Friday, September 30, 2005

A Study in Contrasts

This is from a retired Air Force Colonel, who brilliantly summarizes the difference between Texas and Louisiana in responding to natural disasters:

Things I have noticed while watching media coverage of the recent hurricanes.

1. Texas: Productive industrious state run by Republicans.
Louisiana: Government-dependent welfare state run by Democrats.

2. Texas: Residents take responsibility to protect and evacuate themselves.
Louisiana: Residents wait for government to protect and evacuate them.

3. Texas: Local and state officials take responsibility for protecting their citizens and property.
Louisiana: Local and state officials blame federal government for not protecting their citizens
and property.

4. Texas: Command and control remains in place to preserve order.
Louisiana: Command and control collapses allowing lawlessness.

5. Texas: Law enforcement officers remain on duty to protect city.
Louisiana: Law enforcement officers desert their posts to protect themselves.

6. Texas: Local police watch for looting.
Louisiana: Local police participate in looting.

7. Texas: Law and order remains in control, 8 looters tried it, 8 looters arrested.
Louisiana: Anarchy and lawlessness breaks out, looters take over city, no arrests, criminals
with guns have to be shot by federal troops.

8. Texas: Considerable damage caused by hurricane.
Louisiana: Considerable damage caused by looters.

9. Texas: Flood barriers hold preventing cities from flooding.
Louisiana: Flood barriers fail due to lack of maintenance allowing city to flood.

10. Texas: Orderly evacuation away from threatened areas, few remain.
Louisiana: 25,000 fail to evacuate, are relocated to another flooded area.

11. Texas: Citizens evacuate with personal 3 day supply of food and water.
Louisiana: Citizens fail to evacuate with 3 day supply of food and water, do without it for
the next 4 days.

12. Texas: FEMA brings in tons of food and water for evacuees. State officials provide
accessible distribution points.
Louisiana: FEMA brings in tons of food and water for evacuees. State officials prevent
citizens from reaching distribution points and vice versa.

13. Texas: Media can’t find poor blacks in need of assistance, looking for something else to
blame on Bush.
Louisiana: Media focuses on poor blacks in need of assistance, blames Bush.

14. Texas: Coastal cities suffer some infrastructure damage, Mayors tell residents to stay away
until ready for repopulation, no interference from federal officials.
Louisiana: New Orleans is destroyed, Mayor asks residents to return home as another
hurricane approaches, has to be overruled by federal officials.

15. Texas: 24 killed in bus accident on highway during evacuation, no storm related deaths.
Louisiana: Over 400 killed by storm, flooding and crime.

16. Texas: Jailed prisoners are relocated to other detention facilities outside the storm area.
Louisiana: Jailed prisoners are set free to prey on city shops, residents, and homes.

17. Texas: Local and state officials work with FEMA and Red Cross in recovery operations.
Louisiana: Local and state officials obstruct FEMA and Red Cross from aiding in recovery

18. Texas: Local and state officials demonstrate leadership in managing disaster areas.
Louisiana: Local and state officials fail to demonstrate leadership, require federal
government to manage disaster areas.

19. Texas: Fuel deliveries can't keep up with demand, some run out of gas on highway, need
help from fuel tankers before storm arrives.
Louisiana: Motorists wait till storm hits and electrical power fails. Cars run out of gas at gas
stations that can‘t pump gas. Gas in underground tanks mixes with flood waters.

20. Texas: Mayors move citizens out of danger.
Louisiana: Mayor moves himself and family to Dallas.

21. Texas: Mayors continue public service announcements and updates on television with
Governor's backing and support.
Louisiana: Mayor cusses, governor cries, senator threatens president with violence; none of
them have a clue what went wrong or who‘s REALLY responsible.

22. Texas: Republican Senator says "when you call 911, the phone doesn't ring in Washington,
it rings here at the local responders".
Louisiana: Democratic Senator says FEMA was slow in responding to 911 calls from
Louisiana citizens

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

More Reasons to Avoid Cindy Sheehan

By my count, the nation's most infamous Gold Star mother is about a half-hour into her 15 minutes of fame. But Cindy Sheehan is still wallowing in the media limelight, fully absorbed in her newfound celebrity status and doing almost anything to keep her place on the national stage.

As denizens of the blogosphere know, Ms. Sheehan's lost her hold on reality during her protest vigil outside President Bush's ranch a month or so ago. Since then, she has uttered a series of increasingly incredulous statements that have no basis in fact, and suggest that Ms. Sheehan's activities are more about her public personna that a legitimate protest against the War in Iraq.

Senator John McCain learned that lesson the hard way. On Tuesday, he held a meeting with Ms. Sheehan, one day after her arrest during an anti-war demonstration in Washington. Sheehan was positively beaming as police took her into custody, under the glare of TV lights. So much for the grieving mother, whose son was "murdered" by George W. Bush in Iraq.

Fresh from that triumph, Ms. Sheehan used the meeting with McCain as her latest media ploy. Emerging from the meeting, Sheehan made a beeline for the nearest reporter, and denounced the Arizona Senator--who spent six years as a POW in North Vietnam--as a "warmonger."

But Cindy wasn't finished. After hearing McCain's comments on the war, Sheehan opined that the "Senator doesn't believe what he is saying." She also claimed that McCain previously told her that the death of her son Casey "was like his buddies in Vietnam," and that he feared their deaths were "for nothing."

McCain has flatly denied making such statements, and I believe him. On the other hand, Ms. Sheehan has a history of distorting the truth, including the facts surrounding her son's death in Iraq. Distorting--or even fabricating--the statements of a U.S. Senator (and legitimate war hero) are part and parcel of Cindy's little show. According to McCain, Ms. Sheehan even misrepresented her reasons for meeting with the Senator, claiming that several members of her group are from Arizona. Turns out that only one of her entourage has ties to the state, and is no longer and Arizona resident.

John McCain made a serious error is agreeing to meet with Cindy Sheehan. After watching the Senator get burned, it will be interesting to see if other members of Congress suddenly cancel their meetings with Cindy in the coming days. And McCain's folly underscores the wisdom of George W. Bush in refusing to meet with that Gold Star loon.

Denial is Not a River In Egypt...

...At least for Dan Rather and Mary Mapes, the journalistic team that brought you the "expose" of President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, that was based on forged documents.

In another era, Mapes and Rather would now be referred to as "disgraced former journalists," unable to land a reporting job on a school newspaper, or the community shopper that lands in your driveway every Wednesday. But in today's media culture, folks like Mary and Dan can get a pass on fraud and slander, and keep earning a nice paycheck to boot. One year after Rathergate, Gunga Dan remains on the CBS payroll, where he occasionally reports for 60 Minutes. Ms. Mapes, meanwhile, has written a book about her experiences, due out in November.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Mapes version of Rathergate is long on conspiracy theories and short on facts. She wonders how bloggers could have obtained copies of the forged memos before they appeared on the CBS website. She also hints that the blogosphere was primed to go after Rather and CBS, noting the vitriol on "angry" conservative websites like FreeRepublic. com.

Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker at Powerline--who rose to national prominence for helping the CBS fraud--do a nice job of deconstructing the Mapes account. Perhaps Ms. Mapes should follow the advice of her young son; after she was fired by CBS, he suggested that she seek employment in an ice cream shop. She might be able to handle that gig, although I can envision her handing a vanilla cone to a customer, while insisting that it contained strawberry ice cream.

Dan Rather is also out and about these days, putting his own spin on the scandal. A couple of days ago, the ex-CBS anchorman sat down for a friendly interview with former colleague Marvin Kalb at George Washington University. Radio Blogger managed to wade through the entire thing, and provides some prime examples of Dan at his dimmest.

