Friday, September 30, 2005

Delay addresses the waiver of statute of limitations

Okay, I missed it yesterday. I was bowling.

You learn something new every day when you are blogging.

Tom Delay has addressed the issue of waiving his statute of limitations. It was in a Fox News interview with Brit Hume yesterday.

Read the whole transcript please, but here’s the operative section of his discussion of the waiver issue:

HUME: At a point here you decided to waive the statute of limitations on this offense.


And that's mentioned in the indictment. Describe that.

I was sort of extorted out of that. Ronnie Earle let my lawyers know last week that I was going to be indicted because he had a runaway grand jury and that he was not going to go in and talked him out of it unless I waive my statute of limitations rights for another 30 days.
So I thought, "Yes, let's keep working on it."

Did you believe at that time you had a chance of talking him out of this indictment?


Did he ever say anything to you to give you a reason to believe that?

I didn't talk to him. He talked to my lawyers.

I missed this, and that was a blogging mistake. In fairness to Mr. Delay, I will leave this post to stand on its own. Later I will dissect it. But his response deserves your review without my commentary now.

Read more!

An Attorney's take on the Delay waiver

There are a few folks out there talking about Tom Delay’s waiver of the statute of limitations.

Crime and Federalism predicted the Tom Delay would enter a guilty plea by the end of the year, and has clear knowledge and experience with the practice he calls charge bargaining.

So why am I so sure he'll plead? A line in the indictment notes that his lawyer waived the statute of limitations on the conspiracy charge during grand jury proceedings. Why would a competent lawyer waive a complete defense? Because worse was on the way if he did not.
Initiates know the practice as charge-bargaining. You see a funnel cloud barreling at you and you ask your local prosecutor, quietly, "on what charges are you willing to take my client if he pleads?" I suspect DeLay will enter a plea late in the year.

I am completely baffled as to why legal experts aren’t talking about this issue. The indictment makes it very clear that the waiver was given specifically for the charge.

Tom Delay needs to answer this question. House leadership is “temporary” in nature, and as a result not fully and completely in control. The longer he lingers, and doubts circulate, the more damage will be done to the party and the upcoming elections.

Tom Delay owes it to his supporters to explain his status and discuss the deal he has made with this prosecutor.

Update 2:30pm 9/30

the Liberal blogs are starting to talk about this issue. Example

But silence in places like Malkin and NRO. Maybe I'm missing something.

Read more!

Tom Delay's waiver of the statute of limitations is important

Tom Delay’s waiver of the statute of limitations is important

Here’s why.

Because he voluntarily gave the prosecutor the ability to indict him. Such a waiver is a written agreement, developed through negotiations between the prosecuting office and counsel for the person entering into the agreement.

No one signs an agreement like that, without receiving something in return. No attorney would allow a potential target of an investigation to waive a statute of limitations without the benefit of some other consideration.

Commonly, these waivers are associated with immunity agreements.

At times, these waivers are an acknowledgement that an indictment is inevitable. In those cases, it is a means to delay the indictment for reasons beneficial to the target.

Another reason for these waivers are part of a deal to limit the charges that can be filed. The indictment document clearly says:

In particular, the Grand Jury present that with the advice and consent of counsel, the defendant, THOMAS DALE DELAY, did knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive the requirement that an indictment for the felony offense of criminal conspiracy, the object of which is a felony other than those listed in Subdivisions (1) through (5) of Article 12.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, may be presented within three years from the date of the commission of the offense, and not afterward, insofar as such requirement pertains to the indictment presented herein,

Which means that Delay specifically waived the statute of limitations for the charge listed in the indictment.

That, of course, means he knew prior to the indictment the charge being considered and signed an agreement to allow that charge.

Tom Delay needs to explain the deal he cut with the prosecutor.

There is much more to this than is being discussed. And a lot of “media lawyers” are looking the other way on this three-page indictment. How can you read this document, and not at least note the waiver?

Read more!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

One Question for Tom Delay

Why did you WAIVE the statute of limitations on the felony for which you have been indicted?

Without the waiver, you could not have been indicted.

Is there something we should know, that you haven’t told us?

Beginning after the image of the check at the bottom of this page, and concluding at the top of this page

THE GRAND JURY FURTHER PRESENTS that, with the advice and consent of counsel, the defendant, THOMAS DALE DELAY, did heretofore knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive the application of Articles 12.01 and 12.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to the indictment presented herein.

In particular, the Grand Jury present that with the advice and consent of counsel, the defendant, THOMAS DALE DELAY, did knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive the requirement that an indictment for the felony offense of criminal conspiracy, the object of which is a felony other than those listed in Subdivisions (1) through (5) of Article 12.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, may be presented within three years from the date of the commission of the offense, and not afterward, insofar as such requirement pertains to the indictment presented herein,

My emphasis

In layman’s terms, the statute of limitations on the felony in question expired on September 13th 2005, which was three years after the check on the indictment was written.

That by the way, was the day that his “co-conspirators” were originally indicted.

There’s a lot more to this indictment issue. It isn't as flimsy as some would have you believe.

The first question first!

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Blanco's free pass

There’s a sense of outrage at the Senate Finance Committee’s decision to give Louisiana Governor Blanco a free pass yesterday. Malkin and others are not particularly happy about it.

No questions on her feckless performance in the Katrina aftermath?

I look at it a different way. This whole episode is yet more evidence of Blanco’s incompetence, or the incompetence of her advisors, and how it affects other important players.

What was she thinking?

Blanco was originally scheduled to participate in the Senate Finance Committee with other Gulf Coast Governors by videoconference. After Michael Brown called her competence into question, Governor Blanco decided she needed to go to Washington personally respond to his scurrilous assault.

Arrangements were made and then – something happened.

Maybe a light bulb of sanity hit the Governor, and she came to the realization of a live appearance before a Senate Committee controlled by Republicans is NOT the friendliest place to make your defense in front of live television cameras.

I doubt that. If Blanco had the political savvy to recognize that, she wouldn’t have scheduled a personal appearance before the committee in the first place.

Most likely, two Republican Governors and a Republican Senator – who have some considerable political savvy – made a call.

They probably made several calls, in fact. Senator Lott and Governor Barbour are the ones who likely orchestrated the free pass. The event, presentations on rebuilding their states after the Katrina, was important for all of the Gulf Coast

Blanco was well on the path of turning a hearing designed to help the region into a “name calling, finger pointing, discourse on who was more incompetent.”

It would not have been helpful for the Republicans of the region for that sideshow to occur.

The courtesy of withholding questions was given NOT because Blanco asked. It was given because Republican Senator Trent Lott asked.

There are powerful Republicans suddenly politically tethered to a wacky Democrat, and there is little they can do but protect her from herself.

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Sometimes there is a better way to look at things

I get SO wrapped up in my blogging at times that I completely lose my sense of humor, and perspective. Right now, all the noise about hurricanes, Supreme Court justices, scandals and the mainstream media has me deeply buried in a funk.

When that happens I usually wander over to the World according to Tish. Her blog invariably offers a sharp wit and a fresh take on issues. In other words she makes me smile. Her take on Anna Nichole Smith and the Supreme Court took the edge off what was a pretty complicated day.

My first visit to her site found her tackling the Roberts nomination with tongue firmly in cheek. With the Roberts nomination up for vote today, I thought I’d highlight a couple of her better Supreme Court posts.

My day ends better than it started. Thanks Tish.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay is History

The good conservative thing to do right now is to rally around Tom Delay. Many blogs are doing it; many politicians are doing it. But there is an ugly reality – and ignoring it only delays the inevitable on Tom Delay.

What’s happening right now is a retirement gathering where wonderful words of support are spoken, while people quietly begin maneuvering for that corner office once occupied by the soon to be fallen.

Yes, Tom Delay is powerful. Yes, Tom Delay is a political friend of many in the Republican Conference of the House.

But ….

