Fulcrum Ruminations

Monday, September 19, 2005

Unscheduled Interruption

I wasn't going to post for a couple days . . . getting married plays all sorts of havoc with your internet time . . . but I got this in email and it's worth a read. I haven't checked the authenticity. If it's a fake, I'm sure someone will let me know.

Oh, and don't pay too much attention to the paens to Bush. I was more taken with the contrasting views on Canadian vs American disaster response capabilities.

A bit more objectivity than we get from our own press and politicians.

George Bush, the man
David Warren…The Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, September 11, 2005

There's plenty wrong with America, since you asked. I'm tempted to say that the only difference from Canada is that they have a few things right. That would be unfair, of course -- I am often pleased to discover things we still get right.

But one of them would not be disaster preparation. If something happened up here, on the scale of Katrina, we wouldn't even have the resources to arrive late. We would be waiting for the Americans to come save us, the same way the government in Louisiana just waved and pointed at Washington, D.C. The theory being that, when you're in real trouble, that's where the adults live.

And that isn't an exaggeration. Almost everything that has worked in the recovery operation along the U.S. Gulf Coast has been military and National Guard. Within a few days, under several commands, finally consolidated under the remarkable Lt.-Gen. Russell Honore, it was once again the U.S. military efficiently cobbling together a recovery operation on a scale beyond the capacity of any other earthly institution.

We hardly have a military up here. We have elected one feckless government after another that has cut corners until there is nothing substantial left. We don't have the ability even to transport and equip our few soldiers. Should disaster strike at home, on a big scale, we become a Third World country. At which point, our national smugness is of no avail.

From Democrats and the American Left -- the U.S. equivalent to the people who run Canada -- we are still hearing that the disaster in New Orleans showed that a heartless, white Republican America had abandoned its underclass.

This is garbage. The great majority of those not evacuated lived in assisted housing and receive food stamps, prescription medicine and government support through many other programs. Many have, all their lives, expected someone to lift them to safety, without input from themselves. And the demagogic mayor they elected left, quite literally, hundreds of transit and school buses that could have driven them out of town parked in rows, to be lost in the flood.

Yes, that was insensitive. But it is also the truth; and sooner or later we must acknowledge that welfare dependency creates exactly the sort of haplessness and social degeneration we saw on display, as the floodwaters rose. Many suffered terribly, and many died, and one's heart goes out. But already the survivors are being put up in new accommodations, and their various entitlements have been directed to new locations.

The scale of private charity has also been unprecedented. There are yet no statistics, but I'll wager the most generous state in the union will prove to have been arch-Republican Texas and that, nationally, contributions in cash and kind are coming disproportionately from people who vote Republican. For the world divides into "the mouths" and "the wallets."

The Bush-bashing, both down there and up here, has so far lost touch with reality, as to raise questions about the bashers' state of mind.

Consult any authoritative source on how government works in the United States and you will learn that the U.S.federal government's legal, constitutional, and institutional responsibility for first response to Katrina, as to any natural disaster, was zero.

Notwithstanding, President Bush took the prescient step of declaring a disaster, in order to begin deploying FEMA and other federal assets, two full days in advance of the storm fall. In the little time since, he has managed to co-ordinate an immense recovery operation -- the largest in human history -- without invoking martial powers. He has been sufficiently presidential to respond, not even once, to the extraordinarily mendacious and childish blame-throwing.

One thinks of Kipling's poem If, which I learned to recite as a lad, and mention now in the full knowledge that it drives postmodern leftoids and gliberals to apoplexy -- as anything that is good, beautiful, or true:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise .

Unlike his critics, Bush is a man, in the full sense presented by these verses. A fallible man, like all the rest, but a man.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


More inconvenient facts to put the lie to the left's version of Hurricane Katrina.

Far from being a "slow response to the disaster", the Fed's efforts were actually quite swift . . . when not impeded by New Orleans' feckless mayor or Louisiana's wobbly governor. Sure, FEMA screwed up plenty, but they were hardly the only, or even worst, offenders.

Maybe it's something in the water down there. Gets into people and makes them slow or something.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina, Katrina, Wherefore Art Thou?

The hysterical coverage of Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath continues, to the suprise of no-one. Anti-Bush forces are apparently hoping that the American people's political memory is long enough that all the ruckus can be an election issue in the 2006 mid-terms (political memory is almost never that long, sorry . . . but don't worry, there'll be three or four other "Gotcha!" moments between now and next November).

