I feel sick thinking about Katrina

Thankfully the evacuation effort has kicked in and is performing much better it seems.

But there is no excuse for allowing so many to rot.

This whole scenario has reminded me of watching the Columbine shooting live on TV. All the cops hugged the walls outside and peeked around the corners while the students ran by them. I was shouting at the television "Go-go-go! Breach! Get in there you idiots! People are dying!"

But they didn't. In today's world, force protection supercedes innocent protection.

When innocent people are dying, you have to take risks. To do otherwise is dereliction of duty.


Let's hear it for Jabbor Gibson who after getting tired of waiting for the buses to arrive, stole an abandoned bus off the street, loaded it with evacuees and drove to the Astrodome. They were the first to get there.
Thousands of refugees of Hurricane Katrina were transported to the Astrodome in Houston this week. In an extreme act of looting, one group actually stole a bus to escape ravaged areas in Louisiana.

About 100 people packed into the stolen bus. They were the first to enter the Houston Astrodome, but they weren't exactly welcomed.
Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson jumped aboard the bus as it sat abandoned on a street in New Orleans and took control.

"I just took the bus and drove all the way here...seven hours straight,' Gibson admitted. "I hadn't ever drove a bus."

The teen packed it full of complete strangers and drove to Houston. He beat thousands of evacuees slated to arrive there.


I cannot find this online, but this is something I saw in yesterday's Maryville Daily Times. Blount County is sending 10 police officers to assist in New Orleans. But first, they had to get authorization from FEMA. Once they got that, they needed authorization from the state and county. An Officer actually said in the paper; "We now have authorization from BEMA, which got authorization from TEMA, which got authorization from FEMA to go to New Orleans"

FEMA director was fired from horse-lawyer job

This is "compassionate conservativism" at it's finest. When a person falls on hard times, the Bush administration is there for you. Of course, it probably didn't hurt that he was president of the OK republican party.



This editorial ran in today's Knoxville News Sentinel. I was so impressed with this article on lobbyists in Tennessee's state government that I'm going to, um, borrow it. I'm sure things are exactly the same at the national level.
Nashville's red-light district

Darkness crept closer, hopelessness weighed heavier and filth fouled our souls as we walked deeper into the red-light district of Amsterdam. Stepping over heroin addicts, our guide Jim prepared us for the sight of lingerie-clad girls sitting behind plate-glass windows waiting for their next customer.

Jim was a missionary in Amsterdam in the early 1990s, and he took us to the world-famous place of prostitution to ask us to pray. Jim explained that many of the girls were naive immigrants from South America, lured to Holland by unseen and unseemly men with the promise of money to help the people back home.

Promised noble work, the girls were overwhelmed by a new culture, cut off from family and dependent on the unscrupulous men who skulked in the shadows, profiting from the girls behind the glass. Jim was a pinpoint of light shining a flicker of hope for the whores in Holland.

The despairing darkness, heavy hopelessness and film of filth I felt in the Netherlands had long receded, but hearing lobbyists Mark Greene and John Lyell talk to Gov. Phil Bredesen's Citizens Advisory Group on Ethics in Chattanooga last week brought it all rushing back.

Greene, president of the Tennessee Lobbyists Association, got his start in state government as an intern for Lt. Gov. John Wilder. Greene joked about lobbyists' tawdry reputation before warning the committee to tread lightly when considering any type of lobbyist fee disclosure.

Lyell, a Nashville lobbyist and lawyer, wasn't officially invited but sat beside Greene, prompting panel member Larry Wallace, former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director, to ask if Lyell was Greene's attorney. Lyell has a history of sitting where he shouldn't. In April, he sat at the same table with lawmakers while a subcommittee killed a lobbyist disclosure law.

Lyell came out combative and came off obstinate, arrogant, defiant and disrespectful. In his opening statement, Lyell attacked the idea of lobbyist fee reform. Referring to contingency fees lobbyists collect only if they successfully influence the Legislature on behalf of their client, he blustered, "I'm really somewhat incensed that that's at issue here."

Lyell said he doesn't want anyone trying to run his business and that it is nobody's business - neither the public nor the press - how much he is paid to influence how taxpayer dollars are spent and which laws are passed.

When Lyle Reid, former state Supreme Court justice, asked, "Why do we need lobbyists?" the lobbyists said our part-time legislators need help to help the people back home.

Greene said lobbyists' advice lightens the workload for legislators faced with 3,000 bills per session. Lyell said lobbyists know the procedure and the process for drafting laws. Both tellingly described how lobbyists cultivate dependency on them with legislators.

When Reid asked how the poor, the uneducated and the unorganized could participate in the political process if legislators are beholden to high-priced lobbyists, Greene concluded that lobbyist pay disclosure won't change the plight of the poor. When committee member Paul Neely asked why the public shouldn't know lobbyists' fees if lobbyists are so involved in the process, Lyell ranted, "You don't need to know what (clients) pay me."

