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September 04, 2005


Ok, hilzoy, you now have me convinced.

Not saying state and city officials ought to go scot-free, mind you. Especially considering this. But the FEMA debacle...unforgivable.

Ok, hilzoy, you now have me convinced.

[remembering the little bell tinkling in It's a Wonderful Life)

Who's the bell tinkler in this scenario? Who's the tinkler-bell?

Not to get all slartibartfastian with you of all people, I just was saying that it heralds another angel getting a pair of wings and the identity (and gender) of said angel is unspecified by me. ;^)

Okie doke. Just don' be callin' me a tinkerbell, hokay?

Power plays and Chertoff meets Black Caucus.

The Post rips FEMA and the Administration's running of it.

Why people didn't leave.

Chertoff makes an ass of himself.

And so on and so forth.

Everyone has seen these videos, right?

We spend an awful lot of money on militaries, and I'd like to think of militaries as a certain kind of risk insurance. Disaster preparedness surely too is a kind of risk insurance, a risk with a much greater likelihood of occurrence. And yet we spend a pittance in comparison. I just think there is something unreasonable about the attitude that countries like ours take towards risk.

I think it's not preposterous to try to imagine disaster response as its own branch of the Armed Forces.

"it means either that they have allowed partisanship to skew their judgment"

Oh hilzoy. Partisanship is much more defensible than this. My lover is the most beautiful woman because she is my lover. My football team is morally superior to the others in the league. America is the best country in the world. There is a value to non-rational committment and loyalty for their own sakes. Shall I throw cliches at you? "A [intellectual] rolling stone gathers no moss", and "a book has no content until it is bound." Trite.

Besides the part that one can have a general objective committment to a party based on considered ideology that can be expressed subjectively. I get frustrated with both sides demand that incompetence and corruption must be attacked in a fair and balanced manner. Uhh, why?

This dispassionate approach becomes a loss of passion and compassion. The objectivity weakens the ability to be subjective. The intellectual disguises the emotional and spiritual but the repressed returns as ressentiment.

You can't love if you can't hate.


Read "Besides the fact is that one can have..."

Too much Kant, not enough Kierkkeggaard and Nietzsche.

Back Room Shenanigans

The politics and power games of this week appear to have been complicated. I think Josh Marshall is too credulous toward the Post and its sources. I withhold judgement on one level until I get more information.

Bush blamed Blanco in his radio address today. The WH and friends will attempt to shift blame to Louisiana. I continue to blame the WH because it is at least partially fair, because it is politically useful, and because I don't like them.

My friends and enemies should take my bias into account.

McManus: what are you talking about? "Value to non-rational committment and loyalty for their own sakes". There's value in committment and loyalty, but surely not for its own sake. If that were the case, there would be nothing, nothing to discriminate between all the various arational loyalties there might be. And if I told you about my arational loyalty to my water heater (keeping it around, preferring it to all other water heaters, etc.), I don't think you would find that a source of value. There's got to be *something* about the object of loyalty that makes it worthy of loyalty (or committment).

I think Blanco and Nagin have a hell of a lot to answer for, but this in no way diminishes my disgust with FEMA's and DHS's incompetence, and the fact that this administration is going to prove much more ready to do another round of slime-and-defend than it was to respond.

And you just KNOW that they won't fire Brown now that this is the official line--that would be admitting a mistake, and that they won't do.

Oh, and no one had better complain about the "biased" media coverage. The reason that the Convention Center is largely evacuated now, and that people got food and water when they did and not after several more people died and however many hours of misery, seems to be that the press discovered that situation and beat Chertoff and Brown over the head with it until they got the @$&^@$& message. It not only possible but likely that that reporting saved lives. And if that doesn't outweigh choking up on camera or making the President look bad, then you have forsaken everything for partisanship.

One thing I'll say: this cluterf*ck is motivating me to put together an emergency preparedness kit far more than that stupid site ever did.

"If that were the case, there would be nothing, nothing to discriminate between all the various arational loyalties there might be. And if I told you about my arational loyalty to my water heater"

Maybe, sometimes, sorta. I got this sweater with holes in it, see...

Take a look around. The world of men is not ruled by reason and science. This is a good thing.

