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September 30, 2005

Is it even LEGAL to rebuild New Orleans?

Given the ridiculous liberties that the federal government has taken with the definition of wetlands (so that a landowner can be prosecuted for filling in a low spot that occasionally fills with water after a heavy rain), is it even LEGAL for any redevelopment to take place in the low areas of New Orleans? Are officials running afoul of the law by the mere act of pumping the floodwaters out?

Enquiring minds want to know.

September 27, 2005

Barbra Streisand has spent her life pretending...

...so why can't she have a go at pretending to be a climate scientist? Surely, opines Funny Girl in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Katrina and Rita prove we're in a "global warming emergency". Not only are we in for unprecedented monster hurricanes, but we also have droughts and dust bowls to look forward to. Curse that George Bush and his evil sidekick, Karl Rasputin!

Drudge is thoroughly underwhelmed at her efforts, and gives her a good smackdown in the form of a Hurricane History lesson:
[A] Category 5 hurricane struck the Bahamas with 160 mph winds -- when the singer was five years old, in 1947!

And when Streisand was 8 years old, a Cat 5 hurricane -- named "Dog" -- packing 185 mph churned-away in the Atlantic.

When she was 9, a Cat 5 storm named "Easy" ripped the seas with 160 mph sustained winds.

Streisand was 13 years old when "Janet" hit Mexico with 150 mph winds.

Streisand was celebrating her sweet sixteen as "Cleo" formed with 140 mph.

At 18, Streisand read news about "Donna" AND "Ethel" -- both storms carried 140 mph winds and formed 9 days apart in 1960!

One year later, when Streisand was 19, it happened again: Two Category 5 storms scared the world: "Carla" and "Hattie!"

"Carla" maxed out at 175 mph winds the year Streisand made her television debut on "The Jack Paar Show."

And who could forget Hurricane "Camille" -- which smashed into the United States with 190 mph, just as "Funny Girl" garners eight Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture and one for Barbra as Best Actress.

(Credit: Right Mind)

Anthropogenic global warming, we hardly knew ye

Joe Mariani tosses in his two cents against the notion that human activity is negatively affecting Earth's climate:
There's a reason we talk about cycles and seasons. When levels of CO2 rise -- which plants certainly don't see as "pollution" -- it triggers natural modulating influences. Higher temperatures melt ice, which causes heavier cloud cover due to moisture, which reflects more of the sun's light back into space, which lowers the temperature. And so on.

When CO2 levels fall too low, natural processes cause it to be released from the soil -- as seems to be happening now. Researchers from the UK's Cranfield University found that some 13 tons of carbon are being released from the soil every year, as Reuters recently reported. "Since the carbon appears to be released from soil regardless of how the soil is used, the researchers conclude that the main cause must be climate change itself. Though they could not say where all the missing carbon had gone, much of it may be entering the atmosphere as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, which many scientists say is causing global warming." Scientists from Germany's Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry wrote, "These losses thus completely offset the past technological achievements in reducing CO2 emissions, putting the UK's success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a different light." In other words, many Kyoto signatory nations have crippled their industry, spent vast amounts of money and caused rampant unemployment for absolutely nothing.

Science -- not junk science based on hysteria and ideology, but real science based on data and reason -- suggests that global warming is driven more by the sun than anything humans have done. A recent study by Swiss and German scientists indicates that the sun is burning hotter than it has at anytime in the past thousand years. "The Sun is in a changed state," stated Dr. Sami Solanki, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. "It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently -- in the last 100 to 150 years." Does that time frame sound vaguely familiar? It's about the same time the Little Ice Age began to end -- the same time that Liberals claim humans began to cause global warming. Isn't it clear that the sun is the real cause? Shouldn't we at least examine this before ruining our economy for nothing?
Mariani also notes the fact that Mars is experiencing global warming as well.

September 26, 2005

Maxwell Smart, RIP

Don Adams, nee Donald James Yarmy, died on Sunday.
He was 82, or 79 or 78, depending on various reports.

The official family obit (reposted here) says he was 82.

The Brady Bunch waxes hysterical over Fla. self-defense law

Florida residents no longer have a court-imposed duty to retreat when attacked, and this has the victim-disarmament crowd in full panic:
Warning that Florida streets have the potential to morph into the O.K. Corral, gun-control advocates will launch an international campaign to alert travelers about a new state law that allows people to use deadly force in self-defense.
Many will remember that Brady & co. also predicted blood in the streets when Florida passed concealed carry legislation a few years ago. It didn't happen then, and it is unlikely to happen now.

September 24, 2005

Desperately seeking metaphor

I'm watching CNN's live coverage of Rita's landfall. I know it's late, and CNN's folks must be tired, but these guys are cracking me up.

Their weather guy (WG) in Atlanta was trying to explain to Aaron Brown why Rita is expected to stall in NE Texas. The reality is that a new high pressure ridge is forming, and it is likely to keep the remnants of the hurricane from moving away. WG had been describing the ridge as banana-shaped, but then self-consciously realized that likening the ridge to a banana was kind of goofy, so he just switched to calling it kidney bean-shaped. That'll do.

September 21, 2005

Curse those Martian SUVs!

BBC, September 21:
New images of Mars suggest the Red Planet's surface is more active than previously thought, the US space agency (Nasa) reports.

