Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Anticipatory Warrants

Orin Kerr bloggged yesterday about anticipatory warrants. He thinks they conflict with the text of the 4th amendment, because
The Fourth Amendment states that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause." Anticipatory warrants are warrants that issue without probable cause; the probable cause comes after the warrant has been issued.


Note how Breyer replaces the textual requirement that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause" with a somewhat different inquiry into whether the warrant "can help assure that the search takes place" when probable cause exists.

I posted a comment on that thread, basically making the following point:

A judge's role, in issuing a warrant, is to decide whether the facts, as represented by the police, constitute probable cause. It is not the judge's role to test that representation. If the police turn out not to have told the truth, then the warrant can be challenged, and retroactively invalidated.

Here, the judge is giving the police exactly the same trust: to say that the event that would constitute probable cause has happened. What difference does it make whether the police make that determination before or after the warrant is issued?

I don't see anything in the text of the amendment that says the probable cause has to exist at the time the warrant issues. All it says is that the warrant shall not issue except on probable cause; it doesn't say whether this probable cause has to exist at the time the warrant issues, or at some later time.

And this way, the police can't claim that they didn't know what was relevant. They've been told in advance what to look for, and if it doesn't happen they're on notice that they can't do the search.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Another poll

Patrick Ruffini is running another Presidential straw poll. This time, he's put up 12 candidates: Gingrich is out, Barbour and Pawlenty are in. This is good. Barbour has acquitted himself well in the past month, and Pawlenty continues to do a pretty good job in Minnesota. Captain Ed seems very impressed with Pawlenty, and it's mostly on that basis that I went for him in this poll. My fantasy candidate is still Cheney. If this were an actual GOP primary, I'd think twice about voting for Cheney, because I'd be concerned about his ability to win the general election. But in an ideal world, I'd love to see Cheney take over the presidency; back in 2000 I expressed the wish that both major-party tickets were reversed, since both Cheney and Lieberman would make far better presidents than their respective main acts.

Unfortunately, Rudy Guiliani is once again far in the lead. All I can say is "what on earth are you people thinking", and refer you to my previous comments. I lived in his NYC, and believe me, you don't want that. I don't want to use the F word gratuitously, especially since in the past he has taken it as a slur against his ethnic origin, but believe me, "authoritarian" is putting it mildly. I shudder to think of what this man would do with the USA PATRIOT act at his disposal. Defenders of that act insist that to date it has been used judiciously, and that the current administration can be trusted not to abuse it, and all in all I tend to believe them; but they will not be in office much longer, and if Guiliani gets his hands on it the nightmares of the Bush-haters may come closer to fruition.

In any case, have your say, and, if you feel like it, comment here on how you voted and why.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cindy Tries To Restart Her Circus

Ciny Sheehan, the "peace mom" with a whole lot of really nutty ideas that the media keeps failing to mention in profiles of her, was just arrested outside the White House for blocking a public walkway. It was an obvious ploy to thrust herself back into the public eye after this weekend's "antiwar" march in Washington (read Anti-Isreal, anti-Bush) failed to bring much attention to her, party because the anti-war movement continues to lack a cohesive message and partly due to way too much Hurricane coverage.

I watched Sheehan get arrested on MSNBC. She was smiling and quite happy about the entire thing. I know the Park Police, who can't just let her sit there and impeed traffic, had to arrest her. However, I hate this kind of tactic because it's a cynical ploy to gain attention, and it always works. I'm sure Chris Matthews will be up in arms tonight, and the Kos Kids will start crying "police state". Hopefully, she'll continue to be ignored.

Friday, September 23, 2005

You Can't Say That

Some bloggers have been having fun with Oliver Willis's attack on Captain Ed for having the gall to describe Michael Steele as "articulate". Now, in responding to this attack, the Captain puts his foot in it yet again:
Politics has many inarticulate boobs in office and out
How... sexist!

Jonah Goldberg Feels My Pain

I feel a bit like I could have written today's Goldberg File. He writes that politics has "become such a hard slog". Sing it, brother.

Reply to Reply

Kodos, thanks for the response.

