Friday, September 30, 2005

This is why I subscribe to 3QuarksDaily

Two great links this morning...

Here is a photoblog that is a lot more than just pictures.

Caution: some of these images can be unsettling. But so can a lot of words that have been written. When we sense that words are about to carry us where we do not want to travel we can quit reading. But when we are zapped with an image it's too late not to look. In the same way that one can't un-ring a bell, it is not possible to un-see an image.

Without comment these pictures vividly (I did not consciously choose that word, but the moment I typed it the derivation from viva, meaning life, jumped out at me) illustrate that a picture is, in fact, worth a thousand words.
What a find!
For the record I am pro-choice. I do not believe that abortion should be criminalized.
But I am also in the camp that believes in making that choice fully informed. Abortion as a form of birth control is perhaps the greatest evil of our time. The time to make the choice is before sex, not afterward.

...shifting gears...unrelated to previous item...
And here is the most imaginative web design application I have seen to date. Go here with your curiosity glasses on and play for a bit. Don't leave until your mouse gets tired.
On the other hand, forget it. The link has been disabled.
See Abbas' note in the comments.
It isn't officially released for prime time and we aren't supposed to look at it.
But it's really, really cool and I'm glad I was able to take a peek.
(See what you're missing?)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Heat-balling honeybees and other trivia

It sounds like a spoof but it's for real.
This is news to me, but I make note of it for general interest. After seeing March of the Penguins my wonder of natural phenomena is renewed.

Honeybees that defend their colonies by killing wasps with body heat come within 5°C of cooking themselves in the process, according to a study in China. At least two species of honeybees there... engulf a wasp in a living ball of defenders and heat the predator to death....a few honeybee species can defend themselves by surrounding an invader. Researchers used to think that the few-dozen bees were trying to sting the wasp, says Seeley. Thermal cameras, however, revealed the balls' soaring heat.

Link to article. Who woulda thunk?
Thanks Gene Expression.

Biting off more than you can chew
In other news, my buddy Catfish emails me pictures and story of a big catfish that bit off more than he could chew. Seems the fish tried to eat a childs ball and got it hung in his mouth. Poor guy, he couldn't get it out, couldn't dive and couldn't eat. He might have died had it not been for the man who punctured the ball and set him free.
You can see pictures and read the story at Truth or Fiction.
Trent Lott says that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. How about a rubber ball? (The senator didn't mention bloggers as far as I can determine.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Vote for Jake. Now.

I ask you now, what's not to love about a face like that?
This is Jake. He is one of the family. To win he needs your vote. Here are the details.

Congratulations! Your dog's photo has been entered into's "Best WOWDog Contest".

Please note that this contest is a weekly contest that will end this Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. pacific time.

If you would like your family and friends to go directly to your submission in the contest to view your best dog photo and place a vote, please have them visit our homepage at and click on the "Photo contests" link. On that page, they can enter your Entrant #32831 to vote on your photo.

Please do not encourage your friends to vote low on other dogs in order to increase your dog photo ranking. We have incorporated a formula that will not take into account certain low votes based on the second the vote is placed. Also, please remember that you and your friends may only vote once per dog photo.

If you ever want to check on your dog photo's statistics, go to the contest and click on "Check Stats" on the top of each page of the contest. Just enter the e-mail address you provided us, and you will know where you stand.

If you haven't yet, please take a few moments to click around You will find the most beautiful custom art created from your photos that make gifts to be cherished for a lifetime.

Thank you for entering the contest and good luck!!!

Yeah, I know. It's crass commercialism. But at least it isn't spam and it's fun for us.
I wish there could be a reward, but when you think of it, your reward is about the same as ours: it makes you feel good if jake wins. How complicated is that? Thanks for your vote.

You don't even have to copy and paste unless you really want to.

Flu news

From National Geographic...

There are three types of influenza–A, B, and C. Type C viruses trigger mild respiratory illness or, sometimes, no symptoms at all. Type A and B viruses, on the other hand, can cause epidemics in humans. They result in an average of 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. While type B viruses are normally exclusive to humans, type A viruses are also found in birds, pigs, horses, seals, whales, and other animals.

Type A flu viruses, H5N1 for example, are named for two proteins on their surface. The H stands for hemagglutinin, which helps a virus break into the cell. The N stands for neuraminidase, which helps it break out. These proteins also act as antigens. If the body recognizes them, its immune system can mount a defense.

All type A viruses attack human cells in the same way. Once the virus enters the body, hemagglutinin binds the virus to the cell surface. Then the cell surface folds in around the virus. The virus sinks into the cell until it is completely engulfed. Because the cell membrane wraps around the virus, it creates a bubble-like compartment called an endosome. A change in pH in this compartment changes the structure of the hemagglutinin and allows the viral contents to move into the cell's inner fluid, or cytoplasm.

Once there, the virus has free reign. The virus's genetic material, which is split into eight different segments, is copied in the nucleus. After being copied, the segments return to the cytoplasm, and with the help of neuraminidase, can reassemble, leave the cell, and attack new cells. However, since each of the eight segments is copied separately, if two different viral strains infect the same cell, then their segments can mix and match, ultimately forming new viruses.

Hugh Hewitt asks, "Are we paying attention yet?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cars are the new muskets

As the Willism post made clear the evacuation of Houston could not have happened without the use of privately-owned automobiles. Other forms of transportation were helpful, but the heavy lifting...collecting up the kids, old people, pets, extra food, whatever would fit...was only possible because some two million people went in cars. For many, cars were their shelter.

I am thinking of a corollary to the Second Amendment.

A well regulated Evacuation, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Cars, shall not be infringed.

“the death tax is good for people from all walks of life!”

Okay, then.
Sorry about that.
I started with the punch line, but I couldn't think of any better way to headline the link. Too, too good.
Dwight Meredith tracks the president's use of "all walks of life."

Normblog on Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens has one of the most nimble intellects alive. His prose, both written and oral, is a glittering roman candle of wit, full of brilliant nuance and inference. I don't always like what I read and hear, but I am awed by Hitchens' adroit use of language, quickness on his feet, and a razor-sharp command of rhetoric as an artform.

I'm not clear whether Normblog picks up his "Writer's Choice" content from other sources or if the individuals are accommodating enough to furnish original material for the series, in which well-known writers elaborate on books that were formative in their own development. In any case, the blogmaster is on to something good, and this morning's piece on Hitchens is worth a look.

Hitchens remembers How Green Was My Valley. Do not for a moment be misled by whatever mental images you may have from that old black and white classic film. There is more in the book than meets the eye (or the screen).

The cover of that paperback, which lived on long after the actual pages had turned to confetti, may have had something to do with it. It depicted a family in shawls and clogs, with some sort of hilly yet industrial landscape in the background, and it had a slogan or some other superscription which described it as 'the enduring best-seller of the war years', or a form of words very like that at any rate. I had been born in 1949 and in my neck of the woods a novel about 'the war years' should have had at the very least a portrait of Winston Churchill somewhere on its cover, or a patch of ocean corresponding to the Battle of the Atlantic (The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monserrat, being the only other novel of remotely comparable length that I had got by heart).

Don't cheat yourself out of reading the rest.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Breaking news in Holland

I heard on the radio about trained dolphins armed with stun-guns for the purpose of apprehending suspected terrorists. Under special circumstances, of course.
During the hurricane some of these guys went AWOL and may now pose a threat to surfers or swimmers along the Gulf coast.

Check this out from Holland...

