Hmm, Yanks losing 5-3 in the ninth, Cleveland playing free baseball with Chicago? GO Cubbies... oh, whoever.
FINAL: Chicago wins, 3-2. Yea.
MORE: I am now a big Cleveland fan, but I bet that won't last.
Hmm, Yanks losing 5-3 in the ninth, Cleveland playing free baseball with Chicago? GO Cubbies... oh, whoever.
FINAL: Chicago wins, 3-2. Yea.
MORE: I am now a big Cleveland fan, but I bet that won't last.
Judy Miller has negotiated her release from jail, and a particular wrinkle has me baffled. From ABC:
After obtaining her waiver [from Libby], Miller said her lawyers secured an agreement with Fitzgerald to narrow the scope of her testimony to her conversations with that single source.
No, Judith Miller sat in jail until the prosecutor agreed that she would not have to testify about any source of the information about Valerie Plame other than Libby. Miller had multiple sources, and everyone already knew that she talked to Libby. The real question is, who was her other source? Some have speculated that it may have been Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, or maybe another journalist. Now, we may never know.
Far be it from me to argue law with a lawyer, but... isn't Fitzgerald already bound by the terms of the original subpoena, and by Justice Department guidelines? Let's open up the Appeals Court opinion from last February that put Ms. Miller on the last lap of her journey to jail. At one point, the judges cite the DoJ guidelines on subpoenaing reporters:
(a) “In criminal cases, there should be reasonable grounds to believe, based on information obtained from nonmedia sources, that a crime has occurred, and that the information sought is essential to a successful investigation–particularly with reference to establishing guilt or innocence. The subpoena should not be used to obtain peripheral, nonessential, or speculative information.” 28 C.F.R. § 50.10(f)(1).
(b) Before issuing a subpoena to a member of the news media, all reasonable efforts should be made to obtain the desired information from alternative sources. Id. at §§ 50.10(b), 50.10(f)(3);
(c) Wherever possible, subpoenas should be directed at information regarding a limited subject matter and a reasonably limited period of time. Subpoenas should avoid requiring production of a large volume of unpublished materials and provide reasonable notice of the demand for documents. Id. at § 50.10(f)(6);
Now, the court found that these guidelines did not confer a legal right on Miller (or anyone else). However, Fitzgerald has accepted very limited testimony from other journalists in this case, per the guidelines - here is an old WaPo story for background.
And here is the court's description of the subpoena in question:
In the meantime, on August 12 and August 14, grand jury subpoenas were issued to Judith Miller, seeking documents and testimony related to conversations between her and a specified government official “occurring from on or about July 6, 2003, to on or about July 13, 2003, . . . concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description as the wife of Ambassador Wilson) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.” Miller refused to comply with the subpoenas and moved to quash them.
It seems to me that Fitzgerald already had issued a very specific subpoena, and had a court order forcing Ms. Miller's compliance - Ms. Miller was ordered to describe her conversations with "one named official", reportedly Libby, within a particular week, on the subject of Plame and/or Iraq.
If I am following this, Ms. Miller can remain in compliance with this subpoena yet refuse to discuss her conversations with Libby prior to July 6, or her conversations with Karl Rove, or John Bolton, or Dick Cheney, or anyone else.
And it appears that she can decline to discuss a situation not related to Plame or Iraq - at Powerline, Miller's involvement in the Islamic charities case is noted.
Now, I am at a bit of a loss as to the actual procedures that might apply - Ms. Miller would appear before the grand jury without counsel, so presumably it is a matter of her own force of personality to dismiss certain questions (including questions from jurors) as beyond the scope of the subpoena.
And (I'm still guessing), if the prosecutor insists on an answer, the next step would presumably be either a new contempt hearing, or a trip back to jail.
Now, if I am wrong I would love to expand my education, but my take is that Ms. Miller is just talking up her new deal with Fitzgerald as one more excuse for her own baffling performance - Fitzgerald was already limited by his own subpoena and DoJ guidelines, and was never in a position to ask a lot of embarrassing questions without first obtaining a new subpoena. This is just a PR stunt by Miler's lawyer - blame Fitzgerald, blame Libby, blame Canada.
And Judy's game? My guesses are here.
UPDATE: Adam Liptak of the Times is on my side, yet not:
The second factor in Ms. Miller's decision to go before the grand jury was a change in the position of the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, concerning the scope of the questions she would be asked, according to Mr. Abrams. Mr. Fitzgerald only recently agreed to confine his questions to Ms. Miller's conversations with Mr. Libby concerning the identification of Ms. Wilson, Mr. Abrams said.
But other reporters struck deals with Mr. Fitzgerald last year that also limited the questions they would be asked. For instance, Glenn Kessler, a reporter for The Washington Post, testified in June 2004 on ground rules essentially identical to those Ms. Miller obtained, according to an article in The Post at the time [link].
Mr. Kessler, The Post said, testified that the subject of Ms. Wilson had not come up in his conversations with Mr. Libby.
On my side - Fitzgerald has not previously been a problem on the issue of limited testimony. Not on my side - Mr. Liptak does not make the seemingly available point that Fitzgerald is limited by the scope of his subpoenas, and by DoJ guidelines.
UPDATE 2: Texas attorney Beldar takes up my side - no stoppin' me now!
Sorry - as to the plausibility of the CIA being a major source of some early Plame leaks, let the case be made - here is Bob Somerby offering Tenet or McLaughlin as possible sources; Digby offers some supporting thoughts; and Jeralynn Merritt does not laugh out loud.
Separately, yours truly convinced himself, for at least a day, that Tenet had been the source of the leak to Walter Pincus of the WaPo - see the Bonus Theory after the break. If that were true, the notion that Tenet (or McLaughlin) was also leaking to Novak becomes more plausible.
Walter Pincus describes his leak experience here. Although it is a bit of a stretch, read this with an open mind:
On July 12, 2003, an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.
Set your imagination free - don't you want to re-write that as "the White House had not paid attention... because they believed..." Isn't there a certain third person quality coming through in this paragraph? Did the source really say anything like, "We ignored Wilson because we believed it was a boondoggle"? Or was it more like, "Those clowns at the White House didn't pay attention..."?
Possible? You're getting there...
And since we are making such great progress, let's tackle the next sentence:
I didn’t write about that information at that time because I did not believe it true that she had arranged his Niger trip.
Didn't believe it? Why not? Cooper and Novak believed their sources. It was CIA folks who disputed the INR version, which had Ms. Plame involved in tapping Wilson for the trip.
So maybe Pincus was told both the White House and CIA versions by someone at the CIA.
Which is a bit of a sidebar to the question of who told what to Libby, but there it is.
NOTE: Given the vague source attribution in Novak's original column, he may have heard different things from different folks, including the CIA:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
Trouble in paradise - if the CIA did not believe that Wilson's wife was involved, how can Tenet be one of Novak's sources telling him that very thing?
Good point. How about, because early in the week, Tenet told Novak one story, but as the CIA poked around, Tenet learned a new version which he relayed to Pincus?
All will be revealed in time, maybe. Meanwhile, we remain convinced that CIA leaks may have been part of the story.
The Times and WaPo are breaking news on the Plame case. My long reaction is below, but let me highlight this - if, I say IF, I had been blogging about the jail house visits between Bolton and Miller last August, and IF I had recently blogged that the case was starting to shake loose, and that Bolton and his Chief of Staff might be involved, I would be deeply fascinated by this nugget from the Times. The subject is Libby's waiver of confidentiality and the negotiations about whether it was voluntary:
Ms. Miller authorized her lawyers to seek further clarification from Mr. Libby's representatives in late August, after she had been in jail for more than a month.
Now, is the Bolton theory quashed and Judy exonerated by reports in both the WaPo and Times that Libby told Miller about Plame's role in sending Wilson? Hey, it's not my theory, but the news about Libby hardly answers the question of whether other people also told Miller about Plame.
And suppose, in their conversation, Libby said "I heard this about Plame", and Miller replied, "Yes, but did you also know this, and this, and this"? Ms. Miller had worked on WMD issue for years, and may have learned about Ms. Plame over those years.
One would expect that, under her subpoena, she would have to admit to having passed info to Libby; if Fitzgerald wants to learn the source of her knowledge, she may be right back in hot water.
Here we go - a quick summary of our guesses as to why Ms. Miller pitched in the towel and struck a deal:
(1) Jail's a bitch, even if you are.... well, look, the threat of jail is meant to provide motivation, and we are not all Susan MacDougal. Maybe a month as First Amendment hero was plenty.
(2) It's all about Delay. No, not Tom! Perhaps Ms. Miller figured that after she testified about Libby, Fitzgerald would be back with another subpoena and more awkward questions about her other sources. DoJ guidelines require him to exhaust other reasonable means before compelling a reporter's testimony, but if she had testified a year ago, Fitzgerald might have had time to do that. Now, his grand jury is nearing its term (although it can be extended), and (maybe) the public is nearing the end of its patience.
At this point, if her testimony leaves loose ends, Fitzgerald may decide to leave them loose. Or at least, that may be her hope - if her testimony corroborates Libby, Fitzgerald may wrap this up, move on, and leave unexplored the question of what she knew and how she knew it.
(3) The Bolton connection, noted above.
It beats me. She fought legal appeals for almost a year, spent a month in jail and then authorized her attorney to find out if Libby's waiver was voluntary? Cooper's attorney was very quick to call and negotiate as the jail date approached. The attorneys for Russert, Kessler, and Pincus struck deals a year ago. Maybe her original attorney, Floyd Abrams, really just wanted to argue a big First Amendment case.
We're talking Yankee baseball, but we will start by giving props to David Ortiz - Big Papi, with the rep as the best clutch hitter in baseball, hit the tying homerun in the eighth inning of a must-win game for the Red Sox, and then delivered the game-winning RBI in the ninth.
The statistical case for A Rod as MVP is strong, based on the all-encompassing Win Shares. And A Rod has not lacked for clutch hits this season.
However, fans of Ortiz will want to compare situational stats. With no one on base, Ortiz has hit .285; with men on, that rises to .313; with runners in scoring position, .348; and with runners in scoring position and two out, .357.
A Rod does not look nearly as good by this measure - his comparable figures are .338 with the bases empty; with men on, .302; with runners in scoring position, .290; and with runners in scoring position and two out, .302.
Which means nothing - the next three (or four!) games will settle this. And I stand by my view from 1978, when Jim Rice of the Sox had a monster year at the plate while Ron Guidry had a "Can't touch this" year on the hill - the Sox could have managed to achieve second place without Rice, but the Yankees never could have won without Guidry.
We have moved from the Summer of Fear to the Autumn of Anxiety; as the weather cools the leaves will show their solidarity with the Sox by turning to red. Then both the leaves and the hopes of Red Sox Nation will flutter to the ground. Away we go.
MORE: A Rod normally says the right things:
Ortiz, a designated hitter who has 47 homers and 146 runs batted in this year - and who had the game-winning hit on Thursday night in Boston's 5-4 victory over visiting Toronto, on top of a home run - has been outspoken about why he thinks that a full-time D.H. should receive equal consideration for the M.V.P.
Rodriguez, a third baseman who has 47 homers and 128 R.B.I, has not campaigned as much for the award, which could be decided when the Yankees and the Red Sox finish the season with a three-game series that starts Friday.
In fact, when Rodriguez was told earlier this month that Ortiz had been discussing the M.V.P., he offered a short response.
