September 2005

30 Sep 2005 05:39 am

We were misinformed by the media and local officials in New Orleans.

WASHINGTON — One of the mysteries of the fumbling federal response to Hurricane Katrina has been why the military, which was standing by, and federal disaster agencies, which had pre-positioned supplies in the area, didn’t move in more quickly and with greater force.

Senior government officials now say that one major reason for the delay was that they believed they had to plan for a far more complicated military operation, rather than a straight-ahead relief effort.

Accounts from local officials of widespread looting and unspeakable violence — which now appear to have been significantly overstated — raised the specter at the time that soldiers might be forced to confront or even kill American citizens. The prospect of such a scenario added political and tactical complications to the job of filling the city with troops and set back relief efforts by days.

The misinformation raises the question of why the federal government had so much trouble gathering its own intelligence that could have provided a more accurate picture.
“The devastation was so complete, so comprehensive … that we couldn’t figure out how bad it was,” said Adm. Timothy Keating, chief of the U.S. military’s Northern Command, which oversaw the Pentagon’s Katrina effort.

“On Tim Keating’s list of things we need to work and to analyze very carefully, communications is at the top of that list,” the admiral told reporters yesterday.
Washington’s experience in Louisiana has prompted the White House to seek ways to shoulder locals out of the way if another similar disaster crops up in the future.

President Bush has asked Congress to consider mechanisms that would allow him to quickly place the Pentagon in charge of such disasters, making it easier to use assets such as the 82nd Airborne Division, highly trained, regular Army soldiers who specialize in moving to an area quickly and securing it.

As it was, cumbersome federal regulations generally prevent Mr. Bush from sending regular Army troops to enforce order in American cities unless they are expressly invited by a state’s governor.

For the Federal Emergency Management Agency, rumors of lawlessness simply delayed on-the-ground relief efforts and turned even routine errands into a cumbersome exercise. One official, who was posted at the Superdome, said federal rescuers and doctors were required to secure armed escorts even for short trips across the street.

To be sure, the situation in New Orleans did appear dire at times and looting was common, gunshots rang out in the city and bands of dazed survivors did spill out in the streets looking for food and shelter. A handful of people died at the Convention Center and the Superdome and at least one or two of those deaths appear to have been murders.

But some of the most spectacular looting — the sacking of the Wal-Mart in the lower Garden District and the summary emptying of the Office Depot Uptown, appear to have been initiated not by organized bands of thieves but police and City Hall bureaucrats intent on securing supplies.

Moreover, while confusion reigned in many areas of the city, some places were more tranquil. New Orleans Coroner Frank Minyard, whose forensic team has conducted scores of autopsies on the 650 or so bodies recovered from New Orleans says he has run across only seven gunshot victims. “Seven gunshots isn’t even a good Saturday night in New Orleans,” Dr. Minyard says.

There’s more…read on…..

(hat tip: Instapundit)

30 Sep 2005 05:10 am

I have a hard time believing that Judith Miller went to jail merely for principle.

Surrenders Notes on Talks with Libby

NEW YORK Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who had been jailed since July 6 for refusing to identify a source, was released Thursday afternoon.Miller said in a statement that she expected to appear before the grand jury on Friday.

According to the The New York Times, she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to testify before a grand jury investigating the matter.

She also agreed to turn over certain notes.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported that an unnamed jail official had revealed that Miller left an Alexandria, Va. jail this afternoon at 3:55 pm., adding, “She was released after she had a telephone conversation with the Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.”According to the Times, Libby “had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.”

The Times account revealed that Libby and his lawyers asserted that they had given his waiver a year ago–and then again ten days ago–but Miller did not accept it, saying she feared it was coerced.

There’s more so read on……

Michelle Malkin has all the links

30 Sep 2005 04:49 am

Adorable son and daughter of Chief Justice John G. Roberts watch as he is sworn in at the White House.

What an insipid article……..

John G. Roberts Jr. is breathing the kind of air that the rest of us can only dream about, the air of kings and queens and one-name celebrities like Oprah. He’s got Mick Jagger juice now, baby.

They’re the folks who possess that rarest of powers — they’ve got a job for life. Roberts is right up there with the pope in terms of job security. That is, as long as he lives up to the Constitution’s demand of “good behavior.”

After being sworn in yesterday afternoon as the nation’s 17th chief justice, Roberts said he planned to show up at the office today. But if he doesn’t, there’s not a thing anybody can do about it. The media might fuss and others might grumble, but that would be it. It would take an act of Congress to fire the guy.

30 Sep 2005 04:10 am

This article is bewildering. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer is accused of stealing pens and other office supplies over twenty years ago and one incident involving being drunk and another involving being pulled over by police.