Starting with the war. Of course war entails risks and mistakes and all sorts of things can go wrong. But my beef with the war is not that we went to Iraq, it's what we've done there since we took over. While I can point to many positive things that are happening there, certainly many more than get reported, I can't point to one that the Bush Administration is particularly responsible for. The positive stories are about the resiliance of the Iraqis or that some US military unit or another has helped bridge some cultural divide. That's great, and Sistani coming out in favor of the draft Consitution is helpful as well. But everything that has gone wrong there, and it's a lot, seems in my mind to be the fault of the planning for the occupation, or lack thereof. The insurgency seemed to take us by surprise, and then we did little to stop it in it's infancy. We seemed to either be running in place or simply standing still, and this was not just another mistake, it was one of the biggest mistakes we could have made. And that comes from the top. So, yes, we should suck it up and stop the insurgecy, I'm saying that poor leadership from the White House have led us to this tipping point. That's what's pissed me off.

As for Religious Conservatives, their support of Isreal is perhaps their only saving grace, and it is not enough for me to be comfortable with them. When they want to start banning books and teaching creationism in the schools, because ID is just creationism with junk science attached, I'm going to have to say it's time for them to go. You write that evolution is "an unarguable cornerstone of modern science". Well, the theocons, as it were, don't believe in it, and don't want it taught. That's their ultimate goal, and in some areas of the country, not just the south, they're working actively towards that goal. Am I going to embrace the junk science that fuels the environmentalist movement? Of course not. Science should not be political, for the most part, save for some ethical debates. Laurie David and RFK Jr. are just as hypocritical and self-serving as Falwell and Pat Robertson. I reject both. But I think a smart, Republican foreign policy can exist as you describe it without any theocon involvement, and for me, if I am to stay with the GOP, or at least vote for them on a National level, the Religious Right must go. It's that simple.

I also have much less hope in the power of blogging. Currently, blogs are riding high, but longterm, the signs are there that blogs are going to become just another partisan force. The Kos Kids want nothing less than the total takeover of the Democratic Party, which, if achieved, would make them a party organ, more or less. Powerline and Hugh Hewitt have become apologists for the mistakes of the administration. Hewitt's current hackery is especially dismaying. Powerline let their Time thing go to their heads, but Hugh, while still smart and funny, is no longer a Republican blogger. He's Republican PR.

If a good GOP candidate comes along, I'll support him or her. And you won't see me pulling the Dem lever any time soon. And I'll be actively involved in the 2008 GOP presidential primary. But if whoever I choose to support loses simply because he failed to pander to, say the theocons or if he's just a party hack who feels it's his term, like John Kerry was for the Dems, then the GOP can get bent. I'll go found my own third party if I have to at that point. That's all I have to say on it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reply to Monty

Your disillusionment with the Republicans is more than understandable, it is the healthy response. The profligate spending is nauseating & dangerous. The lack of articulation on war aims frustrating. The immigration proposals an abdication of sovereignty. W is no conservative and we are suffering.

So, your interests are not being represented by the political class, what can you do?

You can dream up all kinds of things that could help: term limits, saner redistricting, a third party. Yet if it’s really not gonna happen, you may be weakening your influence and helping politicians rise that are anathema to your beliefs. I don’t mean to insult, as I realize this argument is as persuasive as the Simpson’s episode where Kodos & Kang are running for President and plan to enslave the world. When someone mentions a third-party , Kang (or Kodos) replies: “Go ahead throw you vote away”.

Political leadership circa 2005 sucks.

So I have no solutions. Perhaps I had less illusions to burst. Yet it adds up differently for me.

I would easily support (though not vote for) democratically decided pro-abortion & gay marriage laws. Evolution is an unarguable cornerstone of modern science. Are theocons are a threat ? Consider the left, whose quasi-religious beliefs are actually stopping Artic drilling, nuclear power & building refineries? We are fighting real religious nuts that would enslave & kill us and have a fifth column in the U.S. (calling them freedom fighters), so I can’t get worked up over ID.