Ahh, forget it. I'll be citing Erasmus and singing lyrics from the Fantastiks any minute. It's late.

I think Blanco and Nagin have a hell of a lot to answer for

This is going to be hashed out to death in the coming weeks, but I think it is important to note that Nagin went on the air on Monday night saying that Federal troops were on the way. A similar incident was when Nagin came on and described the 17th street levee breech and the Corps of Engineers plan to fill it, which was not carried out. In fact,
For three days, Corps officials had lamented the difficulty of gaining access to the canal, but yesterday a local contractor, Boh Bros. Construction Co., apparently drove to the mouth of the canal and started placing a set of steel sheet pilings to isolate the canal from the lake. This job was finished yesterday afternoon.

Also, apparently, after the flood, there was no command and control structure, so even if Nagin had made command decisions, his police (of whom anywhere from 20 to 60% bugged out, with the worst affected areas probably the highest in a city that has 3.1 officers per 1000 residents, which is lower than most metro areas), there would have been a lot of gaps. Listening to his radio interview, it seems likely to me that he was giving orders, but there was no way to carry them out.

Also Blanco apparently requested/was offered troops by at least one governor, but paperwork prevented them from being approved until Thursday

Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck - a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.


And there is this

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Saturday accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency of failing to accept offers that would have eased post-hurricane problems in New Orleans -- including a plan for the Forest Service to douse fires in the city with aircraft used to fight fire.


Landrieu said that FEMA has inexplicably failed to take advantage of offers of help.

"I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims - far more efficiently than buses - FEMA again dragged its feet," Landrieu said. "Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.


I also have to wonder, beyond the questions of whether the Iraq deployment strained National Guard units, whether the best 30% were deployed to Iraq. This is not to denigrate the Guard, but presuming that the top 30% were taken for service, you are taking out a lot of knowledge and leadership.

On the lighter side, there is this

"When God decides to clean house," said Jo Rusin, standing in front of the pile of loose bricks that was her retirement home in Waveland, "he doesn't just use a Swiffer WetJet."


Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The litmus test for biased, policitized exploitation is, simply, the presence of double-standards.

We note that the links which you provided excluded all exculpatory information, omitted mention of the record of previous administrations, omitted mention of the role of the environmental movement, omitted mention of the failings of local authorities and omitted mention of the laudable actions of the federal government.

No matter how you pretend, you cannot kid us, boyo.

We note

Who invited Queen Victoria?

am: The litmus test for biased, policitized exploitation is, simply, the presence of double-standards.


But do you really want to look at the double-standards that have always been applied to the Bush administration by its supporters and by the media?

I didn't think so. Shall we just take that litmus paper away?

The disaster planning and response for Katrina shows failures at city, state, and federal level. No one should try to excuse any of those failures by claiming that the critics wouldn't be criticising that failure if the authority responsible were Democratic (Republican). That would be, truly, politicizing the situation.

I guess I'm not following you, hilzoy. How does outrage make one incapable of partisanship?

Criticism of the administration's response to Katrina only counts as 'politicizing' if that criticism is motivated by partisanship, rather than by genuine outrage.

Outrage may be founded or unfounded; properly directed or misdirected; politicized or not politicized. It's the facts that determine which of these things it is and, honestly, we don't know the facts as yet.

I think that there's plenty of blame to go around. I also believe that proper proportion suggests that a substantial proportion of the blame belongs to Mayor Nagin, the man closest to the scene, with the greatest stake in the outcome, and the greatest ability to influence events. He didn't have the imagination or leadership abilities necessary. I have, however, seen ardent defenses of Nagin.

Since I believe that FEMA is intrinsically incapable of living up to its presumed responsibilities, I have no problem with criticizing FEMA or its head. To the best of my recollection every FEMA head since its inception has been a political crony.

Congress deserves an enormous amount of the blame. That means us, too. Flood control on the Mississippi has always been inadequate. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, have fought adequate funding for flood control. Their motivations may have been different but the outcomes have been the same.

I'm no Bush-lover. He deserves plenty of blame for a lack of leadership particularly 24 hours after Katrina struck and subsequently when the degree of the disaster was clear. If we direct the bulk of our ire against Bush, it would be a mistake.