There’s already turmoil and leadership jockeying. And there’s a mid term election coming up that has many House Republicans nervous. As much as Tom Delay is needed by the Republicans, the timing of this and the time that it will take to bring complete resolution means political limbo for far too many people for a temporary leadership arrangement to stand any time at all.

Delay’s biggest asset is his ability to raise money. His value to all of those Republicans, who need financial assurance for their next election, is zero today. He will not be able to raise money for his own Political Action Committees and who would want him dancing on their personal fund raising stage right now?

Anyone who received some of the Tom Delay PAC money instantly moves up on the Democrat target list. Their financial receipts automatically suspect.

This afternoon Tom Delay became politically worthless to the Republican cause. The bad news for Democrats is – he stepped down. If the rules had been changed and he had stayed as majority leader, Delay would have been an even bigger liability.

And for that reason, even IF Delay can get the charges dropped before trial, his return to the Majority Leader’s office will be greeted with hoots and hollers of glee from the Democrats marking the beginning of a very long and nasty campaign season with him at center stage.

Three months from now, the pragmatists will out number the loyalists and Tom Delay’s temporary exile from leadership will become permanent.

It will happen with a burst of loyal rallying followed by a “brave” Tom Delay doing the right thing for the party and the nation. Of course his focus will be on rebuilding his beloved Texas in wake of Rita.

What is stunning about all of this – the political jockeying for his leadership post began today. As reported in The Hill, Speaker Hastert laid out his suggestion for Delay’s temporary replacement --David Dreier –

“The Speaker is backing Dave because he is capable, non-confrontational and safe,” one knowledgeable GOP source said roughly an hour after the indictment was announced.The source also said GOP leaders were installing Dreier in the role to head off a ruthless scramble for the post that could further divide an already fractious conference.
That early discussion gave way later in the afternoon to Plan B:
By late afternoon, however, the conference had named Blunt to the post. After press reports shortly after the indictment that Dreier would assume the temporary position of majority leader, conservative activists from around the country flooded the Speaker’s office with phone calls protesting the selection of Dreier, according to one leadership aide. Many of the callers protested his vote on a controversial stem-cell measure earlier this year.Over the past few years, Dreier’s name has been mentioned among a handful of possible candidates to move up to the top leadership team, if a position should become available.

Ever since 1998 when DeLay backed former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) for GOP Conference Chairman and pushed Rep. John Boehner out of the job, Boehner has been waiting for a ripe opportunity to return to the leadership ranks. While Boehner has his eye on the Speakership, he is likely salivating at the No. 2 post as well.After the indictment was announced, Boehner met with several allies in the Speaker’s Lobby.

But even some Boehner allies, however, warn that the ambitious Ohioan and anyone else who may be mulling a run should keep his or her powder dry for now.
For now is the operative word. I am the last person you would consider a Democratic operative. The truth is Delay will not return to his post as Majority Leader, and the leadership battles – ugly and painful as they are – will color just about everything else that happens in Congress from now until it is clear that he is gone.

Read more!

Reporting becomes "out of control" rumor mill

Jonah Goldberg (NRO) takes a candid look at the news breakdown in the aftermath of Katrina, even acknowledging that we all seemed to take the worst hook line and sinker.

All of the major newspapers contributed to the hysterical environment, passing on one unconfirmed rumor after another. And, to be fair, almost everyone else in one way or another contributed to the climate as well. The blogosphere bought the hyperventilation hook, line, and sinker. The low point was almost certainly when Randall Robinson ominously disclosed on the Huffington Post that African-Americans in New Orleans had resorted to eating the flesh of corpses to stay alive. This was just days into the flood (it took the stranded Donner party weeks to resort to eating the dead). Yet this supposedly fact-checked blog found it credible that African Americans would eat the bloated carcasses floating in New Orleans' floodwaters almost the second they ran out of groceries.

What accounts for this journalistic fiasco?

His analysis is good, but I’d like to add a couple of points. Clearly the problem in the Katrina coverage was rampant rumor. If you’ve ever dealt with a media crisis management situation, you would know that rumor control is a critical part of the effort. Rumors can over-run all factual and rational efforts you make, because you cannot control the wild fire that blows through the human population on a one-on-one basis.
Rumor control involves delivering complete information with clear communication frequently. The biggest, and most complicated job, in this kind of effort is getting accurate information out there to fill the information void when the usual communication channels have failed.
The difference between Rita and Katrina was communication. While Louisiana officials complained about people holding press conferences – even declaring a press conference moratorium for a while. In Texas, the communications were frequent and ubiquitous. You almost got tired of the repetitive updates.

In disaster relief, the chief executive (Mayor or Governor or both) has to put a face on the communication even if it is repetitive. Rather than hunkering down in a bunker, that part of the disaster team needs to be on the air by any means possible.

But, if the local officials in New Orleans weren’t doing their job communicating, where was the press in all of that. It is great to have people on the ground in the French Quarter for flavor, but shouldn’t CNN and Fox producers have been in or at the Emergency Operations center? And if they were barred from those locations, why weren’t they screaming bloody murder about it?

Great pictures of suffering won out over clarity in communication.

Public officials many times prefer to speak only when they know all the facts, for fear of getting some part of the story wrong. But, as in Texas, a steady stream of communication saves lives, and provides all the opportunity you need to make corrections to the record.

Rumors lead people to make dangerous decisions. Facts save lives. Rumor control takes affirmative steps.

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Big opportunity to whack FEMA's Brown doesn't materialize

Don’t you wonder why, given the big chance, Louisiana Governor Blanco didn’t rip former FEMA head Michael Brown? One day after Brown’s testimony before a House Select Committee, Blanco was before a Senate committee

In her opening statement, Blanco did not mention former FEMA director Michael Brown, who on Tuesday had blamed state and local officials in Louisiana for not responding appropriately to the storm. She declined later to respond to Brown's accusations when given a specific opportunity by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

"We are looking forward, not backward, " she said.

A few hours earlier, she issued a statement that was not so – forward looking:

In a statement issued in advance of her testimony Wednesday to a Senate panel, Blanco said she issued the evacuation order two days before the storm, and that it resulted in 1.3 million people leaving the city. She accused Brown of uttering "falsehoods and misleading statements" under oath to Congress, and called that "shocking."

She said Brown's comment clearly demonstrates what she says is the "appalling degree" to which he's "out of touch with the truth or reality."

There were very good reasons for the Governor to not get involved in a tit for tat with a disgraced former federal bureaucrat, and her approach at the committee was politically smart. But, why get down in the mud, with a statement that only touches on one part of his allegations, and then take the high road in committee when the TV cameras were on?

There are multiple answers to the question, but it seems to me that a written statement isn’t as interactive as the committee process, and while Senator Conrad’s softball was tempting, the other committee members might have taken the opportunity to visit the issue in more detail. Details are not Governor Blanco’s friend on all of this.

I am baffled by her decision to take a whack at Brown by written statement before committee. She had the right answer with the TV cameras on. Why get down in the mud with a no body? Unless of course, she needs to give the local Louisiana papers some red meat in the effort to rehabilitate a political career.

Read more!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Questions and Answers

Sometimes a question answered speaks volumes beyond the original question.

Any GOOD politician will only ask questions for which the answers are known. To ask something you cannot answer begs an opportunity for the questionee to make a point you didn’t expect and couldn’t control. There’s a lot of risk in that moment in the political sun, especially if your hearings are televised.

To me, the moment that summed up the Louisiana response to Hurricane Katrina in the Select Committee hearings in Washington today was Michael Brown’s answer to a simple question.

He told the committee that Louisiana’s Emergency Manager was gone the Saturday before Katrina hit. For some reason, the politician asking questions decided to find out where that manager was.

Brown’s answer was succinct. That appointed official had been INDICTED, and a replacement had not been appointed.

I actually believe it is a little too soon to be holding these hearings. But, everyone was clamoring for an investigation. And they got it. Democrats want an independent panel, which would take months to organize, staff and initiate, and are refusing to appoint members to participate.