I for one often welcome the religious right, not least because they support Israel when the Jewish left & academia can’t, but because they are part of the American grass root conservative movement. Want the right parties of Canada & Europe? Elite Modern Tory Conservatism? bah. Even if you are not religious you must thank G*d we have some sort of fiscally responsible, market oriented, forward-leaning anti-terrorism foreign policy, flat-tax home for ideas in a viable political party. These ideas might not hold sway, but I hope we are we drifting rightward (although it seems in a two step forward, one step backward kind of a way).

Why hope? Technology. Bloging is changing how information disseminates . More people read about Clinton’s shameful bashing of Bush (in context) last week than saw the original show. Imagine a world where demagoguery is exposed in real time. This changing media is changing real policy choices that emerge. The fourth estate is crumbling into something new. Moveon shows that money can be raised without parties. Fundamental institutions are being shaken. Many things are unclear but one thing isn’t. Individuals will be more powerful.

I cannot understand third part talk. This is more than the best being the enemy of the good. To me, a Libertarian vote is not serious. We have senators calling for wage and price caps. How much would it take for withdrawal from Iraq to start building steam? Less than makes me feel comfortable. We are in a battling as gruesome an enemy as the Nazi’s and some in the left find common cause.

What can we do to advance our polices under these conditions? Somehow abandoning the Republicans feels wrong. I choose to oppose the left. The right is getting more corrupt , no doubt. I am not repelled by the thecons, though way to much on the left is repellent.

Finally your war position. Wars involve crazy risks and mistakes. A civil war (which actually may be in our long term interests as the best way to split-off moderate Muslims world-wide) ,may have happened despite the best possible US actions. For me, if the west can’t handle Iraq, then sharia’s a’commin. I choose to suck it up.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Short and to the point

The phone just rang.

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hello, this is Shelly Gooden. Can Mike Bloomberg count on your support in the coming election?
Me: No, he can not.
Caller: Thank you.

The GOP-It's Not For Me

It took the Republican Party 40 years to regain control of Congress, poised as a lean, mean tax cutting/spending cutting machine. It took less than 10 years for that same party to become what it once despised: corrupt, pork-loving spendaholics who've completely lost touch with reality, or are too in bed with special interetest to care. Save for some Congressmen who still remember what the Party of Reagan once believed in, I have to take the Orwell Animal Farm quote path on Tom Delay's recent comments about "winning" the war on budget fat. What a load. DeLay should be forced to re-read the "Contract With America" that he signed a decade ago, because he's in breach.

When it comes to spending in Congress, the only difference between the GOP now and the Dems then is who gets the money. I'm now firmly in the Andrew Sullivan camp on this. Both parties are now for large government, and fiscal conservatism as we know it is dead. Lewis Black once said that the Democrats are the party of No Ideas, and the Republicans are the Party of Bad Ideas. This statement was made in the late 90's, so we can forgive Mr. Black for thinking the Republicans had any ideas at the time. Currently, they haven't come up with anything new since 2000, and what they have proposed they've done a piss-poor job of selling. I wish they had some bad ideas. It would be a change of pace.

Nothing would please me more at this point than to see the Democrats take back the House and Senate in 2006. Why? Because it might wake the GOP up to the fact that their is something seriously wrong with their current governing phiosophy, and because I don't see the Democrats doing any worse when it comes to handling our money. Since 2001, the size of the federal government has risen 33%. That same study shows a budget deficit of $873 Billion by 2015. That, fellow conservatives, is unnaceptable for a "conservative" President and a "conservative" Congress. I want to vomit reading that. So I'm going to add my voice to the debate on Conservatism that Peggy Noonan has suggested. Here are some ideas.

The President rightly campaigned to fix Social Security so that the next generation won't have to pay for this one. Well I'm proposing a freeze on any tax cuts, ESPECIALLY the Estate Tax, for the time being. You don't cut taxes and increase spending. The idea behind the Reagan Revolution was to cut taxes AND spending. I'd love lower taxes, but guess what: the Republican Congress SPENT any other tax cuts we might get. It's already gone. So for the next few years, expect higher taxes because your money is theoretically gone anyway.