"Let him have it," Rodriguez said. "I already have one of those. I want what he has."
Jailed Times Reporter Freed After Source Waives ConfidentialityBy DAVID JOHNSTON and DOUGLAS JEHL
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, was released from a Virginia detention center this afternoon after she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to testify before a grand jury investigating the matter, the paper's publisher and executive editor said.
Ms. Miller was freed after spending more than 12 weeks in jail, during which she refused to cooperate with the criminal inquiry. Her decision to testify came after she obtained what she described as a waiver offered "voluntarily and personally" by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had made to him. She said the source had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.
That source was I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, according to people who have been officially briefed on the case. Ms. Miller met with Mr. Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week. Discussions between government officials and journalists that week have been a central focus of the investigation.
OK, Lewis Libby had been everybody's pick for months, so there is no surprise there. But who knew the Times could execute so lovely a pirouette?
The Times' publisher, Arthur M. Sulzberger Jr., said in a statement that the newspaper supported Ms. Miller's decision to testify, just as it backed her earlier refusal to cooperate. "Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source," Mr. Sulzberger said. "We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify."
Why did it take so long for Ms. Miller to receive this waiver? The Times explains the process to us:
Her willingness to testify was based in part on personal assurances given by Mr. Libby earlier this month that he had no objection to her discussing their conversations with the grand jury, according to those officials briefed on the case.
...The agreement that led to Ms. Miller's release followed intense negotiations between Ms. Miller; her lawyer, Robert Bennett; Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate; and Mr. Fitzgerald. The talks began with a telephone call from Mr. Bennett to Mr. Tate in late August. Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby by telephone earlier this month as their lawyers listened, according to people briefed on the matter. It was then that Mr. Libby told Ms. Miller that she had his personal and voluntary waiver.
But the discussions were at times strained, with Mr. Libby and Mr. Tate asserting that they communicated their voluntary waiver to Ms. Miller's lawyers more than year ago, according to those briefed on the case. Mr. Libby wrote to Ms. Miller in mid-September, saying that he believed her lawyers understood that his waiver was voluntary.
Others involved in the case have said that Ms. Miller did not understand that the waiver had been freely given and did not accept it until she had heard from him directly.
Let me claim an "I told you so" point here - I had argued (point 3) that blaming Libby for the inability to work out a waiver deal may have been a bit unfair - negotiating these waivers can't be easy, and the specter of a witness conspiracy charge hangs over them.
[And why did Miller's attorney wait until late August to call? Why not when she was jailed in July, or anytime after she was found in contempt last fall? Was she running out the clock (see below)? I Boldly Predict that our friends on the left will note eagerly that John Bolton visited Ms. Miller sometime before mid-August. Hey, maybe I have been ignoring the wrong theory, recently moved forward by Arianna herself.]
Now, how broad will Ms. Miller's testimony be?
In written statements today, Ms. Miller and executives of The New York Times did not identify the source who had urged Ms. Miller to testify. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, said that Mr. Fitzgerald had assured Ms. Miller's lawyer that "he intended to limit his grand jury interrogation so that it would not implicate other sources of hers."
Mr. Keller said that Mr. Fitzgerald had cleared the way to an agreement by assuring Ms. Miller and her source that he would not regard a conversation between the two about a possible waiver as an obstruction of justice.
This may tie in to my guess that perhaps Ms. Miller is attempting to run out the clock on Fitzgerald's grand jury. It is not news that under DoJ guidelines, Ms. Miller's subpoena was quite narrowly directed towards her conversations with one specified official. And since Fitzgerald's grand jury has a month to run, running out the clock at this point should be easy - for example, Ms. Miller can (*HYPOTHETICALLY*) testify that she told Libby about Ms. Plame, refuse to discuss the basis of that knowledge, and leave Special Counsel Fitzgerald with the challenge (per DoJ guidelines) of exhausting all reasonable means to ascertain her source before he re-subpoenas her. Presumably Fitzgerald could battle Plame-fatigue and extend his grand jury, but at a minimum, Ms. Miller has deferred the threat of criminal contempt.
So Judy is out - will Kevin Drum hit his trifecta? Is Judy in the last month of running out the clock on Fitzgerald's grand jury? Time will tell!
ERRATA: The Times should try harder to get the details right:
New details about the case have emerged in recent months. Karl Rove, the president's senior political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, both discussed Ms. Wilson with reporters, according to testimony provided by Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter, and by others. But neither of the White House officials is known to have mentioned Ms. Wilson by name or to have mentioned her covert status at the C.I.A.
Based on his own account, it was Cooper that told Libby about Ms. Plame. Excerpt after the break.
UNCLEAR TO WHOM? J Pod makes an excellent point in response to the Johnston/Jehl assertion that "Much about Ms. Miller's role in the matter remains unclear" - it's not unclear to the Times editors. Note to Bill Keller - whenever you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. [A Lightbulb! Someday, when Judy's role reaches the level of "All The News That's Fit To Print", Keller can run her story in Times Select!]
UPDATE: We are slipping the John Bolton theory into a mini-update within the main post - since he visited Miller before mid-August, and her lawyers initiated the jail break in late August, we can suspect anything. And since we are speculating about Ms. Miller's motivations, let's add the obvious - Jail's a bitch, even if you are... well, anyway, there is a good reason that the threat (or reality) of jail prompts people to talk - we aren't all Susan MacDougal. Maybe the role of First Amendment champion, the prospective book deals, and the reputational rehabilitation all paled under the flourescent lights and jail food.
And the WaPo has lots - apparently, Libby told Miller a little on July 8, and more on the 12th or 13th. Since Matt Cooper of TIME told Libby about Plame on July 12 (Date Check in the continuation), his role remains important. From the WaPo:
According to a source familiar with Libby's account of his conversations with Miller in July 2003, the subject of Wilson's wife came up on two occasions. In the first, on July 8, Miller met with Libby to interview him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the source said.
At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in the African nation of Niger. Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson's trip and how he was selected.
Libby told Miller he heard that Wilson's wife had something to do with sending him but he did not know who she was or where she worked, the source said.
Libby had a second conversation with Miller on July 12 or July 13, the source said, in which he said he had learned that Wilson's wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame's name or that she was a covert operative, the source said.
Libby did not talk to Novak about the case, the source said.
My tip - keep on eye on Murray Waas, who has been on this story like A Rod on a hanging curveball.
My thought - Libby's version seems awfully convenient - by July 8 he had heard that Wilson's wife was involved, but had *not* heard where she worked? Who separated those factoids, which seemed to travel together in the famous INR memo which described Ms. Wilson's role in her husband's selection? An obvious guess - Libby was being smart/slick/disingenuous/manipulative when he told Ms. Miller that he did not know the background of Wilson's wife - he knew, all right, but he wanted to get her poking around, and gossiping all over town. Well, if lying to a reporter is a crime, lock up Washington.
And that said, those factoids were (arguably) separated in Novak's column:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
Maybe Novak was a pawn in a similar manipulation - A senior Administration official told him "Cherchez la femme", and he uncovered her CIA connection on his own. (The second Admin official, reported to be Rove, allegedly provided confirmation with an a comprehensive, in-depth "I heard that, too".)
OK, one more guess - Libby knew Wilson's wife was with the CIA but concealed that when he spoke with Miller on July 8. Once he heard the CIA connection flow back to him from Cooper, he delivered it, courtesy of the TIME tip-laundering service, to Miller. And let's not leave Tim Russert out of this - maybe Libby double-sourced his leak before passing it back to Miller. (Here is Liptak of the Times on Russert's intriguing deal with the prosecutor).
Slick for Libby, small bit of a bummer for Karl, and frustrating as all get out (we imagine) for Fitzgerald.
UPDATE 2: Here is a revised version of the Times story, which adds a bit of detail about the Libby-Miller conversations. However, since they don't provide dates, we can't drag Cooper into it:
Ms. Miller met with Mr. Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week, they said.
[Long skip, and...]
According to someone who has been briefed on Mr. Libby's testimony and who believes that his statements show he did nothing wrong, Ms. Miller asked Mr. Libby during their conversations in July 2003 whether he knew Joseph C. Wilson IV, the former ambassador who wrote an Op-Ed article in The Times on July 6, 2003, criticizing the Bush administration. Ms. Miller's lawyers declined to discuss the conversations.
Mr. Libby said that he did not know Mr. Wilson but that he had heard from the C.I.A. that the former ambassador's wife, an agency employee, might have had a role in arranging a trip that Mr. Wilson took to Africa on behalf of the agency to investigate reports of Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear material. Mr. Wilson's wife is Ms. Wilson.
Mr. Libby did not know her name or her position at the agency and therefore did not discuss these matters with Ms. Miller, the person who had been briefed on the matter said.
Here is a column idea for Paul Krugman (you remember him - he used to be talked about, before the Times Reject debacle?).
The setting is Princeton, NJ, which is Krugman's hometown. The theme is the minority achievement gap in the public schools, which ties in nicely with various themes about Republican indifference to minorities that the Earnest Prof has developed over the years.
And, oddly, in this Times story we find minorities praising No Child Left behind. Baffling.
Well, if Krugman writes about this, we will be sure to not read it.
WE TRY FOR A REAL POINT: Was it only last Sunday that the Times was extolling economic integration as the panacea for our troubled schools? Indeed it was:
September 25, 2005
As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income
By ALAN FINDER
RALEIGH, N.C. - Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.
The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.
Yes, Bob Somerby ground this story down to a fine powder and blew it away - it turns out that the improvements in Wake County mirror those across the state. But wouldn't it be nice if the Times editors would notice these contradictions themselves?
And can anyone get enough of Bob? Today he arm wrestles the Princeton story.
Tom DeLay has been indicted and will "temporarily relinquish his leadership post". ...Speaker Dennis Hastert will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of
California step into those duties."
And who is David Dreier? He was swept into Congress on the Reagan tide of 1981, but there is an astonishing backstory that compounds the possibility of a media meltdown on this - apparently, he has been "outed" as a gay Republican, in a story ignored by the national press. Will they continue to ignore it? [RawStory has re-released their expose, so it currently tops the list at Google News.]
And will lefty bloggers ignore this angle? Currently, I am winning in the race to the gutter - neither Josh Marshall, Atrios, nor the Kos himself have noted this point, although I have not had the nerve to check the comments at the latter two. [I find the nerve - it takes 14 comments at Atrios to get to this].
Josh Marshall makes the canny point that Dreier is a placeholder until the DeLay restoration. Which is what people said about Coach Hastert.
As to whether Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle is a partisan hunting dog, this was kicked around a while back. Atrios helpfully links to this Nov 2004 Media Matters attempt to promote Mr. Earle; I still enjoy my takedown of the Media Matter effort (and Media Matters has yet to correct the very obvious date error I note in my lead).
And let's flashback to May 2005, when Mr. Earle was wacked by the local press for appearing at a Dem fundraiser.
Well. Mr. Earle had nothing when he went after Kay Bailey Hutchison; let's see if history repeats (Keep hope alive!)
UPDATE: Now it appears that Dreier is out, and Blunt is in. Well, I can't argue with this canny logic from Josh Marshall:
DeLay is out as Majority Leader -- at least temporarily. And Hastert plans to recommend Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) as his replacement. Why Dreier? Because DeLay plans on coming back. If DeLay lets someone into the job who actually has the juice to hold it, he might never get it back. That's why the logical person on the totem pole, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, is staying right where he is.