I’m not sure Pelosi’s decision is well advised. Even if the hearing doesn’t get a lot of coverage, it will reduce the “news value” of future investigations – independent or not. Ultimately facts are facts, and even a cooked hearing will bring news worth covering. Which makes hearings held closer to the next election less valuable in the political posturing that will surely come.

Pelosi’s decision reminds me of some Iraqi political factions that decided to boycott the first election, only to wish they had been “in the game” when it came time to write the constitution. Both Pelosi and the Iraqi factions believed their “non-participation” would call into question the credibility of the event. It is a calculated risk. If the information is good, and the facts are clear, it will be Democrats who missed the opportunity to make their point when the issue was fresh. And that would make them irrelevant at a crucial time.

For a politician, taking airtime when the coverage is fresh is more important than any follow up event that might be six months away. Issues are perishable. And the blame game is “blaming out” as we speak.

Update 9/28 1:00pm

The Hill reports that some Democrats (Though not Pelosi) are rethinking their decision to boycott the House Select Committee proceedings. Pelosi has pounded this issue so hard, she can't move, but that doesn't mean Democrat participation won't occur. Sometimes the leader simply has to get out of the way -- if the original plan was a bad idea.

Read more!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Levees a WATERloo?

Levees a WATERloo for the environmental movement?

There’s been a notable silence from the environmental community lately. Early on in the Katrina disaster, there was a little noise about the need for wetlands as a way to minimize storm surge. Even that has dissipated lately.

The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed today that looks further at environmental lawsuits and their role in the failure to establish effective protection around New Orleans. A couple of sentences really jumped out at me:

That's why litigation delay can kill necessary projects. However responsibility is apportioned, but for the lawsuit, New Orleans would have had the hurricane barrier.


A Sierra Club attorney complained, "Why are they trying to smear us like this?" The answer: because some federal officials think that the Corps can act more rationally if freed from interference by environmentalists.

The crisis of Katrina and Rita highlights a significant underlying crosscurrent affecting our daily lives. That crosscurrent runs further than just the New Orleans Levee system. Environmental issues run deeply into our national energy issues. If the prospect of $5.00 gas bothers people, it was once an argument of the environmental community that our gasoline prices were too cheap and that higher prices – through taxes or other means – would encourage conservation.

Environmental issues are a key factor in refining capacity. The same is true for domestic production, whether off shore or Alaskan supply.

The environmentalist movement has some tough choices to make soon. If they truly believe that levees are bad for the environment, fighting for that belief will be spitting into hurricane force winds in the New Orleans area.

We may soon see how pragmatic that movement can be.

I have written several pieces over the last few weeks about the levee situation in Louisiana. Some of those posts are now difficult to find in the archives. For the sake of offering easy access to that information to people who may be looking at the levee question as it has developed, here are links to my previous posts on levees.

9/4 Original post with predictions about Levees being a big issue
9/4 Reader Feedback on Katrina and levees
9/8 Follow up on Levee Issue post
9/11 Timeline on Levee breaks is stunning
9/17 Where'd the Levee money go? Follow the indictments

Read more!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Brilliant Political Strategy -- Redux

Right after Katrina hit New Orleans, I sarcastically outlined a political strategy that Louisiana Politicians would likely pursue.

Among other things, I noted:

New Orleans could well get those new Category 5 levees. A 28-foot wall would surround city, but that really won’t be the issue. It is a matter of who gets blame, and who gets credit.


With much self-blame, the Congress will likely simply turn out their pockets for any request. Creativity from local officials could certainly get a fortress capable of surviving any hurricane that could ever come close to New Orleans in the next five hundred years. Of course there’s the need for a new Super Dome and Convention Center too, why use private enterprise opportunities, or tax dollars when you can let the Congress pay the costs without single question?Any politician in Southeast Louisiana who doesn’t bring at least 10 billion dollars to his/her district is simply a slacker in this current environment ought to be turned out in the next election. Which for house members – is just over a year away.

I hate it when my sarcasm becomes truth.

This is Louisiana Politics after all!

From the Washington Post article

Louisiana's congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane.

Louisiana Sens. David Vitter (R) and Mary Landrieu (D) tucked the request into their $250 billion Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act, the state's opening salvo in the scramble for federal dollars.

The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful "Pelican Commission" controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a "working group" dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests.

The bill would exempt any Corps projects approved by the commission from provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. It would also waive the usual Corps cost-sharing requirements, ensuring that federal taxpayers would pay every dime.

My emphasis

There is a point where the victims become the victimizers. It becomes too painful to think about.

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Political Truth VS Scientific Fact

Well now Streisand, the eminent climatologist, has finally pronounced an end to the Global Warming Controversy!

With science behind her, I’m not sure why it is even worth any further discussion. Other than the discussion is purely a political issue and has little to do with science. Politicians and celebrities take great liberties with facts.

Political debate has few rules. As a politician, you have no obligation to tell any part of the other side of an argument. In fact, most of the effort of fact-finding is seeking out a piece of information – marginally factual – that supports your argument. You just need a peanut of a fact that is easily understood and digestible, and can be shown to be true.

That peanut is used to beat the issue to death, until all agree that it is true – even if the fact is used to draw a completely crazy conclusion.

For example from the Independent in London:

"Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes.

The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

Mr. Lawton may be a scientist by degree, but his “smoking gun” is purely a political truth, not science. By his title, I rather think he’s a bureaucrat, but that is another subject.

Mr. Lawton’s evidence is a finding that the number of “super-powerful hurricanes” has increased dramatically this decade in comparison to the 1970’s. It is odd that he selectively chooses to compare this decade to that decade. It is true that there were fewer Category 5 hurricanes in the 1970's. And it is readily apparent that we've had two category 5 hurricanes in the last month. That's the peanut. has a chart of all of all recorded Atlantic Category 5 hurricanes. If Mr. Lawton had chosen to compare the numbers of the 1960’s to current, the conclusion would be quite different.

In fact, using his scientific analysis, you could well argue that the 1970’s were the beginning of a new ice age. In 1960 and 1961, there were two category five hurricanes in the Atlantic within a month of each other. And more than twice as many “super-powerful hurricanes” than occurred in the next decade.

The real science looks at a cycle of 40 to 50 years, rather than selective comparison of one decade to another for proof. And the real science doesn’t seem to be proclaiming Katrina and Rita as smoking guns.

Right now, all of the talk about “global warming” being a cause for Katrina and Rita is a POLITICAL discussion and not scientific. It is a discussion based on selective facts, and twisted reasoning because it provides another opportunity to generate news coverage which has a bent against the current administration.

When you look to politicians for facts, just remember the facts they supply are chosen to support the claims they make. There is generally a lot of other information you need before you can make a decision on the subject.

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Punditry Party

Since starting this blog, I’ve wanted to say a few things about the penchant for punditry over facts on the cable news networks. I’ve hinted at it, even mentioned my disdain for grabbing two “experts” at opposites ends of the political spectrum and letting them argue about something in lieu of an intellectual presentation of facts.

My problem has always been writing about the subject while using real examples when it would be far better to use a little hyperbole to make the point.

Then along comes Variety critic Brian Lowry who expresses it for me:

Living in an age of instant analysis, however, the pressure exists to provide sweeping pronouncements and commentary before all the facts are known. Under this tyranny, the impulse would be to dub NBC's "My Name Is Earl" a hit off one promising telecast, even before it faces ABC's "Commander-in-Chief" and CBS' "The Amazing Race" this week.

Not everyone, of course, is comfortable leapfrogging ahead of the actual news and opining out their ear, but fortunately, an entire class of TV talking heads and pundits suffers from no such compunctions. So rather than try to say something bold and risk looking like a boob a few weeks hence, the idea arose to enlist a panel of experts -- adept in shooting off their mouths before their brains have fully congealed -- to see what their TV observations might sound like, if I could stomach actually speaking to them.