Let the record show that Marv and Dan chatted amiably while the MSM died an ugly and painful death. And not a moment too soon.

Cutting to the Chase

Canadian columnist David Warren does an excellent job of dissecting the post-hurricane blame game, in this recent column from the Ottawa Citizen. Warren wrote his piece before Rita blew ashore, but his words still ring true. He also takes some accurate jabs at his own government, which has cut the Canadian military to the bone, leaving it unable to respond effectively to a large-scale natural disaster.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pot Calls Kettle Black

Former FEMA director Mike Brown appeared before a Congressional committee investigating the "slow" response to Hurricane Katrina, and he had a few choice words for Louisiana officials.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Brown told a special congressional panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe.

Brown also admitted that he made mistakes in responding to the disaster. One mistake, Brown observed, was not holding more media briefings; the other was his inability to get Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to "sit down, get over their differences and work together."

Brown's criticism may strike some as a case of the pot calling the kettle black. But as details of the Katrina response emerge, it seems clear that FEMA met many of its timelines for delivering assistance. As Brown--and others--have pointed out, FEMA is not a first-response agency. FEMA is supposed to arrive in the stricken areas within 72-96 hours after the disaster, and coordinate a wide range of government assistance. However, given the scope of suffering and devastation caused by Katrina, one can make the case that Brown should have asked for military assistance sooner, and done a better job of keeping President Bush and the American public informed.

But I will give Brown credit for speaking the truth about Louisiana officials. Much of the suffering in New Orleans was a direct result of local incompetence on the part of Blanco, Nagin, and others. Any inquiry into the response to Hurricane Katrina must examine culpability at all levels, including state and local government.

Congressional Democrats largely boycotted the hearings. They want an independent, 9-11 style commission, preferably one that will focus exclusively on the federal response, while giving Louisiana officials a pass. One Democrat who did attend the hearing was New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson, who comandeered two National Guard vehicles and a helicopter to check on his home immediately after the storm. Jefferson expressed shock that Brown would lay the blame on Louisiana officials. I guess Jefferson is upset that those guard vehicles and the helicopter weren't placed at his disposal before the storm.

The Stealth Candidate

According to Drudge, executives at CBS and ABC are quietly searching for anchors to helm their evening newscasts, replacing the disgraced Dan Rather and the late Peter Jennings.

At ABC, the search may be a little less urgent. Recent Nielsen ratings show that ABC's World News Tonight is #1 among viewers ages 25-54, the prize demographic for evening newscasts. WNN has held the top spot for the past six months, despite a rotation of substitute anchors that has included Charles Gibson, Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff.

Meanwhile, CBS remains dead last in the evening news wars, and they're desperately looking for someone who can attract an audience. In an effort to help the House that Murrow Built, I suggest the following candidate, who's currently anchoring a recently-debuted internet newscast. CBS can probably sign him for AFTRA scale, and his political views would mesh well with other news division employees. His wardrobe, grooming and personal hygeine probably need some work, but he can lock up the all-important global jihadist demographic.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Osama bin Has-Been?

That was supposed to be the thesis of last night's 60 Minutes report on the search for the Al Qaida leader. According to Pakistani political, intelligence and military leaders (who spoke with correspondent Steve Kroft), bin Laden is now hiding with a handful of close aides and security personnel, somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They also claim that the Al Qaida leader is finding it almost impossible to communicate with outside cells and operatives. Orders and communiques are transmitted almost exclusive by runner, and it can take months to disseminate a single message.

Watching the report and reading the broadcast transcript, I didn't see anything in the way of new information about bin Laden's whereabouts, or his status within Al Qaida. Indeed, the 60 Minutes segment only confirmed what intelligence agencies have been saying for some time; with Al Qaida's leadership under continuous attack, the terrorist organization is now operating in a decentralized mode, with cell leaders assuming greater autonomy in planning and conducting attacks.

There were other elements missing from Kroft's report as well. While giving credit to the Pakistanis for keeping pressure on Al Qaida elements within their borders, there was little mention of U.S. efforts on the Afghanistan side. One reason for Pakistan's success on the ground has been the elimination of the Al Qaida operational base in Afghanistan, which has forced bin Laden to flee across the border. And quite predictably, there was no mention of the successful strategy that has placed bin Laden in this predicament. Remember the War on Terror, as outlined and executed by George W. Bush? The problems bin Laden is experiencing now are a direct product of that strategy, but you won't hear anything about that from CBS News.

Remember the Axis of Evil?

The Persian branch of that enterprise is alive and well, and until we deal with the mulahs in Tehran, we cannot gain victory in the War on Terror.

NRO's Michael Ledeen does a great job covering the geopolitical aspects of the Iran problem.

From the military perspective, I can only concur with Ledeen's analysis of the "negotiations" between the Iranians and the EU-3 (Britain, Germany and France). These "talks" are little more than a Middle Eastern version of the con job that North Korea has used to extract aid from the west, while hiding--and preserving--its nuclear program.

Simply stated, Iran will not abandon its nuclear program. And, any sudden compromise or agreement with the Europeans should be viewed with alarm, since it will mean that Iran has succeeded in hiding enough of its program to continue its efforts covertly.

Indeed, all the indicators from Iran suggest that the nuclear program is continuing unabated. Tehran is systematically developing the weapons systems, infrastructure and targeting capabilities to deploy nuclear weapons in the near future. Nuclear-capable SHAHAB-3 missiles are now operationally deployed at three garrisons in Iran. At least one of the bases has an underground launch capability, greatly reducing warning time for potential attacks, and another installation has silos capable of supporting SHAHAB-3s, or longer-range missiles now under development. The SHAHAB-3 is capable of hitting Israel; follow-on systems may be able to reach much of Europe by the end of this decade, and Tehran could have a crude ICBM, capable of hitting the U.S., within a decade. By that time, Iran's missiles will be tipped with nuclear warheads, and the strategic calculus will forever change.

Meanwhille, the Israelis have beeen strangely quiet on Iran. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reporting vs. Distorting

In recent months, I've regularly roasted the MSM for inaccurate, short-sighted and (at times) dishonest reporting from Iraq.

If you're looking for another example, Chester has links to an excellent study by Bill Roggio, Marvin Hutchens, and Steve Schippert on coaliton military operations in western Iraq over the past month. As they point out, there is a definite purpose and strategy behind this campaign, namely to eradicate terrorist safehavens, and reduce the influx of other jihadists from Syria. You won't find this depth and context in MSM accounts, because many reporters are either lazy, stupid, or both.

Building on that foundation, Chester contrasts a recent Time report on the operations in Al Anbar with the comments of U.S. military commanders and information from other sources. Note the dramatic differences between Time's take on the situation (based on limited observations) and the perspectives of military officers who've been battling the enemy for months. If you read the magazine's account, you get the impression that our troops are chasing ghosts, fighting an unwinnable battle. From the military commanders, the progress seems clear and quantifiable.

Who do you believe?

A Time for Answers

As predicted in this space a few months ago, the real Able Danger scandal isn't what the military intelligence team knew, but rather, why their efforts share information with law enforcement were blocked by Pentagon lawyers; why the 9-11 Commission ignored their work, and why members of Able Danger are now being muzzled by the Defense Department.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter held hearings on Able Danger yesterday, but the event produced little in the way of new information. And for good reason. The Pentagon has barred five key witnesses from testifying before Congress, including Lt Col Anthony Shaffer, the Army intelligence officer who was the first to go public with information about the unit and its activities. According to Lt Col Shaffer and other Able Danger members, the team identified four of the 9-11 hijackers as members of Al Qaeda--months before the attacks occurred. However, they were barred from sharing that information from law enforcement officials.