Meanwhile, a more realistic assessment of the situation is summed up nicely in an op-ed by Jack Kelly for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Out of curiosity, I looked up that blog mentioned in Kelly's piece. There's plenty of good stuff there - good analysis and commentary, and the actual post Kelly quoted, which is as trenchant and spot-on a dose of badly-needed reality as I've yet seen. And, as I note with some little pride, "Teflon" even makes a comparison eerily similar to my own.

Here's his words -
4. We do not yet have teleporter nor replicator technology like you saw on "Star Trek" in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grownups actually engaged in the recovery effort today were studying engineering.

Here's mine, for comparison -
What, you think the President has access to a Star Trek transporter and can just push a button to make emergency supplies appear in New Orleans? . . . National Guard troops (who also lack transporter access thanks to Evil Dubya) are arriving in growing numbers.

I tells ya, it's positively scary. Posted, so far as I know, completely independent of one another. This guy (and the other main contributor there) seem to know what they're about, and they document stuff fairly well. Think I'll add a link to his blog from mine. Yeah, blogosphere! Woo-hoo!

Oh, and Bush has now taken responsibility for the mistakes made in the relief effort. Gee, I thought he didn't do that kind of thing . . .

One final note, there's also a good piece on How to Fix FEMA on that blog. It also seems that my prediction that Brown would be shown the door was accurate, tho I hardly expected it to happen so quickly. Probably Cheney swung the axe on that one . . . he seems the type to enjoy that kind of stuff. And no, I don't believe for a moment that Brown resigned of his own accord. I'd bet it was a case of "resign or be fired".


On another topic, one I've been remiss in addressing, Bush has somewhat strangely put up his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court for the spot formerly held by the sadly deceased Chief Justice Rehnquist.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Judge Roberts seems to have a decent enough record as a jurist, but I don't know that he's the best choice for the Chief Justice spot. He's only been on the Circuit Court since 2003. He's argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court, but gee . . . I think I'd like a guy who was a little more seasoned for the Chief Justice spot.

Anyway. Prediction time: Senate confirmation hearings on this will be brutal. And there's still Justice O'Connor's spot to fill, which means Bush gets to nominate another Justice. It's the Left's worst nightmare, a conservative President (Bush isn't really all that conservative, at least in the sense I use the word, but hey, that's how it's going to be cast in the public arena, and who am I to argue?) putting up not one but two nominees to the Supreme Court.

I can hear the shrieks and screams already as the ever-popular The End Is Nigh arguments start streaming from the Left. This'll probably heat the filibuster controversy up again, too.

Watch this one carefully, gentle readers. Much will be revealed in the coming weeks and months as this battle plays out.

Should be interesting.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Four years ago today a collection of hate-filled, evil men drove airplanes into buildings and killed thousands of innocents.

Among those lost at the Pentagon was my friend and co-worker Jerry Moran.

We remember.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Follow-on Forces

Looks like Mister Brown has been removed from service. He's no longer in charge of FEMA's hurricane Katrina relief effort. This should make some people quite happy, tho not as happy as if he'd been sacked from FEMA entirely. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen will be taking charge of the overall mission now . . . an interesting choice, given that the Coast Guard, alone among armed services, has both a military and a law-enforcement mandate at the national level.

Tho I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Brown will be quietly shuffled off the job entirely at some point.

Speaking of the hurricane and its aftermath, this op-ed from the Wall Street Journal points out that the Pentagon was not quite as unprepared as some would have us think. Here's a pertinent quote -

The popular impression left the past week-- that the government was wholly unprepared for Katrina--is not true. Significant U.S. military assistance was on alert throughout the week prior to Katrina's landfall. Why those highly trained and drilled assets did not move into New Orleans sooner is a question that should now sit at the center of a debate over who should have the authority--the states or the federal government--to be the "first mover."

Once again, as after 9/11, the main problem seems to have been jurisdictional quarrels, with no-one quite sure who was supposed to be the tail and who was supposed to be the dog. Maybe if Mayor Nagin had followed his own emergency plan, or Governor Blanco hadn't been busy forgetting to declare a state of emergency . . . here's a quote from the article in the Washington Post I linked a couple words back -

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

One has to note how much better the response has been in Mississipi and Alabama, where the state authorities worked a little more smoothly with the feds.

Still, plenty of blame to go around. Since everyone from the New Orleans Mayor to the President screwed the pooch on this one, there should be a good bipartisan effort to find no-one at fault.