He of course then runs through a list of political punditry focused on the new TV season premieres.

The past few days, I spent time watching my favorite, and not so favorite Cable New Outlets. And of course, when there was real news to cover in hurricane Rita, all did outstanding jobs. What comes in the next few days and weeks is the punditry party that always leads me to walk away. I’m glad there’s a new season, and the repeats are over for a while.

For the record, the next few weeks the pundits will be breathlessly debating whether the end of the Bush Agenda has arrived.

It hasn’t.

We’ve had two monster hurricanes in the past month. A lot of things are up on the shelf for a while. I expect the President, and for that matter the Governors, Mayors, Congressmen and Senators to face the reality that exists on the Gulf Coast.

They need to fix it. And then pay for it, without raising taxes or mortgaging our children’s future.

Doesn’t take a pundit to understand that. And for the life of me, why would there be anything to argue about? Just do it.

Read more!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

New Hurricane -- same issues

Last month, the night before Hurricane Katrina rolled into New Orleans, I ruminated a bit about Hurricanes and the Media.

I tried to explain the fascination reporters have with Hurricanes:

Try to think of any other disaster that gives you two or three days notice. Wouldn’t the press be camped out, if they knew when the next earthquake or tornado was going to strike. For that matter, if they had a heads up on a plane crash wouldn’t they be at the airport waiting? (Actually, some media were on hand for a crash in Sioux City Iowa in 1989, after hearing about an aircraft in trouble)

Low and behold tonight, on both Fox and CNN we not only had coverage of Rita’s relentless churn toward Galveston or someplace near by, but we had wall to wall coverage of a Jet Blue aircraft that had landing gear trouble.

Made for television. Of course, gawker that I am, there was no turning off the tube, in fact I fired up two so I could watch them both side by side.

It was good television. I wasn’t sure for a moment that the anchors would shut up in time for me to watch the landing unfettered by their noise. But we had a picture perfect landing, for the entire world to see. All was safe, and all was right with the world for the moment. No word on whether there will be an aftermath of blame following the landing, I’m not sure I want to know.

There is something awkwardly compelling about live television coverage of a – near disaster. It’s one of the reasons I watch the NASCAR races on television. I’m never interested in the tape delayed or replay of the race. I’m watching for more basic human entertainment, for that it must be live, and there must be uncertainty as to what will happen.

Rita rolls toward Texas. That, too, is compelling TV. The outcome is uncertain, the danger is real, and lives are at stake.

As I said in a post a couple of days before Katrina hit,

There is a point in the approach of a hurricane when you must simply live with your decision to stay. At that crucial point, you can no longer do anything but sit and wait. It is a helpless feeling. One I will never forget.When the wind howls and the rain pounds, there is little you can do. When timbers begin to crack, and glass begins to rattle, you simply move to a sturdier part of the house (if there is one).

Adding at the end:

Life and death decisions are already being made, while the Katrina is still many miles out to sea.

In the case of Rita, all indications are that the decisions being made today by those on the Texas Gulf Coast – are the right ones.

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Tyrannosaurus Rather - Last of his kind?

When the last Tyrannosaurus Rex bellowed his last threatening roar, did he know he was the last of his kind and that no other “T-Rex” would mourn his passing?

At that moment, T-Rex was oblivious that the world was not as he knew it, and that it would never be again. Once dominant, now the last defeated dinosaur, T-Rex could not survive CHANGE.

The modern T-Rex, Monolithic Autocratic Oracles known as Network Anchors are the last to note the change that surrounds them. Of course, Dan Rather is the poster child of the issue. He’s lost connection with the reality of inevitable change.

Like AT&T, the once monolithic telephone company, which has given way to hundreds of phone companies and multiple technologies, Network News and major newspapers, must recognize they must adapt to the change through technology.

It is not, as Dan Rather sees it, some political force like the “religious right” and “corporate pressure” that brings fear to the newsrooms. It is change.

Instead of being monolithic creatures that deliver the news, journalists now occupy an interactive world. There are multiple sources, and multiple ways of delivering news and information. No longer tied to who owns a broadcast license, or the local daily newspaper, consumers of the news product can accept, or search for alternatives if the news product doesn’t seem satisfactory.

And that choice leads to something else – even more important. ACCOUNTABILITY.

Mr. Rather has learned a little about the accountability associated with this new interactive news environment. (I’d hope so) News has evolved with the technology available. Those who fear these developments simply are unprepared for the dramatic changes of our time.

AT&T employees feared the break up of the bell system. Buggy Whip makers had to fear the automobile. Now the monoliths of news must fear the blogs, or embrace them.

Instead of guest hosting Larry King Live as Malkin reports, Dan Rather ought to fire up a blog, and open his pages to comments and rebuttal. He might learn a little.

One more point about Mr. Rather. He looks to a time when management stood by the journalists, as if some dramatic change has occurred during the Bush administration. He’s looking back, with none too clear an eye. I do not believe what happened last year with the forgery of National Guard documents would have been acceptable in any news organization at any time. In fact, the deference given to him is unprecedented.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

We should all be Pork Busters

Conservatism is more than a mindset and more than words

It is EASY to talk about cutting the federal budget.  But words are a meaningless exercise, unless you can talk specifics.

Simply saying the budget can be cut to pay for the reconstruction in the aftermath won’t cut it.  If we expect the politicians to make hard choices, it really is incumbent on us, to speak with specificity.

Michelle Malkin points out an effort that puts true conservative thinking to a test of practicality. She's posted a little history, and a link to an effort from the Truth laid Bear called Pork busters. There’s a break down of pork by state, a break down of congressional delegation commitments to cut spending, and more.  There’s even a means to identify spending that could be cut to help fund the Katrina disaster recovery costs.

This is an opportunity that was made for the Blogosphere.  It is an opportunity to put words into action.

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Is CNN still on the Air?

My remote control doesn't go there anymore.

Stephen Spruiell of NRO’s Media Blog, gave me reason to think about CNN, a week after I had given it up for lost.

Honest, I had taken all of it that I could stand for the next twelve months, and was hoping I wouldn’t have a need to think about Wolf Blitzer and “the Situation Room until the kids are out of college or the next presidential election which ever came first. (I’d only watch it during the ’08 for comedic relief)

But apparently Wolf was interviewing Ted Turner today on the situation room:
Wolf Blitzer just asked Ted Turner if Turner thought there was any "malicious" intent in the federal government's delayed response to Hurricane Katrina. Turner said he didn't think so.
It was a multiple choice question. Blitzer gave Turner "incompetence" or "something malicious" to choose from.
Here's my multiple choice question.

Has CNN's belligerent response to Hurricane Katrina been:

A) Malicious
B) A desperate attempt to improve ratings
C) Hysterical
D) Just dumb
He should have offered

E) All of the above.

Of course on further review:

  1. Malicious would only apply to that part of the CNN schedule assigned to Anderson Cooper.

  2. Desperate attempt to improve ratings – that would be the feckless Situation Room

  3. Hysterical – rising anchoress Kyra Phillips

  4. Just Dumb – continuing to return to CNN in some hope that real journalistic effort might spontaneously develop.

A postscript:

Why on earth put Ted Turner on the air at all? What exactly qualifies him as an expert on any political subject? It is an example of the very thing I hate most about CNN: Ted Turner, Paul Begala and James Carville and questions from anchors that presume a negative answer.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

The politics of Truth

The subtitle for this blog is the Politics of Truth. It is a subject in which I have more than a passing interest. I have been a politician, and have dealt with political types for quite some time.

The issues that elected officials face with facts are fascinating to me. I’ve said it earlier, there are some facts that are undeniable, but politically can never be uttered. Those truths are simply understood and factored into political decisions without comment.

There are also falsehoods that people intuitively believe to be true. And no matter how loudly you attempt to deal with the truth of the issue, you’ll never win that discourse.