It's also time for some spending cuts. The new blog-project Porkbusters is a good idea, but they've only found $13 Billion to cut so far. Talk to me when they find $100 Billion or so. $13 Billion is nothing, a drop in the bucket. We have to start seriously cutting government by first doing away with the Department of Homeland Security. It was a bad, bad, bad idea, and the failure of FEMA proves once again that creating new govenrment agencies is not the way to streamline government or make it more efficient. Take a look at the DHS orginizational chart. It's awful. So erase the whole mess, go back to the way it was set up before. The only real change needed after 9/11 was a renewed focus on the middle east by the CIA, greater information sharing between agencies, and some new law enforcement tools. The PATRIOT Act has probably done more to combat terrorism than the whole DHS every will. Bush was right to oppose it to begin with, then he bowed to public pressure. Time to right a wrong, Mr. President.

The Republicans used to talk about doing away with the Dept. of Education as well. It too is a bloated wasteland of inefficency. The "initiatives" section of the Department should be cut, wholesale. Some programs, such as Federal Student Aid could be transferred to Treasury, the Office for Civil Rights is redundant when there are federal agencies that do that already, the Safe and Drug-Free Schools office should be disbanded, etc. etc. Killing off the Department would eliminate untold ammounts of bureaucracy and probably make schooling in the US better. A double win!

The point is that Conservatism in America, at least the Conservatism I encounterd when I first became politically aware, was for smaller government and lower taxes. I think it still can be, or at least it can be rebuilt into something Barry Goldwater might recognize. However, Conservatives face a tough choice: Do we stick by the Republicans, hoping things get better? Or is it time to start a third party, maybe absorb some libertarians, create a party that does not bow too much to the religious minority "conservatives", who are not really conservatives but traditionalists who would do the Republic greater harm than a San Fransisco judge ever could?

For me, well, I don't trust the GOP anymore. I say, screw 'em. The President has lost my faith, completely. And I worked to reelect him, and I beleived a lot of what he said, which makes this even harder for me. As much as I desperately want Iraq to succeed, if the upcoming vote on the Consitution in Iraq fails, it will mark our ultimate failure there. Speaking to guys I know who spent time there feel a failed vote will lead to a civil war, which they also feel is kind of going on already. Of course, it might pass, though as this point, anything is possible. I believe that this was not inevitable, that we could have gotten most of it right. That the Bush administration has been so monstrously incompetent in so many areas is both simply shocking and the only consistent thing about the occupation in Iraq. Only the Afghans seem to have gotten things right. Perhaps it's because ethnic hatred is far rarer amongst them then in Iraq, or perhaps we had our best people there. Either way, if Iraq is lost, it will not be because of the soldiers, but the White House and the DoD, for not planning for the occupation. I say, we reclaim the title of Classical Liberal for our new movement, and let the left take it's true title- "progressive". Classical Liberalism, which championed smaller government and personal freedoms, is closer to what I wanted out of the GOP in the first place. American Liberalism is watered-down progressivism, sort of socialist-light, and one only needs to read the Huffington Post to see it's ideas aren't going anywhere. Let them have that label. I'm sick of supporting a corrupt congress and a President who is fearfully out of touch. They have ruined the term conservative. They have shamed Ronald Reagan while plastering his name everywhere. They are simply out of control. I want out, though certainly not off to the Dems. Is anyone coming with me?

(Edit: Truth be told, Bush lost me forever when he said Intelligent Design should be tought in schools. The rest has just been steam building up until I ruptured)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More oh, oh

One of the major arguments made for term limits is that good people who spend too much time in the capital, hanging around lobbyists and people whose life is government, have a regrettable tendency to go native. Tom DeLay used to be one of the best House members. It's such a pity to see him in his undignified dotage. Someone should have the decency to draw a curtain. (HT: Instapundit)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Oh, oh

Roberts just spoke about the Commerce Clause, and I really really really do not like the implication in what he said. Without actually saying so, he seemed to say that Lopez and Morrison are aberrations.

PS: Sessions is an idiot.

UPDATE (15-Sep): He really does seem to believe the Commerce Clause can cover almost anything. This is not good. I want a justice who does not believe in Wickard, and, should he get the chance, would vote to overturn it. I was promised a Scalia or a Thomas, and I feel cheated. Roberts may be good, but it appears he's no Thomas, and not even a Scalia.