But then again, who can disagree with the Kos:
...it looks like Hastert's efforts to insert Dreier have hit a major roadblock.
It's not as if Hastert ever had any power. Blunt is DeLay's right-hand man. He's not gay. And he's well-entrenched in DeLay, Inc.
There's always an answer.
Observers continue to puzzle over the Times decision to kill the buzz generated by their top columnists by hiding them behind the TimesReject barricade. A hint to the strategy was provided by Martin Nisenholtz, president of New York Times Digital. Mr. Nisenholtz informed E&P that, for regular Times readers, the buzz is everything, and that access to the Time columnists would be "the equivalent to... a few martinis".
Don Luskin is not convinced. Mickey Kaus, in "Let the Victims Speak, Part II:", links the TimesReject strategy to troubling issues of class and race. And the Man Sans Q has been following the Times most e-mailed stories, searching for the new Invisible Men (and Women).
And how is TimesReject doing financially? Per the NY Times Company website, they have an investor's conference call scheduled for Oct 19 to discuss the third quarter. Presumably, the subject will come up.
WE COME OUT WITH OUR HANDS UP: As an irregular service to our readership, we have provided a taste of Dowd with our use of quotes. Sign up for TimesReject for the bi-weekly dosage - you know you need it.
The Chicago Tribune interviews Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and provides an overview of Able Danger, as well as a retrospective on other "near-misses" that might have disrupted the 9/11 attack.
The Trib reporters also speak with FBI officials with knowledge of Shaffer's contact at the FBI - if they can track these people down, why can't Sen. Arlen Specter?
The Washington-based FBI agent who was Shaffer's liaison has recalled, in interviews with her superiors, that Shaffer told her his group had unearthed important information on suspected Al Qaeda operatives with links to the U.S., but without mentioning Atta's name.
When Shaffer, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, asked to whom at the FBI that information should be communicated, the agent gave him the name and phone number of an official at FBI headquarters, according to the senior FBI official.
Well, it may be that all the FBI can tell us it that Shaffer aranged meetings and then cancelled them. Then again, they may have some memo describing the purpose of the meeting and outlining the Able Danger project.
The Trib also gives more detail on Shaffer's story about the Atta photo on the missing chart:
It was not, Shaffer said, the menacing Florida driver's license photo of Atta that has become an emblem of the attacks.
"Here is this gaunt figure," Shaffer recalled. "He's very distinctive. This is an older, more grainy photo we had of him. It was not the best picture in the world."
MORE: Able Danger addicts can find lots more starting at Decision '08, who is tracking a William Arkin series in the WaPo.
The NY Times "corrects" their story about how firms with Bush connections are being awarded Katrina contracts:
A front-page article yesterday reported on the awarding of billions of dollars in federal contracts to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The article said many contracts had been awarded without bidding or with limited competition, and it cited two major contractors whose political connections have already raised questions among government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.
In naming these contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - the article noted that they have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The article should have carried a response from Mr. Allbaugh, or restated a position he expressed in an earlier article in The Times: that he does not help any of his clients secure federal contracts, and has not done so in this case for Shaw or Kellogg. (Go to Article)
Let's just see what they wrote:
Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.
Ahh, the heroic "questions have been raised"! Well, these questions were raised a few weeks ago by CNN, and Michelle Malkin had a question of her own - how do these big-time journalists manage to uncover the Allbaugh connection but fail to notice that the head of The Shaw Group is also the chairman of the Democratic Party in Louisiana? If one were prying for political connections, that one might trigger a bell, yes? At the Times, no.
I will offer a quick tutorial for Times reporters.
(a) ask your manager for expense approval to sign up for a subscription to Google
(b) "(a)" was meant in jest - Google is free.
(c) Google on "The Shaw Group", using the quotations. Your search result will look like this; near the top are a few pages hinting at company info, which should include the name of the CEO (which is Jim Bernhard).
(d) Now, just like you would if you had met him at a coctail party (or were auto-Googling) - put "Jim Bernhard" in quotes in a Google search and see what you get.
Here is where your highly trained nose for news will come in handy - the first hit is this article, but that may be due to recent news developments (Ms. Malkin linked to it, and who can underestimate her power?)
However, if you cast your eye all the way down to the fourth hit, you may see:
By gum! And the text excerpt provided by Google even says:
Jim Bernhard. Type, Individual. Position, CEO Shaw Group/ Head of La Democratic Party. Political Party, Democrat ... Jim Bernhard's Friends ...
Head of La Democratic Party. Wow. Who would ever have guessed?
That is not so difficult.
Byron Calame, the Public Editor of the NY Times can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE: OK, if you subscribe to the premium Google News service, you will learn that Jim Bernhard stepped down as head of the LA Dem Party on Sept 17 - questions had been raised!
Bernhard is chief executive officer of The Shaw Group Inc., a company
that already has received a lucrative federal contract in the aftermath
of Katrina and likely will be seeking more of that work as billions of
dollars in federal reconstruction money pour into Louisiana.
"Mr. Bernhard believes he can best serve Louisiana by focusing all his attentions on running Shaw Group," company spokesman Chris Sammons said.
Shreveport analyst and pollster Elliott Stonecipher said Bernhard, who took the party leadership post less than a year ago, had to resign from the position to avoid allegations of favoritism when Shaw receives rebuilding and recovery contracts that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Given how much criticism there is about corruption in Louisiana, I just think there was no way that he could stay in his position as chairman. He ultimately had to make the obvious choice."
Sen. Bill Frist, addressing the questions about his sale of HCA stock, expands the timeline. Although he gave instructions to sell the stock in June 2005, one month prior to a 9% drop, he claims to have begun the process in April. If so, that should make an insider-trading charge more difficult (but not impossible!).
Stock Sale Was Planned Months Before Plunge, Frist Says
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - Senator Bill Frist on Monday defended his sale of stock in his family's hospital company at the June peak in its price, saying he had first sought legal and ethical advice about divesting the shares two months earlier.
Mr. Frist, a Tennessee Republican who is considered a likely presidential candidate in 2008, also alluded to future considerations that played into the sale of the shares in the company, the hospital giant HCA.
"Looking ahead at my final years in the Senate and what might come next," Mr. Frist said, "I have for some time wanted to eliminate even the possibility of an appearance of a conflict by totally divesting."
But how about the AP? Their reporter Joe Katz seems to have led the way with this story on Sept 20 (Yahoo, Boston Globe, Moderate Voice - Yahoo shows 9:37 PM Sept 20, which would make the Sept 21 editions. Per the Times, the initial impetus was an interview with one of Frist's aides in the Congressional Quarterly released on Monday).
One might wonder whether Joe is willing to let go - his coverage of the Frist statement fails to mention Frist's claim to have begun the process in April - the closest we get is this, from paragraph twelve:
Frist said his aides worked with outside lawyers and ethics committee staff in May to draft a letter to trustees instructing the sale of stock.
The PowerGuys have an extensive AP file, so maybe they will add this to it.
MORE: Excellent round-up of the Frist situation by a securities lawyer turned Baseball Crank.
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated
Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated
6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center
Its hard to believe we will see a wholesale revision of the Katrina story, but (and we are just thinking out loud here) - might we look forward to a story praising Bush for refusing to put troops in New Orleans on the basis of phony intelligence?
UPDATE: Drudge links to this LA Times story about media hype. In his own hype, Drudge acconmpanys the link with photos of Brian Williams, Shepard Smith, Oprah Winfrey, and a couple of others. However, the LA Times story does not include a killer quote from or about Brian Williams (nor do I). And NBC News claims that its reporting was responsible, and includes this:
We spent three days at the Convention Center reporting on the human suffering. We heard the terrible accounts of rape and murder, even the killing of children, but the only deaths we reported were the ones we actually saw.
I don't know how broadly we are meant to take his "We" - is it all of NBC News, or just his news crew? I found this pretty quickly from Sept 2, just poking around:
I spoke to a man who was beaten up at the Superdome. His jaw was broken and he had a friend with him who had a concussion and was basically unconscious.
The man with the broken jaw said that he had another friend who was beaten to death at the Superdome. He said that they had no choice but to leave his body there.
EVEN MORE: The NY Times weighs in with their hype-buster:
September 29, 2005
Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans
By JIM DWYER and CHRISTOPHER DREW
NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 25 - After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists - the core of the city's economy - were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.
The mass misery in the city's two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.
A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public.
Federal ethics laws make it virtually impossible for members of Congress or top White House officials to set up trusts fully beyond their knowledge or control. While officials may choose to set up a conventional blind trust under the control of an independent administrator, ethics laws require the annual public disclosure of its contents.
So the laws provide for the creation of special "qualified blind trusts" like Mr. Frist's that are exempt from public disclosure. The laws strictly limit communications between the trustee and the beneficiary, but they also mandate disclosure of the original holdings and notification to the beneficiary whenever an original asset is sold.
And the rules give beneficiaries like Mr. Frist, Republican of Tennessee and the Senate majority leader, the power to order the sale of all of a stock or other asset at any time in the name of eliminating a potential conflict.
...Elected officials cite their creation of blind trusts as insulation against conflicts of interest. When asked about the influence of his multimillion-dollar stake in HCA, the hospital company his family founded, Mr. Frist often said his blind trust kept him ignorant of how many shares he owned. Occasionally, he even said, "I don't know if I own HCA," as he told The National Journal in an interview two years ago.
Though choosing to create a blind trust might help candidates politically, ethics rules do not require one. Many other government officials and members of Congress own or even trade stocks directly.
Well, then - Dr. Frist may have a political problem if his "I don't know if I own HCA" statements come back to haunt him. However, it does not sound like his knowlege of his HCA holdings will be part of his legal problem.
If I had the grim challenge of explaining Bill Frist's sale of stock, the ownership of which he was ostensibly unaware, I might start with S.1002, a bipartisan bill introduced by Grassley and Baucus, the ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee, on May 11, 2005.
The Street describes the bill and its possible impact on health care stocks in an article from May 26:
The hospital industry could pay dearly to cure a festering sore spot.
The group has long cried out for relief from physician-owned specialty hospitals that snag lucrative cardiology and orthopedics cases for themselves. In response, however, the government is now poised to go a step further by reducing the profitability of such cases for regular and specialty hospitals alike.
Indeed, Congress is currently weighing a bipartisan bill that would dramatically alter the entire Medicare payment system. Under the proposal, Medicare would pay hospitals on the basis of their cost to treat patients rather than the amount they charge to do so.
"This bill would make corrections to the payment system so that certain cases and patients are not significantly more profitable or less profitable to treat than others," says Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee. "This will improve payment accuracy for all hospitals and will better reflect the actual cost of delivering care."
Grassley's proposal, based in part on recommendations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would rein in the growth of specialty hospitals while undercutting certain business strategies at regular hospitals as well...
UBS analyst Kenneth Weakley... warns of an unexpected backlash for the industry.
"If CMS is successful in altering the [diagnosis-related group] system such that it achieves tight, normal distribution of profit margins across all DRG codes, then forward projections for hospital economics will likely lose ALL of their reliability," Weakley wrote last week. "Indeed, should CMS implement this change for fiscal 2007 (which begins in October 2006), as it currently intends, it would not be unfair to say that few even in the hospital industry would be able to accurately predict the ultimate impact on hospital-by-hospital reimbursement."
