geographically speaking, the 8 listed facilities cover a good portion of the city--there's a slight concentration on the south side of the city (oddly enough, that part of the city SEEMS to have been dealt less damage. Could these writers have actually held a clue about the subject?), but the smattering of 8 schools would basically allow for full city coverage. One of the shelters is on the non-city side of the Mississippi, and I happen to know that the general area around that shelter was dealt something less than a devastating blow from Katrina.

But aside from that: what is it about these locations that made them such "desirable" locations for shelter in the face of a major hurricane? Or, more importantly, what did these locations possess that made them more ideal temporary residences than the Superdome?

Why isn't anybody asking those questions?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back to a favorite meme

This time, however, I'm going to talk about a meme of the right.

Reference material: New Orleans' Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan

I can't remember who said it most--I'll give credit to Hugh Hewitt--but during the last Presidential campaign the starboard side of the blogosphere frequently argued that "facts are stubborn little things", offering up evidence of economic growth (jobs reports, income reports, spending reports, etc) to counter the left's doom-and-gloom predictions of economic strife that was right around the corner.

I've got news for you: facts are STILL stubborn little things. That is why I WOULD welcome an inquiry from the federal level into the breakdowns of the coordinated response to Katrina last week--if it was an all-out, comprehensive review. You know, the kind of review that actually looks at things like the responsibilities of local and state governments to protect their constituents. If a review is going to be done only concerning the FEDERAL response to the disaster, it isn't going to be worth much. Some things were done right, some things were done wrong, but overall the process did not go very well. It's not for lack of effort or desire to help--it's because from the moment the levees broke (a foreseeable happening) while there were still people in the city the entire response was put in an untenable situation. And yes, it's really that simple.

The disaster that is New Orleans is unique. Normally a hurricane blows through, does varying degrees of wind and water damage. . .and then LEAVES behind a wreckage on which the clean-up effort can begin. In fact, this is the case of Katrina's aftermath in Alabama and Mississippi and non-New Orleans parts of LA--an incredible mess, to be sure, with horrible and tragic loss of life. . .but as early as Tuesday we were seeing pictures of dry land. Shortly thereafter, work on reconstituting the infrastructure was begun so that supplies and personnel could get to the area and start working on helping the people left behind--and the people yet to return. Contrast that to New Orleans: Tuesday was just the beginning of the mess. The necessary rescue operations for THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE take time and resources--two things lacking for the task at hand FROM THE MINUTE THE LEVEES BROKE. Face it--even if all the proper resources were in the city on Tuesday morning (which would have been a miracle), by Tuesday afternoon we would have had to leave those resources behind until the levee was fixed (or, more accurately, we would have had to rescue the people behind the resources while the waters continued to rise, thereby engulfing the hardware of the "recovery" effort). Any way you slice it, once those levees gave way New Orleans was a city with a bleak immediate future--and the compromise of those levees was virtually guaranteed from the moment a Cat IV storm came onshore.

In an ideal world, the water through the broken levees would have drowned an empty city--tragic, to be sure, but totally devoid of the "time" element that escalated the desperation of the situation. Think about it: take the "human" element out of the problem in NO last week, and really all you have is a grotesque curiousity as a city slowly dies. Alas, such was not the case.

Again, I'm not covering for what even I believe was a disorganized and horribly slow evacuation effort (that's the worst element of last week). I've indirectly called for either the FEMA director's job or Chertoff's job--not right now, just at some point in time. But I will say this: the federal effort was greatly complicated by the presence of people in that city. Why they were there is for you to decide, but I really have a hard time swallowing any argument that the Federal government was responsible for getting the citizens of a city out of the way of an approaching storm. I don't think that's the kind of country we live in. . .

But back to the "investigations": IF the commission is tasked with doing a "bottom-up" review of the errors made in the foremath/aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it may be a worthwhile venture. If the inquiry, however, is just done to review the "federal" response to Katrina, it will be ugly.