Photographs from Nasa's orbiting spacecraft Mars Global Surveyor show recently formed craters and gullies.

The agency's scientists also say that deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near the planet's south pole have shrunk for three summers in a row.

They say this is evidence to suggest climate change is in progress.
[Insert boilerplate condemnation of Bush administration here]

Dispatch from Harry Reid's Bizarro World

...as noted in WaPo's September 21 editorial:
IN ANNOUNCING his opposition yesterday to the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice of the United States, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) made a remarkable statement: "The president is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary." Leave aside the merits of the Roberts nomination, which we support; if Mr. Reid regards Judge Roberts as unworthy, he is duty-bound to vote against him. But these are dangerous words that Democrats will come to regret.
This notion, if applied by the Republicans during the Clinton administration, would have resulted in few if any of his nominees actually being seated.

The Post correctly notes that regardless of party affiliation, "the president's choice has a heavy presumption of confirmation." It's up to opponents to demonstrate why a nominee is unfit for the position—or simply to vote against the nominee. But please, spare us any pretense of high principle, Senator.

September 20, 2005

Dispatch from gun-free Great Britain

The Times (London), September 20:
A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America.

England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The study, based on telephone interviews with victims of crime in 21 countries, found that more than 2,000 Scots were attacked every week, almost ten times the official police figures. They include non-sexual crimes of violence and serious assaults.

Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.

The attacks have been fuelled by a “booze and blades” culture in the west of Scotland which has claimed more than 160 lives over the past five years. Since January there have been 13 murders, 145 attempted murders and 1,100 serious assaults involving knives in the west of Scotland. The problem is made worse by sectarian violence, with hospitals reporting higher admissions following Old Firm matches.
As someone at FR remarked, "Good thing that they have strong gun control laws, or folks might get hurt."

Of course, one of the proposed solutions is knife control.

September 19, 2005

Mississippi attorney general moves to kill homeowners insurance industry in that state

Associated Press, September 15 (emphasis added):
Mississippi on Thursday sued insurers to force them to pay billions of dollars in flood damage from Hurricane Katrina, saying standard insurance polices have led homeowners to believe they are covered for all hurricane damage, whether from high winds or storm surges.


[Attorney General Jim Hunt] asked a Chancery Court to void provisions in the policies that attempt to exclude from coverage losses or damages directly or indirectly caused by water, whether wind-driven or not. He said he would seek a restraining order next week pending a full hearing.

Only about 30 percent of the houses in disaster-struck portions of Mississippi and Alabama had flood insurance, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates.

Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance, one of the companies named in the lawsuit, said in a statement that it was unfortunate the litigation had begun so early in the recovery process.

"The fact is flood insurance protection has been offered by the federal government for nearly four decades precisely because flood damage is not covered by private insurers like Allstate," company spokesman Michael Trevino said.

Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, an industry group, said the lawsuit threatened to undermine the viability of every insurance policy in the state and the integrity of every legal contract in the nation.

Chief Executive Ernie Csiszar said the action was also unfair to consumers who have paid the federal government for flood insurance.

"This would establish a dangerous precedent and expose insurance companies to potentially billions of dollars in claims costs for a risk in which not one dollar of premium was collected," he said. "This lawsuit is about politics, not fairness or justice."
In other words, the AG, in a move sure to gain him political favor in the eyes of Mississippi voters, is seeking to compensate homeowners who (a) didn't bother to read their insurance policy, or (b) thought they could beat the odds by skipping on the flood insurance.

If the AG succeeds, what reputable insurance company would be willing to continue to do business in Mississippi at a price its customers could afford? Not that the state would allow these companies to increase premiums to a level commensurate with the risk they're being told they must undertake.

In case you didn't get the memo....

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Check your local paper for area observances.

September 18, 2005

The WaPo likes John Roberts.... mostly.... sort of

Looks like the Washington Post's David Broder has been won over completely by Chief Justice nominee John Roberts:
The question of whether Judge John Roberts is qualified to be chief justice of the United States has been rendered moot by his performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. He is so obviously -- ridiculously -- well-equipped to lead government's third branch that it is hard to imagine how any Democrats can justify a vote against his confirmation.
E.J. Dionne, however, is underwhelmed by Roberts' refusal to answer questions about issues likely to come before the court (which, as many others have pointed out, was perfectly okay when the nominee was Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and urges as many No votes as the Dems can get away with.

The Post's editorial board agrees with Broder (albeit less enthusiastically), and warns Democrats about the consequences of opposing him:
Judge Roberts represents the best nominee liberals can reasonably expect from a conservative president who promised to appoint judges who shared his philosophy. Before his nomination, we suggested several criteria that Mr. Bush should adopt to garner broad bipartisan support: professional qualifications of the highest caliber, a modest conception of the judicial function, a strong belief in the stability of precedent, adherence to judicial philosophy, even where the results are not politically comfortable, and an appreciation that fidelity to the text of the Constitution need not mean cramped interpretations of language that was written for a changing society. Judge Roberts possesses the personal qualities we hoped for and testified impressively as to his belief in the judicial values. While he almost certainly won't surprise America with generally liberal rulings, he appears almost as unlikely to willfully use the law to advance his conservative politics.