Now, the Pentagon is preventing Shaffer and his colleagues from testifying before the Senate committee, citing security concerns. DOD spokesman Bryan Whitman noted that the Pentagon had a representative at the hearing, and had provided "sufficient" information to the committee.

Hogwash. First of all, as NRO's Andrew McCarthy points out, the DOD's security concerns are overstated, particularly for a unit that's been out of business for several years. Additionally, the Pentagon has yet to fully explain its over-arching legal concerns about the "investigation of U.S. persons" that prevented Able Danger from passing its findings to the FBI. True, Mohammed Atta and the other identified terrorists met a broad definition of "U.S. persons," who cannot be the subject of military intelligence gathering on American soil. However, these concerns could have been easily allayed by contacting the FBI, and allowing federal law enforcement to conduct its own surveillance, and (quite possibly) disrupt the 9-11 plot.

Finally, there's the issue of Able Danger's rapidly vanishing paper trail. A former Army Major told Senators yesterday that some of the team's records were "routinely" destroyed in 2000, due to the afore-stated concerns about intelligence collection against U.S. persons. However, other reports suggest that some of the team's records and reports weren't destroyed until last year. Of course, we still don't know what was actually destroyed, who gave the order, and other potential rationales for that activity.

I don't often agree with Senator Specter, but he is right about this. DOD owes the American people some answers about Able Danger, what they learned through their data-mining activities, and why this information was never shared with law enforcement. Allowing Colonel Shaffer and his colleagues to testify before the Specter committee should be the first step in that process, allowing for a full examination of past mistakes, while ensuring that the same thing doesn't happen again. That's why we need answers about Able Danger now, not later.

P.S.--The low level of media interest in this story is stunning, to say the least. Aside from Fox, few broadcast outlets even bothered to cover yesterday's hearing, and there are only a handful of print stories to boot. Because much of Able Danger's work took place in the latter days of the Clinton Administration, news executives and reporters are quite willing to ignore the story, avoiding futher damage to the reputation of "their" President.

If the Pentagon is covering up Able Danger (and, increasingly, that seems to be the case), then the MSM has become a willing accomplice in that cause.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Give This Man His Fourth Star

You've got to like Lieutenant General Russell Honore, the Army three-star running Joint Task Force Katrina operations. Yesterday, as Hurricane Rita churned toward the Gulf, General Honore was among the federal and local officials who faced the media in New Orleans. The city's half-wit mayor, Ray Nagin, tried to answer a question about the evacuation of the New Orleans's remaining residents, in preparation for Rita. As Nagin began to lose control of the situation, Honore stepped in and very bluntly told the press exactly what his troops were preparing to do.

Radio Blogger has the transcript. At one point, General Honore told a reporter "you're stuck on stupid." Priceless.

Despite a little veiled sniping from the Air Force, General Honore has done a remarkable job in the Gulf South, and he's clearly an officer who deserves his fourth star. Surprisingly, the jury's still out on whether he'll actually get that promotion. As you can see, General Honore is tough, direct and brutally honest, with absolutely no tolerance for fools. Those are characteristics the military desires in combatant or operational commanders; in many respects, General Honore is a throwback to George Patton and William T. Sherman, who shared similar personality traits.

But Patton and Sherman earned their rank in wartime, when there's less concern about political sensitivities and an officer's communications style. In today's military, four-star flag officers are usually cut from the same cloth as JCS Chairman General Richard Myers. Smart, polished, a little bland, and politically correct. I could never envision General Myers telling a reporter that he or she is "stuck on stupid."

But perhaps it's time for a change at the top. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was so disappointed in the quality of Army leadership that he brought the current chief of staff out of retirement. Honore may not fit the template for a contemporary four-star general, but he's a competent, aggressive leader--something our military forces desperately need. President Bush and Rumsfeld might find better candidates for a fourth star among the Army ranks, but they could certainly do a lot worse than General Honore. A military bureaucracy--like any organization--needs an occasional mucking out, and General Honore doesn't seem hesitant to use a shovel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Don't Trust--and Verify

A day after supposedly agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons program, North Korea has thrown a monkey wrench into the process, demanding that the U.S. give Pyongyang a light-water nuclear reactor before it begins disposing of its nukes.

That's a major shift from the agreement that North Korean diplomats signed in Beijing on Monday. Under the terms of that deal, North Korea said it would give up its nuclear arsenal, while agreeing to discuss the reactor issue "at an appropriate time." Barely 24 hours later, Pyongyang said delivery of the reactors was a prerequisite for North Korea to dismantle its nukes.

Does this surprise anyone? I'm not on the staff at Foggy Bottom, but I can't recall a single international agreement that North Korea has actually kept. Lies, subterfuge and double-dealing are standard items in Pyongyang's diplomatic tookbox, and their sudden "addition" to Monday's agreement is hardly a shock. Having extracted a promise for light-water reactors, Pyongyang will now compel the U.S. to make good on that offer, threatening to abandon the non-proliferation agreement if a delivery date isn't established.

The U.S. and Japan will hem and haw, but I'm guessing that we'll ultimately capitulate to North Korea's demands. No one wants a war with North Korea and, from the State Department perspective, even a flawed agreement is better that no agreement.

As an old Korea-hand, I'm a little disturbed that the U.S. is heading down this road again. We made similar promises in the Jimmy Carter-brokered Agreed To Framework of 1994, promising oil deliveries and reactors in exchange for a suspension of North Korea's nuclear efforts. Of course, Pyongyang quickly broke the agreement, continuing to develop nuclear weapons covertly. The North Koreans admitted their deceit in 2002, spurring the current round of six-nation talks aimed at reigning in Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Getting other parties invovled was the right idea, but offering North Korea the same type of carrot--and no stick--is simply bad policy. North Korea perceives (correctly) that it has the U.S. and its partners over a barrel, so it can reluctantly agree to get rid of its nukes, then demand last-minute changes in the agreement, figuring that Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, and even Beijing will eventually come around.

Is there another option? I'd suggest a nuclear laydown on the DPRK, but I don't think the White House will buy off on that idea. Instead, how about making reactor deliver contigent upon full cooperation from North Korea--as verified by the IAEA and inspectors from the five nations that met with Pyongyang in China. Failure to comply will result in immediate referral to the UN Security Council, with the recommendations for economic sanctions and a military quarrantine of North Korea.

Naturally, the Russians and the Chinese wouldn't buy off on that idea, and that kind of talk makes the Japanese and South Koreans nervous. So, we'll keep muddling along the diplomatic track, making more agreements that Pyongyang can violate at its leisure. Based on their track record, North Korea simply cannot be trusted. If we insist on pursuing the diplomatic option--and apparently, it's the only game in town--we need a much tougher verification process that encourages compliance, and not more cheating.

Say Goodnight, Dan

I didn't watch the Emmy Awards Sunday night. Perhaps I'm a bit cranky in my old age, but I find no compelling reason to watch a bunch of self-absorbed media and show business types congratulate each other for their sterling accomplishments in the television industry. Fact is, much of today's programming is pure tripe, even the HBO series that critics typically fawn over.
Apparently, one of the "high points" of Sunday night's broadcast was a salute to the retiring generation of TV anchors. Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw took the stage for that one, and we can assume that the late Peter Jennings was there in spirit. A friend who tuned in said Brokaw seemed slightly bored and (perhaps) a little embarassed by the adulation; Rather, by comparison, seemed to positively revel in the limelight. One year after Rathergate--and being forced from the CBS anchor chair--Gunga Dan seemed grateful for any kudos, even from a bunch of Hollywood twits.

A day after his benedictions at the Emmys, Rather was back in New York, speaking before an audience at Fordham University Law School. Rather was accompanied by Sheila Nevins, President of HBO's documentary unit. Both Rather and Nevins received "lifetime achievement" awards at the news and documentary Emmy Awards ceremony, held in Manhattan last night.