But not a political mistake and that's why undue concentration on Bush's manifest failure is being deemed “politicization”.

There are all sorts of restraints on the exercise of executive authority and IMO they're appropriate. The dangers in the mayor of New Orleans overstepping his authority (which, IMO, he should have done) or the governor of Louisiana overstepping her authority (which, IMO, she should have done) are far less than those of the president overstepping his authority (which he probably should have done, too).

I think Nagin and Blanco can take a lot of blame for Saturday and Sunday. Nagin should have gone mandatory on Saturday, even if there was a lot of business pressure not to. When the evacuation was mandatory they should have commandeered everything in sight for the evacuation. It still wouldn't have worked (if there were still 300,000 people left there) but it would have reduced casualties.

Once the hurricane hit Nagin became irrelevant. There was no way he was going to do anything with 1200 cops, even if they had all stayed. And the only thing Blanco could do was send in what Guard she had and ask for more. This was all DHS' game at this point. And they should have known it from their own simulations.

It looks like their plan for any terrorist attack includes a one week notice from the terrorists so that they can get ready. They do seem to be fairly effective at setting up Bush photo-ops though. Maybe we should just plan on having all natural disasters at Crawford for the next three years.

Dave S.: To the best of my recollection every FEMA head since its inception has been a political crony.

Your recollection is flawed. Clinton aappointed James Lee Witt, who had expertise rather than political credentials, and was credited with turning FEMA around in eight years.

Bush (W.) chose to return to his father's and Reagan's pattern, with a vengeance. Then the problem was ompounded by folding FEMA into the 'Homeland Security' Potemkin village/patronage scheme, and removing its charge while no other entity was built to do the job. Against a long history of crappy treatment of disaster agencies, Bush's stands out as craptacular.

I'm sorry, Nell, but James Lee Witt was obviously a political crony of Clinton's although not merely a political crony. Are you claiming that the head of Arkansas Office of Emergency Services (to which post Clinton appointed him as governor) was the most qualified person in the country to head up FEMA?

Dave Schuler: about outrage: you're right. What I was trying to say was: you can look at what's happening and be sincerely outraged, not because you're ready to be outraged by anything this administration does but because what you're seeing is, in fact, outrageous, and if you then go on to criticize the administration, that's not politicization. It's a matter of which motive is in the driver's seat: a desire to criticize driving the outrage, or outrage (produced by something genuinely outrageous, and not itself motivated by partisanship) driving the criticism. I didn't mean to suggest that the mere presence of outrage precludes partisanship.

Generally, I am almost without words at this point, and the ones that come are (if I'm any judge, which I think I'm not) lamer than usual.

Bob M: I don't think that fairness precludes passion. I also don't think that attitudes towards one's spouse are a good model for attitudes towards one's president, if only because, if you stick with the wrong spouse, or divorce the right one, the consequences are a lot more limited.

(I also think that Kant and Kierkegaard had a lot more in common than one might think, and that there's a way of getting from Kierkegaard's view to Kant's (his ethics, not his religion) by rectifying one mistake of Kierkegaard's, but that's a side issue. ;) )

And Dave: about James Lee Wittt: I said in some earlier comments that I don't fault people for hiring people they know per se. Sometimes knowing someone lets you estimate his qualifications accurately, allowing you (say) to know that he is a lot better (or worse) than his resume suggests; and also, hiring someone you know you work well with has its advantages. It's a gamble, though, and when you hire someone with no experience whatsoever (and an extremely dubious track record at managing things generally), obviously a much bigger one. That's not to say it couldn't be a good gamble; just that it is a gamble.

If I knew Brown personally, I would have been in a position to say whether any of these were Bush's motives before Katrina hit. As it is, I can only look at the absence of qualifications and the results, and say: if he was taking a gamble on an unproven guy he thought would work out well, that gamble failed. And if he was just a bad judge of people, or if he didn't particularly care who ran FEMA, or assumed that hiring friends of friends was the way to go, then people have died as a result.

James Lee Witt looks like a much better call than that.

If, as those on the right keep telling us, no amount of extra money would have kept the levees from breaching, then the federal government had 36 hours notice that 75-80% of the city -- a city of 1.5M people and through which something like 14% of the USA's oil flows -- was going to be rendered uninhabitable.