For this reason, broad opposition by Democrats to Judge Roberts would send the message that there is no conservative capable of winning their support. While every senator must vote his or her conscience on the nomination, the danger of such a message is considerable. In the short term, Mr. Bush could conclude there is nothing to be gained from considering the concerns of the opposition party in choosing his next nominee. In the longer term, Republicans might feel scant cause to back the next high-quality Democratic nominee, as they largely did with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Oh, well, two out of three ain't bad, especially from the Post.

September 16, 2005

Just when you think Cindy Sheehan can't get more ridiculous

Cindy keeps pushing the envelope of self-parody (emphasis added):
I don't care if a human being is black, brown, white, yellow or pink. I don't care if a human being is Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or pagan. I don't care what flag a person salutes: if a human being is hungry, then it is up to another human being to feed him/her. George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power. The only way America will become more secure is if we have a new administration that cares about Americans even if they don't fall into the top two percent of the wealthiest.
The more Cindy tries to stay in the spotlight, the more discredit she brings to herself and to her Angry Left puppetmasters.

Which is a good thing....so keep the hits coming, Cindy!

(Credit: Various, including LGF, Protein Wisdom and FR)

September 15, 2005

The truth is out there re: Katrina; it's just not being reported

The MSM has pretty much successfully established the meme that the federal government was exceptionally and scandalously slow in its response to Hurricane Katrina's mauling of the Gulf Coast.

The truth is out there, but it is beyond the reach of those who passively consume whatever CBSNBCABCMSNBCCNNetc. and their colleagues in the print and electronic media dish out.

You have to go to media sources like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, rejected by MSM elitists as an organ of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

In a September 11 article there, Jack Kelly systematically smacks down many of the falsehoods that the left has been advancing about the disaster and its aftermath. For example:
Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:

"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.

So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.
The entire essay is a good read.

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A constitutionalist take on judicial review

A reader asked in an unrelated thread if I, as a constitutionalist, believe in judicial review. It's a good question, worth its own thread, so I'll answer here.

Do I believe in judicial review? I haven't given the matter enough detailed attention, but my shoot-from-the-hip response is: Sort of.

The power of the federal judiciary, enumerated in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, is as follows:
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; — to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; — to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; — to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; — to Controversies between two or more States; — between a State and Citizens of another State [Modified by Amendment XI]; — between Citizens of different States; — between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
Amendment XI reads thus:
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
That's it. We see here what is intended to be an exhaustive listing of the types of "cases" and "controversies" which may be heard by the federal courts. I see nothing here beyond a grant of power to judge between the parties in such a case or controversy: Party A is correct, Party B is incorrect.

I see no specific grant of power to nullify an act of Congress (which is the meaning of judicial review). However, such a power seems to be implied in the above text, a fact which is admitted by Hamilton in Federalist #81. In answer to this, Hamilton expresses what is in hindsight naive optimism that an independent judiciary poses no real threat to the legislature:
It may in the last place be observed that the supposed danger of judiciary encroachments on the legislative authority, which has been upon many occasions reiterated, is in reality a phantom. Particular misconstructions and contraventions of the will of the legislature may now and then happen; but they can never be so extensive as to amount to an inconvenience, or in any sensible degree to affect the order of the political system. This may be inferred with certainty, from the general nature of the judicial power, from the objects to which it relates, from the manner in which it is exercised, from its comparative weakness, and from its total incapacity to support its usurpations by force. And the inference is greatly fortified by the consideration of the important constitutional check which the power of instituting impeachments in one part of the legislative body, and of determining upon them in the other, would give to that body upon the members of the judicial department. This is alone a complete security. There never can be danger that the judges, by a series of deliberate usurpations on the authority of the legislature, would hazard the united resentment of the body intrusted with it, while this body was possessed of the means of punishing their presumption, by degrading them from their stations. While this ought to remove all apprehensions on the subject, it affords, at the same time, a cogent argument for constituting the Senate a court for the trial of impeachments.
So, it appears that the power of judicial review is constitutional, but that it is currently warped beyond the Founders' vision (as is just about everything in modern government). First, the legislature does not appear willing to use its check on judicial usurpation— namely, the power of impeachment. This has the effect of emboldening justices to judge according to personal fancies rather than according to the principles of the Constitution. Second, the judiciary is used as a weapon by factions within the legislature who are unable to muster a majority for their initiatives. Third, there is now an unspoken assumption that the courts will "fix" bad laws, leading to the passage of countless bad laws.

Considering all of this, it seems to me that judicial review is not the problem. The problem lies in a legislature that abandoned fealty to the Constitution long ago, and that directly and indirectly led the judiciary away from the Constitution as well. All branches of the government bear the blame for the current state of things, but nothing will change until Congress starts insisting on good (i.e. Constitutional) behavior by the other two branches. Congress will not change until the people start insisting on good behavior by their elected representatives and senators. How will the people be motivated to good behavior?


I never thought I'd see the day...

...when I'd be so happy to see gasoline at $2.71 per gallon. I have no idea whether or not Steve Forbes is right when he insists that a significant portion of the current price of oil is the result of investor speculation, but I do know that I like the direction the price is moving right now.