Either this is a badly written article or the pentagon is sliming a whistleblower like it did Linda Tripp.

Lt. Col. Shaffer would not have been promoted to Lt. Col. had he been caught driving drunk or walking drunk or sitting drunk. An officer cannot work in a classified military unit if he has a record of “stealing pens.”

This sounds much more like a raw FBI file being shared with the media instead of an official record.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An officer who has claimed that a classified military unit identified four Sept. 11 hijackers before the 2001 attacks is facing Pentagon accusations of breaking numerous rules, allegations his lawyer suggests are aimed at undermining his credibility.

The alleged infractions by Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, 42, include obtaining a service medal under false pretenses, improperly flashing military identification while drunk and stealing pens, according to military paperwork shown by his attorney to The Associated Press.

Shaffer was one of the first to publicly link Sept. 11 leader Mohamed Atta to the unit code-named Able Danger. Shaffer was one of five witnesses the Pentagon ordered not to appear Sept. 21 before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the unit’s findings.

The military revoked Shaffer’s top security clearance this month, a day before he was supposed to testify to a congressional committee.

Mark Zaid, Shaffer’s attorney, said the Pentagon started looking into Shaffer’s security clearance about the time in 2003 he met in Afghanistan with staff members of the bipartisan commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks and told them about Able Danger.

Zaid said he can’t prove the Pentagon went after Shaffer because he’s a whistleblower, but “all the timing associated with the clearance issue has been suspiciously coincidental.”

Citing concerns with the privacy act, Cmdr. Terry Sutherland, a Defense Intelligence Agency spokesman, declined to release any information on Shaffer.
Shaffer says he received a Bronze Star medal for work on a classified operation in Afghanistan in 2003.

According to papers provided by Zaid, the military is now questioning whether he deserved it, including challenging whether at least one person who backed Shaffer’s nomination for the medal had firsthand knowledge of his actions.

Shaffer says he showed his government credentials during two incidents in 1990, when he was drunk, and 1996, when he was pulled over by police.

The military says he misused his credentials, but Shaffer says he was not told he should not have used them. He also said he has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober for 13 years.

As for the pens and other office supplies taken, he blamed that on “youthful indiscretions” more than 20 years ago.

According to the paperwork, the alleged infractions against Shaffer also include:
- Falsely claiming $341.80 in mileage and tolls fees. He said he filed travel expenses based on what he was told by human resources staff.

- Obtaining $67.79 in personal cell phone charges. He said the amount was a legitimate expense accrued so he could forward calls.

- Going over his chain of command to do briefings. Shaffer said he was providing briefings to higher-ups on projects even his direct superiors did not know about, and he received superior review ratings for that time.

- Showing irresponsibility with $2,012 in credit card debt. He said he paid off the debt.

Shaffer, now a member of the Army Reserves, has been on administrative leave since March 2004. During the same time, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on Oct. 1, 2004.

Shaffer has said he tried three times to meet with the FBI to convey the Able Danger unit’s findings before Sept. 11, but was ordered not to by military attorneys.

Shaffer’s assertions on Able Danger have been supported by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. If correct, they would change the timeline as to when authorities first learned of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

The Sept. 11 commission has dismissed the claims. The Pentagon has acknowledged some employees recall seeing an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist before the attacks, but said none have been able to find a copy of it.

There’s more… on……..

30 Sep 2005 03:52 am

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore briefs reporters about conditions in southwestern Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. It is bleak….at least for quite a number of years. It looks like we are going to be having another Louisiana Purchase.

CAMERON, La. (AP) - The coastline of southwestern Louisiana will take years to restore after Hurricane Rita unearthed graves, ripped apart levees and infected farmland with saltwater, the commander of the military relief effort said Thursday.

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore took a handful of reporters along Thursday for a helicopter tour of the area.

“How bad is it? You’ve got saltwater in places that was fresh water. You’ve got significant impact on the roads, electrical and sewer. You’ve got levee problems along the coastline,” Honore said.

In some fields, sugarcane was bent over for as far as the eye could see. Farm equipment was stranded in fields, and wood and sheet metal siding was sprinkled across marshland.

“The entire coastline of Louisiana will take years to restore,” Honore said. “Hopefully this disaster will be an opportunity for them to make it better.”

Some cemeteries looked like grave-robbers had struck, cracking open crypts and scattering remains. National Guard Gen. Michael Terry said 15 morticians were trying to clean up the mess created when Rita’s storm surge washed over burial grounds.

Sugarcane farmers said they were concerned about saltwater and debris that landed in their fields and smashed their crops.