Cleanup after such an event is beyond the capicity of municipal authorities, and as we've seen is beyond the capacity of the State. Even for a country as big as the USA, this kind of thing is going to test everything, because this planet is big and bad and can squish us like a bug without even noticing. For things like this, the only people who even have a chance of succeeding in the post-disaster reconstruction work are those with the resources of the federal authorities, working with experts from all over the world who have dealt with things like this before.

With 36 hours notice, you could have had an awful lot of people mobilised and on their way down, and a hell of a lot more on immediate standby in the event that it did get this bad. That's what disaster management means. These things happen quickly, and you need to have infrastructure and command channels to get the response there as quickly as possible.

I work in an industry where we have to deal quite a bit with the possibility that things will go badly wrong and that suddenly twenty thousand people will be in danger. We are required by law to have plans in place that say "if things suddenly catch fire, here's what we're going to do to move ten thousand people out of the building in three minutes". We are required to enforce this in others, and tell people who are messing up exactly how many people they're going to kill. That can be quite sobering. "If you don't clear that out the way, you're going to kill two hundred people."

We can't be prepared for every little thing, but we have to be prepared for a certain amount of risk. New Orleans has had too many near misses recently for people to say or assume that there wasn't a serious and known risk of this happening. The infrastructure should have been in place, so that if the worst should happen that we would have a response ready, and not be caught on our back foot reacting to suprises all the time.

Nobody could have been expected to work out a full-scale disaster plan for the remote event that someone would fly two planes into the twin towers and one into the Pentagon. This was not such a remote event. This was a predictable risk, and an event to which we received an almost infinite amount of prior warning, in disaster management terms. Failure to this extent is unacceptable.

Dave Schuler

To the best of my recollection every FEMA head since its inception has been a political crony.

If this is true two things are apparent:

1) This needs to change, now.

2) Bush did not have the foresight to change it before a catastrophe exposed the flaws. We will see later if Katrina forces him to reconsider or if he is more interested in defending his past choices.

If DaveC can point to a failure on Witt's part, or any indication that he was other than extremely competent at dealing with emergencies, I'm sure he will.

Meanwhile, there's not much need to do that for Brownie, is there? No need to point, at all.

You mean Dave Shuler.

"You mean Dave Shuler."

Right, sorry, Daves.

Here is a chipper response I just ran across. In response to the newspaper quote of "LEVEES BREAK, BARRIERS HOLD: What the world saw exposed in New Orleans was a cleavage of race and class," this guy responsds with: "Yep; African-Americans loot. Caucasians provide for their families. Who says racism is dead?"

Someone calling themselves "northstar."

re: FEMA heads being historically political cronies

McDuff: "2) Bush did not have the foresight to change it before a catastrophe exposed the flaws. We will see later if Katrina forces him to reconsider or if he is more interested in defending his past choices."

And that's years after 9/11, which supposedly changed everything, and was a wake-up call, and all of that, as well as handing Bush more political capital than most presidents get.

Gary Farber--

I think "northstar" was not *endorsing* that pair of judgements, but rather condemning a pair of judgements that seem to underlie some of the coverage of NO. In particular, there were a pair of photos in AP in which people carrying off goods through the flood were labeled "looters" or "providing for their family" (or some other wholesome, heroic caption) when the only apparent difference between the photos was the color of the people involved.

I can't tell whether you were thinking northstar needed to be condemned, or just joining in northstar's condemnation. Dunno who northstar is, but I think the second is the correct read of their intentions.

Marshall on the WH Spin

Sigh. We keep losing these fights, tho the insular world of the blogosphere and beltway crowd doesn't admit it. The base record will likely say that the CIA gave the Whitehouse bad Intel on Iraqi WMD, under no outside pressure. That will be history, and a small marginal group of political junkies will say:"Well, we know better." Well, they don't count.

I am sick of fighting fair and losing, and innocents dying. There have been no consequences for the lies, and the results have been fatal. Integrity is a luxury for those with full stomachs, good jobs, and lots of friends.

Hilzoy: I saw that exchange, and I was absolutely dumbfounded.