September 12, 2005

Ben Stein nails one the biggest stories of the Katrina disaster

Ben Stein in an American Spectator essay (emphasis added):
What is the real story of Katrina is (I suggest) not so much that nature wrought fury on land, water, people, property, and animals, not at all anything about racism, not much about federal government incompetence. The real story is that the mainstream media rioted.

They used the storm and its attendant sorrows to continue their endless attack on George W. Bush. Wildly inflated stories about the number of dead and missing, totally made up old wives' tales of racism, breathless accounts of Bush's neglect that are utterly devoid of truth and of historical context -- this is what the mainstream media gave us. The use of floating corpses, of horror stories of plagues, the sad faces of refugees, the long-faced phony accusations of intentional neglect and racism -- anything is grist for the media's endless attempts to undermine the electorate's choice last November. It is sad, but true that the media will use even the most heart breaking truths -- and then add total inventions -- to try to weaken and then evict from office a man who has done nothing wrong, but has instead turned himself inside out to help the real victims.

In the meantime, George Bush does not lash out, does not attack those who falsely accuse him of the most horrible acts and neglect. Instead, he doggedly goes on helping the least among us. I don't know how he does it, but we are very lucky he does. As for truth, it eventually may be salvaged from the flooded neighborhoods of The Crescent City, but not as long as there is a lie to use to hurt an honest man trying to do the best he can, and hundreds of thousands of brave, tireless men and women who do more than point fingers and tell tales. The Katrina story is a disgrace to the people who are "reporting" it while pouring gasoline on a fire. They and their crusade against George Bush are the real stories, and they are dismal ones.
Given that the MSM is the story here, it will never be reported.

Click to view full-sized images

September 9, 2005

Evil Karl Rove masterminds deaths of conservative icons for political gain

John Semmens satire:
Dean Denounces Timing of Rehnquist’s Death

September 9, 2005

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean complained that the timing of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s death was “highly suspicious.”

“Last year, Reagan conveniently died just in time to take attention away from Bush’s failed Iraq War and boost Bush’s chances for reelection,” said Dean. “Now, in the midst of Bush’s failure to prevent the extermination of downtrodden, minority New Orleans’ hurricane victims, Justice Rehnquist conveniently dies. Am I the only one who sees a pattern here?”

Dean charged that presidential advisor Karl Rove was masterminding these strategically timed deaths of conservative icons. “Not only do these deaths distract Americans from Bush’s blunders, they also serve as a cover for Rove’s nefarious scheme to suppress Democratic voter turnout in next year’s Congressional elections by evacuating New Orleans hurricane victims to other states,” claimed Dean.

Dean demanded that the Democratic Party be authorized to cast absentee ballots on behalf of the evacuated hurricane victims. “These dispersed people are mostly poor and uneducated,” said Dean. “Many are on welfare. Others are driven to a life of crime. These are the people the Democratic Party represents. Who could object to us casting their ballots for them during this time of turmoil?”

Dean said he will be working with key members of Congress to draft enabling legislation.
It's logically sound, so why can't it be true? Or as Rev. Jackson might say, It's conceivable, thus it's believable.

Moonbat manifesto

Someone has launched an online petition called the "Declaration of New Orleans" that neatly distills pretty much all of the fevered rants the far left has leveled against W since he took office (well, stole office, actually):
To: The President of The United States of America, the United States Congress, and The American People.

In the name of the People of the United States of America, we declare:

That for the last four and a half years President Bush and his administration have served the interests of a few influential citizens rather than the interests of the American People.

That he has acted with contempt for the People and for the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

That an edict of the Supreme Court made him President in 2000 and fraud made him President again in 2004.

That he has pursued an unprecedented expansion of Executive powers that are a grave threat to the rights and liberties of the American People.

That he has made war on sovereign nations that are no threat to the American People.

That his "War on Terror" has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives without bringing those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to justice.

That the failure of his leadership and administration in the present crisis in the City of New Orleans has resulted in the deaths of thousands more.

That he is derelict in every duty of his office.

Therefore, we resolve:

That President George W. Bush and his administration are illegitimate.

That he should resign from office and new elections should be held immediately.

That if he does not resign, the Congress of the United States should act to remove him from office.

That if the Congress should fail to act, the People will exercise their right to abolish this state and will establish a new government that will better secure their rights and liberties.


The Undersigned
The petition appears to have been a legitimate, earnest attempt by some leftist to vent her hatred against W, but the reality is that the signature list has been completely hijacked by people who are less than sympathetic with her views (people who were probably part of the conspiracy to install the Bush regime over the objections of the American voters).

For my part, I'll say that every single charge is either flat-out wrong, grossly exaggerated, or simply misleading. For example:
That he has acted with contempt for the People and for the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
In RealityWorld, just about every president in the past century or so has acted with contempt for the Constitution and the laws of the U.S.
That he has pursued an unprecedented expansion of Executive powers that are a grave threat to the rights and liberties of the American People.
Certainly not unprecedented. I assume the writer is speaking of things like the PATRIOT Act. Grave threat? Possibly...it depends on which president is wielding said powers. It's gotta mean something that the author of this petition and her fellow travelers are still free to roam the streets, shouting vulgar slogans and threatening the overthrow of the government.

Feel free to toss in your two cents on any of the particular charges listed.