Gewapende dolfijnen ontsnapt door Katrina Gepubliceerd op maandag 26 september 2005 De orkaan Katrina heeft 36 dolfijnen met een ‘license to kill’ bevrijd.
De dieren maken deel uit van het Amerikaanse leger en zouden vermist worden in de Golf van Mexico, zo meldt The Observer.Experts, die de training van walvisachtigen door de Amerikaanse marine hebben bestudeerd, menen dat de dolfijnen een harnas met een verdovingswapens bij zich kunnen dragen.
De marine van de Verenigde Staten bevestigt dat er dolfijnen voor militaire doeleinden getraind zijn, maar wil niet bevestigen dat tientallen van hen ontsnapt zijn.
Het verblijf van dieren aan de kust werd overspoeld en de 36 dolfijnen kwamen in zee terecht. De dolfijnen zijn getraind om terroristen en spionnen te verdoven, zodat ze ondervraagd kunnen worden. Duikers en surfers zouden echter nu ook gevaar kunnen lopen.De vrees bestaat namelijk dat een duiker of surfer - bijvoorbeeld vanwege het feit dat hij wetsuit draagt - per ongeluk aangevallen wordt door één van de ontsnapte dieren. De kans is dan aanwezig dat deze zal verdrinken, omdat er niemand bij is om het slachtoffer direct uit het water te vissen.

No, I don't talk Dutch. But here is the Babel Fish translation...close enough for government work:

Armed dolphins escaped Katrina Published on Monday 26 September 2005 The hurricane Katrina 36 dolphins with ` license to have delivered kill. The animals are part of the American army and vermist will become in the golf of Mexico, thus The Observer communicate. Experts, who have studied the training of walvisachtigen by the American Navy, think that the dolphins can carry a harnas with anaesthesia weapons at itself. The Navy of the United States confirms that dolphins for military aims are trained, but does not want confirm that dozens of them has escaped. The stay of animals to the coast was submerged and the 36 dolphins arrived in sea. The dolphins have been trained terrorists and spionnen, anaesthetise so that they can be questioned. Plungers and surfers however now also danger are able run. Apprehension exists, as it happens, that a plunger or surfer - for example the animals escaped because of the fact that he carries from - accidentally is attacked by one of. The chance is then present that these will drown, because nobody is directly fish the victim from water.

Yep, if one of these guys puts a swimmer/plunger to sleep with a stun-gun, there probably won't be anybody around to keep him or her from drowning.

Blogmistress comments:

I thought of reading just as found oneself. Repugnantly that animals become this way ge - and abused. I have no words....

I don't think she likes the idea of dolphin conscription.
I'm not sure that I do either.

Houston evacuation was a historic success

Wanna feel better?
Go read this WILLisms post.

From the governor's office:

There exists no comparable evacuation effort in world history. Texas safely evacuated approximately 2.7 million people – equivalent of the population of Kansas – in harm’s way in 36 hours. By comparison:

* Berlin Air Lift – evacuated 177,000 people and moved 2.3 million tons of cargo over 11 months
* Three Mile Island - 200,000 evacuated
* Chernobyl - 135,000 evacuated

Using the world’s largest commercial airliner, the Boeing 747 which typically can carry 400 passengers, it would have taken 6,750 capacity flights to move 2.7 million people. There are roughly 1,000 Boeing 747s in existence, less than 15 percent of the needed capacity.

[Will continues...]

In other words, there was no simple answer, here.

Some folks complained that Texas' aversion to commuter rail, and our preference for mega-highways, proved to be some sort of Achilles heel. If only we had some rail, we could have moved all of those 2+ million people efficiently
and without any of that telegenic gridlock.

Hmm. I don't think I need to do the math on that one, do I?

The number of rail cars and tracks necessary for such an evacuation is staggering.And, meanwhile, what do you do about people wanting to take stockpiles of food and supplies, or their firearms, or their furniture and photo albums and other household items, or their pets, or their cars themselves, all out of harms way? Do they all get to ride the choo-choo, too?

Come on.

It gets better. Read it all.
And thanks, Will, I needed that.
Friday morning I was up at 4:30 am, live-blogging the hurricane as I watched and listened to the online feed from KPRC in Houston. I now feel I was witness to a truly historic event. At some time in the future I will revisit my string of posts, like looking at a scrapbook, and relive the excitement.

Rita notes (4:30 am...twelve-hour rule explained)
Rita notes 5:10 am
Rita notes 5:25 am (Message from Holland)
Rita notes 5:35 am
Rita notes 6:00 am
Rita notes 6:30 am
Rita notes 6:55 am

Superdome report from the Times-Picayune

Conditions in the Dome were bad, but not as bad as have been reported. Via Wide Awake Cafe there is this report from the Times-Picayune which does not square with last week's reports of multiple rapes, murders and roving bands of armed thugs.

That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

Pretty lengthy article, but important to note before last week's exaggerated impressions become too deeply and improperly locked in memory

Lesson: Listen and read everything and think about it. Discuss, report and contemplate the meaning, even if reports turn out not to be factual. But don't stop listening and thinking until all the facts are in. And when the next time comes -- and it will -- consider what constructive responses are in the box?

I still think it would be a good idea to have reporters "embedded" with first responders, just as they now travel with the military. Television images and live broadcasts would have the effect of generating a rapid response on the part of officials driven to be pro-active instead of pointing fingers and covering their behinds.

Tribute to Edward Said

A couple of young people at 3 Quarks Daily were privileged to have known and studied with the late Edward Said, one of the most influential scholars of the Twentieth Century. The particulars of his writing and views may be less important than the scholarly discipline he was able to engrave in those who knew him. This legacy is no better seen than in this morning's remembrance by Asad Raza. It's not necessary to know anything about either teacher or student to appreciate the deep affection and respect that shows here.

In 2003, as a graduate student in English at NYU, I rode the subway up to Columbia each week for a seminar with Said, which turned out to be the last one he taught. Wan and bearded, Said would walk in late with a bottle of San Pellegrino in hand and proceed to hold forth, off the cuff, about an oceanic array of subjects relating to the European novel (Don Quixote, Gulliver's Travels, Sentimental Education, Great Expectations, Lord Jim, etc.), alternately edifying and terrifying his audience. He had an exasperation about him that demanded one to know more, speak more clearly, learn more deeply, in order to please him. Some found the constant harangues too traumatic for their delicate sensibilities; I loved to have found a teacher who simply did not accept less than excellence.

Quick, easy read. Not to miss it.

Additional material, September 29

Abbas Raza's comment below references a host of links to writings about and by Edward Said. Last year's tribute at 3Qd is a virtual library shelf. For anyone interested in Said, it is a treasure trove of material. (Not, incidentally, quick and easy reading.)

So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.

These words of Edward Said state, without rage or prejudice, a simple observation. He puts his finger on the vulgar simplicity with which leaders manipulate their followers, both East and West. To the degree that those leaders know what they are doing they are guilty of one of history's worst deceptions.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Soft underbelly -- updated again

The story took off faster than I expected. This post from August 23 is finally becoming relevant a month later.

These comments by Billmon are too long to summarize but too well-done to leave out. What a writer!
Go read. (Haven't seen his take yet on the most recent prisoner abuse reports. That should be a magnum opus.)


The beast that is devouring Iraq has a soft and dirty underbelly that polite people don't want to mention. When young people are taken from a protective social environment and resocialized to become warriors, the results are not always pretty. Many, if not most, bring with them enough character, discipline and base-line ethical values to protect them from being transformed into savages. Others, sadly, do not. Aqoul points to a post at Nur al-Cubicle (A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.) which takes a look at a website dedicated to some of the most degenerate interests of the world wide web.