Darkness crept closer as Lyell and Greene talked. But light flickered when Rep. Tommie Brown of Chattanooga rose to speak. Brown said her district is home to the poor, the uneducated and the unorganized that Lyell and Greene dismissed. She told about her "Covenant with the People" which promises them, "I will be (your) voice."

Brown said she has no access to big-time bills, no influence with big-time lobbyists. Her voice cracked as she told of laboring on legislation to help the poor only to have a high-powered lobbyist kill hope with a few whispers.

Brown represents all that's good about our democratic system - doing what's right because it's right, helping the less fortunate, shining a light of hope. Like Jim in Amsterdam.

Lyell and Greene represent all that's wrong with our democratic system - doing what's profitable because it's profitable, helping the fortunate build more fortune, dealing in the dark. Like the men skulking in the shadows in the red-light district.

Leaving legislators and Tennesseans trapped, like the girls behind the glass.
Greg Johnson is an East Tennessee native and resident and writes this column for the News Sentinel. E-mail him at jgregjohnson@hotmail.com.


This was at 4:15, God only knows what has happened at that place now. Why can't they do something other than "giving permission" to leave? The FBI has regional SWAT teams, the National Guard has helicopters and men with guns. Sure it might get bloody but that's the breaks. You don't act when it suits you, you act when it is necessary. Go go go! Someone please!

4:15 P.M. - (AP): Police say storm victims are being raped and beaten inside the New Orleans Convention Center.

About 15,200 people who had taken shelter at the convention center to await buses grew increasingly hostile.

Police Chief Eddie Compass says he sent in 88 officers to quell the situation at the building, but they were quickly beaten back by an angry mob.

Compass says, "We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten."

He says tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon.

In hopes of defusing the unrest at the convention center, Mayor Ray Nagin gave the refugees permission to march across a bridge to the city's unflooded west bank for whatever relief they can find. But the bedlam appeared to make leaving difficult.

National Geographic, October 2004

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.


The director of FEMA

has, as Laura Rozen points out, no qualifications whatsoever for the job.

"Oh Katrina"

..would be a good name for a blues song.

I'm certainly not trying to pass judgement on people trapped in New Orleans, but I can't figure out why any able-bodied person doesn't just hoof it north away from all this.

They had a reporter being interviewed on NPR who was saying there are 2,000 people trapped in the convention center, about 8 blocks away from the Superdome. The authorities told them to go to the convention center, which they did, and they have been there for three days without food and water. There is no authority there, two dead bodies were laying outside and a 10-year old girl was supposedly raped last night. These people say they have seen military and police vehicles pass by but none have stopped.

Out of these 2,000 people, there aren't 10 guys who can take it upon themselves to band together and at least try to keep the place in order? There isn't at least one person who tries to move the two bodies to a more secluded and sanitary place? There isn't anyone who decides that maybe they can just follow the vehicles that they see passing and maybe get to some type of aid?

It's just so hard to understand, but I am not there. Perhaps if I were, I would behave the exact same way. But here in the safety and security of my home, I can't help but think that I would have started walking/swimming Monday and would have been well out of there by now.

But I think the thing that bothers me the most about the response to this hurricane is that after September 11 we've spent billions of dollars working on how to deal with a situation like this. Security, aid and evacuation are the very essence of the response to a terrorist attack, FEMA even ran an exercise on hurricane response in New Orleans just last year, and we still have people wasting away that have been sitting on roofs for three days dying of thirst.

We are doing a lot to help them, for sure, and I hope that many are saved, but why does a few feet of water bring our ability to respond to an emergency to a slow crawl?

But that is just me, thinking how I would deal with a situation that I am, thankfully, not in the middle of. The only effects I am feeling is gas prices and the likelihood that this area will run out of fuel tonight and have no more until Saturday.

I can't help but wonder what this disaster will do to our oil supply. The Bush administration is saying that they "are viewing it as a temporary disruption." I don't want to know how they "view it", I want to know if it's temporary or not.

It seems so odd that we have had so many problems with oil over the past few years. Obviously, the hurricane is to blame for our current troubles, but the people in this administration have a long history in the oil industry. One would expect them to be great at understanding the potential problems of the industry and coming up with intelligent solutions and great plans in both the short and long term.

They do have a plan, of course. A plan that was hatched with the assistance of Ken Lay and other figures who are now facing a long prison term. This is the plan that the administration has spent years fighting to keep secret.

I want to see it. Not because I particularily care about Cheney, Enron or anyone else. I just want to know see that there really is a plan.