As for the demand that W "should resign from office and new elections should be held immediately," it's hard for me to top this reply from a Free Republic poster:
Today's Constitutional quiz. When a sitting president resigns, what happens next?

A) new elections held immediately.
B) free ice cream for everyone.
C) Cindy Sheehan becomes Secretary of Defense.
D) none of the above.

Is the Left really claiming that W should have claimed dictatorial powers?

That's what he would have had to do in order to get substantial federal help to New Orleans much sooner than he did. As Joe Mariani writes (emphasis added):
The Posse Comitatas [sic] Act of 1878 forbids the President from using the US military to enforce the law without an Act of Congress. Posse comitatus, or "all possible force," refers to the power of a sheriff to call upon every able-bodied man in his county to help apprehend a criminal. (The things you learn from watching old Westerns...) The President can not similarly use "all possible force" to enforce the law, because doing so would be equivalent to declaring martial law in the United States.

Exceptions to the law, aside from suppressing insurrections, include assisting drug enforcement agencies or during emergencies involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), there is no exception for a local or state government failing to respond properly to a crisis. State and local officials failed to evacuate the citizens, declined to quell the looting and other crimes being committed, and even refused permission for the Red Cross to bring food and water to the people packed into the Superdome and Convention Center. The Red Cross explains on their web site that "The state Homeland Security Department had requested... that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city." Without the governor's permission to act, the federal government was effectively hamstrung.

Louisiana Governor Kathy Blanco could have requested federal help, but would not sign the authorization to allow it, even after the situation had descended into total chaos. "Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans," the Washington Post reported. "The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law." Governor Blanco decided to maintain final authority over the situation in New Orleans. With that authority comes responsibility for the results -- good or bad.

Every person who complains because the federal government did not take control of the New Orleans situation -- despite the governor's refusal to give permission -- is advocating a far more powerful federal government than we should ever want. The burden of response to local disasters rests on local elected officials while they choose to retain their authority. The federal government cannot intervene unless specifically requested to do so. To suggest otherwise is to invite a military dictatorship.
Is this what the Left really thought Bush should have done? Or was the unending stream of condemnation just political posturing?

Click to view full size

September 8, 2005

Homeowners association mans barricades against Katrina refugees

(Er, excuse me, I mean "evacuees". I meant no disrespect.)

Ocala, Florida:
Tammy Coggins returned to her Majestic Oaks home after a weekend in Atlanta and found the welcome mat pulled out from under her good intentions.

While communities throughout the Sunshine State and elsewhere are welcoming Hurricane Katrina's storm-weary survivors, Coggins and others in the 500-home southwest Ocala subdivision were told by their homeowners association that their deed restrictions prohibited them from doing the same.


Across the nation, tens of thousands have offered their homes as temporary shelter for those displaced by Katrina. Placement is made via Internet registries such as HurricaneHousing.org, HomeFlood.org and Craig's List where everything from a spare sofa to luxury condominiums are available to victims, often free or for a nominal charge.

The notice was sent after the board learned that a homeowner planned to shelter three families evacuated from New Orleans. Vice President Audrey Andrews said the board's action was "blown out of proportion" and that she apologized only for it gaining news media attention.

"I think our intent was correct," she said. "It's a neighborhood problem (but) it got out . . . If a letter of apology will help, fine."

Andrews said the board was merely enforcing restrictions approved by homeowners as recently as last year.
The homeowners association (H.A.) was letter-perfect in its enforcement of association rules, but stone cold-hearted in the extreme at the same time. The least they could have done was to take a quick vote from its members about a temporary relaxing of the restrictions. Judging from the reaction by subdivision residents, it looks like the votes would have been there.

Has there ever been an instance where an H.A. hasn't gotten too big for its britches and become much more heavyhanded than its founding members ever intended?

The neighborhood where I live has deed restrictions, but no H.A. Enforcement comes through the threat of civil action against a violator, so in general several homeowners must pool their resources to hire a lawyer—a voluntary association created for a specific purpose, and disbanding afterward with no further financial obligation. About three years ago nine of the fourteen households on our street banded together to threaten legal action against two of the other homeowners, who were renting out their houses to multiple unrelated people (college students, BTW). Apart from being a deed restriction violation, such a use of these houses would have seriously affected the value of the houses that weren't violating the restrictions. So, the nine households pitched in equal shares of the legal fees (about $600 per household), and we persuaded the two violators to stop their illegal use of the property.

After it was all over, our lawyer offhandedly suggested that we could more easily prevent such occurrences in the future if we formed an H.A. I said that an H.A. was a cure that was worse than the problem, and happily, most of my neighbors agreed. We all returned to our homes and our lives, and that was that.

So (as Tim tries to get back to the original topic of the post), don't get me started on homeowners associations and their beancounting, fascist boards.

John Roberts, the Stepford Justice

As the media flails around for some dirt that will stick to Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, WaPo's Richard Cohen deserves a prize of some sort for trying to turn Roberts' sterling professional bio into a liability:
I sometimes think the best thing that ever happened to me was, at the time, the worst: I flunked out of college. I did so for the usual reasons -- painfully bored with school and distracted by life itself -- and so I went to work for an insurance company while I plowed ahead at night school. From there I went into the Army, emerging with a storehouse of anecdotes. In retrospect, I learned more by failing than I ever would have by succeeding. I wish that John Roberts had a touch of my incompetence.