The site, primarily pornographic, is structured like a forum where users exchange pornographic material, not covered by copyright, which runs from voyeur photos to hardcore shots of lovemaking with girlfriends and wives. In two special sections, soldiers can receive free access by publishing the most audacious photos taken during their deployment. One is a general section displaying photos of soldiers, including war humor. The other section is a veritable chamber of horrors with photos of dead Iraqis and dismembered bodies. Once you enter this section you are immediately advised that you will be seeing cruel images and that persons not wishing to view this type of material should not enter.

Browsing through the
posts is like a descent into hell. Each post contains the most graphic of images, escalating in barbarity and viciousness and accentuated by the comments left by posters. The posts exalt the violence of the images, shot in a theatre of war. You see headless, armless burnt bodies, a face in a bowl, the remains of suicide bombers, an arm or a leg accompanied by inhuman comments, extolling the horrors..."the only good Iraqi is a dead Iraqi." The comments are stupefying in their cynicism...there is even a barbaric quiz, asking the question, "what body part is this"...?

I didn't bother to look past the main page which reports "Our users have posted a total of 541888 articles. We have 143718 registered users."
Scanning the topic lists is education enough. This is not, incidentally, some obscure, low-traffic corner of cyberspace. The numbers of items runs to the tens of thousands, in a couple of instances, hundreds of thousands.

That a lot of traffic by any standard. This is a very tragic consequence of an equally tragic adventure.

August 24 addendum...
The post is only a day old and the story is being picked up several places.

Helena Cobban's Just World News blog...
Body part porn and war

This morning, I asked if it was true that US service membersare now trading grotesque pictures of Iraqis and Afghans who have been or are being terribly abused onto a porn site in Netherlands. I'd read about it (in my lousy Italian) on the Italian News Agency ANSA website, here. But I can't really read Italian so I invited JWN commenters to help out.

As always when I ask for help here, I got it. Thanks to those who commented and to the creators and maintainers of this great information-leveraging system, the internet... Here's what commenters said. (And a belated hat-tip to the Belgian onfirmant from whom I gained the original tip.
Various confirmations follow with descriptions and comments.
This comment is worth quoting:
The images are of the dead. The voices - the comments [on the porn site]- are of the living dead. Everybody caught in that web - dead or alive - has "passed over". They're both "in a different place", a terrible place. Shakespeare's got a line, "my mind is full of scorpions". It's Macbeth's response to his dawning realisation of what he's done...and what he's become...and what he's set in train. Which is by way of saying, this war isn't just going to come home in body bags. It's also going to come home in the minds of the living. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them are going to be walking IEDs. Some of them will "go postal". Some of them will commit suicide. Most won't "go off", but that's cold comfort. Because the fuse will burn and burn...with predictable consequences. Domestic abuse. Broken homes. Nests fouled. Wives, children, girlfriends, parents, siblings friends coming in for bad times, harrowing times. Bottom line: the terrible things that are happening in Iraq are on their way round.

Sabbah's Blog picked it up two days ago. The post has a photo of a group of laughing GI's posing and pointing at a charred corpse. Picture is captioned "Cooked Iraqi."
Also links and tags.


Wikipedia entry link

Never saw the word before. Don't know how to say it. But I think it's time to put it in my vocabulary. I think it may become as much a household word as apartheid or Darfur or genocide.

I happened upon it looking at one of the blogs on Scott Ferguson's Pundit Drome, second page. I don't know how he picks his blogs, but I'm impressed. I know he and I don't come from the same place, politically, but that doesn't prevent him from putting together the best aggregator I have found. (I look at Pundit Drome more than my own Bloglines feeds.)

I'm not going to blog anymore about it until I learn more. Looks like there is a lot to learn.

A few more bad apples?

Those who dismissed the Abu Ghraib abuses as "pranks," no worse than frat initiations, or the unauthorized conduct of "a few bad apples" should get ready with a few more denials.
Seems like Human Rights Watch has released another report indicating a more systemic issue.

One sergeant told Human Rights Watch: "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport… One day [a sergeant] shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy’s leg with a mini Louisville Slugger, a metal bat."

The officer who spoke to Human Rights Watch made persistent efforts over 17 months to raise concerns about detainee abuse with his chain of command and to obtain clearer rules on the proper treatment of detainees, but was consistently told to ignore abuses and to "consider your career." He believes he was not taken seriously until he approached members of Congress to raise his concerns. When the officer made an appointment this month with Senate staff members of Senators John McCain and John Warner, he says his commanding officer denied him a pass to leave his base. The officer was interviewed several days later by investigators with the Army Criminal Investigative Division and Inspector General's office, and there were reports that the military has launched a formal investigation. Repeated efforts by Human Rights Watch to contact the 82nd Airborne Division regarding the major allegations in the report received no response.

The soldiers' accounts show widespread confusion among military units about the legal standards applicable to detainees. One of the sergeants quoted in the report described how abuse of detainees was accepted among military units: "Trends were accepted. Leadership failed to provide clear guidance so we just developed it. They wanted intel [intelligence]. As long as no PUCs came up dead it happened. We heard rumors of PUCs dying so we were careful. We kept it to broken arms and legs and shit."

"PUC" means "person under control." I suppose that designation has to do with some legal distinction among various prisoner categories.

No, I haven't studied the whole thing in detail. I already have a bad attitude and I don't think it would help. Just skipping through I came up with "C is an officer with the 82nd Airborne Division and West Point graduate who served in Afghanistan from August 2002 to February 2003 and in Iraq from September 2003 to March 2004. HRW spoke with him more than two dozen times in July, August, and September 2005. "

An officer, it says.
West Point.
Damn. Just damn.

I'm waiting for a truly authoritative source to firmly and clearly discredit this report. I'm not interested in spin or counter-charges or "they-do-worse-than-that" crap. Of course they do. But I like to think that we are better than that.

Sunday morning...

I blogged the report as soon as I found it yesterday. Via Crooked Timber here is an early response from Scott Horton at Balkinization,

...Military commanders owe their soldiers clear, unambiguous guidance on how interrogation is to proceed and how detainees are to be treated. Instead, the most charitable way we could characterize the situation would be to say they have created a fog of uncertainty in the area (whereas until 2001, the sun had shone with exemplary brightness) it really credible to talk of a "few rotten apples," when the number of those concerned goes from six, to a dozen, to nearly a hundred, and now to several hundred, operating in installations around the world and engaging in suspiciously similar patterns of conduct?...the [internal] investigations [of abuse] proceed with the highly implausible assumption that these policy decisions had no effect on what happened on the ground in Iraq. Since the U.S. Army's command-and-control structures are the envy of the world, this assumption lends an element of the surreal to these reports.

The introduction of torture and abuse as interrogation practices has badly corrupted military intelligence and is undermining morale and discipline throughout the service. The decision to scapegoat the "grunts" for decisions that clearly were taken at or near the top of the chain of command has further undermined confidence in the chain of command and in the integrity of the Army as an institution. The systematic denial of the doctrine of command responsibility threatens the ethic of the military on the most fundamental level. One must wonder when and where this whirlwind of destruction that now engulfs our military and threatens to undermine our national security will end.
Outstanding piece of analysis. Make this one required reading.

Monday, September 26...

Andrew Sullivan got it.


I'm gonna tinker with the time of this post so it won't appear at the top of my blog today. It's too mean to get that kind of attention, but too tempting to skip.
Dwight Meredith explores an unthinkable scenario, prompting this comment left at Suburban Guerrilla blog: "Me and Bush have something in common now. His time in office has made me want to drink."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Behind the scenes...GWOT

Well, not exactly "behind the scenes" since international news stories are involved, but they may as well be with so few of the public connecting the dots.