Oxymoron of the year: Communist Mickey Mouse

Good old Drudge is linking to a story about the opening of Hong Kong Disneyworld with this picture and caption:

"Communist Mickey Mouse"

I'm sorry, but if anyone can crush Communism, it's Mickey Mouse.

Men Crying

Instapundit has a post about men crying. Apparently this doesn't go over very well in the macho USA. Ankle Biting Pundits and Ann Althouse both think that a Senator shouldn't cry at a confirmation hearing, and the Instawife thinks police chiefs who've been through hell shouldn't cry on camera either.

My mind goes back to Bob Hawke, who was famous for crying in public. At the most convenient times, too.

The first time I remember was when he was "forced by his conscience" to defy his party discipline in order to vote for sending peacekeepers to the Sinai (to supervise the Camp David treaty). This was, of course, before he became Prime Minister. His support for Israel, in opposition to the general anti-zionism in the Labor Party, was mostly genuine, I think; but this display didn't exactly hurt him with the press, or with Jewish donors.

The second time was when, just when he needed a boost in the polls, he revealed that his daughter was a drug addict, and he cried about it, and his vote among female voters went through the roof.

The third time was when he confessed to having cheated on Hazel, and cried genuine tears of bitter remorse, on TV. By that time we were used to the sight, though, and I'm not sure how many people bought it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Silent Running is back

After its host went down with all hands (and all backups), Silent Running is back up. Not quite its old self, yet, but There Is Hope. And Trebuchets.


It just gets worse. This is unbelievable.
Amtrak had decided to run a "dead-head" train that evening to move equipment out of the city. It was headed for high ground in Macomb, Miss., and it had room for several hundred passengers. "We offered the city the opportunity to take evacuees out of harm's way," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. "The city declined." So the ghost train left New Orleans at 8:30 p.m., with no passengers on board.
(from Brendan Loy, via Instapundit)

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Today is the 11th of September, and most people are remembering what happened four years ago, and of course it's on the minds of many bloggers. To me, though, while associating the date with the event is unavoidable, it doesn't feel like the anniversary. 11-Sep is just a date. In my memory, the event happened, not on 11-Sep, or even on 23 Elul, but on the Tuesday of Selihot, which this year will be on 27-Sep.

I also associate the event with the primary election, which this year will be in two days, on Tue 13-Sep. Four years ago, I got up early to attend the Selihot service, and then went to vote against Michael Bloomberg (and for Herman Badillo) in the Republican primary. I first heard the news of what had happened on my way home from voting, and spent the next few hours watching it on TV, so the association with Selihot and voting is strong, while the calendar date doesn't really mean anything to me.

Which is all a way of wondering about the phenomenon of anniversaries. Why do we observe them? Why do they hold meaning for us? What triggers our memories of old events and people, and why is the calendar usually one of those things?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

RIP Rehnquist (everyone does know he died, right?)

I was in Las Vegas this past weekend, arriving on Thursday and leaving Monday, which, for those of you travelling there anytime soon, is way too long a time to spend in Las Vegas. When you go to Vegas, time literally stands still. By Sunday, I barely knew what day it was, and I was totally clueless about how bad NO had gotten. Reading the NY Times that morning and seeing the pictures in the paper made me feel pretty bad as I sat by the pool in the sun. Then I went in the pool for a while, and later on dropped a donation at the booth the Red Cross set up at Caesar's. At least, I hope it was the Red Cross. Pete Rose was nearby. Perhaps he set up the booth to fund his gambling habit. Anyway, I didn't even know that Chief Justice Rehnquist had died the previous night until late Sunday. It wasn't that I didn't watch the news, it's that the news simply didn't report he was dead very often. I think around six it was mentioned at the top of the hour on CNN, and then we went back to Anderson Cooper yelling at US Senators.

Why the long intro? Because I consider myself to be pretty well informed, and I didn't find out Rehnquist died until 24 hours after the fact, even while wtahcing the news. Do you think the average American noticed?