Choking back (crocodile) tears during his Fordham speech, Rather decried a "new journalism order," and the fear the permeates newsrooms. Invoking a Nixonian tone, Rather hinted that politicians have become adept at pressuring the congolmerates which run broadcast news organizations, which (in turn) affects the quality of coverage. He also criticized broadcast news for their "dumbed down, tarted up" coverage of news.

Oh, phul-eeze. One year after getting caught in a journalistic lie, Gunga Dan is still in denial. If politicians were so adept at manipulating news organizations, then his "expose" of George W. Bush's National Guard service would have never seen the light of day. As it was, the report was aired by CBS less than one month before a presidential election, amid considerable publicty and hype. So much of the lobbying efforts of those evil Republicans.

And, lest we forget, the exposure of CBS's lies didn't come from the White House, the corridors of Viacom (which owns CBS), or the Columbia Journalism Review. Instead, Rather's package of distortions, lies and half-truths was exposed by bloggers, ordinary citizens who refuse to accept Dan's reporting without question or scrutiny. You'll note that the pajamas media (to use Jon Klein's term) were not mentioned by Rather at Fordham. Admitting that he was wrong (and the bloggers were right) is simply more than he can admit.

Finally, there is a certain irony in Rather and Nevins being honored for their contributions to documentaries. Actually, few people have done more (other than say, Michael Moore) to destroy the documentary art form. Rather's "report" gave broadcast journalism a black eye from which it may never recover. At HBO, Nevins has presided over documentary series that are designed to titilate, and little else. In recent years, Ms. Nevins has offered profiles of strippers (G-String Divas) and a Nevada brothel. Ed Murrow must be spinning in his grave.

Fifty years ago, comedian Fred Allen spied a bowl of fruit on the top of an early TV, and remarked that it was "the best thing he'd seen on television." A half-century later, Dan Rather could dramatically improve the quality of TV by simply signing off for good, and leaving documentary production to more skilled--and honest--practitioners.

Lessons Learned

The rebuilding effort in the Gulf South has only just begun, but the U.S. military is already trying to absorb the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.

It doesn't take a military genius to understand that the U.S. military will play--indeed, must play--a greater role in future disaster relief operations. Despite a few snafus, it was the military that responded most effectively during those desperate days after the levee broke in New Orleans, flooding the city and stranding thousands of residents.

In preparation for future operations of this type (perhaps as early as this week, as Hurricane Rita churns toward Texas and Louisiana), military leaders are trying to capture some of the major lessons from Katrina, and incorporate them into their data base. Here's a quick list of the Top 5 lessons learned from the Air Force perspective, along with some thoughts on each one.

1. Organization--No Standing Tasking for CONUS Humanitarian Relief Ops. Despite large scale disaters in the past, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the U.S. military has never been formally tasked for this type of operation, and operations plans don't reflect that mission. In the wak of Katrina, this will change. Expect a number of active duty airlift, rescue, medical engineering and security units to gain standing tasking for CONUS-based disaster relief operations, augmenting civlian organizations and state agencies. Of course, it takes a while to develop a plan, so until that happens, the military response will be somewhat ad-libbed.

2. Process--Lack of Direction from JTF Katrina, So We Pushed. This represents the first, veiled criticism of Lt Gen Honore, the JTF commander, who's in charge of directing the military effort. In fairness to him, Honore was breaking new ground and working without a plan. However, some in the military chain feel he should have provided more top-level guidance. Absent that direction, they pushed assets/capabilities forward, allowing the JTF staff to pick and choose what they needed.

3. National Guard Issues--A natural disater in the CONUS can have a major impact on military operations half a world away, as Katrina illustrated. Elements of a Louisiana-based Army National Guard Brigade were released from their Iraq deployment early, to assist in relief efforts in their home state. That created holes in our combat forces that must be filled with other assets. As the hurricane illustrated, the activation of guard units for disaster relief can produce ripples that directly impact combat forces overseas. This possibility must be considered in future operational planning.

4. Lack of a Joint/Inter-Agency Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operational Plan. The hurricane relief effort has illustrated the value of ISR platforms in providing coverage of affected areas, allowing managers to concentrate their efforts in the most critical locations. However, initial coordination of these assets was poor, and in some cases, it was difficult for FEMA to obtain the coverage it needed. Extensive planning and training are needed to break these bottlenecks, and deliver the right products to relief managers immediately following the disaster.

5. Emergency Provisions of the Law. Despite their masterful performance in the Gulf South, there are still legal questions about what military members--doctors, medics, nurses, pararescuemen, combat swimmers, etc--can and cannot do in assisting civilian personnel. The same holds true for using intelligence assets to provide surveillance of devastated areas, populated by U.S. citizens. Collectively, these legal issues will require considerable time and effort to resolve, and some may wind up in the federal courts.

Finally, here's an unstated lesson learned, which I would post as #6: You Can't Do More With Less. It's easy to blame the war in Iraq for hindering the military's ability to respond to natural disasters, but there are other factors as well. Don't forget: Bill Clinton cut four divisions from the Army in the mid-1990s, a net reduction of more than 100,000 troops. Those units would have been valuable in securing Iraq and assisting in disater relief in the Gulf South.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Accuracy in Reporting Department

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Air Force Major General Tommy Crawford, director of the service's Command and Control, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C2ISR) Center was a leading candidate to replace Navy Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Now, a well-placed source tells us that General Crawford was, in fact, the Air Force nominee for that post, but he was passed over in favor of a flag officer from another branch of the military. The DIA directorship rotates among each of the services;when the job comes open, each branch submits candidate and the Defense Secretary makes his selection from among those nominees.

Apparently, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld felt the "Air Force was not right" for the DIA job at this time. The rejection of Crawford is seen as more of a swipe at the Air Force than General Crawford. The C2ISR Center Director is highly regarded in military circles, and is a leading candidate for other three-star positions. Conversely, the Air Force hasn't held the DIA Director's post since the mid-1990s, when Lt Gen Ken Minihan briefly led the agency, before becoming the director of the National Security Agency.

Meanwhile, we can dispel reports that another Air Force officer, Brigadier General William Lord, was another victim of Hurricane Katrina. Rumors suggested that Lord had been removed from his job as Commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler AFB, MS. Like much of the Gulf Coast, Keesler was devastated by the storm; scuttlebutt suggested that Lord was in trouble with his superiors for failing to evacuate the base. In fact, Lord is still on the job and has become something of a local hero for his efforts to restore services at Keesler, and assist the local civilian community. He has also been selected for promotion to Major General.

Calypso Louie Weighs In From the Lunatic Fringe...

"Minister" Louis Farrakhan, the nutjob head of the Nation of Islam, is on a nationwide tour, speaking with people forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

During a stop in Charlotte, Calypso Louie opined that some of the levees in New Orleans may have been deliberately blown up to "destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry."

Farrakhan has a long history of making racist and moronic statements. He once described Jews as "bloodsuckers" and told followers that he communicates the late founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammed, who (according to Louie) is presently orbiting the earth in a spaceship. And, in case you were wondering, Farrakhan also claims that he was abducted by aliens in the past (that part we believe).

What's unbelieveable is that media outlets continue to give Farrakhan air time and print space to spew his vile comments. "Minister" Farrakhan established himself long ago as a bigot, a vicious anti-Semite, a homophobe and a certifiable loon. But reporters are still willing to stick a microphone in front of his face, or scribble down his rantings and take them at face value.

The reporter who covered Calypso Louie in Charlotte, Anna Crowley, should know better. According to her biography, she's a past winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award, one of the most prestigious honors in broadcast journalism. But apparently, she was unwilling or unable to call Farrakhan on his baseless claims, or simply call her assignment desk and suggest they cover a real news story instead.