John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia points to a couple of items that look related to me. They both have to do with Saudi Arabia one way or another, both relate to the war in Iraq, and both represent either new information or a change in policy...

First, a report from CSIS (The Center for International and Strategic Studies) breaking down the categories of foreign insurgents in Iraq by country of origin. (I suppose it is fair to say that the "flypaper" strategy seems to be attracting extremists from all over the Middle East, even if the dynamic is multiplying rather than reducing the number of recruits to their cause.) John Burgess summarizes the report nicely, but urges readers to read the original completely. I don't have that much concentration. I am very pleased with his summary.

From the report:

...the study estimates that there are 3,000 fighters. Those fighters come from all around the Arab and Islamic worlds. The largest component of these fighters come from Algeria (600 or 20%), followed by Syria (550 or 18%), Yemen (500 or 17%), Sudan (450 or 15%), Saudi Arabia (350 or 12%), Egypt (400 or 5%), and other countries (150 or 5%).

The Saudi involvement in the Iraqi insurgency is overestimated, but does have an impact that goes beyond the number of insurgents involved: "Unlike the foreign fighters from poor countries such as Yemen and Egypt, Saudis entering Iraq often bring in money to support the cause, arriving with personal funds between $10,000-$15,000. Saudis are the most sought after militants; not only because of their cash contributions, but also because of the media attention their deaths as "martyrs" bring to the cause. This is a powerful recruiting tool. Because of the wealth of Saudi Arabia, and its well developed press, there also tends to be much more coverage of Saudi deaths in Iraq than of those from poorer countries." On the question of motivation and public support, the report asserts "If one talks about the sources of broader public support for the insurgency, Sunni nationalism seems to be the strongest contributing factor fueling the unrest."

Another snip that caught my eye:

Extremism and terrorism are not particularly expensive. They also can cloak their identity under a host of religious and charitable covers, or exploit "arm chair militantism" throughout the Arab and Islamic world. No amount of Saudi, US, or international activity to limit fund transfers, or activities like money laundering, is going to halt a substantial flow of money and weapons to terrorist and extremist groups. As long as religious extemism, and Arab and Islamic anger, ac as a strong political and ideological force, enough private money will flow to allow such groups to continue to function and act. This is particularly true when, as in the case of Iraq, they can exploit significant popular sympathy and support.

I do recommend reading John Burgess' whole post. It's not too long, well-written and full of content.

The Saudis, it seems, are doing all they can (those kings and princes who run the country) to keep home-grown insurgent wannabes inside their borders. Think about that for a moment. Our allies, the Saudis -- representing anything but democratic idealism, whose connection with the US is a nakedly market-driven pragmatism -- are assisting the US in a hot war for "freedom and democracy" in Iraq! Go figure. Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose.

The second item is more interesting than the first.
From Asharq Al-Awsat the following story.

Saudi citizens detained at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay will soon be released and handed over to the Saudi authorities, as talks between US officials and their counterparts in the Kingdom reach the final stages, Asharq al Awsat has learned.

Ahmad Mazhar, head of a team of lawyers hoping to return the detainees to Riyadh told Asharq al Awsat his country had taken large steps towards ensuring its 121 detainees are handed back. He hoped US/Saudi discussions would conclude after the last details are agreed on and indicated that the Saudi government had been in constant contact with Washington since learning Saudi men were being held at the military base in Cuba.

Meanwhile, the US government and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) discussed how to end the hunger strike [What? Hunger strike? Who knew? Who reported? Who cared? Everyone knew it wasn't going to work, right?] started by a number of detainees, mostly from countries of the Persian Gulf , on the 8 th August, in protest at their continued incarceration without trial. Dr. Amer al Zamaly, advisor to the ICRC on Muslim affairs, told Asharq al Awsat the international organization was closely following the hunger strike and greatly concerned about their health condition. He called upon Washington to ensure the prisoners' health did not deteriorate further and insisted the reasons behind the hunger strikes needed to be addressed. Al Zamaly also said the US government needed to understand the harsh psychological and physical conditions the detainees were suffering from which cause depression, hopelessness, a range of illnesses and epidemics.

With conflicting reports on the number of prisoners on hunger strike, al Zamaly indicated that discussions between the ICRC and the US military authorities were under way to determine how many men were refusing food. Guantanamo's second in command also responsible for the heath care of the detainees, had revealed 87 men were on hunger strike, in what is the largest strike since the detention center opened in 2002.

Currently, 520 men are detained in Guantanamo Bay, some for over three years, following the US war on terror. Several men have refused food and water in the past to protest against their continued incarceration without access to legal counsel and trial in US federal courts.

That's more information than has been spotlighted anywhere in this country by either the much-maligned MSM (that would be mainstream media) or their well focused maligners from the blogworld. I can't believe this all comes as a big surprise. Events like this have to have been in the diplomatic works for some time. Maybe they will catch the importance in a day or so.

Reducing the prisoner population at Gitmo from 500 plus to less than 400 looks like big news to me. [Aside: In light of the other story, I would not like to speculate about the fate of those 121 "detainees" (I guess that is different from "PUC's") getting to go "home".]

If I were a conspiracy nut, I might say this was to divert attention from the abuse story that just broke. I expect there are those in Washington who wish that Time Magazine story had been competing with two hurricanes instead of breaking after the intensity of storm reporting was easing off.

Ar we getting poised for mid-term elections? I hear the vice-president had to have both knees operated on today, no doubt from too much prayer time. (I know - cheap shot. Too good not to put it in.)
Waiting for the spin machines to crank up.
Interesting times. Veeery interesting.

Once again...IRYD.

Mom's advice from Houston

Hint: If you go surfing before a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane hits, make sure:

a. you haven’t been drinking (as in drunk)
b. you don’t have a beer belly
c. you really know how to surf
d. you don’t piss off the ems or cops
e. you don’t do it when everyone in the whole area has been evacuated, so every first responder in the county is coming to your “aid”
f. you keep yelling at everyone as they arrest you and take you away

(In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice) IDIOT!

Mom's LINK via Michelle Malkin

Update Saturday

Looks like Mom and company made it through with no problems. Good report card this morning.

I just got back from riding around my area. (Jones Road, FM 1960, Grant Road) We are so fortunate. My God we are so fortunate.
Downed limbs. Leaves and Pine needles everywhere. Wood fences fallen. But no water accumulation. No roofs missing. (The local DPS office (I think) has some metal roof area gone.)
There are a lot of areas with spotty electricity. We are lucky, we have it.
People are already out and about trying to clean up.
The Salvation Army office nearby my home, has a stacked lot full of people and vehicles ready to respond. It was an amazing site to see all those vehicles in one place and people ready to go
and help, wherever the help is needed.

There are reports of looting. But this is Texas, folks. We don’t cotton too lightly to looters. The police have been out in force. But of course, I loved this report from Blogs of War. The locals took matters in their own hands. Pretty cool.

Ya'll don't be lootin' in Texas, y'heah?

Cold-blooded justice?

What do you do with a drunken sailor?

1. Put him in the long boat till he's sober...
2. Keep him there and make 'im bale 'er...
3. Shave his belly with a rusty razor...
4. Put him in bed with the captain's daughter...