Instead, the nominee for chief justice of the United States punched every career ticket right on schedule. He was raised in affluence, educated in private schools, dispatched to Harvard and then to Harvard Law School. He clerked for a U.S. appellate judge (the storied Henry J. Friendly) and later for William H. Rehnquist, then an associate justice. Roberts worked in the Justice Department and then in the White House until moving on to Hogan & Hartson, one of Washington's most prestigious law firms; then he was principal deputy solicitor general, before moving to the bench, where he has served for only two years. His record is appallingly free of failure.
He's too perfect to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court! He's probably not even human!

The theory goes that Roberts' lack of failure in life will make him less sensistive to the plight of the less fortunate. Of course, sensitivity has nothing whatsoever to do with the proper constitutional role of a Supreme Court justice, but who's paying attention to irrelevancies like that any more?

(Credit: Captain's Quarters)

September 7, 2005

AP goes out on a limb with judicial nominee speculation

AP headline, September 6:
Next Bush Nominee May Be a Conservative

(Credit: BOTW)

Dissecting moonbats

James Lileks does a wonderful job of mocking the "incandescent lunacy" of the left, which is trying everything in its bag of tricks to pin all Sadness and Woe on the president.

He ends with two lessons we can take away from Katrina and its aftermath:
You're on your own. At least keep an emergency kit on hand, the sort of thing Tom Ridge proposed, and which made the smart set hardy-har-har because it contained duct tape.

Don't rely on the government. Four years after Sept. 11, it's apparent that some local governments are not well-oiled machines when it comes to disasters -- more like a box of sand and busted gears. Blame for that can be promiscuously distributed.

Lesson two: The next terrorist attack will not unite us for a warm, hug-filled fortnight. The hard left won't wait 24 hours before blaming Bush, and the country will enjoy the sight of prominent pundits angrier at the president than at the men who nuked Des Moines.

Weighing the odds

This map shows that few places in the US are completely free of natural disaster risk:

Of course, the map focuses on only a few kinds of natural disasters. Just in case you're feeling secure because your in a low risk area for earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes (and tsunamis and volcanoes, for that matter), the Natural Disaster Education Coalition reminds us that there's also drought, fires, flooding, heat waves, landslides, severe thunderstorms (even without tornadoes, there's still a risk of high winds and hail), and heavy snowstorms.

So... anyone still feel left out? I'm sure we can come up with something else.

Maybe we'll send you our love bugs.

Of course, fear of natural disasters is not what we're aiming for. When choosing where to live, we should at least conclude that the odds of Very Bad Things happening are in our favor. You can't say that about a place like New Orleans.

(Credit: PapaCool)

Chinese activist against forced abortion and sterilization "seized"

On August 27 I wrote about Guangcheng Chen, a blind peasant from Liying in Shandong province, who was slowly but steadily building a legal case against the city's blatant use of forced abortion and sterilization. The central government officially does not approve of such techniques as a means of enforcing the national "one child" policy, but in reality, provincial officials can be punished if centrally-determined population targets are not met, so it is actually not uncommon that they resort to such techniques to meet the targets.

Today's WaPo reports that less than two weeks later, Chen was "seized" in Beijing in a manner reminiscent of organized crime:
Several men in plain clothes grabbed Chen when he left an apartment building on Tuesday afternoon, witnesses said. The men did not identify themselves, and Chen resisted, shouting for help as they dragged him across a parking lot and pushed him headfirst into an unmarked car with tinted windows, the witnesses said.

A small group of people, upset by seeing the rough treatment, surrounded the vehicle and prevented it from driving away. As two men held Chen down in the back seat, he could be heard screaming and appeared to be in pain.

Residents called Beijing police. Two uniformed officers arrived, consulted with the men who had seized Chen, then cleared a way for the car to leave. The officers said the men who seized Chen were police from China's Shandong province, where Linyi is located. Tu Bisheng, a friend who was with Chen at the time, said local officials from Linyi were also present.

"We feel this is extremely inappropriate," said Li Heping, one of the lawyers working with Chen. He said the Linyi officials appeared to be "taking revenge on him for trying to protect the rights of local citizens and exercising his right to criticize the government."
The article mentions that provincial authorities are quite powerful, and often disobey the central government, but rarely so brazenly. Shandong officials knew that Chen had found some sympathetic ears in the central government, so they simply decided that he would not be permitted to meet with them.

In my opinion, we're witnessing but one episode in the slow, painful evolution of Chinese civil rights. Although many in the central government are sympathetic to his cause, it does not appear that any are willing to intervene on his behalf at this time. It's remarkable that Chen was allowed to carry on as long as he did; I'm certain that just ten years ago he wouldn't have dared to open his mouth in criticism.

In recent years China has taken its first few tentative steps toward creating a stable legal system that respects the civil rights of its citizens, but it may be a generation or more before we see satisfactory results. Much of that progress will depend on Beijing's ability to rein in local officials. Two weeks from now, I'd love to read in the WaPo that certain government officials in Liying have been arrested on charges of corruption and abuse of power. I have doubts that it will happen, but if it did, it would give me greater hope about China's future.

(Credit: Ray D.)