Already, industry executives look skittish. Since CMS first made its recommendations in early March, senior managers at a number of hospital chains -- including Community (CYH:NYSE - commentary - research), LifePoint (LPNT:Nasdaq - commentary - research), HCA (HCA:NYSE - commentary - research) and Triad (TRI:NYSE - commentary - research) -- have been shedding large amounts of stock. All of those stocks set new 52-week highs this spring but have since begun to retreat.
Shares of industry leader HCA, where insider selling has been especially pronounced, fell 1.2% to $53.01 on Wednesday. The stock is now off 6.5% from the peak it hit last month.
The obvious defense - this bill created a huge conflict of interest for Frist, so he did the responsible thing and sold his shares.
However - if this bill created a new and problematic conflict of interest for the Senate Majority Leader on May 11, why did he wait until June 13 to order the sale of his stock? And might one argue that, as Majority Leader, he had inside information about the legislative prospects for this bill, and might one speculate that this inside information prompted his sale?
Well, if I were defending Frist, I might get fired, because this is a pretty lackluster effort. But it may be that the status of the bill was public info and the potential impact on his pocket book was obvious, so he sold his shares.
Or it may be that this bill will be DOA in the House. I throw this idea out there as a possible motivation for Frist's sale - there is nothing else in the company announcements or news headlines that catches my eye.
The Captain and Jon Henke want Frist to step down pending a resolution of this; anyone feeling some love for First, be sure to leave a comment or trackback, but my guess is that if Frist were gone today, he would be forgotten tomorrow (and with a fine defense like this, tomorrow may be here by yesterday...)
More reaction at Memeorandum.
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, through a spokesperson, contradicts Congressman Curt Weldon:
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley yesterday denied receiving a Defense Department chart that allegedly identified lead terrorist Mohamed Atta before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, dealing a blow to claims by a Republican congressman that have caused a political uproar in recent weeks.
If this is an orchestrated cover-up, it is sounding like one large orchestra.
We have earlier coverage of Hadley's role here - as best we can summarize Weldon's version, the chart he gave Hadley may or may not have ID'ed Atta. (For example, Weldon recounts the story of giving a chart to Hadley in his May 2002 speech, but does *not* mention the seemingly headline-grabbing detail that the chart ID'ed Atta.)
Meanwhile, let's establish a bit of context and then present the "Keep Hope Alive" absurd spin du jour - shortly after 9/11, Weldon allegedly handed Hadley a chart that may or may not have ID'ed Mohamed Atta, lead hijacker. Now Hadley doesn't remember getting such a chart. The prizewinner:
Weldon's chief of staff, Russ Caso, said that "the congressman sticks by his account" of the meeting, adding that it was understandable Hadley may have forgotten or misplaced the chart, given the demands of his job.
Sure - if someone told me that a secret intelligence unit had identified Atta prior to the attack, I would have forgotten that, too.
In related news, the Pentagon may or may not have agreed to cooperate with Specter's next hearing.
TOO CUTE? Let's review Hadley's denial for "parsability":
But a spokesman for Hadley, who has previously declined to comment on Weldon's claims, said yesterday that a search of National Security Council files produced no such documents identifying Atta and that Hadley was not given such a chart by Weldon.
"Mr. Hadley does not recall any chart bearing the name or photo of Mohamed Atta," said the spokesman, Frederick L. Jones II. "NSC staff reviewed the files of Mr. Hadley as well as of all NSC personnel" who might have received such a chart.
"That search has turned up no chart," he said.
Hadley does recall seeing a chart used as an example of "link analysis" -- the technique used by the Able Danger program -- as a counterterrorism tool, but is not sure whether it happened during a Sept. 25, 2001, meeting with Weldon or at another session, Jones said.
"Name" could be ambiguous - maybe the chart had another of Atta's names. But photo?
Well, did Hadley's people find a chart with no photo and an earlier name used by Atta? They say they found no chart at all.
OK, the "Weldon is a kook" theory had plenty of oxygen even before today.
STILL MORE: At the Pentagon press briefing, we were told that the Pentagon had found some charts similar to that described by Weldon, prompting an "Arrgh! Where were the follow-ups?" from yours truly.
Well, the WaPo has followed up:
While Pentagon investigators never found such a chart, they did uncover two other interesting diagrams: One from 1999 included the name and photograph of Mohammed Atef -- not Atta -- a well-known al Qaeda lieutenant. Another included the photo of a convicted terrorist named Eyad Ismoil, an Egyptian who bears a resemblance to Atta -- and who, unlike Atta, was part of the Brooklyn cell tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Investigators and experts say those two charts could explain how a handful of military officers and civilians may have come to mistakenly believe they identified Atta. Atta's Florida driver's license photo from the summer of 2000 has become an icon of the attacks, and the lead hijacker has been the subject of many dubious claims and sightings.
OK - could someone please show these charts to Hadley, Weldon and Shaffer to see if they look strangely familiar?
Abracadabrah has a useful summary of recent developments; the Captain tells us about Eileen Preisser; and here is Erik Kleinsmith's testimony, in which Ms. Pressier is identified - she has appeared earlier in the Able Danger story as an unidentified female whiz kid.
Peter Daou, currently at Salon and formerly with the Kerry campaign, writes on The Triangle and the Limits of Blog Power and charts the future of the blogosphere:
After a year of my life spent at the intersection of pre-blog and post-blog political thinking, and with Bush getting the second term he craved, one question has preoccupied me since last November: What is the scope of netroots power? Put differently: How influential are bloggers?
...It might be easier to approach the question by setting a more specific, and admittedly somewhat arbitrary, definition of political influence: the capacity to alter or create conventional wisdom. And a working definition of “conventional wisdom” is a widely held belief on which most people act. Finally, by “people” I mean all Americans, regardless of ideology or political participation.
Looking at the political landscape, one proposition seems unambiguous: blog power on both the right and left is a function of the relationship of the netroots to the media and the political establishment. Forming a triangle of blogs, media, and the political establishment is an essential step in creating the kind of sea change we’ve seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Simply put, without the participation of the media and the political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom. This is partly a factor of audience size, but it’s also a matter, frankly, of trust and legitimacy. Despite the astronomical growth of the netroots (see Bowers and Stoller for hard numbers), and the slow and steady encroachment of bloggers on the hallowed turf of Washington’s opinion-makers, it is still the Russerts and Broders and Gergens and Finemans, the WSJ, WaPo and NYT editorial pages, the cable nets, Stewart and Letterman and Leno, and senior elected officials, who play a pivotal role in shaping people’s political views. That is not to say that blogs can’t be the first to draw attention to an issue, as they often do, but the half-life of an online buzz can be measured in days and weeks, and even when a story has enough netroots momentum to float around for months, it will have little effect on the wider public discourse without the other sides of the triangle in place. Witness the Plame case, an obsession of left-leaning bloggers long before the media and the political establishment got on board and turned it into a political liability for Rove and Bush.
...Bloggers can exert disproportionate pressure on the media and on politicians. Reporters, pundits, and politicians read blogs, and, more importantly, they care what bloggers say about them because they know other reporters, pundits, and politicians are reading the same blogs. It’s a virtuous circle for the netroots and a source of political power. The netroots can also bring the force of sheer numbers to bear on a non-compliant politician, reporter, or media outlet. Nobody wants a flood of complaints from thousands of angry activists. And further, bloggers can raise money, fact-check, and help break stories and/or keep them in circulation long enough for the media and political establishment to pick them up.
Consequently, bloggers, though unable to change conventional wisdom on their own, are able to use these proficiencies and resources to persuade the media and political establishment to join them in pushing a particular story or issue.
Mr. Daou then identifies blog strategies for the left and right, or, (let me yield to his unstated preference), the Party of Evil and the Party of Virtue. In his view, the Party of evil has it all buttoned down:
With a well-developed echo chamber and superior top-down discipline, the right has a much easier time forming the triangle. Fox News, talk radio, Drudge, a well-trained and highly visible punditocracy, and a lily-livered press corps takes care of the media side of the triangle. Iron-clad party loyalty – with rare exceptions – and a willingness of Republican officials to jump on the Limbaugh-Hannity bandwagon du jour takes care of the party establishment side of the triangle. The rightwing netroots, therefore, is already working within the triangle on most issues. Their primary strategic aim is to prevent the left from forming its own triangle, as occurred with Katrina.
No mention of the coordination and communication benefits of Rove's mind rays.
For the Party of Virtue, bringing truth to the world is a bit more complicated:
Whereas rightwing bloggers can rely on their leadership and the rightwing noise machine to build the triangle, left-leaning bloggers face the challenge of a mass media consumed by the shop-worn narrative of Bush the popular, plain-spoken leader, and a Democratic Party incapacitated (for the most part) by the focus-grouped fear of turning off "swing voters" by attacking Bush. For the progressive netroots, the past half-decade has been a Sisyphean loop of scandal after scandal melting away as the media and party establishment remain disengaged.
It would seem reasonable to conclude, then, that the best strategy for the progressive netroots is to go after the media and Democratic Party leaders and spend less time and energy attacking the Bush administration. If the netroots alone can’t change the political landscape without the participation of the media and Democratic establishment, then there’s no point wasting precious online space blasting away at Republicans while the other sides of the triangle stand idly by. Indeed, blog powerhouses like
Kos and Josh Marshall have taken an aggressive stance toward Democratic politicians they see as selling out core Democratic Party principles. Kos’s willingness to attack the DLC is mocked on the right, but it is precisely the right’s fear that Kos will “close the triangle” that causes them to protest so loudly. Similarly, when Atrios, Digby, Oliver Willis, and so many other progressive bloggers attack the media, they are leveraging whatever power they have to compel the media to assume a role as the third side of their triangle.
Emphasis added, and let me have a show of hands among the right wing bloggers who have been afraid that Kos, in attacking the DLC, was going to improve the message discipline of the Dem Party.
I lose the last vapor trail of his argument right here:
Setting aside 2006 congressional prospects and the remote hope for progressives that Bush will be impeached, the grand political battle of the next three years is over Bush’s legacy.
For rightwing bloggers who have fiercely defended one of the most controversial and polarizing presidents in our history, their fortunes will rise or fall with his approval ratings. The blind allegiance to Bush and the furious assault on his detractors will be vindicated if he leaves office with popular support.
Really? I suspect Mr. Daou has been beguiled by the many "Dear Leader" jibes that are a staple of a certain type of left-wing blog. Over in my slice of reality, I could rally up plenty of right wing bloggers who couldn't give two cents for Bush's approval ratings. Getting proper conservatives elected in 2006 and 2008, and finding someone (anyone!) to provide credible leadership on Iraq specifically and terror generally - that will excite right wing bloggers. And yes, that goal may overlap with defending certain Bush legacy projects, such as Iraq, but let's not confuse tactics with objectives.
Jonah Goldberg can be dragged out as Exhibit A of Bush fatigue. However, Jonah does diagnose the Democratic problem:
If you listened to the Democrats fight John Roberts this month, it’s impossible not to conclude the Democrats are a runt party and will remain one for a while. The gravitational pull of their base makes it all but impossible for them to attain escape velocity from Planet Permanent Minority.
The planet in question might be Atrios.
More skepticism from a fellow who remembers Rathergate and wonders why Daou does not.