Errol Domingues lost about half his 4,200 acres of sugarcane, worth about $2 million, when the farm was inundated with saltwater from the Gulf, about 15 miles away. He said he would likely have to sell off his cattle, because feed was ruined by saltwater. The brackish water also cost him his crawfish pond.

In Cameron Parish, near the Texas border, relief workers were setting up a tent city near the beach, where officials could sleep, shower and work as they try to get basic operations of government running again.

A primary concern there was a shortage of gasoline. Until fuel supplies are readily available, it is impossible to even set up distribution sites for food and water because people who lost their homes and businesses have no gas to get there.

But residents had not yet returned. The only people present were soldiers in fatigues who were clearing debris and a few relief workers.

Honore said some levees had been eroding for years and were much less effective than in previous storms. “The levee systems are all questionable,” he said.

29 Sep 2005 07:15 am

But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.”Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”"How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.”You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

I wondered about the clueless Governor Kathleen Babineaux “Alice” Blanco of Louisiana and her visit to Washington D.C. for a hearing yesterday. I figured that the story was just drowned out in the media flurry of Tom Delay’s indictment. But today it’s evident that Blanco didn’t visit the Senate Finance Committee but the Mad Tea Party.

Gov. Blanco gets no Katrina questions

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, blamed by the former leader of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin for many of the city’s post-hurricane problems, was given no questions about her response to Hurricane Katrina when she appeared before a Senate committee to plead for more federal money.

She asked not to be questioned about it and the senators agreed.

Mrs. Blanco, a Democrat, was invited by the Senate Finance Committee to respond to charges by former FEMA Director Michael D. Brown, who the day before called Louisiana officials “dysfunctional” in handling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“Today, I came really to talk about job creation,” she said.

Later, she told reporters, “The facts will speak for themselves. I will tell our story when the time is appropriate.”

Mr. Brown, who resigned from FEMA under a hail of criticism, testified Tuesday before the House select committee investigating the response to Katrina and blamed Mrs. Blanco and Mr. Nagin for the slow reaction to the flooding and devastation to the city.

He was questioned sharply by committee members of both parties. Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, called Mr. Brown “clueless.”

Republican senators at yesterday’s hearing by the Finance Committee — Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Olympia J. Snow of Maine, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Craig Thomas of Wyoming, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Bill Frist of Tennessee, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Michael D. Crapo of Idaho — agreed to Mrs. Blanco’s request not to discuss her performance after the hurricane.

Instead, she devoted her appearance to pleading for help to rebuild businesses and creating jobs in Louisiana. She said Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had wiped out a third of the state’s economy.

“It’s very important to have incentives for our workers to return, and in order to do that, we have to have incentives for business to return,” Mrs. Blanco said, asking specifically for business tax write-offs for new investments, low-interest bonds for business borrowing and emergency business loans.

“Katrina and Rita brought our people and our economy to its knees,” she said. “These storms knocked us down, but they didn’t knock us out. And with your help and support, we will come back stronger and more prosperous than before.”

Hand money to this dame and it will all be down the rabbit hole.

UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers.

29 Sep 2005 06:27 am

Dan Baltz spins the Delay indictment as Chicken Little Sky is Falling On Republicans. Could he have written a clunkier phrase……. Bad news often comes in bunches. Note all the references to weather.

Bad news often comes in bunches, but for a Republican Party that not long ago looked ahead to an unfettered period of growth and expansion, yesterday’s indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) represented one of the most significant blows the party has suffered in a year replete with problems.

Since the fall of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1998, no two Republicans have been more responsible for the GOP’s recent electoral and legislative successes than DeLay and President Bush, a power tandem whose strengths have complemented one another repeatedly. Bush has been the party’s public face, direction-setter and most effective campaigner. But in Washington, DeLay has been an iron force who bent the system to his will and priorities.

Majority Leader Delay Indicted Rep. Tom Delay (R-Tex.), a hard-charging partisan with an intimidating reputation, was charged by a Texas prosecutor in a campaign finance probe.

Over the years, DeLay raised and moved vast sums of money to buttress GOP candidates, kept the party’s often-narrow majority together to move a Bush agenda that drew little Democratic support and changed the terms by which K Street lobbyists did business with Congress.

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With muscle and determination, DeLay ruled the inside game, and his indictment is therefore all the more significant — a powerful symbol that the Democrats will attempt to exploit as an example of the GOP’s abuse of power.

The indictment — which Republicans say is politically motivated — adds to the gathering headwind that now threatens the Republicans as they look toward the 2006 elections.

Whether this becomes the perfect storm that eventually swamps the GOP is far from clear a year out. But Republican strategists were nearly unanimous in their private assessments yesterday that the party must brace for setbacks next year.