New Orleans imagery

GlobalSecurity has some satellite imagery of the New Orleans damage and the Map Room has a ton of animation, maps, imagery, links and everything else you can think of.

I have gas!

The good kind, I assure you. But one downside to driving a Jeep is that they don't come with locking gas caps. I've intended to get one for two years now, but with gas well over $3 a gallon here and the stores selling out of gas, today seemed a pretty damn good time to finally get one.

I went to four parts stores and all were out of stock. When they checked the computer, all of their local chains were also out of stock. At one store, the guy behind the counter checked and said "Wow! We had six on order a few minutes ago, now we have 200 ordered!" Apparently the company is stocking up.

I thought I was going to have to sit in my Jeep all night with a shotgun and a jug of 'shine (this is Tennessee after all) but luckily, Wal-Mart had one locking gas cap left. That should show you how desperate I was, for Wal-Mart is a place I prefer not to tread except in an emergency. I only had to knock down one 90 year old woman to get it. Haha, just joking of course, she was 70.

In other news, Bush finally did something I agree 110% with. He has released some oil from the strategic reserve. This is not big news, it happens every year or two, but it is going to be desperately needed if, as reports say, we have lost 5 million barrels a day refining capacity.

The democrats are clamoring that he should release more from the reserves in order to flood the market and drive down prices, but that's fools talk. The strategic reserves are just that, reserves to be used strategically, not market tools to be used to keep the consumers happy. The reserves are important.

However it may be necessary at some point, maybe even now, to increase the reserve output. There are a lot of variables in place that I don't claim, or care, to understand, but one shouldn't open the floodgates of the reserves at the first minute.


Bush and mistakes

The two seem to go together like Microsoft and insecurity, don't they?

But there's a great post at Total Information Awareness asking the question; What if Bush has made no mistakes in the war in Iraq?

I often think the same way. What if I am absolutely wrong about this or that?

But I think that, um, Bush might have made a gaffe or two somewhere along the way.


Able Danger, yes, Able Danger ... yet again

Boy, this story will just keep on ticking forever it seems. It isn't that the story has "legs", at least so far, it's just that the accusations come in a daily gushing amount of shouts while the information comes in weekly doses of quiet little dribbles.

Here's what Laura Rozen over at War and Piece has to say
Able Danger Update. Mark Zaid, the attorney for former Able Danger official LTC Anthony Shaffer, clarifies a couple points. He is now representing several former Able Danger officials and contractors. According to Zaid, none of these former Able Danger officials ever asserted that Able Danger had identified Mohamed Atta as physically being in the US; rather the project had allegedly identified Atta as being linked in some fashion (not necessarily a direct one) with the Brooklyn-based Blind Sheik. Hence the 'Brooklyn cell' as a term of art.
I don't know Rozen's source since she doesn't provide a link or anything but she's a journalist and I seem to recall her saying on her blog that she interviewed some of the Able Danger people. So, I assume she has talked to Zaid.

Looking back over what has been said publicly, Phillpot and Smith have only said that 'Atta was identified' but this totally kills Shaffer's credibility. He's been jumping up and down claiming that Atta et al were in the US.

I guess we'll see in another week! Until then, stay tuned.

Iraq is Courtrai!

Zenpundit had a post a few days ago about the fallacy of comparing Iraq to Vietnam. It is more of a post about the problems with analogies than a war-specific gripe but at the end of his post he asks for readers to come up with historical examples where a parallel can be drawn by people who are against the war. I still think the war was a mistake but I too get tired of historically incorrect analogies as well as the repetition of the left, of which I'm not one.

This is, of course, a tongue in cheek linking, but my contribution is The Battle of Courtrai, also known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs. It's not a perfect example by any means, but bear with me.

This battle took place when the French army rode into Flanders to put down a revolt. The "insurgents" were Flemish burghers, a burgher being a merchant class of freemen which was just beginning in Europe, and a few foreign archers hired as mercenaries.

The weapon of choice for the rag-tag Flemish army was a goedendag, a mid sized wooden staff with a big spike at the end capable of piercing the thickest armor. The knights of France were like all knights, shielded head to to in armor so thick that their survival was almost insured.

But the French knights rushed in without thinking and found themselves bogged down in swampy land. Once the enemy was bogged down the Flemish moved in for the attack. One by one they knocked the helpless knights out of the saddle and dispatched them with their barbaric goedendags.

There are many differences that must be noted such as the casualties. 700 pairs of golden spurs taken from dead Frenchmen that day were hung in the Church of Our Lady in Kortrijk to commemorate the victory, but our casualties are light In Iraq. And I don't dare to compare our troops with knights of any age. Knights were generally poor at fighting while our troops are well trained. But the knights were considered the best at the time.