Meanwhile, in another Wall Street Journal op-ed, Mark Helprin notes how nothing much has really changed with the way our government responds to crises and major trends, in a manner eerily similar to something I posted about some months back. Coincidence? You decide.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Once Around the Block, James

Mercy sakes. I've been discovered. The secret is out. Sappers at the wire, sappers at the wire!!


An interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today. Seems my earlier post about Iraq and VietNam was in tune with the thoughts of others. Interesting. Here's the summation, which I find agreeable -

Today, you do not have to be a Bush partisan to understand that the current war is about more than Iraq itself. It is also, and indeed above all, about the future of the Middle East, about the kind of change we recently have seen glimmers of in Lebanon and Libya and possibly even Palestine, the kind of change we hope to see more of in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and eventually in Syria and Iran. Whatever the hopes for larger transformative events across the region, they clearly depend on America. At the very least, we need to buy time. Alternatively, to lose heart and retreat--after less than two years and with fewer than 2,000 casualties--almost surely means losing not just the battle but also the war, a far worse outcome than those who cite Vietnam similarities can seem to comprehend.


A complete aside, not related to anything - I happened to fly out to San Diego last week on business. Is it just me, or are the airlines purely incapable of putting a comfortable seat in tourist class? I mean, I can drive for several hours before I start to get uncomfortable, but put me in one of those dinky little (the whole world is not five-foot-seven, ya know) airline seats and within minutes I'm in pain. Can't we just get an automobile bucket seat in there? Please?


Bob Denver has died. A sad day for Skippers and Little Buddies everywhere.

That is all.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina and New Orleans

Oh me, oh my. What in the name of fourteen hells is going on in New Orleans? Why are the victims of the hurricane and flooding so busy tearing themselves apart? Here's an article I found on Wordforge . . .

An Unnatural Disaster: A Hurricane Exposes the Man-Made Disaster of the Welfare State

by Robert Tracinski
Sep 02, 2005

It has taken four long days for state and federal officials to figure out how to deal with the disaster in New Orleans. I can't blame them, because it has also taken me four long days to figure out what is going on there. The reason is that the events there make no sense if you think that we are confronting a natural disaster.

If this is just a natural disaster, the response for public officials is obvious: you bring in food, water, and doctors; you send transportation to evacuate refugees to temporary shelters; you send engineers to stop the flooding and rebuild the city's infrastructure. For journalists, natural disasters also have a familiar pattern: the heroism of ordinary people pulling together to survive; the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and rescue workers; the steps being taken to clean up and rebuild.

Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists--myself included--did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.

But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.

The man-made disaster is not an inadequate or incompetent response by federal relief agencies, and it was not directly caused by Hurricane Katrina. This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.

The man-made disaster we are now witnessing in New Orleans did not happen over the past four days. It happened over the past four decades. Hurricane Katrina merely exposed it to public view.

The man-made disaster is the welfare state.

For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency--indeed, they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country.

When confronted with a disaster, people usually rise to the occasion. They work together to rescue people in danger, and they spontaneously organize to keep order and solve problems. This is especially true in America. We are an enterprising people, used to relying on our own initiative rather than waiting around for the government to take care of us. I have seen this a hundred times, in small examples (a small town whose main traffic light had gone out, causing ordinary citizens to get out of their cars and serve as impromptu traffic cops, directing cars through the intersection) and large ones (the spontaneous response of New Yorkers to September 11).

So what explains the chaos in New Orleans?

To give you an idea of the magnitude of what is going on, here is a description from a Washington Times story:

"Storm victims are raped and beaten; fights erupt with flying fists, knives and guns; fires are breaking out; corpses litter the streets; and police and rescue helicopters are repeatedly fired on.

"The plea from Mayor C. Ray Nagin came even as National Guardsmen poured in to restore order and stop the looting, carjackings and gunfire....

"Last night, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said 300 Iraq-hardened Arkansas National Guard members were inside New Orleans with shoot-to-kill orders.

" 'These troops are...under my orders to restore order in the streets,' she said. 'They have M-16s, and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.' "

The reference to Iraq is eerie. The photo that accompanies this article shows National Guard troops, with rifles and armored vests, riding on an armored vehicle through trash-strewn streets lined by a rabble of squalid, listless people, one of whom appears to be yelling at them. It looks exactly like a scene from Sadr City in Baghdad.