By the time I got back to DC monday night, John Roberts, the shoo-in candidate for O'Connor's seat, was the President's choice for the new chief, and while the Media and the country focused on New Orleans, Rehnquist was mourned by relatively few on TV, and savaged by others, including the infuriating Alan Dershowitz, who wasted no time trashing him as a racist and an all around bad guy on TV and at the HuffPost, which I refuse to link to because as awful as the total response to Katrina was by the Feds, and it was bad, the barely-contained glee amongst Arianna and friends that this is hurting Dubya is too sickening for me to read. Anyway, no one really has talked much about Rehnquist, unless it's to bash him a bit. The NY Times wrote a nasty editorial about how he was a dinosaur, and even the usually pretty fair Washington Post couldn't help but get some digs in regarding Bush v Gore. So let me praise Rehnquist a bit here.

Rehnquist was a man who loved the law. He was wary of too much federal power, and too much judicial power, and those beliefs made their way into his opinions. Most recently, he voted against the hideous Kelo decision, and joined Thomas and O'Connor in dissenting from Reich. These votes, on eminent domain and the wildly abused Interstate Commerce clause, sum up his career rather well. It's easy to see why President Reagan elevated him to Chief in 1986. He and Reagan both saw a large government as a problem, not a solution. Though Ted Kennedy, EJ Dionne, and all seem to think a larger government at the federal level would have helped prevent the tragedy of Katrina, I think that if more people viewed government bureuacracy in the same way that Justice Rehnquist did, perhaps things would have been not so terrible for the citizens of New Orleans. But that is for another discussion. An author and historian of the court and a sharp legal mind, William Rehnquist will be missed by those who wished government would not grow so fast and intrude so much. RIP.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Everyone's been asking, over the past few days, why it took the federal aid so long to get to New Orleans. The following response by Joe Ellis (originally written for a discussion in rec.arts.sf.fandom) explains in clear terms just how difficult it really is to do.

It's clear that a lot of people criticizing the speed of the response have no concept of the logistics involved in a relief effort of this size.

First: The complaints about "Why weren't the supplies pre-positioned?"

Predicting the path of a hurricane isn't an exact science. Landfall could have been anywhere over a thousand miles of coast. Where do you store them? Look at the criteria you need:

1) Must be far enough inland to be out of reach of the main strength of the storm. This means a minimum of 100 miles, preferably twice that for depots to be really safe.

2) Must be secure long-term storage. This pretty much limits it to military bases... and there really aren't a lot of them that meet #1 but are still close enough to provide timely relief.

3) Must be on the freeway net, and with both rail and air access. Roads are OK for moving limited numbers of supplies, but are subject to flooding and other disruptions. Rails as well, but a railway can be rebuilt much faster than a highway. Air is good for fast response, but is very limited in the mass of supplies that can be lifted. For real heavy-lift capability, you need a working airfield at the other end as well. Helos are fine for distribution, but have a limited operational radius and lift capability. You need them close enough to make a lot of short hops to employ them effectively. They can't operate effectively from as far away as your depots, so clearing landing fields in the disaster area needs to be a priority.

The facility must be large enough to store both supplies and vehicles.

These criteria are very limiting - there aren't a lot of places that meet all these needs.

Now - people. How do you staff all this? Military personnel are the obvious choice... but they have other missions, too, and training missions to perform as well. This means the vehicles can't be stored loaded, and even when not deployed overseas they have to have transition time to change missions.

OK... so your storm is coming, and the alert goes out, you put your men and supplies on the trucks and roll... but wait a minute. Where do you roll? What do you need? You can't tell until after the storm hits and you begin to get damage assessments! So, you gather the people, prepare the vehicles, fuel everything... and wait until you know what you need to take and where. This means waiting for the storm to clear, and for people to get into the area and assess the needs - and what existing infrastructure is available to support the efforts. This generally takes 24 hours or more to get an accurate assessment after the weather clears... and don't forget that while the weather is getting good over the disaster area, your nearest depots are probably getting pounded, and may well have their own problems.

Now... with this storm, you've got almost all major bridges into the area down, rail lines broken, the river channel has undoubtedly shifted in spots, the roads are flooded, and there's no place to land aircraft on the debris-covered runways. So - trucks aren't going to cut it for this mission - unload them and reload on heavier transport vehicles. Let's remember, too, that once these vehicles get rolling and into the area, odds are they're going to be cutting and bulldozing their way in. It's not going to be a 60 MPH highway run - when they get into the disaster area they'll be doing well if they can average 20 MPH.