The CJR blog praises NPR for its fair and balanced coverage of the story of the bridge to Gretna, where local cops turned back people fleeing New Orleans. (We have earlier commentary and lots of links here and here.)
CJR's big finish:
Burnett [of NPR] did report the full story, but by doing something basic -- focusing on Lawson and Lee's point of view -- he illuminated a crucial aspect of a convoluted, touchy incident. Perhaps the easy answer of race -- or racism -- is not the only viable explanation. Perhaps Gretna officials, already having taken in thousands and fearing that things were getting out of control, felt they simply had no other choice.
I would urge the CJR squad to include in their coverage some account of the looting situation unfolding in New Orleans - the behavior of the Gretna cops gains a bit of context when we fold in the fact that they were blockading that bridge in the same time frame that Louisiana Governor Blanco was boasting that the National Guard was in New Orleans and "...these troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will."
MSNBC chats with the mayor of Gretna and adds a few new details about the problems already encountered in Gretna:
Like New Orleans, Gretna was pummeled by Katrina. The city lost power, water and sewer facilities. They had no shelters, no food no water and no capacity to take evacuees, Harris said. There was never a call from New Orleans that people were coming; there was never any plan to take them, Harris said.
But still they came, by the thousands, fleeing New Orleans, across the bridge. By Wednesday as many as 6,000 evacuees had massed in Gretna, Harris said. Gretna officials were commandeering buses “and for the next 12 to 14 hours began round trip shuttle service to Interstate 10 and Causeway (where there was a FEMA evacuation site),” Harris said. “Now that wasn’t our duty, that wasn’t our responsibility but that’s what we did.”
And at some point on Wednesday the lawlessness started. Nine stores inside the Oakwood mall were burned and looted, Harris said. Gretna police were fired on and roving gangs were going house to house “literally knocking on doors, holding guns in the faces of residents and saying ‘give us your cash, your jewelry and your car keys,’” the mayor said.
Undoubtedly there were good people just trying to escape, find safety and shelter, Harris said, but the crowd had a “criminal element” that had to be considered.
And that’s when the decision was made to block passage across the bridge.
“So the action taken was because we were not designated as a shelter, we were not designated as an evacuation route, we had no running water, we had no electricity, we had no food, OK? We had no sewer system. So I don’t know what all these people were planning on getting on when they came over here because every building in my department was damaged. A hurricane hit us, too,” Harris said, barely taking a breath. “Quite frankly we’re tired of answering the same questions over and over again.”
Well, that adds a bit of detail to the list of problems cited by the police chief in this Sept 16 AP story:
Looting and a fire inside the mall convinced Lawson that his city, itself without power and water, could not handle the masses pouring in from New Orleans.
John Tierney, now relegated to irrelevance as a TimesReject columnist, got results with his Sept 6 column titled "The Magic Marker Strategy":
We can learn more [about disater preparation] by listening to men like Jim Judkins, particularly when he explains the Magic Marker method of disaster preparedness.
Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.
Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.
"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.
Mr. Tierney's column was effective as well - in readying for Rita Gov. Blanco of Louisiana has adopted the line, as has a mayor in Texas. Blanco first:
Governor Kathleen Blanco minced no words in telling any holdouts in the largely abandoned city to leave, suggesting they mark their bodies with identifiers so authorities can determine who they were if flood waters claimed them. ''If some people insist on staying -- perhaps they should write their Social Security number on their arms with indelible ink," she said.
And from Texas:
Tharling says that the 1,000 or so die-hards who refuse to evacuate are being given permanent markers and asked to write their Social Security number, next of kin and a phone number on their arm or across their abdomen — so that returning officials can identify their bodies.
Tierney will never have this clout again.
MORE: My official prediction is that the new Times Select will go down alongside "New Coke" as one of the great corporate belly-flops of the era. What, exactly, is the marketing pitch - "Pay for the opinions no one else is talking about"? Good luck.
That said, the Times decison to stifle their commentariat may be a great thing for the Dems, if it allows voices of reason to emerge.
STILL MORE: Excellent point from blogger "Tom" - picture the reaction if Bush has said what Blanco did. The outcry might even make people sign up to read MoDo's reaction.
Arlen Specter went through the motions with his Senate hearing into "Able Danger" after the Pentagon pulled the plug on several key witnesses.
My quick version - there was a data-mining program that produced useful intel, and may (or may not) have explicitly identified Mohamed Atta prior to 9/11.
It was allowed to lapse per plan in 2001, with a major clean-up due to domestic spying concerns, however misplaced. (Lots of this comes from the Pentagon press briefing).
My guess is that a similar program has since been reconstituted, but no one wants to tell Weldon because the intel community thinks he is daft.
Way back when, on August 10, I had nominated candidates for a cover-up:
The obvious whipping boys of summer would be Clinton/Berger/Gorelick, for fostering an overly legalistic approach to the War on Terror; Bush/Tenet/Rice for failing to draw this information from the system in the summer of 2001, when we were at a high terrorist threat level and Tenet's hair was on fire; and Gen. Hugh Shelton and the Pentagon. Gen. Shelton (ret.) was Chairman of the JCS in Jan 2001 - if he heard and downplayed the Able Danger briefing then, he and the Pentagon might prefer to see it buried now.
Like the Yankees, Shelton and the Pentagon have moved to the fore.
(Side note - folks who only recently discovered that Shelton was briefed on this have not been keeping up - Weldon mentioned it in his May 2002 floor speech, and I have been muttering about it intermittently since Aug 10. Weldon recently shocked me by expressing his surprise at this revelation at this press conference, so count him among those not keeping up.)
The Times engages in some gratuitous France bashing, and does not even hide it behind its Great Select Wall:
French Lesson: Taunts on Race Can Boomerang
By JOHN TAGLIABUE
PARIS, Sept. 20 - The French news media were captivated by Hurricane Katrina, pointing out how the American government's faltering response brought into plain view the sad lot of black Americans. But this time the French, who have long criticized America's racism, could not overlook the parallels at home.
"It is true that the devastations of Katrina have cruelly shed light on the wounds of America, ghettoization, poverty, criminality, racial and territorial tensions," Le Figaro, the conservative daily, said in an editorial on Sept. 8. "In France, those in disagreement ran to pelt the 'American model' and the neoconservative president. But have they just looked at the state of their own country?"
Only four days before, a fire had swept an apartment in south Paris, killing 12 people, most of them black. And just days before that, 17 black people died in a single blaze. Since April, 48 people, most of them children and all of them black, have died in four separate fires in Paris.
In neighborhoods like Château Rouge, filled with the hundreds of thousands of nonwhite immigrants, some Arabs but mainly blacks, whom France has absorbed over the years from former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, you feel the anger.
"It could be a coincidence," said Sissouo Cheickh, bitterly, "but one question the French have to answer is: of 48 people who died, why were 48 black?"
It turns out that race is not a problem in France, but not for quite the reason one might expect:
But French insistence on the equality of man leaves them in a bind, their black critics say, perpetuating the fiction of a society without minorities.
The census in France does not list people by race. Hence, while blacks are thought to number about 1.5 million, of a total population of 59 million, no one really knows the exact number, which is estimated to be far higher.
A color blind census? Maybe John Kerry, Francophile, could have picked up some right-wing votes with that proposal. Of course, denial has consequences:
The European Union finances programs for minorities but not in France, because of its refusal to recognize minorities.
Well, how are "they" doing?
There are virtually no black people in corporate France, and blacks have almost no political representation. No black person sits in the National Assembly or in a regional parliament, and only a smattering are found in city councils....
So, today, blacks are not much on the French agenda. After the recent fires, the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed a program of affirmative action and a requirement that résumés conceal a person's ethnic or racial identity. But the rest of the cabinet, including the minister for equal opportunity, rejected the ideas, saying they offended the fundamental principle of equality.
France - the progressive dream-state.
Arianna has an interesting post telling us that the Plame investigaors may be pondering John Bolton:
I'm now hearing that the investigation may be inching closer to never-confirmed UN Ambassador John Bolton.
According to two sources, Bolton's former chief of staff, Fred Fleitz, was at least one of the sources of the classified information about Valerie Plame that flowed through the Bush administration and eventually made its way into Bob Novak's now infamous column.
The Bolton/Fleitz/Miller scenario has been a staple of left wing blogs since the Bolton noimination. I diligently ignored that theory (mostly), since I was struck by the fact that Bolton was only identifed as the source of all evil *after* his nomination to the UN ambassadorship.
That said, Ms. Huffington does claim to have two sources. So, my questions - why is the investigation "inching" anywhere? Who has been testifying or offering new evidence?
Secondly, as noted by Ms. Huffington, Bolton has never been questioned by Fitzgerald about this (or so he says to the Senate). Why is Fitzgerald being so coy? Fitzgerald chatted with Bush and Cheney, so it can't be a shyness problem.
Ms. Huffington must know that this bit about a "target" is disingenuous:
So could Ambassador Bolton actually be a target of Pat Fitzgerald's investigation? When considering this question, it's important to keep in mind that he's never been subpoenaed or questioned by the Plamegate grand jury -- and, as a lawyer who does work for the New York Times put it: "The target of a grand jury investigation would not ordinarily be subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury."
This has come up repeatedly in the case of Karl Rove - Rove's lawyer reassures the press that Rove is not a "target", and Rove's critics holler that a "target" does not have the laymen's meaning of "Suspect Fitzgerald is looking at", but is, in fact, a technical legal term.
And the reason targets are not ordinarily asked to testify to a grand jury is simple - they can be expected to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, so the exercise would be a waste of time.
That said, here is a scenario - Fleitz knew about Plame, and told Bolton, who passed it to Libby and Rove. Libby said, gee, I can't use this with the press, it might be classified; Bolton then laundered the tip through Ms. Miller, so that Libby, Rove, and others could claim they simply learned about Plame from reporters.
In the full "Drunk With Power" version, Miller and others are aware of their roles in this performance, which means they are (probably) accessories in a criminal conspiracy. And Bush went ahead and put Bolton at the UN with a recess appointment because he (or his disloyal staffers) knew that Judy would never crack. Now the fate of the Administration hangs in the hands of a Times reporter... I score this hypothesis as "Pass the tin-foil".
However, in a scaled back "Evil But Crafty" version, Miller is an unwitting pawn - Bolton passed her the Plame tidbit and let her impulses take over. Now, if Miller cracks and talks to Fitzgerald, Bolton is out of a job, Bush will never make a recess appointment again, and Andrew Card will murder someone (after he murders Bolton, who should have developed health problems or a burning desire to spend time with his family, rather than accept the UN appointment with this sword hanging over him). However, Libby and Rove may claim (perhaps even honestly) that they were dupes as well, and were unaware of the Miller/Bolton link - remember, Miller had worked on WMD issues for years, and may not have needed any help in tagging Ms. Plame as Joe Wilson's wife.
Well, maybe. Let's not underestimate the power of rationalization when a glam job is on the line. *IF* Bolton passed the Plame tip to Miller, he may have calculated that this is the sort of leak that is never prosecuted in Washington; after all, it was Novak that eventually published, so one might argue (or pretend to one's self) that Ms. Miller held the information responsibly. And if she passed it back to Libby, well, that is not a crime, is it?
I am still stumped by the question of whether Fitzgerald has pursued this. If we accept that, as of the time he responded to the Senate questions, Bolton had not been questioned by Fitzgerald, is it possible that he has been questioned since then? Would we know, and who would leak it? Fitzgerald's side has been sphinx-like, and lawyers for Bolton are not going to pass out this news.