Things have come a long way since the days of sea shantys. The traditional ways of dealing with drunken behavior was to toss the sod somewhere and let him get sober. Today's more enlightened approach is to criminalize the behavior and let the authorities deal with the problem. Of course we have a different class of drunks now, what with "substance abuse" being the new "drunk" and all. But as in days of yore, we still deal with drunken sailors more harshly than with drunken big shots.

Case in point is a twenty-seven year old quadriplegic drug offender incarcerated for smoking dope.

Magbie, 27, of Mitchellville, was paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by a drunk driver when he was 4. On Sept. 20, 2004, he sat in his mouth-operated wheelchair as D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin sentenced him to 10 days in jail for a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana. He was a first-time offender.

Magbie was taken to the D.C. jail, and within hours he was having difficulty breathing. He was moved to the emergency room at Greater Southeast; the hospital released him to the jail the next day. On Sept. 24, he again was taken to the hospital, where he died that day.

One wonders how he would have faired had he been cut from a different social fabric. And why it took a year and the intervention of the ACLU to get any attention. Those agitators. Always stirrin' somethin' up.
Res ipsa loquitur.
Thanks Jacob, Andrew

Comic relief in law school

Russ & Mike are in law school. They keep a blog so they don't go crazy from too much study. Better than binge drinking, but hey, maybe they do that, too. I dunno. Anyway, this is funny...

Yesterday, I was talking to a classmate of mine who happens to be of Asian heritage. She was telling me how she was at a baseball game this summer when Man Soo Lee, White Sox bullpen catcher, took off his catcher's mask and revealed, that he was Asian to the crowd. Some White girl in front of my classmate yelled out, "There's no Chinese people in baseball. Go back to your own country."
My classmate confronted the white girl about her ignorant statement and told her that she was an idiot.

Russ: That white girl is an idiot. She broke the first rule of being white.

Asian Classmate: What rule is that?

Russ: Always look around before you make racist comments.

Other Asian guy in the room with us: Ha. Ha. We do that too.


Mike prepares for the worst. He has a welcome speech for aspiring lawyers to be...
...And if you are one of the "lucky" ones to make it as a partner, are you prepared for that? Are your prepared to go thorough a messy divorce from your formerly loving significant other, and lose most of the stuff you accumulated through your endless toil as an associate? Are you prepared to become a souless bastard who's life revolves around arcane statutes and pain and suffering of others? Are you prepared to look at your daughter's face after you missed her piano recital because "Daddy had to file for another continuance, because Daddy is trying to get as much money from the client as he can before the client realizes he has no case"?
These guys are off to a great start. I have a hunch they are good students. Dummies can't get away with this kind of stuff.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pork Busters

I'm at work and don't have time to make a good post, but this is too important, too good to let slip by...

THIS is why we love Michelle Malkin.

Get 'em, kid!

Rita notes 6:55 am

An update from Sealy
Stranded west of Houston along Interstate 10 in Sealy with hundreds of other motorists in search of gasoline to escape Hurricane Rita, Michael Stewart was encouraged by assurances from a church group in Sealy early Friday that he would find fuel in nearby Bellville.
It meant a 15 mile drive to the northwest on Texas 36, and risking the last of the fuel in his car.
Stewart, who left his Kemah home on Thursday to escape Hurricane Rita, drove 10 miles before running out of gas.
Still hopeful of finding gas for himself and the others gathered in a Walmart parking lot, Stewart began to hitchhike the rest of the way.
"No one is stopping," he said in a cell phone update. "Why is everyone so afraid of such a clean cut guy."
Not about to give up, Stewart was marching toward Bellville just after 5 a.m., and still hopeful he could find enough gasoline for himself and the others.
--Mark Carreau

It makes you think of your many blessings to read stuff like this.

Rita notes 6:30 am

Live blogging is a lot of fun, but I have to get ready to go to work.

After doing this for a couple of hours, I can relate to the news people who have to live their lives in a sequence of passing moments, all of which are going to be instantly "old news" the moment they happen. It's rather like driving a new car off the parking lot, the most expensive ride that any car owner can take. As soon as you take delivery of a new car, you become the owner of a second-hand car...with you as the first owner. That's the way it is reporting news. the chances that anybody will ever revisit what you have reported are remarkably slim. Once or twice in a lifetime you might be at the right place at the right time to capture some really important the crashing of the Hindenburg or the shooting of someone important. But those moments are few and far between...

Have a good day.

Rita notes 6:00 am

New Orleans is getting "feeder band rains" from Rita. According to the weatherman this is "terrible news."

The storm is now a Category 4, moving at 10 mph, less than 300 miles from Galveston.
Extended winds can be expected to radiate up to 200 miles from the the storm will sweep an area about four hundred miles wide.

The television stations will be broadcasting their audio streams over AM radio so that people can listen to the news on battery-powered radios. The frequencies were announced just now (6:12 am). This is a good idea.

The use of contraflow lanes is being explained. Once those lanes have been accessed, you need to be prepared to stay in line and follow the flow. There are not handy exits like the regular traffic has in the regular lanes. HOV lanes are being used to access some of the contraflow lanes.

KPRC is now showing some good-times, happy news filmed earlier as busloads of enthusiastic volunteers came to the rescue of stranded motorists. People from all walks of life -- eighteen busses with about fifteen volunteers per bus -- made for a "refreshing story with a silver lining."

Rita notes 5:35 am

Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee being interviewed live offers words of calmness, encouragement and support. Experienced politicians always impress me with how litle they can really say and still use a lot of words.
"I feel very comfortable that we are moving in the right direction....The main thing is to help the people who need us most....I don't want to announce any...plans...look for the fuel trucks moving into the area...FEMA is well-aware of it...there will be come alternative plans...continue to evacuate....obviously we are watching Hurricane Rita..."

Yadda, yadda, yadda...
I know it's all important, but give me a break.

Q: [The challenges of congestion on the highways...]

A: "The good news is that when we sound the call to evacuate people did...We at least can say to all the official that they made the call....maybe we would have thought to have a full tank of gas...staging we know how this can work...designate certain gas stations to have enough gas...I think we did a good's a combination of federal and local response...."

Q. [Observations at the airport...]

A. "We have a serious problem...calm when I arrived but was not calm before...airlift was goiing very smoothly....I will say the airport should be operating..."

"...get as many of those TSA screeners in here as soon as possible..."

I guess she is concerned that there may be terrorists among the evacuees.
Who knows?
This is a strange time, indeed.

Rita notes 5:25 am

Someone in Holland leaves a blog comment...

Good morning,
It is appr. 0800 o'clock in the morning now and temperature will be 22 degr.Celcius.
I heard that Houston is totally evacuated, must be spooky for such a big city. I hope you and your family have a safe place. Trust that your government has learned from Katrina.
In Holland indeed we have experienced the water in 1924 and 1953; and more or less in 1995.
We have our Deltaplan and dykes. But still water is so powerfull; and also we have taken into account that it will happen once again.
I saw on a picture that Galveston is a sort of Island with a little harbour and a dyke or wall around it. I hope she is strong enough.
Take care.
Kind regards

Elsa's blog LINK

Rita notes 5:10 am

The weatherman is telling people not to leave after nine o'clock this morning. The Twelve-hour Rule says you ain't gonna make it, so stay where you are. KPRC is not running commercials. That has been advertised since yesterday...