Anyone who didn't see the Paula Zahn/Michael Brown interview it can see it at Crooks and Liars, if the servers aren't overloaded. And I wholeheartedly second Gary's recommendations above. The Shepherd Smith and Geraldo Rivera video is stunning. I've never been a Geraldo fan, but those two should get a g*ddamn journalism award for what they have done.

And if you can't view a clip, check the comments threads for links to mirrors. C&L is really slammed.

Oops! Forgot the link.

"By conflating people who believe the administration has fallen short because they take every opportunity to slam George Bush with people who hold the same belief because they have examined the evidence and concluded that it is true, [defenders of Bush] spare themselves the trouble of actually thinking about George Bush's record, or about the possibility that some of his critics might be right."

Well, I'm not sure if I take *every* opportunity to slam George Bush--I might have missed a few. But that's partly because it is so hard to keep up--every week brings new opportunities to lament their incompetence and corruption. But I don't see how this suggests that I am not examining evidence.

I mean, look. I give a student a problem set, and he gets every problem wrong. Then I give him a quiz in class, and he gets all the questions wrong. He gets zip on his mid-term, doesn't turn in the rest of his problem-sets, and puts all the wrong answers on his final. So I fail him.

Then he comes to me and says "you're clearly biased! You've taken every opportunity to slam me!"

Sorry, pal--you had a lot of opportunities to do a good job, and you did a bad job at every opportunity. If that leads to a lot of slams, it shows I was *looking* at the evidence. And the people who protest the slams are trying to get us to look somewhere else.

If Bush and FEMA are blamed to the exclusion of other responsible parties, yes I could call it politicizing. This a big enough disaster that blame should be appropriately spread.

And the people who protest the slams are trying to get us to look somewhere else

This a big enough disaster that blame should be appropriately spread.

Good call, Tad.

I have no objection to blame being "appropriately spread".

I have no objection to blame being "appropriately spread".

And we know full well that by "appropriately spread" certain people mean "maximize blame placed on Democrats, minimize blame placed on Republicans, while simultaneously decrying politicization".

The administration's preparation for, and response to, this disaster is a nearly complete summary of the failings of this administration, and of conservative ideology in general.

Let's blame the mayor.

I have no problem with blame being appropriately spread either.

Yet another moment when the idea that responsibility is not constant-sum proves its usefulness: the question what blame attaches to the state and local governments is completely distinct from the question how much attaches to the federal government.

Look, I have no problem blaming all levels of government for their failings in this debacle. But all the photos of half-submerged buses won't change the fact that the people who WERE bussed to shelter had to wait for DAYS to get emergency supplies while anyone trying to flee on foot was turned around at a road block. Some of this probably falls on the local authorities, but a WHOLE LOT of it falls on FEMA, Homeland Security, and the overprivileged, swaggering incompetent, frat-boy in cowboy drag who somehow convinced half the country, against all available evidence, that he could keep them safe in a time of crisis.

And we know full well that by "appropriately spread" certain people mean "maximize blame placed on Democrats, minimize blame placed on Republicans, while simultaneously decrying politicization".

felix, I'll chalk it up that you've had a few bad days. Far as I'm concerned, what you think you know "full well" is that you don't know. You're writing from ignorance and prejudice.

Conversely, he's writing from the experience of observing 5 years of the Bush Administration in action.

And Tad: you're right, of course. What I meant was: if your hatred drives your criticism of Bush (or whoever), bad; if the evidence drives your criticism, good.

Bob M: I am convinced that it would be wrong to fight dirty, so I won't do it in any case, but in addition I remain unconvinced that we would win more if we did. You win short-term tactical advantages that way, but you sacrifice your credibility and any reputation for integrity you might have.

Consider, as a minor example, all those stories of junior political operatives learning how to win elections in their local college political organizations by e.g. figuring out how to have microphones break when their opponents get up to speak, and stupid tricks like that. Whenever I read stories like that (and there are plenty from the early career of Karl Rove), the stories always have this undertone of: oooh, how clever. I generally think: oooh, how short-sighted. It would be clever only if you could count on the other people in the organization to sit around inertly, waiting to be manipulated. But if they are actual people, they are more likely to conclude that you're a penny-ante would-be Machiavelli who read only the nastier bits of The Prince, and a jerk to boot.