That's the problem with a picture that lacks any background: you don't get art, you get agenda. (Think Rorschach Test, those inkblots that psychiatrists use to determine a patient's mindframe). Agenda won't help solve the problems uncovered in the response to Katrina--let's hope the commission realizes this and does a thorough job of looking at ALL aspects of the debacle from last week.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

when reality mirrors fiction

Off the bat, I will ask for a little leeway with the following post. The great majority of the prelude is garnered from an episode of "the West Wing" that I saw just one time, and it was about four years ago, so the details might be a little sketchy. . .

Pres Bush currently has two vacancies to fill on the Supreme Court, and he has elevated John Roberts to the nominee for Chief Justice. While this will probably make Roberts' confirmation go a little easier (now he can be looked at as a Rehnquist "replacement", although that word doesn't seem to fit just right), it will undoubtedly make the fight over the other seat on the High Court a real screamer. So I have just one question:

What would Jeb do?

No, I'm not talking about Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida (you may have heard of him--he deftly handled 4 hurricanes last year without ever making a snit over the Feds' response to the situation? But I digress. . .). I'm talking about Jeb Bartlett, fictional President on The West Wing. As it turns out, a couple years back the writers of that show gave Bartlett a couple openings on the Supreme Court. Even more prophetic, the writers split the departing justices up, making one a conservative-leaning jurist and the other a liberal sympathizer. EVEN MORE uncanny than that, one of the departing justices was the Chief Justice. Seriously, I need to find out what crystal ball those writers are using!

So what did Bartlett, a Democrat, do in this situation? Well, he and his staff had their eye on one judge in particular, a real firebrand (I don't even know what that means) played by Glenn Close. She sends some of the Prez's staff members into a tizzy with her brilliance; unfortunately, her manner has the opposite effect on the Republicans, who apparently are not big fans of putting this judge on the Supreme Court.

But this is fictional Washington, where a deal can always be struck. The GOP leadership puts forward their top candidate for the OTHER opening, a brilliant conservative played by William Fichtner. Of course the administration doesn't like this judge one bit. . .but if his nomination clears the way for Close's character, it might be a pill that the Jeb is willing to swallow.

Again, since this is Hollywood, everything ends up just peachy in the end. Fichtner is nominated for the vacant conservative post, Close is nominated to the vacant Chief Justice spot, and the status quo is restored as the nation moves on in blissful harmony.

Let's make something perfectly clear: such a scenario should not unfold in the real world, at least not today.

I have no real dog in the "Roberts for Chief Justice" fight. I think it was a solid tactical move by the President if for no other reason than to spare the world another confirmation hearing. Roberts APPEARS to be a good candidate to be on the Court itself, and from all that I've heard the "Chief Justice" is a title with few additional duties. If it helps clear the way for Roberts to get on the court, that's all the better to me.

For the next pick, I have just one word of advice: make sure your motives are pure. Bush should seek, first and foremost, to elevate a great (preferably conservative) judicial mind to the Supreme Court; secondly, he should seek someone who will not serve as an embarrassment (personally or professionally) either to the Court or to the man who nominated him/her. If the person happens to be somewhat young-ish, that would be great (especially if they turn out to be a conservative on the bench), but when you start talking about age you start dancing on the fringes of the LAST thing that should enter into the equation: physical attributes.

I don't care if a nominee is white, black or pink with little yellow spots--it shouldn't matter. Likewise, I don't care if the nominee is male, female or androgynous. If the person is qualified in accordance with the above criteria, then they're good enough for me (I have my favorites, of course, but what I'm really looking for is anyone who helps move the court to the right while maintaining the honor of the highest court of the land). A brilliant legal mind should not be punished for the "vessel" that carries it around; similarly, nobody should be given the nod solely--or even mostly--because of the body that happens to adorn the robe.

Enough pontificating. . .

Also, I don't care about the argument of "promoting" from the legislative bodies in order to make for a "smooth" nomination process. The nomination process should, of course, be somewhat of a consideration--but IF the elected representatives of the majority-holding GOP are doing their job, they will make sure that a qualified nominee gets his/her just desserts. And while there are plenty of good conservative legislators out there, I am concerned about their ability to transition away from the role of "legislator". Jurists have a different role--but I'm sure you have better things to do than get a civic lesson from me.