Houston-area leaders have said that, if you are not in a mandatory evacuation area and have not yet left, stay home. Conditions on the road are not conducive to getting from here to there.
I raise my hand and testify to that, amen!
Today, I went 55 miles in 8 hours and burned half a tank of gas before coming to the awful conclusion that I was not going to reach my destination because I couldn't buy more fuel on the road.
I was part of a team the Chronicle dispatched to San Antonio as a kind of mirror operation. If the power went down at the mother ship in Houston, I was to be part of a group working out of the
San Antonio Express-News keeping the site updated.
I left the house in the Montrose area around 10:30 a.m. I'd heard on TV and radio traffic reports that U.S. 90A was a good alternative route to Interstate 10, which was a parking lot.
Unfortunately, everyone else heard the same tip. By the time I got onto that route -- which is comparatively narrow and dotted with lots of traffic lights -- it was as crowded as I-10.
I didn't see much of the rudeness and road road I heard about on other highways. Oh sure, you had the occasional jerk who tried to shoot ahead on the shoulder, and the equally jerky types to darted out to try to stop them, but overall people were kind to each other.
I stopped at a shopping center that was deserted in search of a restroom. The only workers there were the owners of a day care under construction. They were taping up the windows. I poked my head in and asked if I could use their restroom.
"I promise I won't tell anyone else!" I said, and they laughed. More importantly, they let me use their potty.
I told them I'd remember them -- the First Foundations Learning Center, near Sugar Land. Good folks.
My bosses wound up calling me back after we did the math and determined that, since I had burned half a tank of gas over 55 miles in eight hours -- and give there was no fuel to be purchased along the way -- that I wasn't going to make San Antonio.
It took me about 45-60 minutes to drive back the way I came, and maybe only a couple of gallons of gas.
What's cool about the Web as a medium is that you can update it from anywhere. But you do have to get there first.

The Red Cross is at work...

The Red Cross planned to open more shelters as far away as Waco on Friday for weary Houston and Galveston area residents seeking refuge from Hurricane Rita but unable to find hotel rooms.
Some reaching the central Texas city have been on the road as long as 18 hours.
“The police say there may be as many as 200 to 300 people circling the city trying to figure out what to do,” said Ramona Cooper, a Red Cross volunteer at the Bledsoe-Miller Recreation Center in Waco. Bledsoe-Miller and three others were at capacity, and the Red Cross was preparing to open two more early Friday:··Sol Ross on 1414 Jefferson in Waco.··Harrison Senior Center at 1718 N. 42nd in Waco.Together, they could hold about 150 more people.The Red Cross was also preparing to open a third facility, the Green Family Camp, in Eddy, Texas, south of Waco on Interstate 45.
“Some of the people coming in the wee hours just haven't found any lodging. Some are on a budget, but I think it's really a mixed bag,” said Cooper. “They are very pleasant and very appreciative. They just seem happy to be off the highway.Many of the children among the evacuees are apprehensive about what will happen because of what they have seen on television after Katrina struck New Orleans,“ she said.
At Bledsoe-Miller, which was full with 143 occupants, the children relaxed by watching television or coloring with crayons.
Most at the shelters don't know how long they will have to stay. “There was a young couple that came in just a few minutes ago. They were very pregnant,” said Cooper. “They wanted to know if we had good hospitals here because they didn't know if they would be able to go home first or not.”

Rita notes

It's four-thirty in the morning and I am watching Houston TV station KPRC online. They are reporting that people are pushing their cars on the highways because they are either out of gas or they can save gas, since they can push faster than they can actually drive! A tanker truck on I-10 and 1458, with the contra-flow in effect (all traffic is going North), giving out five to eight gallons of gas per car. Some people are walking up to the station with gas cans where the truck is parked.

Groups of local volunteers are working the expressways furnishing bottled water to stranded motorists. One man said "We are all one people" and he just wanted to help out. Eighteen busses full of volunteers were escorted by police to places where they were needed, some helping to unload trucks of water, some taking people home with them to give them shelter, others working the expressways.

The "Twelve-hour Rule" is being advertised by the authorities, meaning that if hurricane winds are being forecast twelve hours or less, the do not try to evacuate. The attempt will be futile. In other words, since the hurricane is expected to arrive tonight at nine PM, then it is not advised that anyone try to escape after nine o-clock this morning. You are better off seeking safety wherever you are and hunkering down for the storm.

Stores are running out of supplies, ATM's are running out of money, gas stations are out of gas. "You realize why they tell us to get prepared."

Well, it seems that evacuating a million or so people is easier said than done. I'll bet a lot of people are less judgemental about what they saw in New Orleans than they were a day or so ago.

The weather people are concerned about a high pressure center now covering central Texas. If that system is strong enough, it will have the effect of making the hurricane, a low-pressure system, en effect slow down, pause or move southward...which would have the effect of causing flood-level amounts of water to rain out, flooding whatever areas it may be located. By dividing the rate of movement of the storm into 100 it is possible to estimate the approximate number of inches of rain that can be expected to fall. (Example: if the storm is moving at 10 MPH, then ten inches of rain can be expected, 20 mph would result in only five inches, but if the storm should slow to only 5 mph, it could drop up to twenty inches of rain! That's a flood in anyone's book.)

Westland Baptist Church reporting from KATV is housing 275 to 300 people and asking volunteers to come and help feed and take care of these people until they can move on. They are asking for breakfast foods and sandwiches for the road. The people there were just stranded on the highway and couldn't make any progress so they stopped for the night.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita links

Via Hugh Hewett a list of news and blog links for those tracking Hurricane Rita.
The Houston Chronicle also has good links, including a Rita Blog.

There is a connection between television coverage and public response to just about any event. A priority for officials should be getting TV crews quickly and safely into an area needing attention. If embedded reporters can be incorporated into war plans, I see no reason they should not be included in disaster plans as well. Those in charge may be more interested in covering their butts than showcasing how well they are performing, but that is all the more reason to have reporters on the scene. When somebody in charge has to reprimand reporters for being "stuck on stupid" it reveals an adversarial relationship between the people in charge and reporters. This ought never to happen.

Someone called WSB radio in Atlanta from Australia the day after New Orleans flooded and asked "Where are your amphibious vehicles????"

I wondered that myself. Was flooding and messed up roads a surprise?
Am I missing something?

Technology is our friend

Sleep well, Bobos, the teeming masses yearning to breathe free are still under control. In the sixties they used cattle prods. Come to think of it, they still do. But some work better than others.

Setting a backfire

The expression to "fight fire with fire" comes from a tactic of heading off a raging fire by looking ahead to where the fire can be expected to grow, clearing a line of safety over which the flames(hopefully) cannot jump, then deliberately burning away what would be potential fuel for the threatening inferno. When the "backfire" is lit, we call it fighting fire with fire.

As the next hurricane approaches the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Anchoress is letting loose a spiritual backfire. Today's post is a tour de force of such powerful dimensions it is not possible to cover it in a snippet or two. You must go there and allow the place to wash over you, taking your time. I don't think I have ever encountered such a masterful assembley of spiritual weapons anywhere.

Tonight, (basically, as soon as I finish this cup of tea) I am going to be entering into a fast that I hope God will give me the grace to see through for three days. It will be a fasting prayer of Thanksgiving for all of the great and merciful things God has done for me, and for my family, and for my nationÂ…it will be a prayer of supplication, for my family and for my nation, for everyone in a hurricane's path, and for two men in particular.

I expect great things, not because of I am anyone special, and not because of my puny fast, but because God has promised me - has promised all of us - great things. We know that if we ask for a loaf, we will not be given a stone. He has promised us that persistentnt widow can overcome the most heartless and selfish judge. His eye is on the sparrow. He clothes the lilies of the field in splendor, and so much more does he tend to us. And he says that where two or more gather in his name, He is there.