Of course, one might compare Karl Rove's success in politics to mine and wonder where I get off saying this, but still.

Certainly, though, given the decisions that confront me, I see no reason at all to think that I'd be more effective without a conscience.

Yup. I think if more blame is assigned to the mayor than to the president who wasted four years making America less safe, then blame has not been "appropriately spread."

Part of my point was simply that Mr. Bird's statement was phrased in such a way as to have no controversial content whatsoever--of course no one will say they think the blame should be *inappropriately* spread.

That just gets us to the real question: whom is it appropriate to blame? Well, one guy used up all of his available resources very quickly, and spent the next week screaming to get some more help. The other guy strummed his guitar, smirked a lot, and pledged to rebuild the vacation home of a rich Republican racist.

Doubtless those are only a few of the factors to be weighed in figuring out how blame should be "appropriately spread". So let's discuss the grounds on which we should spread the blame one way or another--questions of jurisdiction, funding, due diligence, reasonable notification, all that good stuff. You don't agree with my apportionment, then show me some more "appropriate" way to spread it. But merely saying that blame should be "appropriately spread" doesn't settle much.

Oh, and Chertoff is now blaming the media. Apparently the government gets all its info from the press, so, waddayagonnado? Just need to work liberal activist judges in there, and it will be a complete Republican media strategy.

I've had quite an amusing few days, actually. I've been called ignorant, prejudiced, an "ass-hole", a troll, stupid, a dishonest, shrieking type, and a prisoner of petty hatred in the last couple days here. And hilzoy, who objects to my calling out partisan hackery when I see it, apparently is just fine with all that. Noted.

Yet somehow, none of the insults change the fact that the administration is incompetent, conservative ideology is manifestly bankrupt, and that the response to what is predicted to be thousands of absolutely needless deaths will be, for some, to try to blame Democrats and minimize the blame placed on the administration and it's ideology.

If wallowing in petty insults makes you feel better about that, go for it.

"I think "northstar" was not *endorsing* that pair of judgements, but rather condemning a pair of judgements that seem to underlie some of the coverage of NO."

Perhaps so.

"In particular, there were a pair of photos in AP in which...."


felix: I'm sorry. I was wrong. I think you were out of line about Sebastian, but not enough that I should have brought it up, especially if you're going to get similar treatment from our front-page posters.

Gary Farber--

What do you mean by "Really?" Are you disputing my account of the AP captions, or disputing its relevance to "northstar", or what?

This is too laconic to be helpful.

Is this "politicization" yet?

"What do you mean by "Really?" Are you disputing my account of the AP captions, or disputing its relevance to "northstar", or what?"

Click the link. It's unimportant, though; I was merely wondering why you'd pointed out one of the most talked about issues of the last last couple of days, and telling me about photos I'd posted two days ago; but it doesn't matter at all. Was this not obvious when you clicked the link? Apparently not. What did you think the point of the link was, though? Never mind.

Talking about blame, there must have been decisions years ago that influenced this tragedy:
I am Dutch, born, raised and still living below sea level. Moreover, I studied Civil Engineering in Delft.
For the sea-defenses here they use a system called “probabilistic design”, whith calculates the probability of a structure being overpowered by a flood of a certain magnitude and compares this with the probability of such a flood happening.
For the major defenses “the Delta Works”, a chance op failure of 1 in 10.000 years is used; for lesser works and river defenses 1/1250 to 1/3000.
One Delft engineer who was at NO earlier this yeas said the levees there were designed at 1/230. For a city as large as the largest in the Netherlands, that is a much higher level of risk accepted; it is also of course much cheaper.
Do any of you know who made that choice (state, federal, corps of engineers) and were people in NO involved in and aware of such decisions?

McDuff: eww.

"It will only address that vulnerability with a performance in coming days and weeks that is more in keeping with the GOP's image as the "daddy party"..."

Speaking as someone with a really great Dad, I want to say that this is an insult to Dads everywhere. Mine, for instance, brought me up to admit responsibility, to do the right thing before anyone was watching, to take my responsibilities seriously, to regard the 'competence' the NRO speaks of as a moral obligation owed to the people affected by what I do and also as required by my own self-respect, always to consider the views of others, to regard savaging, or even ignoring, other people for my own benefit as shameful, and to be decent and generous whether it promised any benefit to me or not.