Now, let's assume for a moment that they did pre-position supplies in NO... where would they be now? Probably floating out into the gulf or under 20 feet of water... because the industrial and warehouse areas of NO were the hardest hit, being on the waterfront. Now you're looking at even more time necessary to bring in relief supplies.

That said, while the federal response is now getting going, I have to wonder why there weren't, for example, air drops of food and water.
Air drops aren't particularly precise, and take a lot of linear space. How do you drop them in sufficient numbers without dropping them on someone? The places that could be used as air drop targets are full of people. Also, airdrops are done at very, very low altitude from fixed wing aircraft - usually C-130s or larger planes. It's damn dangerous to fly a plane that big at low altitude through a city, especially a city where you can't depend on light poles and antennas being where they're supposed to be.

You have two options with airdrops:

1) a parachute drop from altitude, which gets the planes up above the terrain, but can spread your drop over a quarter mile of width or more (depending on winds, altitude, and airspeed) and possibly a mile or more of length (depending on how much you have to drop).

2) a free-fall drop from as little as 10 feet altitude, just rolling it out the back. This allows much greater accuracy in the drop, but because the stuff is still moving horizontally at over 100 MPH when it hits the ground it requires a long, straight approach and climbout, and a smooth cleared area for landing the load to prevent tumbling.

Neither one of these approaches are/were suitable for getting equipment and/or supplies to the people in the Superdome or the Convention Center. If you look at the satellite photos, it's clear there were no straight approaches and/or suitable drop zones for either kind of drop. The parking lot at the Superdome, while it might have been large enough, is choked with cars and trash, and under water. There's also the small matter of the light poles...

I do think that there should have been a greater sense of urgency, and that this does indeed reveal a certain inefficiency in DHS.
It's impossible for an organization like FEMA to respond any faster, or for any other mythical organization you might care to invent to do much better. It takes time to respond to events like this. Yes, it's painful to watch, but it's reality. There is no way to mount a response to an event like this without taking several days to prepare and transport.

Now that things have started moving, one of the biggest problems is going to be traffic control of inbound relief materials and outbound empties, and getting fuel to the transport vehicles.

I only disagree with the partisan bickering because I don't really expect much more from government agencies.
The "partisan bickering" I've seen here and other places is far worse than that, it's some of the foulest, opportunistic, deliberately misleading and flat out lying I've ever seen, and completely ignores the physical realities of what it takes to move people and supplies into an area that has had most of its infrastructure destroyed... It's also focused on one small area of NO when there are over 90,000 square miles of devastation. The damage done by failed levees pales into insignificance when compared to areas to the east that were completely wiped off the earth. It's not a matter of blaming anyone for the failures of systems that, according to some stories, could never have been improved to the point of being able to withstand this storm, rather its an unreasoning rabid-to-the-point-of-psychopathic-obsession hatred of anything to do with the administration that is making people spew such destructive and counter-productive venom (and repeat it without critical analysis of the actual facts) with no regard to the actual circumstances. There's no magic in the world, folks, that will allow you to wave a wand and move supplies for hundreds of thousands of people into an area in two days over submerged roads, into devastated port facilities, and over broken rails. It just can't happen. I don't care if FDR himself came back to lead the effort - there are finite limits to how fast things can be done, and 3-4 days before relief gets into an area is the fastest anyone can expect. This is nothing new or unusual. There's a reason that you're told to have 5 days of food, water, and medicine in your home disaster kit.

The FEMA response has been on this schedule. Given the complete lack of a communications infrastructure, if anyone thinks they can do better you're certainly welcome to strap your ass into your car and drive down there to help out. Frankly, I'm sick of the whining from people who aren't on scene, have no idea of either the situation or the realities of logistics, and have nothing better to do than snipe at those who are trying to do the best they can with the information they can get out of the area.