Don't miss the Gregorian Chant section. Three days will be ending Saturday night. We can all join with her during this time and rejoice together as a fast is broken on Sunday morning. It gives a richer meaning to the word "breakfast".

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Flu watch

I'm trying not to be an alarmist about H5N1 but events are unfolding that need to be reported and watched.

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An outbreak of bird flu that has killed several people and which is suspected of infecting more in the Indonesian capital Jakarta can be called an epidemic, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said on Wednesday.

"This can be described as an epidemic. These (cases) will happen again as long as we cannot determine the source," Supari told reporters, referring to the emergence of cases in recent months in and around different parts of the teeming city. LINK

The H5N1 blog keeps a wary eye on this stuff. Like Brendan Loy was watching the weather. Just because few people seem to be listening doesn't change the fact that they could be right.

In a matter of hours, the tone of avian-flu news has darkened. The Jakarta cases look like the real thing: H2H, human-to-human transmission of a virus that kills over half of those it infects. The latest story on ABC News seems fairly typical of the new mood. On a beautiful end-of-summer afternoon in Vancouver, with golden sunlight flooding over the flowers in my wife's garden, it seems strange to say: "This could be it." But this could be it.

I spoke to my colleagues at a faculty-association meeting today, asking that we organize a college-wide emergency-planning committee that would work with municipal, provincial and federal agencies. A little to my surprise, the response was a unanimous vote of support. That's encouraging, but I think we're going to have to work fast.

Maybe we'll look back on the summer of 2005 the way our grandparents and great-grandparents looked back on the summers of 1939 and 1914: as the last sweet summer before the darkness. I hope I'm mistaken.

You get that? H2H? Human-to-human.

That's the last step in the mutation chain that makes conversations about birds and swine academic. Once the virus jumps to humans, then starts to pass from one human to another, whether or not chickens carry it is largely a matter of curiosity. One sick human carrier on an airplane is a lot more scary than thousands of dead chickens, if that person has the H2H variant of the same virus.

If you need a more popular source for credibility, be sure to follow the ABC link. They're a pretty big outfit, not given to crazy reporting. Well, not often anyway.

"Stuck on stupid"

Yep, I got it.

I also heard the general tell an NPR journalist this morning that he was "completely unconfused." That's why I love to hear Cajuns talk. It comes out like poetry.
Now can we move on?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NOLA Journal of a cameraman

BoingBoing is one of my favorite sites. I think it is put together by four or five people. There is so much material gushing out of their site that a reader can spend half the day reading it, so I often allow myself to slide past it and drop in when I have more time. (Like going to a thrift store or "antique" (read junk) shop. I love it, but I usually like looking more than buying. But BoingBoing is no junk shop, believe me. Well, not usually.)

Here's a find: Katrina: a cameraman's journal in NOLA, part 3

I drove much of the Ninth ward yesterday. It was a sobering view of poverty in the inner city. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be sitting in the Astrodome having watched the flood waters inundate this sad portion of a great American city. I honestly don’t know what the authorities will decide to do, or what they should do. There are so many pathetic little shacks with a putrid water line nearly up to the roof. The saddest thing for the former residents would be to see it all gentrified - rebuilt….just not for them. Where are all the General Marshalls when we need them?

I spent a lot of time yesterday with the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. I just don’t know what to make of this guy. I don’t know anything about him, but I do know that he has done a complete turnaround from his previous and well publicized criticism of our dear Administration. To hear him talk today - he is George W’s biggest fan. You are not going to hear one nasty word come out of his mouth as pertains to Mr. Bush. He wants to see his city rebuilt…..and they have hit him over the head with one big-ass shovel…….

This is journalism at its best. One guy looking and telling what he sees and feels. In this case he also happens to be a photographer, so the pictures are a bonus.

Now I gotta go back and read Part One and Part Two.

The Anchoress on Clinton

Take time to read this post. Thoughtful, critical, sympathetic and deeply inciteful. Mother Anchoress at her best.

...President Clinton has tiptoed around the tactic of lambasting, sharply criticising or launching a “withering” attack against President Bush, several times. He has simply had the sense to do so tentatively, and discreetly - inserting a sly dig at Davos, a mild remark in Rio. This weekend, bouyed by campaign-trailish coverage and the sort of wonky gasbag-fest we know always energizes him, Clinton simply decided to get off his tippy-toes and step lively.

Some of this was predictable. The extreme left of the Democrat Party has grown into a fuming beast that needs constant feeding as it stomps around its cage, waiting to be unleashed. Because Mrs. Clinton is planning a run at the White House, she and her husband are simply shoveling at them the same Triangulation Kibble they used to feed the left (and the center) in 1991 and 1992 - except that this time the ingredients are reversed: this time Bill Clinton is the Hard Left Outside while Hillary is the Deeply Moderate Center. Same food, different packaging; it is a particularly useful recipe for both Clintons because his “centrist” credentials, and her “leftist” credentials are so firmly in place, that no matter how the ingredients are mixed, the same multitudes are fed, and things even taste the same.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Meet the Press, Russert and Broussard, UPDATED

[It took two weeks, but Mr. Broussard's appearance on Meet the Press, dramatic as it was, had a few parts that didn't pass the smell test. I thought about it the first time I heard it: Buddy, you better have all your facts straight, or bloggers are gonna clean your clock.
That's just what happened, too. Of course other nursing home residents did drown, but that's not the point. Point is, the old boy wasn't tellin' the whole truth.
He got caught...]

I'm sorry I had to miss it. Yesterday's Meet the Press was a stem-winder. This morning the transcript is at the top of blogsnow with nearly a hundred links . I came across several references to the program in last night's surfing, so I knew it would be a big deal. Russert did what he does best: hold feet to the fire in return for valuable air time. The most cited moment is when Mr. Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, emotionally boiled up in tears...

MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history....We need strong leadership at the top of America right now in order to accomplish this and to-- reconstructing FEMA.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Broussard, let me ask--I want to ask--should...

MR. BROUSSARD: You know, just some quick examples...

MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out. Let me give you just three quick examples.

We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our
trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel.

"Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.

But I want to thank Governor Blanco for all she's done and all her leadership. She sent in the National Guard. I just repaired a breach on my side of the 17th Street canal that the secretary didn't foresee, a 300-foot breach. I just completed it yesterday with convoys of National Guard and local parish workers and levee board people. It took us two and a half days working 24/7. I just closed it.MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: I'm telling you most importantly I want to thank my public

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me.

The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?"

And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday."

And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President...

MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

MR. RUSSERT: Just take a pause, Mr. President. While you gather yourself in your very emotional times, I understand, let me go to Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

Tim Russert went on with his program, but Mr. Broussard's words will be included in whatever history is written of the Katrina nightmare.

Streaming video links at The Brad Blog.

******* ******** ********
Update, September 19
Well, it didn't happen like that. With the precision of a pack of dogs bringing down a stray calf, a bevy of fact-checking bloggers jumped on Broussard's story like ducks on corn.
Crocodile tears.
Discredited, don't you know.
At best, I think Aaron Broussard is the political equivalent of a price gouger; taking advantage of a tragedy in order to gain political capital. He may very well be purposely trying to blame someone's death on an innocent party (or parties). Either way, it's despicable. LINK
Instapundit advertised the revelation of the deception, dismissing it as a myth.
Never mind that other nursing home residents did, in fact, die by drowning. Indictments have been brought against the parties responsible.
I feel all better now about FEMA.
Yep, all better.