Incidentally, I did a check of the other Charlotte stations. I couldn't find any coverage of Farrakhan's visit on the website of WSOC, the dominant ABC affiliate, or on the webpage of WBTV, the local CBS station. Perhaps they've already deleted their stories, since Louie's visit occurred earlier this week. Or, perhaps they ignored him altogether. That would be a welcome development.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Scales of Justice

I'm not a lawyer, so someone please explain this one to me.

Remember the teenager who hacked into Paris Hilton's cell phone? He has reportedly been sentenced to 11 months in a juvenile facilityl.

Meanwhile, former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, caught removing classified documents from the National Archive, got a slap on the wrist last week--a $50,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and he loses access to classified materials for three years. It's worth noting that the Bush Justice Department originally proposed only a $10,000 fine for Berger; however, the federal judge who accepted Berger's gility plea raised the fine, saying the proposed fine didn't reflect the seriousness of the offense.

Having held a security clearance for more than two decades, I can assure you that Mr. Berger got off easily. I've seen more than a few military careers end over security violations. If a military member attempted Beger's stunt, he or she would now be a long-term guest of the government, at Fort Leavenworth.

But the normal rules don't apply to a guy like Sandy Berger. In fact, he's undergone something of a rehabilitation in recent months, while awaiting sentencing on the security breach. Not long ago, Berger was at the White House, as a guest of President Bush, publicly endorsing the CAFTA agreement.

Paraphrasing F. Scott Fitzgerald, the rich (and powerful) are different from you and me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why Elections Matter...

If you doubt me, check out this latest judicial outrage from a federal district judge in California. If you win elections, you can appoint men like John Roberts to the bench, and keep idiots like this one out of our courtrooms.

BTW, guess who appointed Judge Karlton to the federal bench?

Chris Schenkel, RIP

There's been a sad decline in the art of sportscasting over the past 20 years. I say "art" because describing a sporting event in the proper context is a dying skill among broadcasters. Today, there's a tendency to bombard the viewer with endless, multiple angle replays and a gazillion graphics. And the egos in the announcing booth are surpassed only by those on the playing field.

That's why I'm saddened by the passing of Chris Schenkel. A generation that grew up on Sportscenter, Pardon the Interruption and Jim Rome probably never heard of Mr. Schenkel, and that's their loss. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, Chris Schenkel was, along with Jim McKay, the voice of ABC Sports when Roone Arledge built that organization into a broadcast powerhouse, and defined the coverage of notable events, including the Olympics.

Schenkel was a consummate broadcaster; great voice, impeccable delivery and most importantly, he knew how to let the event speak for itself. Along the way, he called some of the most memorable moments in sports, ranging from the 1958 "sudden death" NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the NY Giants (still arguably, the greatest football game every played), to Nadia Comaneci's perfect "10" at the 1972 Olympics. He also covered golf and college football with the same understated grace, and for millions of viewers, he was the voice of the Pro Bowlers Tour.

With the advent of Monday Night Football in 1970, Schenkel's style of sportscasting became passe. ABC eventually removed him from most of his assignments, with the exception of bowling. Well into his 70s, Schenkel's familar baritone was a staple of ABC's bowling coverage. He deserved better treatment, but never complained; he just kept doing his job with a degree of skill that few could match.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Schenkel, but I know a few folks who worked with him at ABC. They tell me that he was a rarity among major broadcast personalities; a genuinely humble man who took a personal interest in the lives and careers of his co-workers, from network executives, to lowly gophers. One former ABC staffer told me that Monday Night Football was considered the plum assignment for sports division personnel, but most hated working with the producers and on-air crew (with the exception of Frank Gifford). On the other hand, most welcomed an assignment on a bowling broadcast, because it meant working with Chris Schenkel.

One final note. If you ever want to know how broadcast personalities are regarded by their colleagues, take a trip to the Watercooler forum at Broadcasters, as you'll discover, are not shy in posting their thoughts about the famous and powerful in their business, and it's easy to find a lot of negative posts about media stars. After Chris Schenkel died, I counted 20 posts in a thread about him. Not a single one was negative.

Chris Schenkel was a great broadcaster and a good man. He will be missed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Not My Job

Ever-anxious to shift the blame away from herself, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has again lashed out at FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina, this time for failing to remove the bodies of storm victims fast enough.

Governor Blanco is apparently upset that FEMA hasn't finalized a contract with the company it hired to remove the remains of those killed by the hurricane. "The dead deserve more respect than they've received," she observed.

Or course, one might argue that the dead deserved a governor who didn't jeopardize their lives by delaying a mandatory evacuation order, then botching the evacuation effort once it began. Excuse me, Madam Governor, but if you are so concerned about the loss of life, why didn't you make an effort to get your citizens out of harm's way, and fully implement state and local evacuation plans? Or, if that task was beyond your capabilities, why didn't you accept President Bush's offer, and turn things over to the feds before the situation became a crisis?

And finally, if you're really worried about removing the bodies of Katrina's victims, how about mobilizing some of your state resources? Surely you could spare a few state troopers or national guard troops for the effort. But that would mean taking some measure of responsibility for the debacle in your state, something you clearly don't intend to do.

For sheer, mindless arrogance and incompetence, has there ever been another governor who can match Kathleen Blanco?

Qualified for the Job?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (and FEMA's allegedly slow response), now-departed agency director Michael Brown was criticized for his skimpy resume, and meager qualifications for running a major government organization. While Brown has a law degree (albeit from a second-rate, marginally-credentialed school, Oklahoma City University), he has only limited experience as an attorney. And there is absolutely nothing to indicate any past experience in disaster planning, response coordination or emergency management--required skills for a FEMA director.

Does this lack of experience and expertise extend to others in the response chain? I'll skip the political hacks like Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin, whose staggering incompetence made a dire situation even worse. What about the local managers who were supposed to coordinate the initial response. Did they have the requisite qualifications for their jobs, and did their lack of experience contribute to post-Katrina debacle?

Starting at ground zero, we're already familiar with the collapse of the New Orleans Police Department after the storm. By some accounts, at least one-quarter to one-third of the police force was AWOL after the storm, creating an environment that facilitated wide-spread looting and lawlessness. Some of the cops who stayed on the job even joined in, pilfering items from ransacked stores in the city. The honest officers who stayed on the job were largely isolated and nearly powerless, unable to rescue stranded residents, or control the city's few dry streets.

Coordinating the city's response to the disaster was the responsibility of the New Orleans Department of Homeland Security and its Director, Colonel Terry Ebbert. Colonel Ebbert is a retired Marine officer and decorated combat veteran; as a young lieutenant in Vietnam, Ebbert won the Navy Cross--the nation's second-highest award for valor--for heroism under fire.

But as director of an agency coordinating first responders, Colonel Ebbert's resume has some glaring holes. While he has extensive security experience in the military and private sectors, he (apparently) has little background in disaster management or engineering, seemingly desirable skills in a homeland security director for a city prone to natural disasters.

I've found a brief synopsis of Ebbert's resume on-line, in a program for a homeland security conference held in New Orleans last fall. It certainly looks impressive. According to that document, Ebbert served as Director of the New Orleans Police Foundation prior to assuming the homeland security post in 2003. Before that, Ebbert worked as chief of security for a firm that provides helicopter support for off-shore oil platforms.

During his Marine Corps career, Colonel Ebbert held a variety of staff and security appointments, including Commander of the USMC Basic School, Director of Ground Officer Assignments, and Executive Officer to the Marine Corps Commandant. While those are high-level posts, they apparently provided little or no experience in disaster preparedness, planning or emergency response, critical duties for a city homeland security director.