People are dying out there... and more of them are going to die. It's cruel and cold, but that's the truth of it. That's why it's called a disaster. The task now is to get people out, first and foremost, and to hold the number of post-storm and flood fatalities down.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina Donations

Yeah, I know, I'm very late to the party. In the first week of the recovery I put up some donation links on the sidebar, but I didn't do a post saying that I'd done so, or saying anything about the particular charities I put up there. Oh well, better late than never. If anyone reading this has not already maxed out their charity budget (and if so, why haven't you?), please consider donating that extra dollar or two to one of these funds.

So. The American Red Cross, of course, needs no introduction. The reasons to give here are obvious. (And no, none of its money goes to the International Red Cross, which I wouldn't piss on if it was on fire.)

Chabad of New Orleans is there, mostly because the director is a relative of mine (second cousin once removed, I think), so I know a bit first-hand about the work they've been doing until now, and the dedication with which they will approach their new and unexpected work. Their focus is, of course, the Jewish community, since those are the people they knew and worked with before the hurricane, and with a staff of five families, now scattered over three states, they've got their hands full just coping with that burden.

For a hint of how committed these people are to their work, here is a personal account by one of them, who survived the storm and remained in his home in Metairie until Wednesday. Also fascinating is the blog that one of the rabbis kept last week.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is there mostly because I haven't seen it on anyone else's list. It wasn't on NZ Bear's list until I added it, and I thought it should be there. This is why. The refugees are going to need help for a long time, and the burden falls heavily on the cities where they are now.

And while we're raising funds for refugees, let's not forget the Jews forcibly expelled from their homes in the Gaza Strip, and in the North of Samaria. Their number and need may not be nearly as great as that of Katrina's refugees, but it's real nonetheless. The One Israel Fund has been raising money for them, and if you've got any spare cash, please consider throwing some of it their way.

One more thing. If you are motivated by this blog to make any donations, please log them with NZ Bear, and be so good as to mention our name...

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Circumcision and Public Policy

Patterico says, "if it's important enough to say in a comment, it's important enough to post". Well, I've been commenting at length on Eugene Volokh's posts here and here about the recent flap here in NYC over the practise of oral suction during ritual circumcision.

I've also weighed in on the question of banning headscarves (The setup is a bit confusing - my comments are here, and are not linked from the post to which they refer!).

About Those Photo Captions

You've undoubtedly seen the brouhaha today, about two photos, one from AFP, showing two people wading through the water with stuff which the caption described them as having "found", and another from the AP, showing a man in similar circumstances, but described by the captioner as having "looted" a store. Some eagle-eyed commenter noticed that the people in the AFP photo were relatively light-skinned, while the man in the AP photo was clearly black, and concluded that the difference in the captions must certainly be attributable to that distinction; strange that Mr or Ms Eagle-Eyes didn't seem to notice that AFP and AP are two completely different news agencies, but whatever.

Truth to tell, my initial assumption was that the AFP photo was captioned by someone at AFP itself, who presumably was not a native speaker of USAn English, and therefore any comparison between his/her word choice and that of the AP captioner is completely futile. Turns out I was wrong. The AFP caption was written by the photographer himself, Chris Graythen, who is very much USAn, and a New Orleans native and resident (well, now an ex-resident), who took it for Getty Images. And, thanks to the wonders of the WWW, we don't have to guess any more, because we have the word from the horse's mouth (it's way down the page; search for "Jeasus"). It turns out hat he described the two people in the photo as having "found" rather than "looted" the items they were carrying because that is what happened:

there were a million items floating in the water - we were right near a grocery store that had 5+ feet of water in it. it had no doors. the water was moving, and the stuff was floating away. These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics. They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water. They would have floated away anyhow.
And it's not as if he deliberately avoided the word "looting". As he says:
I'm not trying to be politically correct. [...] If you don't belive me, you can look on Getty today and see the images I shot of real looting today, and you will see white and black people, and they were DEFINATELY looting. And I put that in the caption.
I did look at his photos from today on the Getty web site. There are 20 images from 31-Aug-05, and I couldn't find any that showed any looting; maybe the ones he's talking about weren't taken up by the agency, or haven't been put up yet, or something. In any case, those who see the whole world though racism-coloured glasses will be disappointed. But then, they usually are, and it doesn't seem to stop them.