September 6, 2005

Another reason to abandon embryonic stem cell research

LifeNews, September 5 (excerpt):
Scientists are intensely concerned about a discovery that embryonic stem cells cultured in the lab develop genetic mutations over time that are cancerous. The new development may mean embryonic stem cells may never be able to help patients suffering from various diseases.

Unless such cells can be kept fresh until use and thoroughly checked for problems, embryonic stem cells may never be used. However, the longer they are kept and they more they divide, the more errors in their genetic code appear, giving rise to cancer.

"These mutations we are finding are a much bigger problem," says Aravinda Chakravarti of the Johns Hopkins University in a report in the journal Nature Genetics.

Chakravarti and his colleagues examined embryonic stem cell lines created before August 2001, and eligible for federal funding under President Bush's limits on using taxpayer funds to destroy human life.

They compared the original embryonic stem cells with those produced from those lines. Out of nine cell lines, eight developed one or more genetic changes commonly observed in human cancers, the Johns Hopkins team reports.

September 5, 2005

So....W really DID cause Katrina?

I'm not sure I should be rewarding these folks by linking to them, but there is a certain constituency out there that firmly believes that the president and his evil cabal literally engineered Katrina and aimed it at New Orleans.

Katrina relief efforts at Texas A&M University

While the Katrina disaster brought out the worst in some (for example, in the looting and in the political posturing), accounts like the following September 5 memo from Texas A&M University president Robert Gates give hope that the country will rebound quickly.
To: Faculty, Students and Staff

Subject: Relief Efforts at Texas A&M

Any Aggie of any age who believes the Spirit of Texas A&M is waning should have been at Reed Arena over the past three days.

Under an agreement with local government officials, Texas A&M has made Reed Arena available as a temporary shelter for a little over two hundred or so evacuees from New Orleans through September 9th. Probably like many parents and others, I was deeply concerned about security given what we all had read about violence in New Orleans. I only agreed to the use of Reed after being assured that the evacuees would be vetted, processed and security wanded at a facility elsewhere in Brazos County, wanded again upon arrival at Reed, and that University police and other security would be present at all times at Reed. Students who park at Reed Arena (mostly freshmen) will be parking elsewhere on campus for the week. The evacuees are escorted by non-students wherever they go.

I asked the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets, Lt. General John Van Alstyne, to take charge of this endeavor, in no small part because one of his last responsibilities at the Pentagon was taking care of displaced military families after 9/11. I also wanted a no-nonsense person in charge. He has told me that he is quite comfortable with the security arrangements. Either he or his chief of staff are at Reed 24/7.

Now to the best part. With little advance notice, Aggies sprang into action last Friday. The Corps of Cadets was asked on Friday afternoon to set up several hundred beds on the floor of Reed Arena; to help establish a structure for processing the evacuees; to make arrangements for them to shower and get new clothes; to help develop a process for medical checks; and so on. (Contrary to some rumors, the Corps was never asked or expected to provide security.) Lt. General Van Alstyne asked the Corps Commander, Matt Ockwood, for 300 volunteers to do these tasks. 900 cadets volunteered, and Reed Arena was ready after the cadets worked all night.

The first evacuees began to arrive around midnight Saturday. They had boarded busses in New Orleans that morning, had been driven to Dallas and then finally to College Station - all in one day. Of the more than 200 arrivals, most were families, including some 40 children and a number of elderly. They arrived exhausted, dirty, hungry and many in despair.

They then encountered an Aggie miracle. Clean beds (not cots but surplus beds from a refurbished Corps dorm), showers, hot food, medical treatment, baby supplies for mothers, toys for children and more. But most of all, what they encountered were a couple of hundred compassionate, caring Aggie cadets and other volunteers. The cadets escorted them to their assigned beds, and not only saw to their individual needs, but sat on the side of their beds with them, talked with them - treated them like they were a member of the family. The cadets made them feel welcome and cared about.

Sunday, when I visited Reed, I learned that the women of the Aggie Dance Team had organized and were running a distribution center for pillows, towels, bedding, personal hygiene kits, baby food, diapers and much more; that sorority women were running a child care facility for dozens of children, well supplied with toys, juice, coloring books and cartoon videos; and that plans were under way for other student leaders and students to replace the cadets, some of whom had been at Reed for more than 50 hours. Plans were underway for some of our athletes (and escorts) to take some of the evacuee boys ages 10-16 to the Rec Center to shoot hoops - boys perhaps including one I met who had treaded water under a bridge for 11 hours before being rescued by a helicopter. There is a communications room where the evacuees can use both telephone and internet to try to reach relatives and friends. The Red Cross, United Way, and other community organizations are right there on the Arena floor, and the Salvation Army is serving three meals a day. Escorted trips are being organized throughout the day to laundromats and stores. Area physicians, supplemented by the Aggie Care Team and the Health Science Center are available. Being treated with dignity, respect and compassion, our guests have responded accordingly.

Many other Aggie students are involved in the relief effort on campus, in the local community, and at our Galveston campus. Sunday afternoon, students organized a massive collection effort to gather canned food and clothes as part of the MSC's Open House. Student Government, led by Student Body President Jim Carlson, is planning other relief- associated activities, including helping organize more volunteers to work at Reed Arena the rest of this week.