So politicians must understand the public discourse and the falsehoods that by general pronouncements are true, and some truths that can never be publicly declared. One day I’ll put together a list. It is a list, which will generate more controversy than the post would be worth.

But I digress.

Another issue politicians face is that they must act, or speak, or vote on an issue before all of the truth is available. Such is Katrina. Thrust before a television camera and asked a question – an answer is expected. And nearly all politicians will oblige. The smart ones sneak around the question. In the end, the “Blame Game” surrounding Katrina may well leave some folks embarrassed. I suspect that’s why there’s the great eschewing of politics and “reaching across the party lines” right now. No one knows who the loser will be.

But once spoken, or once a vote is cast, it becomes part of your “permanent record” as a politician and likely to be used to benefit you, or slander you when you have your next job evaluation (election).

So, Truth in Politics is what I was thinking about when I dove head long into the blogging world. Katrina has certainly caught more of my attention lately, but still I’ve been accumulating issues and items to discuss.

A court case from Washington State got my attention last week, because it centered around truth and political campaigns. Truthful political campaigns may seem an oxymoron, but most campaigns have a kernel in truth in all of their efforts to sway the voters. (wink).

In Washington, a state law dating back to 1999 provided a means for taking legal action against a candidate who ran political advertising about an opponent that wasn’t truthful. The state appeals court found that the law was unconstitutional.

"Although the stated intent of the Legislature was to 'provide protection for candidates for public office against false statements of material fact sponsored with actual malice,' the statute does not require any element of damage to the reputation of the maligned candidate," Judge C.C. Bridgewater wrote for the appeals panel.

The truth-in-campaigning law also allows candidates to falsely puff up their own records and backgrounds, further showing that it is "not narrowly tailored to the PDC's interest in promoting integrity and honesty in the elections process and chills protected political speech," Bridgewater wrote.

The law overturned by the ruling was enacted by the Legislature in 1999, a year after a similar ban on false statements involving initiatives and other ballot measures was thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

The Rickert decision reversed a ruling by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Paula E. Casey in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on her behalf.

In a campaign flier Rickert said the incumbent, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, "voted to close a facility for the developmentally challenged." Sheldon won re-election, then filed a complaint with the commission, asserting that he was the only legislator who voted to keep it open.
Not only was the law defective in failing to require proof of damage, but "Sen. Sheldon does not claim any damage by the alleged false material ... and he won the election by an overwhelming majority," Bridgewater wrote.

Two key points here:

If you win the election, as a politician, no lie about you can be said to have damaged your reputation.

A law that penalizes you for lying about your opponent, but allows you to lie about yourself with impunity – isn’t fair.

Actually, the real point here is – let the people be the great diviners of truth. That’s what elections are about. Aren’t they?
... click here for the rest of the post

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Rushing them back into the Big Easy

NOLA Mayor Nagin is in a big toot to begin the process of bringing his city “back to life.” He’s professed the desire to have jazz back in the streets as opposed to helicopters in the air, and in the effort is looking to have nearly 200,000 returnees (as opposed to evacuees) in the next couple of weeks.

It is an admirable effort to bring the city back to life. And there are several reasons it is important. Could it be that the longer people stay in Houston, Dallas and elsewhere, the less likely they are to want to return? As reflected in this AP story:

Forty-three percent said they want to move back home when they can. About the same number of evacuees -- 44 percent -- said they want to permanently relocate, and most of them wanted to stay in Houston, said the poll published Friday.

It is probably important to keep people believing in the prospect that New Orleans will be ready for them soon, before they start making more permanent plans where they now sleep.

But not everyone thinks New Orleans is ready for the return.

The mayor of New Orleans has set up an "extremely problematic" timeline for allowing residents to return to the evacuated city, which is still threatened by a weakened levee system, a lack of drinkable water and heavily polluted floodwaters, the head of the federal relief effort said Saturday.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen said federal officials have worked with Mayor Ray Nagin and support his vision for repopulating the city, but he called Nagin's idea to return up to 180,000 people to New Orleans in the next week both "extremely ambitious" and "extremely problematic."

Remember not long ago, New Orleans was a city with toxic water and death at every corner, with broken levees, and almost half of hurricane season left.

Bringing the people back to New Orleans is good, if the city is ready, and the motivation isn’t political. There’s been an awful lot of “political” things flying there in the days and weeks after Katrina’s winds faded.

Delay in getting people out of New Orleans was a bad thing. But delay in bringing them back might not be so bad.

Read more!

Louisiana Officials indicted before Katrina hit?

The heading of this posting is not mine; it is the headline from the Los Angeles Times this morning. The Times is finally picking up on an issue which has been underreported everywhere.

A few tasty snips from the article:

Senior officials in Louisiana's emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck.And federal auditors are still trying to track as much as $60 million in unaccounted for funds that were funneled to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dating back to 1998.

In March, FEMA demanded that Louisiana repay $30.4 million to the federal government.

Snip ---

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana emergency office, said the agency had responded to calls for reform, and that "we now have the policy and personnel in place to ensure that past problems aren't repeated."He said earlier problems were largely administrative mistakes, not due to corruption.

But federal officials disagreed. They said FEMA for years expressed concerns over patterns of improper management and lax oversight throughout the state agency, and said most problems had not been corrected.They point to criminal indictments of three state workers as evidence the problem was more than management missteps. Two other state emergency officials also were identified in court documents as unindicted co-conspirators.Snip ---
Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington watchdog group, said recent Louisiana history showed that FEMA "money earmarked for saving lives and homes'' was instead squandered in "a cesspool of wasteful spending."Louisiana's emergency office receives money directly from FEMA. It passes on much of the funding to local governments that apply for assistance.The audit reports said state operating procedures increased the likelihood of fraud and corruption going undetected.

I have previously posted on the problems associated with the authority responsible for levees in the New Orleans area. An organization which was financially insolvent, but had the wherewithal to spend over 700-thousand dollars on the Mardi Gras fountain on the city’s north side.

And of course this tidbit: If you are wondering about those evacuation plans FEMA and Congress are beginning to ask questions about how money set aside for evacuation plans were spent on issues of marginal evacuation value. Notable is this diversion dates back to 1998, when the head of FEMA was James Lee Witt. At last report, now a consultant for the state of Louisiana on disaster recovery.

Investigations? You want investigations? We’re gonna have plenty of them.
..... for more click here

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

No room to cut budgets in Washington?

Even if it were true, which it isn’t, saying that there is NO fat left in the federal budget is just plain stupid.

No, a liberal didn’t say it.

No, a Democrat didn’t say it.

Tom Delay said it:

As reported in the Washington Times.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget. Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible. "My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing. Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

Some statements are just fraught with danger, whether or not the statement is true.

Politicians should never say:

There’s no waste in Government
Taxes are too low
We did a great job in responding to the hurricane.

There will always be someone who will keep the quote and use it in the next campaign. More importantly, those statements run counter to the intuitive truth that every one understands and to argue otherwise is to stand in the middle of a hurricane storm surge calling for calm and order.

Is it me, or is Tom Delay getting a little weird lately. Defending government bureaucracy isn’t a strong position for a conservative Republican. Of course, he and other Republican leaders now ARE the government, and have been for several years.

If you didn't read it, the rest of the Washington Times story was a string of organizations that had ideas about where to cut budgets.

Leadership is hell, when you are the government.
......... for more click here

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A critical rescue in New Orleans (Not)

A critical rescue of a Congressman’s personal property?

Was this an important task in the height of the crisis, for the Louisiana National Guard?

ABC News reports:

Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a local congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.
On Friday, Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.
Truck gets stuck while waiting an hour for the Congressman to retrieve a laptop and other items, which then requires a rescue
The soldiers signaled to helicopters in the air for aid. Military sources say a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to Jefferson's home. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the time.
A rescue diver descended from the helicopter, but the congressman decided against going up in the helicopter, sources say. The pilot sent the diver down again, but Jefferson again declined to go up the helicopter.
After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission.
"Forty-five minutes can be an eternity to somebody that is drowning, to somebody that is sitting in a roof, and it needs to be used its primary purpose during an emergency," said Hauer.