OTOH, if Arianna has two sources fingering Fleitz, it may be because White House staffers who have testified were on the receiving end of a Plame related tip from Fleitz. So, has he been called to testify, would we know, and would that be covered by Bolton's Senate disclosure?
Tentative Witness List
Hearing before the
Senate Judiciary Committee
“Able Danger and Intelligence Information Sharing”
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
9:30 a.m. Senate Dirksen Building, Room 226
The Honorable Curt Weldon
United States Representative [R-PA, 7th District]
Mark Zaid, Esq.
Attorney at Law
former Army Major and
Chief of Intelligence of the Land Infomration Warfare Analysis LIWA
Project Manager for Intelligence Analytical Training
Executive Assistant Director
Counter Terrorism/Counter Intelligence
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Department of Justice
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight
United States Department of Defense
Curt Weldon is the Congressman who has been leading this charge; not everyone scores his credibility at 100%.
Mark Zaid is the attorney for several of the Able Danger team members. Presumably, he will pass on hearsay about what they knew, or perhaps describe their whistle-blower status.
Erik Kleinsmith worked in military intelligence, but in what capacity? E-mail him here and ask him yourself!
Gary Bald is familiar with Joint Terrorism Task Forces.
William Dugan is an internet cipher but from the Times story we pick up this:
Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, said that in place of members of the Able Danger team, a senior defense official would be sent to the Wednesday hearing to discuss "what the law and policies are on domestic surveillance and to provide some insights about information-sharing between agencies."
Mark Zaid, an attorney for Army Reserve Col. Tony Shaffer, said his client, a Defense Intelligence Agency liaison to the Able Danger team, was told in a letter not to testify.
The letter, which gave no reason for the order, was signed by the principal deputy general counsel for the Defense Intelligence Agency, Robert Berry.
Mr. Zaid said the team members "were told verbally that they would not be allowed to testify" and that the order was put in writing only with regard to his client at his request.
He said that the team leader, Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, civilian analyst James Smith and other members of the team had been denied permission to testify. A Judiciary Committee aide said panel staff members already have interviewed Capt. Philpott and Col. Shaffer.
Since this is a Judiciary Committee hearing, I had imagined that Specter's hook into an oversight role was the issue of intelligence sharing between the military and the FBI. My hope was that Specter would produce a witness who could explain the details of the meetings allegedly scheduled between the Able Danger team and the FBI - were the meetings actually scheduled, and what legal area shut them down? Defense Dept. lawyers, or lawyers at OIPR would be the obvious candidates, and the Pentagon seemed to rule out Defense Dept lawyers.
It is possible that William Dugan is my man. Time will tell.
David Carr, a regular Times contributor, discovers media hype in the Katrina coverage.
Careful readers will infer that Mr. Carr writes these columns as some sort of a media critic who focuses on television coverage, so the performance of the NY Times itself is given a pass. Casual readers will be left at sea.
In Mr. Carr's world, it was Fox News, talk radio, and the internet that hyped the violence and atrocities. However, let's notice the gap between criticism and evidence:
DISASTER has a way of bringing out the best and the worst instincts in the news media. It is a grand thing that during the most terrible days of Hurricane Katrina, many reporters found their gag reflex and stopped swallowing pat excuses from public officials. But the media's willingness to report thinly attributed rumors may also have contributed to a kind of cultural wreckage that will not clean up easily.
First, anyone with any knowledge of the events in New Orleans knows that terrible things with non-natural causes occurred: there were assaults, shots fired at a rescue helicopter and, given the state of the city's police department, many other crimes that probably went unreported.
But many instances in the lurid libretto of widespread murder, carjacking, rape, and assaults that filled the airwaves and newspapers have yet to be established or proved, as far as anyone can determine. And many of the urban legends that sprang up - the systematic rape of children, the slitting of a 7-year-old's throat - so far seem to be just that. The fact that some of these rumors were repeated by overwhelmed local officials does not completely get the news media off the hook. A survey of news reports in the LexisNexis database shows that on Sept. 1, the news media's narrative of the hurricane shifted.
The Fox News anchor, John Gibson, helped set the scene: "All kinds of reports of looting, fires and violence. Thugs shooting at rescue crews. Thousands of police and National Guard troops are on the scene trying to get the situation under control. Thousands more on the way. So heads up, looters." A reporter, David Lee Miller, responded: "Hi, John. As you so rightly point out, there are so many murders taking place. There are rapes, other violent crimes taking place in New Orleans." After the interview, Mr. Gibson did acknowledge that "we have yet to confirm a lot of that."
Later that night on MSNBC, Tucker Carlson grabbed the flaming baton and ran with it. "People are being raped," he said in a conversation with the Rev. Al Sharpton. "People are being murdered. People are being shot. Police officers being shot."
Some journalists did find sources. About 10 p.m. that same evening, Greta Van Susteren of Fox interviewed Dr. Charles Burnell, an emergency room physician who was providing medical care in the Superdome.
"Well, we had several murders. We had three murders last night. We had a total of six rapes last night. We had the day before I think there were three or four murders. There were half a dozen rapes that night," he told Ms. Van Susteren. (Dr. Burnell did not return several calls asking for comment.) On the same day, The New York Times referred to two rapes at the Superdome, quoting a woman by name who said she was a witness.
OK, if Fox reported "the systematic rape of children", or "the slitting of a 7-year-old's throat", this was the time to mention it. Instead, we get a generic mention of violence, looting, and rapes. Does Mr. Carr contend that this was *not* happening?
Well, we don't need to look far to find a news source that was passing on some of the dramatic crime stories. If Fox "helped set the scene" with their Sept 1 broadcast, let's see what the NY Times offered on Sept 1:
NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 31 - Chaos gripped New Orleans on Wednesday as looters ran wild, food and water supplies dwindled, bodies floated in the floodwaters, the evacuation of the Superdome began and officials said there was no choice but to abandon the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, perhaps for months.
...With police officers and National Guard troops giving priority to saving lives, looters brazenly ripped open gates and ransacked stores for food, clothing, television sets, computers, jewelry and guns, often in full view of helpless law-enforcement officials. Dozens of carjackings, apparently by survivors desperate to escape, were reported, as were a number of shootings.
...They had flocked to the arena seeking sanctuary from the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. But understaffed, undersupplied and without air-conditioning or even much lighting, the domed stadium quickly became a sweltering and surreal vault, a place of overflowing toilets and no showers. Food and water, blankets and sheets, were in short supply. And the dome's reluctant residents exchanged horror stories, including reports, which could not be confirmed by the authorities, of a suicide and of rapes.
NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 31 - In a city shut down for business, the Rite Aid at Oak and South Carrollton was wide open on Wednesday. Someone had stolen a forklift, driven it four blocks, peeled up the security gate and smashed through the front door.
One police officer was shot Tuesday trying to stop looting, but he was expected to survive.
An emergency medical vehicle that was taking a Baton Rouge police officer who had been shot last month from a hospital back to his hometown was shot at on the way out of New Orleans on Tuesday.
Fair and balanced at the NY Times.
We also take issue with a specific point made twice by Mr. Carr:
(1) ...First, anyone with any knowledge of the events in New Orleans knows that terrible things with non-natural causes occurred: there were assaults, shots fired at a rescue helicopter...
(2) The widely reported and seemingly fantastical story about a man shooting at a rescue helicopter was confirmed.
Confirmed by whom? Matt Welch wrote a better, earlier column about Katrina media hype on Sept 6, and said this about the helicopter incident [which he later withdrew - see UPDATE]:
Relief efforts ground to a halt last week after reports circulated of looters shooting at helicopters, yet none of the hundreds of articles I read on the subject contained a single first-hand confirmation from a pilot or eyewitness. The suspension-triggering attack—on a military Chinook attempting to evacuate refugees from the Superdome—was contested by Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown, who told ABC News, "We're controlling every single aircraft in that airspace and none of them reported being fired on." What's more, when asked about the attacks, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff replied: "I haven't actually received a confirmed report of someone firing on a helicopter."
From the ABC story to which Matt links, we see "confirmation" from a National Guard officer:
"At the Superdome, we have a report that one shot was fired at a Chinook helicopter," [Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard] said, adding that the Chinook is "an extremely large aircraft."
Although he ignored the Times own breathless coverage of rapes, looting, and vigilantism, I am sure Mr. Carr will welcome an opportunity to document this particular assertion about the confirmation of reports that a helicopter was fired upon. We don't want any hype in the hype-denouncing story, do we?
Times Public Editor Byron Calame can be reached at: email@example.com
UPDATE: Under their (relatively) new policy, when the NY Times corrects a story, they note the presence of a correction at the top of the website version ("Correction Appended"), and run the correction at the bottom. (See this example).
Would that "Reason" achieved that level of transparency. Matt Welch ran a correction to his Reason article the next day, telling us that his helicopter reporting had crashed and burned; I certainly did not pick that up in reading the original piece.
In addition, here is an eyewitness claiming he saw "people firing at military helicopters".
Bill Clinton chatted with former staffer George Stephanopoulos about Bush, Iarq, and Katrina; as they discussed the evacuation plan for New Orleans, it appeared that Mr. Clinton forgot that at one time he had been President himself:
PRESIDENT CLINTON: ...But I think the fundamental problem there was, it's like when they issued the evacuation order: that affects poor people differently. A lot of them in New Orleans didn't have cars. A lot of them who had cars had kinfolk they had to take care of. They didn't have cars, so they couldn't take them out.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And they couldn't get gas.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And they couldn't get gas.
Then, you had another thing nobody's talked about: a lot of these people never had any home insurance, didn't have any flood insurance. Everything they owned was in their little home. And if we really wanted it to do it right, we would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out and also lots of empty vans so that everybody with no kind of home or flood insurance could have been given a little bit--
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Mayor probably should have had those buses.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: A little bit of it.
Maybe the Mayor, maybe the Governor, but all I can tell you is that when James Lee Witt ran FEMA, because he had been both a local official and a Federal official, he was always there early, and we always thought about that. But both of us came out of environments with a disproportionate number of poor people.
I think that we were sensitive to the racial issue, but I think we were sensitive to the economic issue. And you can't have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle class people up, and when you tell people to go do something they don't have the means to do, you're going to leave the poor out.
First of all, what kind of cut-rate plan is Clinton proposing - buses and moving vans? In *my* fantasy plan, we will have buses, and right behind them will be moving vans, and right behind them will be vans staffed with physical therapists, manicurists, and a masseuse, and right behind that will be a van with some grief counselors, separation counselors, and, well, counselors. Because these evacuees will have unmet needs.
But set aside Clinton's lack of compassion. Does he seriously think that Mr. Witt would show up 72 hours before the Big Blow and arrange all this?
Or is Mr. Clinton seriously suggesting that back in the day when Mr. Witt was running FEMA, the evacuation plan for New Orleans included buses and moving vans for the poor? When was that dropped from the plan?
Or (third choice), is Mr. Clinton just running his mouth?
YOU make the call!
MORE: I'll copy this, even though it clearly could not have happened while Messrs. Clinton and Witt were in charge:
On September 27, 1998: Hurricane Georges forced large scale evacuation of the City of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf coast as Georges approaches the mouth of the Mississippi River, ultimately making landfall at Biloxi, MS. That evacuation effort was the largest effort in US history at the time, overwhelming the infrastructure of the region for several hundred miles. The Louisiana Superdome was used as a last resort evacuation shelter for the first time.