The similarities are found in how you read the story: The French were a well armored and very mobile professional army but after becoming bogged down they became easy targets for barbaric attacks by a mix of irregular militia and foreign fighters that followed rules for warfare that were unconventional at the time.

Ta-da. Simple as that. Iraq is Courtrai!


Around the blogsphere

Here's a couple of great articles making the rounds in blogtown.

Foreign Affairs magazine has an article titled How To Win in Iraq, by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. I actually haven't read anything but a summary so far and, while he's certainly on the right path (at least he has a path, unlike a certain president I won't name) I question whether or not his "oil-spot strategy" is possible. At least the heart of his argument seems to be that we need to get back to the roots of solid counterinsurgency tactics and I couldn't agree more. I will read it entirely before saying anymore. But I'm in a typing mood right now instead of a reading one.

The Belgravia Dispatch rips apart the "flypaper theory".

For those of you unfamiliar with the flypaper theory, this is an idea that the real reason we are in Iraq is to fight the terrorists there. Supposedly, Bush knew that sending troops to Iraq would be a big welcome sign to Al-Qaeda, so we go to Iraq and spend a few years wiping out bad guys.

I've always thought this was an insane theory for several reasons. I had made a joke on a private message board I frequent saying maybe that was the real reason we're in Iraq just a couple of days before David Warren hatched the theory on his own (a couple of my visitors were there and actually remember it).

I hadn't made it clear that I was joking and the response was "Nah, that's too Byzantine" which actually isn't a bad thing. The Byzantine empire may have had loony leaders but their military was one of the best the world has ever seen. They fought everyone who was anyone, and some who weren't.

Sassanids and Persians, Saracens, Russians (led by Vikings), Turks, Slavs, Avars, Bulgarians, Franks, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Huns, Sycthians, Lombards, Serbs, Armenians, Georgians, Normans, Hungarians, the Catalan Company, you name it, the Byzantines kicked it's ass.

They lost some, won some, and in the end were betrayed and weakened, but held on for 400 more years, then finally destroyed by the Turks. But they fought with, and wrote, brilliant military texts that studied their enemies every weakness and formed tactics around exploiting every advantage they could. And they did this while us Europeons was still clubbing each other with sticks.

They're my favorite historical army. I've been thinking of making a big post about them so keep an eye out for it.

But anyway, back to the story. "Nah, that's too Byzantine" was the response to my flypaper theory. "Byzantine", of course, has come to mean "unrealistic". I cleared up that I knew it was absurd and was making a joke.

But that theory has only become more popular over time because it gives people a seemingly reasonable excuse for our mangled mission there. Gregory Djerejian does an excellant job of showing why it's absurd.

I would only add one more thing to his destruction of the theory. That is the fact that if the flypaper theory is true, it's a miserable failure. We aren't beating al-qaeda in Iraq. We are taking out a lot of insurgents, but a recent study has shown that most foreigners fighting against us in Iraq are people who have came there to fight alongside the Iraqis. That is, they weren't terrorists before the war, and most of them didn't look like a likely candidates for terrorists. They're just pissed off neighbors joining the Jihad.

There is only a small number of al-qaeda in Iraq, and some are surely backing some of these foreigners whether they know it or not, but we simply aren't putting a hurting on them. We're fighting an insurgency that doesn't really know borders, and if we beat the insurgency maybe any al-qaeda tangos will be the next to go, but most of whatever progress we see in Iraq is not against our real terrorist enemy.


Somewhere along the line, I said the word "shitting" on this blog. You would be surprised how many hits I get from people doing image searches for the word "shitting". Yes, image searches.

I have traced this phenomenon to its source by following the trail back to the search engine. The source is this post I made in June '04 titled "Things I learned from Lord of the Rings, Return of the King" where I made a lot of observations about the movie such as:
Though entirely seperate species, there is no law governing the union of human and elf.

Though elves are the most advanced creatures in the history of the earth and their lives are the very epitome of gracefully refined elagance, elven men still come off a little gay.

Though reliable for transportation, horses tend to attract even more vicious animals which either like to stomp or eat them.

If your weakness centers around the fact that if your ring is thrown into the lava of Mount Doom and you are aware that your enemy is seeking to exploit this one and only weakness, it may be wise to put a lock on the door that accesses the lava.
Etc .. etc, it was a fun post.

What brings the people searching for shitting images is this line:
When a hobbit says "we are sitting on a field of victory" with his mouth full, the "s" in "sitting" sounds a lot like "sh".
under which I included a screen shot from the movie which I titled "shitting.jpg"

So there. If you've come here looking for shitting photos, all I have is this image to offer you

But here's something to keep you up at night. when I trace this back, I find that the link to my site is always pretty low in the search results. It's usually on the 15th-20th page. That means there are a lot of people out there who wade through 20 pages of shitting photos in order to find mine.

Ewww indeed.

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