By agreement with Brazos county officials, Reed Arena is a temporary location for these evacuees, and during this week, we are assured that most, if not all, of the evacuees will move to longer-term housing.

Aggies need to know that the past few days have been a high point in the history of Texas A&M as we have responded to this terrible disaster named Katrina. Seeing the desire to serve, the organizational skill, the willingness to work, the caring and compassion, and more, on the part of the Corps of Cadets, the Dance Team, the sororities and so many other students who have worked incredibly long hours - has been a profoundly moving experience. I do not know a single University official who, having watched our students over the past three days, does not choke up with emotion out of pride in these amazing young people.

And it's not just the students who have been amazing. It is also our staff, including those who today began admitting and helping up to 1,000 students displaced by the Hurricane. Faculty and administrators have volunteered as well, and also put in long hours to ensure that these displaced students can be processed into Texas A&M and their classes with speed and efficiency. I visited the processing center this morning and met many of the parents and students; I know now that they will never forget our generosity and warm welcome to Aggieland.

Aggies often speak of "the other education" here. My original intent had been to keep the evacuees entirely isolated from our students. Once assured of the safety of the students, that would have been the wrong decision. I have no doubt that the Aggie students who are participating in this extraordinary humanitarian endeavor will never forget it -- or what they are learning from it about crisis management and, far more importantly, about their own humanity and character. Nor do I doubt that the evacuees, all of whom are now wearing Texas A&M t- shirts, will always remember how these young people treated them and cared for them.

The hearts of every Aggie should swell with pride in what this University is doing for fellow Americans in trouble, and especially in what our students and staff are doing, to help those devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I thanked a University policeman inside Reed yesterday for what he was doing, and he looked at me with tears in his eyes and replied, "It's an honor to be here, sir."

Robert M. Gates
President, Texas A&M University

Beware of e-looters, cont'd.

September 1, 2005

Fraudulent Websites for Hurricane Katrina Victims

We have received information indicating that Internet domain names are being created that could be used to lure unwary users into visiting potentially malicious web sites.

Relief and charity efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina began immediately after the hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast area. Shortly thereafter, web sites began to appear which were designed to defraud unsuspecting users. Some of the activities include soliciting donations for seemingly charitable purposes, attempting to collect personal information through phishing scams and also spreading malware to unsuspecting users. Over the past few days, domain names that redirect users to malicious web sites have appeared online, in addition to email scams requesting donations for those impacted by the hurricane. While some of these sites and messages may be legitimate, many are not. At the time of this bulletin, please be aware that the following domains are reported to be suspicious:


Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and additional domains may continue to appear.

In addition to fraudulent web sites, opportunists may use this event as a vehicle for other types of online attacks. For example, email messages that claim to contain attachments with photos, video, or other information about Hurricane Katrina may actually contain viruses, worms, or other malware.


We recommend that staff be advised to:
*Validate the relief fund or charity through a known reliable entity. Please refer to the FEMA link below for a list of reputable disaster relief resources for Hurricane Katrina.
*When a message containing a request for donations for these victims appears, do not respond unless you are certain it is a valid message.
*Avoid visiting untrusted web sites.
*Avoid opening email messages and attachments that claim to contain video, photos, or other information relating to relief solicitation for Hurricane Katrina.
*Follow standard best practices for email and web browsing security.



Washington Post

Better Business Bureau

Federal Emergency Management Agency

30 South Pearl Street, Suite P2
Albany, NY 12207
(518) 474-0865
7x24 CSAC 1-866-787-4722

September 3, 2005

Beware of e-looters

BBC, September 2 (excerpt):
Computer users are being urged to be on guard for a bogus e-mail that pretends to offer news updates about Hurricane Katrina as a means to infect their PCs.

The malicious e-mail gives a brief news bulletin on the disaster before urging people to click "read more" and be taken to the full story on a website.

Yet once directed to the website, a virus is sent to the user's computer.

People are also being told to watch out for fraudulent e-mail scams pretending to raise cash for Katrina victims.

The separate virus and fake donations bogus e-mails have been discovered by computer security firms SophosLabs and Websense Security Labs.
Don't let a time of tragedy cause you to let down your guard. To borrow from a certain Obiwan, there's a "wretched hive of scum and villainy" out there waiting to prey on goodhearted people on occasions like this (just like they did after the tsunami).

September 2, 2005

What's different about New Orleans?

Why are we seeing people at their worst in New Orleans, when previous natural disasters in the U.S. have tended to bring out the best in people? Robert Tracinski makes a compelling case for the proposition that we're seeing the fruit of forty years of the welfare state. Arguing such will get Tracinski branded immediately as a racist by unreasonable people, but I believe that this is at least part of the explanation (exacerbated by sluggishness and ineptness on the part of local and state government, especially before the storm hit).

Aerial view of New Orleans school buses that were not mobilized for the evacuation of the city.

September 1, 2005

Breathtaking arrogance

CBS editorializes in a news article on the chaos in New Orleans:
CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan says the refugees want to know where the aid is — and so do reporters, "because it seems like at times there are more of us [reporters] out here on the streets than there are emergency workers and rescue workers."
So, reporters... what are you doing to assist with the search and rescue? Are you just standing there looking pretty, or are you willing to help out with the search and rescue?