Despite these shortfalls, Ebbert was hired as the city's homeland security chief in the Fall of 2003. In an interview with Security Management On-Line, Ebbert noted his operational control of New Orleans's police and fire departments, as well as the city's emergency preparedness agency. Shortly after taking office, he centralized planning for the departments and began fielding a high-tech Public Safety Wireless Network (PWSN). Ebbert claimed that the system allowed "all agencies to talk on their own radios, regardless of brand or bandwidth." This network apparently failed miserably during Hurricane Katrina; a number of police officers and firemen told reporters that they "couldn't communicate with anyone," complicating response efforts.

Ebbert also bragged about detailed hurricane planning efforts under his watch:

"We had already established good working relationships for hurricane evacuation planning, even down to hospitals and nursing homes, those types of agencies where we have to evacuate people," he says, "and we're now piggybacking on those relationships."

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, someone needs to ask Colonel Ebbert about those relationships, and why they failed so miserably during the storm. Forty dead bodies found floating in a New Orleans hospital suggest that those "working relationships" were either greatly exaggerated, or city officials--including Ebbert--simply failed to follow their own plans.

In a city like New Orleans--where major hurricanes are an inevitable threat-- questions should be raised about Ebbert's apparent lack of training and experience in such areas as disaster preparedness and engineering. While his background seems suited for some types of homeland security challenges (such as a terrorist attacks) he seems less qualified to lead the response to a natural disaster--as evidenced by the local response in New Orleans. A parking lot full of flooded buses and thousands stranded at the Superdome is glaring proof that the city's homeland security department did not do its job, despite "state-of-the-art communications" and "working relationships."

As New Orleans buries its dead and struggles to recover from Katrina, residents should ask if Colonel Ebbert was indeed, the right man for the city's homeland security job. Ebbert's resume is more impressive than Michael Brown's, but it too, has gaping holes. Did those gaps cost some New Orleans's residents their lives? Those are fundamental questions that must be answered and not ignored by the MSM.

Monday, September 12, 2005

There's Something About Mary

Landrieu, that is...Louisiana's senior senator became positively unhinged during yesterday's appearance on Fox News Sunday. Refusing to acknowledge that state and local officials were even remotely responsible for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina, Senator Landrieu tried--unsuccessfully--to pin the blame on the federal government and President Bush. At one point, Ms. Landrieu states that underfunding of mass transit was the reason that thousands of New Orleans residents were left stranded at the Superdome and convention center.

The Political Teen has the transcript.

Jack Kelley, national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that the federal government largely met its timelines for delivering disaster aid.

That Was the Story That Wasn't

Sitting in front of my computer Sunday morning, I noted a banner headline on Matt Drudge's site. According to Drudge, "scores" of Mississippi National Guard members, now serving in Iraq, had been denied emergency leave to return home and assist their families in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There were no links, but the promise of more details later. "Developing," in Drudge-speak.

There was only one problem, the story was apparently false. Appearing on Fox News Channel Saturday evening, the Mississippi Guard's Adjutant General, Major General Harold Cross, reported that all deployed guardsmen from affected areas had been granted emergency leave, and the last of those soldiers would be home by Monday, 12 September. General Cross also noted that the primary units used for disaster relief are not currently deployed to Iraq, debunking another left-wing talking point.

To his credit, Drudge quickly removed all references to the Mississippi guard story, and there's no link to the original tease in his archives. But it would be very interesting to know what prompted the original headline, and the promise of a subsequent bombshell story. Armed with the facts, Drudge obviously decided there was nothing to the original report and moved on. But sadly, this claim will probably resurface in the mainstream press, as another way to cast blame on the Bush Administration.

BTW, a guard source tells me that the Army granted emergency leave for any deployed guardsman from south Mississippi, no questions asked. For guard members north of Jackson, leave was approved on a case-by-case basis, since those areas were less affected by the storm. I'm guessing that Drudge's initial report may have been based on the grumblings of guard members from northern Mississippi that first appeared on military message boards, and were subsequently re-circulated on liberal web sites.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Good News from Iraq

You won't find this in the MSM, but the number of vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks in Iraq has declined dramatically in recent months. According to a source familar with the totals, there were rougly 125 VBIED attacks in Iraq in May; by August, that number had declined to 68. Another stat you won't find in The New York Times: since the Iraq War began, at least 25% of all VBEIDs have been found and cleared before they detonated. That translates into hundreds--perhaps thousands--of lives saved.

With the decrease in VBIED attacks, there has been a corresponding increase in attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). But (again) you won't hear the reason for that shift in tactics. Using IEDs allows the jihadists to conserve strained personnel resources. Apparently, there are fewer suicide bombers willing to die for the cause, and fewer fighters available for direct attacks against coalition forces, prompting a shift to less risky IED attacks, which require fewer personnel.

The Circular Firing Squad Forms

It looks like the Democrats' unified "Blame Bush" front is beginning to fray, at least in Louisiana. ABC News reports that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is pointing the finger of guilt at Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. We're still waiting for the governor's return salvo.

Meanwhile, Greyhawk at The Mudville Gazette reminds us that Nagin and Blanco have a history of bad blood.

A New Low

Just when you thought the radical left couldn't stoop any lower, they somehow manage to reach a new level of feckless behavior.

Consider their new attack ad, targeting Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts. According to USA Today, the TV spot (produced by uses images of black hurricane survivors to suggest that Roberts is insensitive to the plight of minorities.

The USA Today reporter, Mark Memmott, calls the images "part of a provactive. last-minute effort" to divert Roberts' confirmation. I call them shameless. The ad debuts next Monday--you be the judge.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Is Al Franken Ready for His Perp Walk?

When prosecutors in Palm Beach County, Florida went after Rush Limbaugh for "doctor shopping" in an effort to obtain pain killers, left-wing loon Al Franken chortled, saying he couldn't wait for El Rushbo's "perp walk."

Fast forward two years. Thanks to a recent court ruling, the case against Rush is in tatters. And, thanks to the growing Air America scandal, it looks like Franken might be taking a perp walk at some point in the future.

In their continuing investigative series on the Air America scam, Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney have caught Mr. Franken in a major lie regarding the struggling network's finances. You may recall that Air America's star host has claimed that he knew nothing (until recently) of the $875,000 "loan" from the Brox-based Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, and the original owners of the liberal radio network. Now, Malkin and Maloney have unearthed legal documents--signed by Franken--which transferred the assets of Air America to its new owners, Piquant Media.

According to the document, Piquant acknowledged the loan from Gloria Wise, and agreed to repay it. Of course, some of the money from the Boys and Girls Club allegedly came from federal programs, designed to aid underprivileged youth and Alzheimer's patients. One of Air America's creditors has labeled the asset transfer a "fraudulent conveyance." Authorities in New York are now looking into Air America's shady finances, including the transfer from Gloria Wise. Based on his signature, Mr. Franken knew of the "loan" at the time Piquant took control of Air America in November of last year--months before his original timeline.

Let's see...Al Franken was a signatory to a deal that may have been fraudulent. I'm not a lawyer, but wouldn't that make him a co-conspirator? I'm also wondering if New York investigators have talked with Mr. Franken, and how his original "version" of events squares with the reality of those legal documents.

In any event, Mr. Franken has some 'splainin to do. And if the answers aren't satisfactory, he might be doing a perp walk in the very near future, as the crooks from Air Enron, er America face the bar of justice.

How It Happened

Rightwing Nuthouse has the best chronology to date of how the tragedy in New Orleans unfolded. Based largely on local media coverage (with detailed links), Nuthouse (aka Rick Moran) paints a picture of inaction, indecision and incompetence at the state and local levels, before, during and after the storm.