But there’s even more about Congressman Jefferson:

In an unrelated matter, authorities have recently searched Jefferson's property as part of a federal investigation into the finances of a high-tech firm. Last month FBI officials raided Jefferson's house as well as his home in Washington, D.C., his car and his accountant's house.

Jefferson has not commented on that matter, except to say he is cooperating with the investigation. But he has emerged as a major voice in the post-Katrina political debate.
"The levee system that had protected New Orleans for hundreds of years had failed," he said on the House floor on Sept. 7. "Our city was inundated, 80 percent of it, with deadly water. Thousands of lives were lost, many drowned, trapped in their homes. Others were lost trying to escape the fury."
Last week, Jefferson set up a special trust fund for contributions to his legal defense in light of the FBI investigation. A senior federal law enforcement source tells ABC News that investigators are interested in learning if Jefferson moved any materials relevant to the investigation. Jefferson says he did not.

(my emphasis)

New Orleans politics at work!

My only question –

Will any of this make it into MSM coverage? Or will it make it into the Media Blog’s under-reported stories?

... for more click here

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The next legacy for Katrina will be fraud

After the disaster, where does the media go next?

Blame of course.

We’ve certainly seen much of that. Next after blame is coverage of the relief delivery – and reconstruction.

After that, come the media stories about fraud. Wasn’t it a few weeks ago, that we heard stories of FEMA paying for funerals of people where weren’t victims of last year’s Hurricanes?

And of course in the past week or so, there have been stories of abuse of loan guarantees from funds for the 9-11 recovery.

When it comes to Katrina, even fraud will likely be super sized. Hurricane Frances hit Florida just one year ago and fraud stories abound.

But the seeds of fraud are actually sown at the beginning of any disaster relief.

We know the president has promised to cut through the red tape in an attempt to make sure that those who have been affected by Katrina can get access to benefits immediately. Well, one of the roles of the “red tape” he mentions is to assure that those who receive benefits deserve benefits.

The easier you make it to get benefits, the more likely that there will be fraud. That is the inherent balance to be struck on providing rapid response. The cost of making sure that the truly needy get benefits is the result that those who aren’t truly needy will get some of those as well.

At least this time, some one is watching out on the fraud issue at the get-go.
The inspector general’s office at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received $15 million in the $51.8 billion disaster supplemental (PL 109-62) lawmakers passed Sept. 8 for audits and investigations into procurement related to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
“Good God, we could end up dumping billions in people’s laps that aren’t entitled to it,” said Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., in a phone interview Monday.
Foley has dealt with FEMA on an almost daily basis since four hurricanes ravaged his state in 2004, and he said he is worried about whether FEMA will effectively apply the lessons from last year’s hurricane season.
“You have fraud and abuse running rampant, and you’ve got to have better checks and balances,” he said.

Is it possible that there’s a little foresight this time around?

If not, next year will have a whole other set of headlines, just as Congress stands for re-election.
..... for more click here

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Politics of Katrina II

The political fall out from Hurricane Katrina could lead to a nasty several years of bickering and back biting in Louisiana and could accelerate an on going shift in that state’s political make up.

Last week, I explored the politics of Katrina ruminating about the impact of the evacuation of the heavily Democratic New Orleans.  Others are now talking about the same issue, albeit quietly, as in this London Financial Times article demonstrates.

It looks to be a nasty year, at best.   New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is the first prominent incumbent to face the voters.  His Term ends in April, but should he be inclined to run again, expect his to be an unusually partisan affair, with some special complications.
To start with, Nagin was a Republican up until he announced his plans to run for Mayor in New Orleans, when he changed his registration to the Democratic Party. Even more interesting is the reported feud between he and Governor Blanco.Turns out that he endorsed Blanco’s Republican opponent Bobby Jindal.  I’m not sure that the Democratic Machine in New Orleans is likely to hop on his bandwagon seven months from now.  He hasn’t been a showstopper during the disaster. Just today we learned that Nagin knew about the breech in the levees at least 12 hours before it was publicly announced.  And I’m sure that no one will make an issue of his previous political contributions to W, in 2002.
Right after the Mayoral race, the 2006 mid-term congressional elections will be up.  Five of the seven Louisiana members of Congress are Republicans. The two Democrats represent – you guessed it – New Orleans.  Nationwide, the ’06 Congressional Campaigns will be played up as a referendum on Bush, and Louisiana may be a battleground, if for no other reason than the state’s Democratic base may spread across 25 states.  

The loss of a significant Democratic population in the New Orleans area will also have a big impact on Governor Blanco, who barely won her last election (over Republican Congressman Jindra) with the overwhelming Democratic support from the New Orleans area. Her election is in 2007.

Senator Mary Landrieu is up for reelection in 2008, and faces the same problem as Blanco, though the construction may have brought some of the Democrat base back to town by then.  Then again, here last election was close too, and a heavily Democrat fully populated New Orleans was the only reason she won that race.

All of that, plus the sudden development of "Political strategies" on a national level to leverage Katrina for both the Democratic and Republican parties means there’s little likelihood of bi-partisan anything in the coming months and years in Louisiana.

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Levee breaks hours BEFORE Katrina makes landfall!

The facts are stunning, as outlined in this Knight Ridder story. (registration required)

An alternative link to a rewrite of the original story that doesn't require registration.

Update: 2:15pm 9/13 Wall Street Journal looks at delays in reporting levee breaks.

The collapse in New Orleans’ 17th Street canal levee occurred as early as 3 a.m., hours before Hurricane Katrina battered its way onto the Gulf Coast Aug. 29.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in charge of the 350 miles of earthen and concrete walls protecting the city, got its first inkling about two hours later on that Monday morning. There’s a break, a civilian called in. A state policeman had told him.
By early afternoon, the corps had confirmed it. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials waiting in Baton Rouge, La., also were notified. The mayor, too, was informed of the ugly truth creeping toward his downtown emergency command post.
Yet no alarm about the incoming water was sounded until Tuesday morning.

There’s an awful lot of big news in those opening paragraphs.

Five hours before Katrina makes landfall, the 17th street Levee breaks?
So much for withstanding a category 3 hurricane, let alone a category four or five.. This was before the storm surge and before the strongest winds.

Three hours before landfall, a civilian calls the corps of engineers to report a levee break. The civilian learned of the break from the STATE POLICE?

The state police didn’t tell anyone else, but a civilian?

24 hours
after the state police were advising civilians of the breech, and 12 hours after Mayor Ray Nagin was notified of the confirmed breech, the alarm is finally sounded to the general public?

The Hurricane had cleared and helicopters were flying in mid-afternoon. That’s how they confirmed the breeches. Why wait 12 hours after confirmation to tell the public?
And who at the state police knew about the breech, and was confirming that information to the public and others, but didn’t notify other city and state officials?

This sequence raises so many questions.

I’ve been saying for days that the levees are a big story. But this is worse than I feared. There have been hints that the levee breech was known early on Monday morning, but with no direct reporting about it we were left with Tulane University Hospital VP Karen Troyer Caraway’s call to CNN shortly after midnight on August 30th, where she reported the rising waters and the levee breaks which had been confirmed to her by the state police. (Bad enough that was still more than 4 hours before any official announcement)


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Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Katrina timeline that tells a tale

A Katrina timeline that tells a tale

You think you know all you need to know, from watching the news and scanning the web. And though collectively, we know a lot, you just can’t get a grasp of all that went on, and all that is known until you can see it in some organized fashion.

Rick Moran at Rightwing Nuthouse has put together an outstanding Timeline on the Katrina response.  It is a straightforward break down of the sequence of events and well documented by links and information.

It is a crucial read, if you want a good picture of all that went on. It is long, but worth your time.  

I have spent time trying to put together the levee breech sequence.  I have written a little about the facts surrounding the levee issue and I remain troubled by when and how local residents and the local media were told how serious the levee breech was.