STILL MORE: Bob Somerby argues that, with "Maybe the Mayor, maybe the Governor", Clinton was blaming everyone but Bush. Interesting, and Bob is a genius, but - No Sale. Everything before and after that phrase is about the Feds - poverty programs, taxes, and FEMA involvement. My reading is, "Maybe the mayor, maybe the governor, but definitely the President...". Let's go the the videotape!
YOU DON"T NEED A WEATHERMAN TO KNOW WHICH WAY THE WIND BLOWS: Dealing with Hurricane Georges in 1998, Superman James Lee Witt provides a take-charge quote while delighting Dylan fans everywhere:
The storm is "going to last through Wednesday and an awful lot of rain is going to fall," said James Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Watch for tornadoes as well. ... Please put yourself and family out of harm's way."
A hard rain's gonna fall - do tell! But what's this about "Please put myself and my family out of harm's way"? I'm gonna sit and wait for the bus with the moving van. Any minute now.
LESSONS (UN)LEARNED: Let's hear from the former Chief of Police in New Orleans, who is now in Atlanta:
"When I heard Mayor Nagin say, 'We're going to use the Superdome,' I wasn't surprised at anything that happened," Pennington said. "When I was police chief we took people to the Superdome [during Hurricane Georges in 1998], and it turned out to be a disaster. The power went out; there were assaults and looting of property from inside the Superdome.
"When it was all over, [then-Mayor] Marc Morial, myself and others said we would probably use another venue [the next time]. We would try to use buses to evacuate people to venues in Baton Rouge or other places."
"You've got five or six public housing communities in New Orleans with their various gangs. You put them all in the same venue, that's a call for disaster," Pennington said. "These people don't like each other to start with. I'm surprised more people didn't get killed. The only reason they didn't is that the National Guard did a good job of searching them for weapons before they entered."
Apparently the bad experience with Georges prompted the city to incorpoprate buses into their evacuation plan, although that part of the plan was not implemented.
The six party talks have led to a promising agreement, but skeptics (including the chief US negotiator) warn that talk is not a substitute for deeds:
BEIJING (Reuters) - A deadlock was broken on Monday as North Korea promised to give up its nuclear weapons and programmes, but skeptics said the deal hammered out during a week of tense talks in Beijing was long on words and short of action.
South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China — the other players in the six-party talks — in exchange expressed a willingness to provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees.
Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said the proof would be in implementation.
"Whether this agreement helps solve this will depend in large measure on what we do in the days and weeks that follow," he told reporters. "We need to take the momentum of this agreement and work to see that it is implemented.
"We have to see this decision (by North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons) followed up on. We have to see implementation."
The WaPo gets ahold of the list of visitors to jailbird Judy Miller - 99 through Labor Day.
Lefties are a twitter that John Bolton made a personal appearance, as was rumored a while back.
I just want to see the full list of 99, and compare it to this list of media figures whose interaction with the White House attracted the attention of Special Counsel Fitzgerald.
Tom Brokaw, for example, is mentioned as a visitor. Although Mr. Brokaw was not on Fitzgerald's list, I suspect he is on speaking terms with Tim Russert, whose role in this case continues to baffle us (and Arriana!).
C'mon, WaPo - run the full list as a web-only special!
Over all, more than 372,000 schoolchildren were displaced by the storm and are now enrolled in schools as far from the Gulf Coast as California and New England. The total includes about 61,000 who attended private schools in Louisiana, 50,000 of them in Roman Catholic schools.
Under the plan, children in public and private schools would be regarded equally for aid purposes, with a spending cap of $7,500 per student.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, the ranking member of the Senate education committee, said in a statement that he applauded President Bush's efforts to serve the educational needs of displaced children. "But I am extremely disappointed that he has proposed providing this relief using such a politically charged approach," Mr. Kennedy added. "This is not the time for a partisan debate on vouchers."
Craig Orfield, a spokesman for the committee chairman, Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming, said Mr. Enzi had not yet reviewed the department's request. He also said Mr. Enzi "generally does not favor vouchers."
Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, which represents 2.7 million public school teachers and has steadfastly opposed voucher programs, said, "Vouchers are a flawed and divisive approach that undermines public education."
Mr. Weaver's counterpart at the American Federation of Teachers, Edward J. McElroy, said, "We do not believe that the voucher plan in the Department of Education's proposal is the right way to provide that assistance."
Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, who favors vouchers, said she was "quite pleased" that the administration proposal included aid for children not in public schools.
"This is a way to help all children who have been displaced," Ms. Ristau said. "It also helps Catholic schools that are taking children in. Some are stretched as far as they can go, and this can alleviate some of the stress they are experiencing.
"But long term," she added, "this gives us a good idea of how this would work, like a national experiment."
So Kennedy's position seems to be that the Federal disaster relief is only appropriate for public school kids.
Will there be Federal assistance to rebuild privately owned homes? Private businesses? Churches?
Just wondering. I am surprised that the Senator considers this an appropriate time and these the appropriate circumstances for a partisan debate on vouchers.
MORE: OK. let's drop the pretence that I fully grasp either the Bush proposal or Kennedy's alternative. However, as I read it, Bush is proposing that all displaced students receive the equivalent of a voucher good for either a public or private school.
The Kennedy alternative is not clear. Presumably, he supports Federal assistance to put the 311,000 public school students in different public schools.
But how about the 50,000 Catholic school kids, and the 11,00 private school kids? Let's be reasonable and guess that Kennedy supports aid for them, as long as they relocate to a public school. That seems fair, yet politically charged - one might think that families that have always had their children in Catholic schools are entitled to hurricane relief, too.
A superficially obvious (yet daft) compromise suggests itself: Federal support for public schools for the 311,000 public school kids; Federal support for the 50,000 Catholic school students in new public or Catholic schools (their choice); and Federal support for the 11,000 private school students in new private or public schhools (again, their choice).
Listening Kennedy explain why the 311,000 students who chose the public schools of New Orleans cannot make a new choice will be interesting, but I know his backers demand it.
And listening to Dems explain that, in the context of the billions we are pitching into hurricane relief, we cannot afford to allow Catholic or private school students from New Orleans to make a similar choice in a new city will also be interesting.
Away we go.
Bill Maher has a great rant about Bush. Much as I hate to steal his big finish, I will:
On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!
I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.
Fox News is telling us that the Pentagon wants Arlen Specter's Able Danger hearing to be closed.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is pressuring the Senate Judiciary Committee to close to the public next week's hearings on a former secret military intelligence unit called "Able Danger," two congressional sources have confirmed to FOX News.
Witnesses from the Pentagon are expected to testify at that hearing; that's why they want it classified. FOX News has learned that committee Chairman Arlen Specter's office is vigorously resisting the request.
Here is the Judiciary Committee website notice. which adds nothing now, but may be updated.
UPDATE: A light bulb goes off over my head! Maybe, I say maybe, this is really a disguised ploy by Specter and Weldon to conceal the fact that they have nothing! "I begged for an open hearing, but the Pentagon forced me to close it!".
Just a thought.
MORE: At Memeorandum.
AND MORE: As predicted, AJ Strata has more - did the Able Danger group predict the Cole bombing? If they were that good in 2000, that might explain the closed hearings - maybe they are still that good.
Patterico raps the LA Times for their misreading of the Roberts memo which used the phrase "illegal amigos".
Frank Rich's column appears on Sunday.
NY Times Public Editor Byron Calame has a dispute with Paul Krugman about running a correction, and he takes it outside with two posts (11 and 12) at his site.
Don Luskin has been a tiger on this, and provides some background here; Patterico takes a well-deserved victory lap and does a good job mocking Krugman's absurd rationalizations; and here is what I had thought would be my last gasp on the subject.
Key plot points - after multiple attempts to set the record straight, Krugman has finally run a correction that covers the bases. And is anybody happy? NO! This correction was tucked away on his NY Times intro page. Consequently it will not be picked up by any of the normal services, such as Nexis or the Times own library, that archive Times columns.
From this morass, I will extract two pearls of wisdom. First, a snippet from Krugman's e-mail (from Calame 11) reveals his unrelenting desire to get the facts right:
“I thought that was a minor detail—frankly I can’t believe that anyone really thinks it’s important….”
Let's put that alongside this blast from Okrent as he walked out the door:
Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.
And on the subject of "minor details", Paul Krugman explains in his Sept. 2 "correction" that:
None of this has any bearing on my original point, which was not that the outcome would have been different if the U.S. Supreme Court had not intervened - the Florida Supreme Court had not, in fact, called for a full statewide manual recount - but that the recorded vote was so close that, when you combine that fact with the effects of vote suppression and ballot design, it becomes reasonably clear that the voters of Florida, as well as those of the United States as a whole, tried to choose Mr. Gore.
Uh huh. This fiasco started when Mr. Krugman introduced the Florida recount in an Aug 19 column titled "What They Did Last Fall". Here we go, from paragraph two:
In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."
Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.
But few Americans have heard these facts...
"Reasonably clear"? "Tried to choose"? "Ballot design"? I read "documents the simple truth... Gore won".
These are minor details.
Pakistani Corps Commander Peshawar Safdar Hussain told reporters that his forces had "busted the biggest Al-Qaeda base in the tribal zone of North Waziristan and recovered 15 truckloads of arms and ammunition".
Well, no, actually, the Mississippi will be dammed, or something - thanks to an alert commenter, I am learning tonight something the entire nation might want to know about before we foot the bill for rebuilding New Orleans as a major port: the Mississippi River has routinely shifted course every thousand years or so, and was very close to doing so again until settlers and the Army Corps of Engineers got involved. Had the shift occurred (or should our ongoing attempts to restrain it fail), New Orleans would not be on a major river leading to the Gulf of Mexico.
Let me add that this potential re-routing of the Mississippi has not been widely remarked - Business Week noted it, and the WaPo has what seems to be a well-informed letter to the editor, but this geological tidbit is currently out of the mainstream, as it were.
Oh, my quick reaction to Bush's speech is here.
The AP gets Chief Lawson on the phone to get his perspective on the incident at the bridge to Gretna, where folks attempting to walk over the bridge out of New Orleans were turned back by policeman. Was it racially motivated? Was it a case of poor judgement, putting property over people? The AP has questions, but Chief Lawson has answers.
Here we go, with a long excerpt from the AP:
A Pentagon employee was ordered to destroy documents that identified Mohamed Atta as a terrorist two years before the 2001 attacks, a congressman said Thursday.
The employee is prepared to testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was expected to name the person who ordered him to destroy the large volume of documents, said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa.
Weldon declined to name the employee, citing confidentiality matters. Weldon described the documents as "2.5 terabytes" _ as much as one-fourth of all the printed materials in the Library of Congress, he added.
A Senate Judiciary Committee aide said the witnesses for Wednesday's hearing had not been finalized and could not confirm Weldon's comments.
Well. We have already been told by Pentagon briefers that a lot of the Able Danger work was destroyed as part of routine file maintenance. Let's hope that Weldon's witness can shed some light on the content of the documents destroyed, or the motivation of the folks who ordered their destruction.
Sept 21 is the scheduled date for the hearing.
Watching Bush's speech, my jaw dropped when he said that he was ordering the Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review of emergency plans in every major city in America.