It's a damning indictment--and one you'll never see in the MSM.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

She's Got Her Priorities Straight...

Another example of Kathleen Blanco's sterling leadership. Amid the worst disaster in her state's history, here's a press release issued by her office on Monday. Hat tip to news anchor (and blogger) Todd Rossnagel of WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge:

Press ReleasesDate: 9/5/2005

Contact: XXXXXX at 225-XXX-XXXX

Governor Blanco Sends Daughters to Visit Louisiana Evacuees at Houston AstrodomePool video will be available at 2:15 p.m. CST and 3:15 p.m. EST.Satellite Coordinates are following: AMC XTransponder XX-30-

I'm sure the evacuees were suitably impressed.

Stepping into the Minefield

President Bush has just announced that he will personally oversee an investigation into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Call me a bit slow on the uptake, but I'm still scratching my head over this one. Admittedly, the federal government might have been a bit faster in its initial response. I say "a bit" because it takes time to position and stage resources in responding to a disaster, as noted by the commander of Joint Task Force Katrinia, Lt Gen Russell Honore. We can also debate the qualifications of his homeland security chief (Michael Chertoff) and FEMA Director, Michael Brown.

What's disturbing is Bush's apparent willingness to focus on the federal response, while giving an apparent pass to Louisiana officials, whose incompetence and inaction set the stage for the catastrophe. Maybe I'm missing somethinig here, but any inquiry into the failures surrounding this disaster must include the local response, before, during and after the storm. And, since the federal government provides funding for a number of local programs and organizations--including the National Guard--the Bush Administration has the authority (IMO) to look into the local response as well.

Perhaps Mr. Bush believes that New Orleans and the state of Louisiana will conduct their own inquiries. Riiight....political corruption has been elevated to an art in the Bayou State, and the chances for an independent, honest inquest into the failures associated with the hurricane are approximately zero.

The proposed inquiry will be a repeat of the 9-11 Commission, with lots of administration bashing, but little effort to investigate the long-term, systemic failures that led to the debacle in the first place. And guess who's leading the charge for that sort of inquiry.

By trying to get in front of the investigation "groundswell," Mr. Bush has taken an ill-advised step into a political minefield. The left-wing moonbat brigade and their cohorts in the MSM must be positively salivating over this boneheaded move.

The Usual Idiots...

Given the left's absolute, moon-bat lunacy in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I must (regretfully) place the Idiot of the Day Award on hiatus.

However, I will (as a public service) provide periodic links to some of their more insane rants.

We'll begin with Sean Penn, fresh from his latest foreign correspondent adventure in Tehran. Still waiting for that next acting job, Mr. Penn apparently decided to mount his own personal rescue mission in New Orleans. Somewhere along the way, he took a predictable swipe at President Bush. Let the record show that Penn's errand of mercy foundered because he forgot to install his boat's drain plug, and the craft began taking on water. He was last seen trying to bail out his boat with a red plastic cup.

Another Hollywood stalwart, actor Pierce Brosnan, has also weighed in, saying that President Bush has a "lot to answer for." As far as I can tell, Mr. Brosnan's expertise in natural disasters consists of a starring role in the 1997 film Dante's Peak, a fictional account of a volcanic eruption. Of course, by the standards of today's MSM, that makes Mr. Brosnan an authority.

Leadership vs. Chickenship

If you're looking for a guest speaker for your next corporate event or off-site, give Chief Master Sergeant Patrick McFaddin (USAF Retired) a call. Chief McFaddin is one of the more gifted leaders in recent Air Force history and he's an entertaining speaker on such topics as ethics, integrity and leadership.

From Chief McFaddin's perspective, efforts to lead generally fall into two categories, leadership and chickenship. You don't need an Ivy League MBA to define either term, and sadly, both have been on display in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Let's start with the leadership category. Army Lieutenant General Russell Honore and his staff deserve enormous credit for ending the chaos in the Gulf South, and initiating the flow of badly-needed aid to storm victims. Critics have claimed that the federal relief effort was slow to start, but they don't understand the enormity of the disaster, or the time required to marshal, mobilize and direct required resources. Active duty and national guard units have done a masterful job in rescuing New Orleans residents, and moving them out of the city--often at great risk to themselves.

A case in point: the airspace over New Orleans and southern Mississippi is now the most crowded low-level airspace in the United States, but air traffic control support is minimal, thanks to the damage inflicted on radars and ATC facilities by Katrina. At one point last week, much of the air traffic control for the hundreds of helicopters and aircraft transiting the area was performed by a USAF AWACS E-3 and a Navy E-2C Hawkeye. The Hawkeye and AWACS crews have performed brillantly, deconflicting air traffic throughout the disaster region. So far, there has been only one accident; a relief helicopter crashed near New Orleans Sunday evening, possibly due to mechanical problems. The crew escaped with minor injuries. So, give the air planners, unit commanders and flight crews a A+ for leadership, too.

On the chickenship side, let's begin with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Mayor Nagin spent much of last week complaining about the flow of aid to his beleaguered city, but it's now clear that Nagin could have prevented some of the suffering, if he had simply followed New Orleans's existing disaster plan. Chris Ruddy of Newsmax has provided key excerpts from that plan:

"The authority to order the evacuation of residents threatened by an approaching hurricane is conferred to the Governor by Louisiana Statute. The Governor is granted the power to direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from a stricken or threatened area within the State, if he deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery. The same power to order an evacuation conferred upon the Governor is also delegated to each political subdivision of the State by Executive Order. This authority empowers the chief elected official of New Orleans, the Mayor of New Orleans, to order the evacuation of the parish residents threatened by an approaching hurricane."

" The City of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas. Those evacuated will be directed to temporary sheltering and feeding facilities as needed. When specific routes of progress are required, evacuees will be directed to those routes. Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life saving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed. ..."

" Evacuation procedures for small scale and localized evacuations are conducted per the SOPs of the New Orleans Fire Department and the New Orleans Police Department. However, due to the sheer size and number of persons to be evacuated, should a major tropical weather system or other catastrophic event threaten or impact the area, specifically directed long range planning and coordination of resources and responsibilities efforts must be undertaken

The city's plan even calls for the use of school buses to evacuate residents from New Orleans. However, most of the city's buses remained parked in their compound and now sit under 4-5 feet of water. Using only 200 of those vehicles, a single "bus lift" could have moved more than 13,000 residents to safety, well before the hurricane arrived. BTW, Plaquemines Parrish, located south of New Orleans, used school buses to support its evacuation efforts--why didn't Ray Nagin follow his own plan?

Mayor Nagin's incompetence is matched only by Louisiana's Governor, Kathleen Blanco. According to various media accounts, it took phone calls from President Bush and Max Mayfield (Director of the National Hurricane Center) to convince Blanco to order mandatory evacuations from low-lying areas in her state. But she resisted pleas to "federalize" the initial response, saying she needed more time to make her decision. By the time she finally acted, the storm had passed, New Orleans levees had collapsed and much of the city was underwater. BTW, Governor Blanco did authorize the use of school buses to aid in evacuation. She signed the order last Friday, almost five days after the storm.

There are others who deserve the chickenship award as well. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu threatened to "punch President Bush in the nose" if he criticized the response of local law enforcement. Senator Landrieu may be proud of the New Orleans police department, but the facts contradict her praise. By some estimates, as many as one-third of the department's officers went AWOL during the storm, and others openly participated in the looting. Order was not restored in the Crescent City until General Honore's military police arrived on the scene.

At least two other officials also earned the chickenship sobriquet. Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff seemed unaware of the chaos at the Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center last Thursday, despite near-constant media coverage from reporters
at the scene. And, there's the issue of how Mike Brown got the job as FEMA Director. His resume seems paper-thin. Before assuming his present job, he served as executive director of a horse breeding association.