Read more!

Katrina from the the front

Ah, a blessed pair of days off coming up. I've had one day off since the Tuesday before the storm (which was a Monday).My place has been condemned, so I need to pack, basically, and if I have time find a place to live so I don't end up in a trailer park. My car is dying. I need to get on line at the bank for money too. Ah, a relaxing couple of days.Although Mike did just call to say he had found steaks and cases of budweiser. Yes, please, I said.

So starts the latest post on a blog written by Josh Norman on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Katrina and politics etc…. His blog is a little dose of reality, without spin, acrimony or political noise. Lots of pictures too.

Just thought I’d share, it is well worth the read, and a blogroll.

Read more!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Who is winning , CNN or FOX

Who is winning the ratings battle? CNN or FOX?

Frankly, at the moment CNN has clearly made gains. But, that happens during every disaster. And in the end, FOX continues to win the war.

The recent Pew Report, which includes a question about where people get most of their information about Hurricane Katrina, is creating a bit of a buzz across the blogs.

The OPINION Poll shows CNN as the leader among news organizations with a significant gain over a similar poll in June. That of course collides with ratings information that shows most Fox News shows beating out CNN.

Why the difference?

An opinion poll is a phone call, made unannounced to people asking them a multiple-choice question. That kind of research works well for political issues. Ratings are a different animal, user’s actual viewing habits are monitored for a period of time, those monitored activities record an actual activity, rather than an opinion or memory.

In this battle, CNN has a few advantages. They’ve been around for many more years, and when the major networks decide against wall-to-wall coverage of a crisis, the people who don’t normally watch cable news go to unfamiliar territory.

Those folks know CNN by name if not by channel number. Fox, being the new kid on the block doesn’t tap that wandering audience in the initial phases of a disaster as well as CNN. (Though long term ratings for Fox have improved after every disaster)

In the ratings war between CNN and FOX there is an interesting question that has circulated through the blogs this past year –“If Fox has higher ratings, why does CNN have more viewers?”

Both statements in the question are true. At any given moment, according to most of the ratings over the last few years, there are more viewers watching Fox. But more people tune in to CNN at some point in the day.

Fox viewers stay with the channel longer than CNN viewers and apparently watch more of the individual shows. One rating is Average Quarter Hour, the other is Cume.

Simply put, people sample CNN but don’t stay long. And that’s why CNN is losing the ratings war.

I’ve lived and died by ratings. And I would take a winning quarter hour rating over a winning cume every day if I could get it. A high cume told me that I was doing something wrong. Our programming couldn’t hold an audience.

In the case of CNN, they have a high value reputation as a news source to turn to when big news is happening, but when people get there – they don’t hang around.

I’m one who will turn on CNN in major news events, and circulate across other news organizations eventually landing on FOX. Lately, I’ve started with CNN less.

CNN has driven me away.

Here’s why:

CNN takes an autocratic approach to its news delivery. Declaring itself an authoritative news source. Fox News takes a more populist or "democratic" approach. “We report, you decide?”

After the initial coverage of real news (First day of aftermath coverage) CNN turns to the effort of educating us. Giving us context filtered through their analytical process.

Fox puts a couple of “experts” on the screen, lets them argue for five minutes and leaves us to be satisfied that the person who more closely represents our political thinking won the argument.

CNN’s coverage evolves from brilliant journalism into preaching. And that’s when they lose me.

Fox’s appearance of a “power to the people” approach wears a little better and makes it easier to stay longer.

I don’t think of Fox as more conservative. I think of it as populist. And the conservative movement in America today has strong populist leanings. For better or for worse.

Read more!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More on Levees

So much has been made about the failure to upgrade the levies in New Orleans. Both media and politicians seem to be charging in the direction of blaming Washington and Budget cuts on the levee failure.

Is it possible that there are other reasons levees weren’t upgraded? No story is a simple as “George Bush did it,”

Environmental groups have a long history of opposing levee projects, including those in the New Orleans area.

John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes For example:

The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”
But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.” In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.

And, in another example of how the media might be missing part of the story, CNS News takes a look at the local Levee district's checkered past.

The levee board promised Times-Picayune readers that the "few manageable gaps" in the walls protecting the city from Mother Nature's waters "will be sealed within four years (1999) completing our circle of protection." But less than a year later, that same levee board was denied the authority to refinance its debts. Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle "repeatedly faulted the Levee Board for the way it awards contracts, spends money and ignores public bid laws," according to the Times-Picayune. The newspaper quoted Kyle as saying that the board was near bankruptcy and should not be allowed to refinance any bonds, or issue new ones, until it submitted an acceptable plan to achieve solvency.Blocked from financing the local portion of the flood fighting efforts, the levee board was unable to spend the federal matching funds that had been designated for the project.

The good news about all of this is the truth will come out in full detail. With the harangue that has developed, you can count on a full discussion on the issue of Levees.

I said this earlier, I’ll repeat it now.

The Levees are an important part of this story, and the simple claim that it is the Federal Government’s fault won’t stand the light of day.

Read more!

People are not Sheep

Today’s news theme:

"There are people in New Orleans who don’t want to leave their homes, even though it is clearly dangerous and STUPID to stay there."

I guess I’ve seen the story fifty times today on all major networks. Is it surprising, that some folks would resist the idea of leaving the only thing of value they have? And for some of them, staying at home rather than going to the super dome seemed to be a wise choice. If their house wasn’t inundated; they had food, water and the comfort and security of home while they waited for the tempest to subside.

Not every home, or every neighborhood was flooded.

Government officials at all levels need to understand that simply telling people to leave doesn’t always work. People are not sheep, easily herded into a crowd and moved at your whim. It takes a compelling reason, and good communication to get that message across. And right now, as screwed up as things were through the initial “mandatory” evacuation, why should these folks believe the Mayor, Governor or the President?

They should leave, but not all will do so. Which brings a big question, what do you do if they don’t.

With hordes of media hanging around with cameras chasing after every news opportunity, does anyone want the photo opportunity of US Army soldiers forcefully removing Grandma from her lifelong home at gunpoint?

What is the point of mandatory evacuation plans, if you don’t see to it that the evacuations are done. And that means, providing transportation, manpower, and the communications necessary to get it all done.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A brilliant Political Strategy

New Orleans could well get those new Category 5 levees.  A 28-foot wall would surround city, but that really won’t be the issue. It is a matter of who gets blame, and who gets credit.

The US Senate is going to take the President’s proposed 50 Billion dollar supplemental appropriation, and raise it. Majority Leader Frist is talking 100 Billion.  That of course pushed the Senate Minority Leader Reid to raise it by another 50 Billion dollars.

Am I hearing this right? They are talking 150 Billion in disaster relief. Do they have to rush into Washington, and pass a blanket appropriation of this level at all? It took just a day, to open the treasury enough to start 10 Billion flowing.

I suppose we are assuming that the private sector disaster recovery programs (insurance) we have won’t comply with their agreements.  Or are we planning to bail out the industry as well?

With much self-blame, the Congress will likely simply turn out their pockets for any request.  Creativity from local officials could certainly get a fortress capable of surviving any hurricane that could ever come close to New Orleans in the next five hundred years.  Of course there’s the need for a new Super Dome and Convention Center too, why use private enterprise opportunities, or tax dollars when you can let the Congress pay the costs without single question?

Any politician in Southeast Louisiana who doesn’t bring at least 10 billion dollars to his/her district is simply a slacker in this current environment ought to be turned out in the next election. Which for house members – is just over a year away.

I suppose there’s a master plan here, but if I knew what it was…. I sure wouldn’t like it.

Update: 6:15pm

New Orleans Congressman calls for $100 Billion for New Orleans.  

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The politics of Katrina

It is complicated. And will be complicated for years.  But already, politics are driving a lot of the coverage, if not actions, related to Katrina.