Diplomacy progresses with North Korea

Big news this morning:

BEIJING - North Korea on Monday agreed to stop building nuclear weapons and allow international inspections in exchange for energy aid, economic cooperation and security assurances, in a first step toward disarmament after two years of six-nation talks.
No need for me to elaborate. This will be big enough that only a few hermits will miss it.

What I find interesting is how this news is being hailed in various quarters.

Captain's Quarters "...a stunning foreign-policy victory for the Bush administration."
Conservative Thinking " agreement that can be seen as a step back to the Clinton (sic) or an agreement to appease the North Korean government..."
In the Bullpen "...taking this with a big grain of salt..."
The Moderate Voice "History, after all, would urge caution and skepticism."
Joe's Dartblog "...the second major nuclear coup for the Bush Administration [the first being Libya]"
OTB "this is a rather hollow agreement...the Kim government made similar concessions a decade ago and soon abrograted. Let's see how strong the enforcement regimes are before getting too excited about this development."

&c., &c...
With a spin machine that well-focused, it is a no-lose move for the president.
That is what I would call more than a grain of salt.
If it works, it is a great diplomatic coup. If it fails, the failure was expected.
Heads, I win, tails, you lose.

My take: Diplomacy is always, always a better course of action than war. Given the predeliction of most people to favor war over diplomacy, the president's burden is heavier in peacetime than in wartime. My hope is that the president wears enough war paint already to get away with not starting another war.

I see no mention of how easily that can happen, even now. Brinksmanship, it is called. The dark side of this agreement is not that Beloved Leader might not follow through. What we don't know is what kind of counter-response may be planned should that (likely) scenario unfold.

This is what I would call a realistic response.
Whether you're exuberant or despondent about this, your reaction is probably premature, although everyone is entitled to be despondent about the fact that we may not know much else until November. As for the question that concerns me the most--whether this is really a deal with the devil on human rights--I don't know the answer to that yet. We'll just have to watch the signals coming from Washington: whether Congress appropriates the funds it authorized for the radios; whether the United States goes along with the North's demands for "development aid" instead of food; and whether Jay Lefkowitz will continue to challenge the regime's methods of internal control.

The success or failure of the agreement still has a few pieces left that depend on Washington.

Ira Glass and This American Life

All you anti-NPR readers just keep moving.
This post will only make you angry.

For the rest I want to advertise This American Life, the radio program put together by Ira Glass, perhaps the most gifted radio journalists working today.
As I write I am listening online to last Sunday's show, about an hour long, in which he recorded some very articulate people who were trapped in the New Orleans Superdome waiting for evacuation.

Anyone commenting on events of that terrible scene owes it to themselves to listen to this program before saying anything. It's accessable. It's very well-done. And it's powerful.
Look for the link you prefer listed as "After the Flood."

Link (RealPlayer) Link (
This afternoon I heard a little of this week's program on the radio but didn't get to hear but a few minutes. I plan to catch it online when time permits, but it is equally well-done. This time the crew is in the Astrodome in Houston. The sights and sounds are described and recorded in detail. Various private charity and church representatives are there, organized very much like tables at a convention, with signs telling what they have to offer. At one table is a woman from Colorado who spent two or three days trying to find anyone who would accept a package of aid form Colorado which included a year's rent for a family, two jobs (one with Coca-Cola and one with Wall-Mart), clothing and a car. No one wanted to take her up on the offer because they were afraid of moving so far away. The image of snow falling all the time was impossible to overcome. A nearby table pushing Florida living was having no trouble making connections with people. Snow versus sun. No contest.
It was surreal. Like something on TV. Like the "Makeover" programs.
Six-year-old twins with delicious New Orleans accents were thrilled about the adventure of going to Colorado. Their mom was less excited, but had to make the decision to go because time was running out and she didn't see any better alternatives in Houston.
I noticed that Glenn Reynolds broke his regular format last week to put up an on-line poll soliciting readers to comment about ways to redirect funds for hurricane relief. There was a crimson box with places for readers to cast their "votes" for several options, including taking away funding for DARE, a federal anti-drug program that has turned out to be an embarrassing failure, and funding for public radio, a favorite whipping-boy for a lot of people pissed off because NPR is one of those repositories of reflection where too many voices say the wrong things about war, politics and social affairs.
It was a transparently goofy gesture since an entire year's federal funding for public radio -- something on the order of three hundred million dollars -- would fund the war in Iraq (absent, of course, on the list of options to redirect funds) for less than a week. It strikes me in the same way as movie scenes showing barbarians misusing the products of civilization. I recall a time when the company for which I worked decided to switch from cloth napkins to paper. I think of all the unmarried kids today that shack up without a mariage commitment. There is something so very wrong with the picture it is hard to know where to start talking about it.
The basement scene toward the end of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof shows Big Daddy dying of abdominal cancer amidst "junk" that he and Big Mamma brought back from trips to Europe. What seemed so important at the time was no comfort when he needed it most. In the end he comes to the realization that his life was about to come to an end and he had never loved anyone. That kind of cognitive dissonance is beginning to show in the aftermath of the hurricane, but unfortunately a lot of people are unable to see it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Flat Tax....Yo, Boortz, lookit this!

[Sunday, December 18...
This post was put together in September and picked up today by the NY Times.
Welcome Times readers! Boortz is a talk-show I listen to daily to keep my discernment sharp. As a bed-wetting liberal I would never dream of calling in to play mouse to that cat, but I have to say he is a bright thinker.
I saw John Linder last night on S-SPAN-2 talking about the book, and I have heard more about it since this post was put together, so the idea may be catching on.
I like the idea of a consumption tax because I personally know of more and more economic activity that would be called "blackmarket" in other countries, so a consumption tax is the only way to capture some of those otherwise untaxed transactions.
Those who argue that a flat tax is not "progressive" are not taking into account that in real dollars there is no way that a low-income person is going to come close to "being taxed" as much as a rich one. And all the drug money, unreported gratuities and "sub-contractors" who now contribute nothing will be pumping the economy a lot more every time they buy something with that filthy lucre.]

COUNTRIES that have adopted a flat tax are growing twice as fast as those that haven't, research out this weekend confirms.

Since 1995, eastern European countries with a flat tax have enjoyed an average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.3%, compared with only 2.6% among those without, research by the Reform think-tank shows. A weighted average of the flat-taxers confirms this finding and reveals they have grown faster in eight out of the past 10 years.
The research also reveals cutting tax rates need not mean a collapse in tax receipts, thanks to positive growth effects and a reduction in tax evasion.

The Treasury's main argument against the flat tax, made repeatedly last week, is that it would "cost a lot of money" due to lower tax rates and a likely increase in the income tax threshold to help lower earners. But the argument was rejected by Reform, which said: "This argument is disingenuous because the Treasury is in the process of spending 'a lot of money' itself in the form of very considerable public spending increases above the rate of economic growth between 1999-00 and 2007-08." It said that if the government had maintained spending increases at the rate of economic growth, it could have introduced a flat rate of income tax at 17% with a bigger personal allowance.

Eric Nielsen, economist at Goldman Sachs, said: "The move to lower and simpler taxes has begun in Old Europe and that is good news for productivity and growth."

Hat Tip: WILLisms

(Neal Boortz and John Linder have been advancing the case for the "fair tax," an unfortunate attribution for a proposal which is light years ahead of, and a lot more promising than, the "flat" tax given currency by Steve Forbes.
Check the link and note the comments.
I like the notion but I don't think it has a chance. Nobody has even blogged about it...
The sludge in Washington is thicker than that of New Orleans. I few inches of rain will get New Orleans on the way to cleaning up, but I don't have the same hope for the Washington cesspool.)