Predictably, the MSM has been giving local officials a pass on their decision-making, while pointing the finger of blame at President Bush and the feds. But any objective observer can see that the early, critical mistakes were made at the state and local level, setting the stage for the debacle that followed. Chickenship was center stage in New Orleans city hall and the governor's office in Baton Rouge last week.

Friday, September 02, 2005

CNN Wins Again

Back on 29 June, I saluted CNN's Carol Costello as this blog's first "Idiot of the Day," for her uninformed comments about Saddam and Al Qaida, during an interview with a Republican Congressman. In that post, I relayed a joke played on her by one of Ms. Costello's co-anchors, Jack Cafferty. Mr. Cafferty, it seems, placed quarters inside the copies of newspapers placed on her anchor desk. If she had bothered to actually pick the paper up and read it, the quarters would have fallen to the floor, alerting the crew that Ms. Costello was scanning something besides the Teleprompter.

Turns out that Ms. Costello isn't the only lightweight on CNN's anchor roster. A couple of days ago, Mr. Cafferty offered his own moronic musings on the situation in New Orleans, earning him the coveted "Idiot of the Day" Award.

Appearing yesterday on that dreadful Wolf Blitzer show, Situation Room, Cafferty launched into an anti-Bush tirade: "I have never seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as the situation in New Orleans. Where the hell is the water for those people? Why can't sandwiches be dropped to those people that are in the Superdome?"

A sandwich drop, Jack? Riiiight...Only a couple of problems with that. First of all, let's say you drop these Big Macs or Po' boys from a flight of helicopters, hoveing over the dome. That should be enough to trigger a riot, mass stampede, or both. How many more would die--needlessly--in a mad scramble for sandwiches? Of course, that assumes that all the vittles land on dry ground, and not in the water that covers 80% of New Orleans.

Okay, you don't want to use helicopters? How about an Air Force C-130; a transport that size could hold thousands of sandwiches. Conceivably, you could feed the entire crowd with a single drop. But there are problems with that plan, too. First of all, in a urban environment, the C-130 would have to drop from a higher altitude. And, to ensure that most of the food reaches intended recipients, the sandwiches would have to be loaded into heavy, parachute-retarded pallets. If those pallets land in the crowd, they could kill people; a drop away from the dome runs the risk of putting the pallets in the water, despite the extraordinary skill of the C-130 crew. And simply tossing the sandwiches out the back isn't a viable option, either. Would you attempt to catch a sandwich, falling at terminal velocity, from a release altitude of 1-2,000 feet--the minimum safe altitude for a drop in urban New Orleans.

But such concerns clearly didn't deter Mr. Cafferty. Perhaps he was inspired by that classic episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where the station sponsored a Thanksgiving Turkey Drop. Not realizing that turkeys can't fly, the 'KRP crew released them from a helicopter, with predictable results. Based on the laws of physics, Cafferty's sandwich drop would produce a similar disaster, although there's some doubt as to whether the CNN windbag ever took a class in physics or logic.

For stupidity on a grand scale, Jack Cafferty of CNN is the worth recipient of the Les Nessman/Golden Sow/Idiot of the Day Award.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Raising the Bar

Remember President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" reform program for the nation's schools? Mr. Bush offered more help for troubled schools, but demanded accountability and compliance in return. More than three years into the program, this approach appears to be working in Memphis, thanks to the Bush reforms, and a no-nonsense superintendent.

Intel Rumors of the Day

After 9-11, President Bush has demonstrated that his commitment to intelligence reforms goes beyond mere rhetoric. Last fall, he appointed former Florida Congressman Porter Goss as CIA Director. Since then, Mr. Goss has embarked on a thorough house-cleaning at Langley, eliminating deadwood and malcontents who tried to undermine national policy through media leaks and "tell-all" books. Goss has also refocused the agency's efforts in human intelligence, covert operations and open source intelligence, its primary responsibilities under the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) construct.

As the reform program presses ahead at the CIA, another spy agency is due for an overhaul. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) made its share of mistakes before and after 9-11, and the Pentagon and the White House may be planning a similar mucking-out at that agency. A few months back, President Bush denied a request by the DIA Director (Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby) for another year on the job, an apparent indication of dissatisfaction with his performance, and that of his agency.

Now, with Jacoby's retirement looming, a search for his replacment is underway. Recent speculation has focused on Air Force Major General Tommy Crawford as a possible successor. Crawford currently leads the Air Force's Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AFC2ISR) Center at Langley AFB, Virginia. In that position, General Crawford is in charge of dveloping and integrating cutting-edge technology and systems relating to command and control and intelligence.

A career fighter pilot, General Crawford previously served as Deputy Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), where he worked for General Mike Hayden, now the Deputy Director of National Intelligence (DDNI). Crawford's appointment as DIA Director would almost certainly bear General Hayden's stamp of approval. And, despite his limited intel experience, Crawford has impressed intelligence professionals who have worked with him in previous assignments.

One more rumor worth repeating: the Air Force's top intelligence job would become a three-star billet under a reported realignment of the Air Staff, being considered by incoming Chief of Staff, General Mike Moseley. Currently, the Air Force's senior intel officer is part of a larger XOI function within the Pentagon. The realignment of the Air Staff intel function--and re-designation as the A-2 function--suggests that intelligence will be an even higher priority under General Moseley, who assumes his new post on September 2nd.

The Blame Game...

On the heels of Katrina's rampage across the Gulf South, the finger-pointing has already begun.

From the on-line edition of the German magazine Spiegel, Clinton apologist Sidney Blumenthal weighs in. Managing to wrap all of the radical left talking points into a single package--he even works Haliburton into the diatribe --Blumenthal suggests that President Bush is somehow responsible for the disaster in New Orleans. Blumenthal claims that the Bush Administration cut flood control funding for the city by 44% to pay for the Iraq War.

Of course, Sid's argument has more than a few holes in it. First of all, warnings about the impact of a major hurricane on New Orleans date back at least two decades. But Congress didn't get around to creating the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project until 1995, when Blumenthal's crew was running the White House. Did the Clinton Administration identify this project as a top funding priority? Apparently not. As with many Corps of Engineers projects, the flood control effort meandered along, much like the Mississippi River through New Orleans. And what about the Mississippi Gulf coast, which was hit just as hard by a 23-foot storm surge that devastated Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula and other cities. Efforts--and funding--to alleviate the effects of hurricanes in that region received virtually no attention from the Clinton White House, or more recently, from the Bush Administration. But Sid ignores the tragedy in Mississippi-- a state that his old boss wrote off long ago.

I haven't done an exhaustive analysis of the numbers, but from what I've read, the federal government has spent about $425 million on flood control in the region over the past decade; that translates to about $40 million a year, far below the amount required to build a higher, redundant levee system. By some estimates, New Orleans needed a network of triple levees, at least 10 feet higher, to provide adequate protection from a Category 4 or 5 storm. Yearly funding for the project did not increase significantlu under the Clinton or Bush Administrations, despite warnings from experts.

And what about local contributions? There, the numbers get a little fuzzy. Apparently, local officials in New Orleans saw flood control as a federal problem. Fair enough, but if they were so concerned about a potential disaster, why did they allow continued development in flood-prone areas? Or why were some federal dollars spent on other projects--such as a highway bridge--that had little to do with the overall flood control effort. The seeds of what happened in New Orleans were sown locally--not just in Washington, D.C.

There will probably be Congressional hearings on the disaster in New Orleans, and there's plenty of blame to go around. But assigning blame soley on the Bush Administration is short-sighted and inappropriate, at a time when Katrina's survivors are in desperate need of assistance.