What explains bands of thugs using a natural disaster as an excuse for an orgy of looting, armed robbery, and rape? What causes unruly mobs to storm the very buses that have arrived to evacuate them, causing the drivers to drive away, frightened for their lives? What causes people to attack the doctors trying to treat patients at the Super Dome?

Why are people responding to natural destruction by causing further destruction? Why are they attacking the people who are trying to help them?

My wife, Sherri, figured it out first, and she figured it out on a sense-of-life level. While watching the coverage last night on Fox News Channel, she told me that she was getting a familiar feeling. She studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Chicago, which is located in the South Side of Chicago just blocks away from the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the largest high-rise public housing projects in America. "The projects," as they were known, were infamous for uncontrollable crime and irremediable squalor. (They have since, mercifully, been demolished.)

What Sherri was getting from last night's television coverage was a whiff of the sense of life of "the projects." Then the "crawl"--the informational phrases flashed at the bottom of the screen on most news channels--gave some vital statistics to confirm this sense: 75% of the residents of New Orleans had already evacuated before the hurricane, and of the 300,000 or so who remained, a large number were from the city's public housing projects. Jack Wakeland then gave me an additional, crucial fact: early reports from CNN and Fox indicated that the city had no plan for evacuating all of the prisoners in the city's jails--so they just let many of them loose. There is no doubt a significant overlap between these two populations--that is, a large number of people in the jails used to live in the housing projects, and vice versa.

There were many decent, innocent people trapped in New Orleans when the deluge hit--but they were trapped alongside large numbers of people from two groups: criminals--and wards of the welfare state, people selected, over decades, for their lack of initiative and self-induced helplessness. The welfare wards were a mass of sheep--on whom the incompetent administration of New Orleans unleashed a pack of wolves.

All of this is related, incidentally, to the apparent incompetence of the city government, which failed to plan for a total evacuation of the city, despite the knowledge that this might be necessary. But in a city corrupted by the welfare state, the job of city officials is to ensure the flow of handouts to welfare recipients and patronage to political supporters--not to ensure a lawful, orderly evacuation in case of emergency.

No one has really reported this story, as far as I can tell. In fact, some are already actively distorting it, blaming President Bush, for example, for failing to personally ensure that the Mayor of New Orleans had drafted an adequate evacuation plan. The worst example is an execrable piece from the Toronto Globe and Mail, by a supercilious Canadian who blames the chaos on American "individualism." But the truth is precisely the opposite: the chaos was caused by a system that was the exact opposite of individualism.

What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face. They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. They don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

But what about criminals and welfare parasites? Do they worry about saving their houses and property? They don't, because they don't own anything. Do they worry about what is going to happen to their businesses or how they are going to make a living? They never worried about those things before. Do they worry about crime and looting? But living off of stolen wealth is a way of life for them.

The welfare state--and the brutish, uncivilized mentality it sustains and encourages--is the man-made disaster that explains the moral ugliness that has swamped New Orleans. And that is the story that no one is reporting.

Source: TIA Daily -- September 2, 2005

Now, while some people amazingly try to blame a hurricane on the President . . . talk about an incredible leap of "logic" . . . this article kind of points out where the real problem is.

You see, this disaster is almost unprecedented in American history. Of course it's going to take a few days to ramp up the relief effort. What, you think the President has access to a Star Trek transporter and can just push a button to make emergency supplies appear in New Orleans? There's a lot of destroyed infrastructure down there. Things like roads and bridges and stuff, meaning that you can't just roll a convoy of trucks into town and start handing out food and water. The trucks have to be able to get to the scene. You've also got thousands and thousands of people who were apparently unable or unwilling to evacuate as they were told to do before the storm and who now need to be rescued. It's already been in the news that the Coast Guard has rescued something over 1200 people in spite of their own local facilities being destroyed. The Navy is sending a carrier and a gator down there with a bunch more helicopters. National Guard troops (who also lack transporter access thanks to Evil Dubya) are arriving in growing numbers.

The worst aspect of this whole disaster is the way some people want to turn this tragedy into another Make George Look Bad smear campaign. Christ on a crutch, isn't there something productive they could do instead? Have they become so filled with hatred and bile that even a catastrophe of this magnitude is just more grist for the "Gotcha!" mills?

Well, at least it shows that the Left is drifting further and further away from the mainstream of America, turning ever more inward on themselves in their little reality-impaired self-congratulatory zones. They are fading as a force in American politics, which can only be good news for the rest of us. Maybe with their nonsense out of the way, we can fix some of the things that need fixing.