On almost every front, Republicans see trouble. Bush is at the low point of his presidency, with Iraq, hurricane relief, rising gasoline prices and another Supreme Court vacancy all problems to be solved. Congressional Republicans have seen their approval ratings slide throughout the spring and summer; a Washington Post-ABC News poll in August found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the lowest rating in eight years.

Read it all. It’s quite amusing and ranges from Tito in Yugoslavia to P.T. Barnum…….

29 Sep 2005 06:19 am

Michael Yon is seeing first-hand the good that our troops are doing in Iraq. And he is writing about it. Here is an excerpt. Read all of it. (hat tip: Instapundit)

Much world travel has convinced me that the “average American” is a good person. But even a good person needs information in order to act effectively on their best impulses. Oftentimes, good things do not happen simply because information does not make it to the right people.

I believe this was the case for a sick little Iraqi girl named Rhma. American “Deuce Four” soldiers found Rhma one night in Mosul. She needed serious medical attention. Doctors, nurses and others back in America, along with the soldiers in Mosul, worked diligently on behalf of this child, and eventually they generated the support required to get Rhma the treatment she desperately needed.

But it wasn’t just Americans: I also saw offers come in from the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, among others.

29 Sep 2005 06:03 am

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, eager to welcome back his city’s residents, says he’s fighting a national impression “that we’re tainted, we’re not ready.”

His re-entry plan was to continue Thursday, with business owners returning to some of the historic New Orleans neighborhoods best known to tourists.

The French Quarter, the Central Business district and Uptown, which includes the historic Garden District, were to be formally reopened to residents a day later.

“People are saying it’s too early to bring back jazz, the gumbo and the red beans,” Nagin said Wednesday in Baton Rouge. “If it’s too early, when is the right time?”

Nagin complained that state opposition to reopening the city was feeding a misperception about New Orleans, saying: “We’re fighting this national impression that we’re tainted, we’re not ready.”

The areas being repopulated largely escaped flooding after Hurricane Katrina struck one month ago and many people have returned ahead of the mayor’s timeline.

Still, a handout from Nagin’s office struck a cautious note.

“You are entering the city of New Orleans at your own risk,” it reads, before going on to detail potential health hazards from water, soil and air, and advising residents to bring in food.

I think you’re going to be fighting this national impression that you’re tainted, that you were not ready for a long time Mayor Nagin.

29 Sep 2005 05:37 am

Hugh Hewitt in The Weekly Standard examines the media’s coverage of Katrina.

Here’s the money quote………

But now even the mainstream media is figuring out that its performance in New Orleans was a disgrace, an emotion-binging joyride fueled by urban myth, rumor, and a deep desire to injure the Bush administration.

Hewitt is doubtful that the media’s acknowledgement of their disgraceful performance will result in any change in behavior.

DON’T COUNT ON IT. Discussing the meltdown on MSNBC on September 27, reporter Heath Allen defended the hysterical reporting, arguing that, “[I]t’s the responsibility of the photojournalist to capture that and put it on television because those people at that point needed help no matter what was true, what was false, what was exaggerated.”

Thus is established the “fake but necessary” corollary to the Rathergate doctrine of “fake but true.”

In other words, “If it bleeds, it leads, catsup or not.”

In regards to Dan Rather, Hewitt finds a bizaare ratherism……….

Speaking of Rather, in a televised event on Monday night, Dan Rather, took questions from his would-be video Boswell, Marvin Kalb, on the state of the modern media. One listener to my radio show, upon hearing the clips, thought the conversation must have been something like the chat between a T-Rex and Triceratops on the asteroid they saw fall from the sky. Whatever one makes of Rather’s combination of condescension, incoherence, and platitude overload, you have to love his remarks on Katrina and the press. Kalb asks Rather why Rather became the focus of the forged documents story. Rather responded:

“Well, I don’t find that unusual, that the media focus should come down to the on-air reporter. But there’s so much in that question, Marvin, and I don’t want to bog us down. I want to be directly responsive to it. But before I go to that, I need to return to something before I forget it, and before the trail goes cold, on your saying well, why is it that every poll shows that reporters are not held in the kind of esteem that we once were. I think by and large, that we are responsible for that. And I do not exclude myself from that criticism. There are a lot of other factors going into Spiro Agnew’s speeches, politicians, and all the other thing. But I’m a great believer in the ten magic words, which are if it is to be, it is up to me. And that . . . you have to have personal responsibility. Then, besides that, you have to have professional and craft responsibility. The public, when journalism is at or near its best, when journalism is doing what American journalism has made its reputation doing, when we are true to ourselves, the public responds. And they respond in a positive way. You need look no further than what happened with Katrina the hurricane.”

Spiro Agnew? The man is really living in the past.

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