Back to motives: when you act with impure motives, frequently you get what you deserve. If Bush keeps the proper focus in mind, he has the potential to help swing the court to the right--which would be a net "win" for us conservatives. How far to the right depends on how bold Bush will be--and we'll just have to wait and see. This is a great opportunity to shape the next 30 years of the country, which is a task that the President hasn't shied away from yet--I look for good things out of this nomination!

OH--and as a far of the side aside: back to the West Wing. Fichtner's character is waiting in a parlor in the White House to have a sit-down with the Prez when he gets attacked (verbally) by Toby (White House Comms director) about some political issue. Toby of course takes the liberal stance, while the Judge argues the conservative stance. Enter Close's character, just out of the Oval Office meeting with the President. She asks "what's up", to which Fichtner's character tells her that Toby was lecturing him on why the "liberal" view of the issue is correct. Judge Close finds it amusing because she knows that Judge Fichtner is actually opposed to the "conservative" argument LEGALLY because it is an overstepping of Constitutionally-derived powers. . .or some such thing. Even the writers of the West Wing know what motivates a conservative jurist? How can that be. . .or rather, how can that be hard to understand?

Monday, September 05, 2005

another way of doing this

SO much good commentary out there about almost every topic that normally I have so little to add. . .but for the rare occasions when I do have something to add:

An e-mail I sent to Powerline regarding a post from Sunday:

As always, great work!

I'll agree with one of your major contentions, that being a call for cessation of whatever "cease fire" the right side of the blogosphere may have enacted upon "the Commissioner's" request. There is plenty of blame out there for everybody, but the MSM is playing their game remarkably well right now and the administration is losing the perception game badly. This is not just the latest event in the "blogs vs MSM" battle, it is arguably the biggest battle to be fought. It is obvious the opposition has mobilized for the battle--the right's silence is deafening right now.

On your other thrust (that Brown should not be fired), I must respectfully disagree. SOMEBODY has got to be held accountable for the total disorganization of the effort. If it isn't Brown, then it should be Chertoff. It is not good enough for the FEDERAL government to witness the total incompetence of the local effort and just sit back and wait for the right questions to be asked. The "team" needed to very publicly and clearly state their position (availability, chain of command, types of missions they'd been asked to do,etc) and then constantly press the issues until the proper kind of actions were being taken. Even if you're not necessarily "in charge", being the "senior" person present at a debacle necessarily is going to reflect poorly on you--once the Feds showed up, they had to play a large role in the effort. If they didn't, shame on them; if they did, shame on them. Sometimes you just can't win--and when you're surrounded by incompetents, you need to either fish or cut bait (sorry for the inappropriateness of the metaphor). Clearly, the right thing to do here was "take charge" (even if that authority didn't come with a title; you can exercise authority and effect outcomes while still being behind the scenes). Somebody didn't represent the administration properly--and no kidding, somebody's got to pay with their position. Maybe (in fact, preferably) not today or tomorrow--just sometime.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

what does "rational" mean?

The title of this post is a rhetorical question, because nobody can actually answer it. "Rational" to you is not necessarily "rational" to somebody else, given the wide variance in background, bias, situational awareness, etc.

That being said, please keep the following "facts" in mind as you listen to the talkshows bash the federal government's response to Katrina:

- Katrina was a cat 3 (i.e. MAJOR) hurricane almost 48 hours prior to landfall, and its projected path at that time had the storm strengthening as it came right to New Orleans' doorstep. I'm talking about Saturday morning, when the vast majority of people probably weren't at work and hopefully had been alerted to the presence of a MAJOR storm just to their south.

- The city's predicament looked entirely different on Tuesday morning than it did on Monday night. On Monday, words like "lucky" and "spared" were being tossed around when describing New Orleans' fate (neighbors to the north and east had clearly received the brunt of the storm). . .and then the levees broke.

And now for the ultimate in rhetorical questions: who/what do you think is the first line of defense against threats to you and your family?