If the GOP had anything at all in common with my Dad, I'd have been a Republican for life. As it is, I think this is just a smear on perfectly good Dads, whose lives are hard enough (I know, from having made my Dad's life difficult ;) ) without their finding themselves invoked by the Republican party. Ugh.

I should say: the above is what my Dad taught me. I do not claim to have learned or acted on those lessons.

And if the Republicans were like my Dad and the Democrats were like my Mom, I would be faced with the kind of really tough political decision I've always wanted to have.

I think Rob has shown us the way out of our "really tough political decisions"--the residents of Louisiana should just vote the straight Dutch Engineer ticket.

And on apportioning blame--

Billmon has a very interesting post up right now about the difference in FEMA's response to the FL hurricanes prior to the election last year.

McDuff: Is this "politicization" yet?

Just imagine the RNC shipping truckloads of champagne and cake into the very same city where people died waiting for water and MRE's due to Bush administration incompetence.

Just imagine the RNC shipping truckloads of champagne and cake into the very same city where people died waiting for water and MRE's due to Bush administration incompetence.

And the unholy wrath that would descend on a catering company if, god forbid, said champagne or cake were a day late.

Tad Brennan,
In the Netherlands we had a lot of discussion about the projects safety levels, people displacedfor broader dykes, environmental impact and costs (some projects went way over budget). I was wondering of this has happened in Louisiana.
The levees certainly were unable to withstand a cat.5 hurricane, if an earthen levee is overflown, thereis a big chance of breaching.
Did someone go cheap without explaining the risks?

"Bob M: I am convinced that it would be wrong to fight dirty"

hilzoy, I am open to anything that is effective, and open to arguments that a certain tactic is ineffective. I am not yet advocating illegal activity, excepting civil disobedience.

I am advocating an abandonment of comity, an increase in stridency and shrillness that offends and polarizes the moderates. Perhaps a degree of hyperbole and incautious rhetoric that we would find unacceptable in less parlous times.

I recognize that this itself is an ethical compromise, a sacrifice, a small stain on the soul. And I listen to people who say such shrillness has its costs.

I like Moe. I like von. I even like Tacitus. I believe they are decent people in a difficult position. It would be unethical and unfair to make their position more difficult, yet necessary. If we can make the "rest of us" large enough, and force the decent right to choose...and only the decent right has any influence on the situation...force these good people to take a strident side of "the rest of us" or George Bush, they will not choose Bush.

I might be wrong, they might choose Bush. But I sincerely honestly believe that if they do, this entire country will soon look like New Orleans. I'll take the risk, considering the alternative.

Bob: I see nothing wrong with making their position more difficult, and I don't think that's unfair, per se. Not at all. I just think there's a difference between making their position more difficult by adducing evidence and making it more difficult by stacking the deck. And I stick with the former.

Rob, thanks for the comments. I posted a comment a couple of days ago saying how much I would like to hear the input of a Dutch civil engineer on the New Orleans situation.

"I'm honestly not sure Bush knows what's wrong with this way of doing business: after all, it has always worked for him, and I have never seen any evidence that he is the least aware of the role privilege has played in keeping him from feeling the consequences of his failures."

--Heck, this is essentially how W got his current job. And the previous ones.

"Bob: I see nothing wrong with making their position more difficult"

Okay. Great. We have a start. I want Bush out of office now. Impeachment is too slow, the man damages the country every minute he holds power. Immediate resignation. Cheney is indeed better, and in any case a message of accountability will be received by the GOP leadership. I am sure von, sebastian, slartibartfast,charles, and edward would agree to a banner:"Bush must resign."

Stop Bush before he kills again.

Clearly it could be seen that Michael Brown would foal flat on his face.

He has failed in all the mane aspects of his job and left New Orleans mare Ray Nagin saddled with even more problems. Yet he still bridles at legitimate criticism.

In this case, the neigh-sayers are correct: One can only hope that his rein at FEMA will soon be over.

Rob: in the comments of this post we discuss the NO projects and some similarities with the Dutch situation.

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