Seems like every day some analysis is done over the political fall out for George Bush. Important to remember, he won’t be on the ballot again. That is not to say that there isn’t significant national level politics entangled in this disaster.

Senator Mary Landrieu’s election in 2002 was part of the battle for control of the US Senate.  You might recall, she ran on primarily Republican issues despite being a Democrat.  She won a narrow election on the strength of strong Democrat turn out in New Orleans.  The Democratic machine in New Orleans delivered her Senate seat. Much of the rest of Louisiana is shifting Republican.  She’s back on the ballot for Re-election in 2008.

Governor Kathleen Blanco was elected in 2003, again by a small margin in a tight race in which New Orleans, again delivered the votes for her victory.  The Democratic machine in New Orleans played a crucial role in her election. She’s back on the ballot in October, 2007.

Mayor Ray Nagin was a registered Republican, political neophyte, who changed party affiliation to Democrat right before the 2002 Mayoral election. In 2003 he endorsed the Republican running against Blanco in the Governors race. His race was very interesting because the field included the New Orleans Police Chief.

Five of the seven Louisiana Representatives in Congress are Republican. The two Democrats represent – you guessed it – the New Orleans region of the state. The other congressional district touching the Hurricane disaster area is a Republican, Bobby Jindral who ran against Blanco for Governor, and was endorsed by Democrat Mayor Nagin.

The Senate seats are split evenly between the parties.  

A key in the politics of the Hurricane is that the area most heavily damaged in Louisiana is heavily Democratic. What are the dynamics for the Democrat Mayor of a city that has been evacuated, who faces re-election in 7 months? Especially with his Republican roots, and endorsement of a Republican for Governor in 2003.

In this tumultuous time for New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, there are three elections coming.  In April, Mayor Nagin will be up for re-election. Primary election in the mid-term congressional races will follow a few months later.  

In October 2007, Governor Blanco returns to the ballot. And in 2008, along with presidential elections Senator Landrieu will be on the ballot again.

On a national level, Louisiana is a battle ground state. Republicans have been gaining in Senate seats, and the Landrieu race was extremely competitive the last time around. Landrieu’s big base, New Orleans, will not be the same next time.

Mayor Nagin’s election is even more problematic, will the city even be occupied next April. Will Nagin’s Republican past play a role? (He contributed to Bush in 2000). Will elections be held? Will there be a Mayor of New Orleans?

Will the loss of a big block of New Orleans residents (Huge Democrat base) affect House races and make safe Democrat seats vulnerable in southeast Louisiana?  Or will Republican House members be saddled with a political disaster.  

Aside, will the mass of New Orleans Democrats being evacuated into Texas affect local politics there? Will those new Democrats be registered to vote in Tom Delay’s district? (Talk about redistricting?)

Politically, the constituent anger doesn’t benefit the incumbent.  A “vote the bums out” attitude crosses party lines and works to the advantage of a challenger.  The failure to get funding for levees for years will hurt incumbents in the House and Senate without regard to party affiliation, in New Orleans. While the overwhelming impact of hundreds of thousands of evacuees in a city or state elsewhere in the country is likely to generate increasing voter discontent as well.

It is no wonder that partisan bickering is already underway.  Congressional hearings on the disaster response are coming, and they are likely to be a flash point for the election season on the way.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Readers speak

An extremely illuminating post on the situation in New Orleans on a blog that focuses on music.
Thoughts on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Definitely worth the read, as well as his comment on this page.

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The Levee Issue

A prediction, levees and the levee breaks are going to be extremely big news in the next few weeks.  

We’ve already heard some of it.  And frankly a lot of the news will likely criticize the failure to upgrade them.  But, the levees are going to be big news because the body count will be significant. And the outcry will grow, as tragic discoveries of people drowning in their homes will be trumpeted by an outraged media.

We will learn, as if it is new news, that the major levee failure was the result of empty barges broken free by the hurricane ramming the concrete retaining walls.  Survivors in Baton Rouge who relayed the stories to reporters in the evacuation centers have already reported it.

We will also learn that local officials knew about the large breach in the levees several hours BEFORE there were any news accounts.  While reporters and officials noted the rising water in New Orleans early Monday evening, the fact of breaches in the levies were not widely reported until Tuesday morning.  Hours after the fact.

CNN was the first to report that two levees had failed.  Interestingly after midnight early Tuesday morning a late night anchor was interviewing an executive from a downtown hospital who was pleading for help. She reported that the water was rising a foot an hour, and that the first floor of the hospital would be inundated within a few hours.  

In a bit of very good reporting, after the woman told him that she had been told that the levees had been breached in two places, the anchor asked very specific questions of the woman to determine if she was repeating rumors or had witnessed the breaches herself.  She had not seen it, but had been told about it by city officials.

CNN ran a breaking news update with the information about fifteen minutes later.  Fox didn’t issue an alert for another six hours.

While in the coming weeks we will hear mostly about how budget cutting doomed New Orleans.  It will likely be a year or more, before the questions fly about what city officials actually did once they knew the levees were breached and that New Orleans was being inundated.


AP Story brings acknowledgement of the grim realities facing New Orleans:

Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff

"I think we need to prepare the country for what's coming," Chertoff said. "What's going to happen when we de-water and remove the water from New Orleans is we're going to uncover people who died, maybe hiding in houses, got caught by the flood, people whose remains are going to be found in the streets. ... It is going to be about as ugly of a scene as I think you can imagine."

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

A maelstrom

A maelstrom unintentionally engaged

Really, I didn’t think I was assaulting CNN or defending Fox News and certainly wasn’t trying to defend or attack the Bush administration when I posted "Are CNN and Fox covering the same disaster?" on Thursday afternoon. The battle between “CNN apologists” and “Bush Administration apologists” hadn’t even fired off.

Watching both Fox and CNN simultaneously during a critical moment left me dumbstruck as to how these two networks could be covering the same press conferences and activity in the same city and have such a dramatic difference in content.

I did criticize, and continue to have contempt for the on-air actions of the CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips. I just don’t think she belongs at the anchor desk of a national network.

But as subsequent comments posted on my blog during the torrent of traffic driven by blogs from the right and left attest, Fox News reporters wandered off the path of credibility into a morass of editorializing that is hard to defend.

But, there is a difference between the anchor in the studio and reporters at the scene of any major news event. Reporters always get wrapped up in the story. What sits in front of them is the only reality they know. Those reporters frequently have no idea of what is happening anywhere else in the world. The anchor is different, responsible for balancing the various competing story lines and molding the presentation into something that has substance AND perspective.

Kyra Phillips failed the viewers, and CNN miserably. She offered nothing to viewers, because her rant blindly ignored news and information that had been completely reported on her own network, and had been dutifully explained by CNN’s own experts.. And she failed CNN by confirming what a good portion of the potential audience for her network always suspected, that CNN really wasn’t interested in presenting balanced information at a critical moment in a major story.

In the news business, everyone understands that a disaster is big business. And it is a critical business in which your organization can gain or lose standing as a news source. Some networks will grow in stature and some will fall.

All networks will gain coverage initially. In the end, though some will satisfy the needs and interests of the viewers and some will not. And when the dust settles, those that fail the long-term coverage of this issue will lose more of their base.

I did not start this blog with the idea of critiquing news organizations or commenting on Hurricanes. And I didn’t start it as a Right – or Left – leaning partisan. I know a lot about news and politics, but my biggest interest is the politics of truth. Said another way, I want to use this space to explore how truth interacts with the political realm, and how the political realm interacts with the truth. That interaction does not draw distinctions between conservatives and liberals.

It is a very interesting topic, because many times politicians must act well before the truth is apparent and explain their actions when the truth is clear. This is the case with Katrina. In other circumstances, politicians know the truth, but speaking it or acting on it could end their political careers. That too is a very interesting topic for exploration. Because the choices they face are interesting too.

My very first post explains why I named this blog the rail. Very few people read it at the time; I hope you’ll take a look now that you’ve found the site.

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