What has been happening before now? I will recycle my comment from the outset of the New Orleans debacle:
...however strong the case may be that New Orleans did not have a responsible emergency plan, that does not excuse FEMA and Washington. At a minimum, I would expect the Federal role to be that of Preparedness Auditor - if New Orleans was not ready, FEMA should have written some CYA memos and an appropriate Federal official should have noted their lack of preparedness in a CYA speech.
OK, so we start reviewing plans now. It's only been four years.
BONUS: I continue to believe that switching the national discussion from Iraq to Katrina is a huge win for Hillary - she was wrong with her vote on Iraq, but has quasi-executive experience and an affinity for the sort of big, compassionate government that may well follow Katrina.
Armando is peeved at Kevin Drum, who has been slacking in his Roberts blogging. I am sure Armando has a point - without Kevin Drum's input, the entire Roberts story is likely to be overlooked by everyone except the entire media and most of the blogosphere. But that is not what troubles me!
Here is the stone in my shoe, from Kevin:
...the hearings are so obviously a Kabuki dance that I just can't get excited about any of the details.
That phrase, "Kabuki dance", was also used by Sen. Joe Biden (who is, we assume, reading the Washington Monthly blog).
But do they know that "Kabuki dance" is just a subset of the highly stylized Kabuki theatre? On Google "Kabuki dance" generates about 19,000 hits; "Kabuki theater" and "Kabuki theatre" combine for about 140,000. "Kabuki", the grand-daddy of them all, gets 1,900,000, so there you go.
Where is the cultural sensitivity?
[FILED UNDER: Too Much Free Time...]
Brownie, you give a heck of an interview! Former EMA head Michael Brown chats with the NY Times, and blames the debacle in New Orleans on everyone but the weatherman.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - Hours after Hurricane Katrina passed New Orleans on Aug. 29, as the scale of the catastrophe became clear, Michael D. Brown recalls, he placed frantic calls to his boss, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, and to the office of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr.
Mr. Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he told the officials in Washington that the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and her staff were proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort and that his field officers in the city were reporting an "out of control" situation.
"I am having a horrible time," Mr. Brown said he told Mr. Chertoff and a White House official - either Mr. Card or his deputy, Joe Hagin - in a status report that evening. "I can't get a unified command established."
By the time of that call, he added, "I was beginning to realize things were going to hell in a handbasket" in Louisiana. A day later, Mr. Brown said, he asked the White House to take over the response effort.
Well, fine, the locals were inept. But doesn't that mean that the White House needed to fill the leadership void? The Times asks the same question.
Let's move on to some of the finger-pointing highlights:
When he arrived in Baton Rouge on Sunday evening [before the storm made landfall], Mr. Brown said, he was concerned about the lack of coordinated response from Governor Blanco and Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
"What do you need? Help me help you," Mr. Brown said he asked them. "The response was like, 'Let us find out,' and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing."
The most responsive person he could find, Mr. Brown said, was Governor Blanco's husband, Raymond. "He would try to go find stuff out for me," Mr. Brown said.
Governor Blanco's communications director, Mr. Mann, said that she was frustrated that Mr. Brown and others at FEMA wanted itemized requests before acting. "It was like walking into an emergency room bleeding profusely and being expected to instruct the doctors how to treat you," he said.
"Like walking into an emergency room"? Sure it was - except that it was a patient that was bleeding, and Blanco had been elected chief of surgery when she faced the voters and sought the governorship.
Dd it occur to anyone on Blanco's staff that hurricane response was a responsibility of the governor? Or was it their belief that FEMA would position their own officials around the state with their own secure communications in order to accommodate a collapse in the governor's office?
Here is finger-pointing gone off-message:
On Monday night, Mr. Brown said, he reported his growing worries to Mr. Chertoff and the White House. He said he did not ask for federal active-duty troops to be deployed because he assumed his superiors in Washington were doing all they could. Instead, he said, he repeated a dozen times, "I cannot get a unified command established."
He assumed? Based on what? And isn't it his job to relay a troop requirement to the White House, or did Brown secretly vote for Bush as Psychic Commander in Chief?
Let us not underestimate the power of personality:
By Wednesday morning, Mr. Brown said, he learned that General Honoré was on his way. While the general did not have responsibility for the entire relief effort and the Guard, his commanding manner helped mobilize the state's efforts.
"Honoré shows up and he and I have a phone conversation," Mr. Brown said. "He gets the message, and, boom, it starts happening."
Kevin Drum has more on Brown.
And in a bit of "Follow the Leader", Gov. Blanco gets behind President Bush:
In Baton Rouge Wednesday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco echoed Bush's words from a day earlier, taking responsibility for missteps in the immediate response to Katrina.
"We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local," Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature. "The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility."
Now everybody wants to be the hero who takes responsibility! I can't take it.
As Kevin Drum noted in a different post, this grabbing of responsibility is rare in Washington. He challenged his readers to provide him examples of past Presidents owning up to their mistakes, and the response was underwhelming. (No, Clinton apologizing for slavery does not count).
One commenter nominated Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs. As part of my ongoing attempt to learn about American his try (and media myth-making), let me use that comment as an excuse to re-open this post from last fall.
My point then was to bash John Kerry. However, for curiosities sake I also tried to find Kennedy's admission of error about the Bay of Pigs. Cue the "Mission Impossible" theme - even with the help of Sydney Blumenthal, I couldn't do it.
Josh Marshall is puzzled, and seems to be working himself and the left blogosphere towards outrage. Why? Well, Bush's team may have actually shown some leadership in responding to Katrina, and the press ignored it.
Does that seem confusing? Sorry - here we go.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina roared through South Mississippi knocking out electricity and communication systems, the White House ordered power restored to a pipeline that sends fuel to the Northeast.
That order - to restart two power substations in Collins that serve Colonial Pipeline Co. - delayed efforts by at least 24 hours to restore power to two rural hospitals and a number of water systems in the Pine Belt.
Is this how the national disaster response system works? Calls go out from the Vice President's office to local electric power utility operators giving national security directives on which power lines to get running first? Aren't things a bit more systematized than that?
My goodness, the White House bestirred itself, deviated from the script, and provided leadership. That would never happen under Bill Clinton!
And having done enough research to satisfy himself that this pipeline is a big deal, here is his next source of puzzlement:
But why haven't we heard more about this? At a minimum this seems like an important part of the story of what happened two weeks ago. But to the best of my knowledge it's gone wholly unremarked in the major national dailies.
Gee, did the press ignore a story about some successful White House leadership? No, I can't figure it out either. But it is not because Bush did not mention it - here are his remarks from Sept 1, reprinted in the Times, mentioning the Colonial Pipeline by name.
We're also working with energy companies to repair and reactivate major refineries and pipelines. The good folks must understand that major refineries have been shut down, which means it's going to be hard to get gasoline to some markets. We're working to help these pipelines get up and running. Pipelines carry refined product.
And so we're working with the majors -- major oil companies to get the -- with Colonial Pipeline so they can carry the products of the major oil companies, the refined products. Right now, the Colonial Pipeline, which is a major pipeline serving the East Coast, is back in operation, but only at 50 percent capacity. We anticipate that as the days go by, more and more of that capacity will be restored. Other major pipelines are coming back online. But as I said, we're going to have a temporary disruption of gasoline product.
No matter how much crude oil can be brought on shore, the real problem lies with refining it into gasoline and shipping it to filling stations, said Fadel Gheit, an oil and gas analyst at Oppenheimer & Co.
The two main gasoline pipelines from the Gulf to the East Coast -- Plantation, which terminates near Reagan National Airport, and Colonial, which ends in New Jersey -- remain mostly idle, as they await electricity to run pumps.
...Steve Baker, a spokesman for the Colonial Pipeline Co., said diesel generators are being trucked to the region and should have that line running by the weekend.
No, I don't know why the WaPo missed the involvement of the power companies, but the fog of war would be the obvious explanation.
Finally, for folks worried about the rural hospital (25 beds) that was delayed for 24 hours in having its power restored - it was powered up on Sept 4 (rather than, I guess, Sept 3). Presumably, it had been running on generators before that. And here is the outraged, table-pounding quote pried out of the hospital staff by the Hattiesburg American:
Mindy Osborn, emergency room coordinator at Stone County Hospital, said the power was not restored until six days after the storm on Sept. 4. She didn't have the number of patients who were hospitalized during the week after the storm.
"Oh, yes, 24 hours earlier would have been a help," Osborn said.
We will see whether this new attack meme catches on - it seems too perfect for the Kossites to pass up. Meanwhile, I blame Bush. UPDATE: Josh Marshall adds that the Colonial Pipeline probably moved military grade jet fuel, but continues to be puzzled by "the highly irregular manner in which the orders apparently went out." I am not quite sure what "regular" would look like in this scenario. But suppose there is an intepid official at the Dept of Energy whose task is to ensure that the utility works on the DoE project (power to the pipeline, not power to the people) ASAP. This official might have a legitimate concern that some heroic local politician (Governor, Senator, mayor, whatever) might call the utility and redirect their efforts in a bold attempt to "cut the red tape" and serve the good people of the great state of Mississippi. Fair enough - local politicos may not do a great job of balancing the interests of their constituents with the need of the Northeast for gasoline. But since this hypothetical DoE official is also an adept bureaucratic infighter, he short-circuits their attempted short-circuiting by getting Cheney's office to intervene. Irregular? Maybe. Effective? Apparently. Or maybe Cheny and his cronies were just sitting around trading the crude/product spreads on NYMEX.
We will see whether this new attack meme catches on - it seems too perfect for the Kossites to pass up. Meanwhile, I blame Bush.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall adds that the Colonial Pipeline probably moved military grade jet fuel, but continues to be puzzled by "the highly irregular manner in which the orders apparently went out."
I am not quite sure what "regular" would look like in this scenario. But suppose there is an intepid official at the Dept of Energy whose task is to ensure that the utility works on the DoE project (power to the pipeline, not power to the people) ASAP.
This official might have a legitimate concern that some heroic local politician (Governor, Senator, mayor, whatever) might call the utility and redirect their efforts in a bold attempt to "cut the red tape" and serve the good people of the great state of Mississippi.
Fair enough - local politicos may not do a great job of balancing the interests of their constituents with the need of the Northeast for gasoline.
But since this hypothetical DoE official is also an adept bureaucratic infighter, he short-circuits their attempted short-circuiting by getting Cheney's office to intervene. Irregular? Maybe. Effective? Apparently.
Or maybe Cheny and his cronies were just sitting around trading the crude/product spreads on NYMEX.
Kevin Drum puts together a massive reading list on FEMA's follies. Good job, and lots of grist for the policy mill.
Righties still keen to defend Brownie should add their own suggested stories in the comments below.
MORE: Via the Baseball Sage, we find Bob Somerby straightening the record about the Convention Center, what FEMA knew, and when they knew it. Quite an impressive example of media myth-making, actually. Battlin' Bob also trounces Sen. Landrieu, with interview transcripts that are embarrasing to read.
Gretna, a working class community connected to New Orleans by a bridge across the Mississippi, briefly caught the attention of the media and blogosphere last week. Now, Chris Matthews is back with it, but we have also found a conflicting eye-witness version.
In the story as told by two San Francisco paramedics visiting New Orleans for a convention and picked up by the UPI and the San Francisco Chronicle, racist suburban cops blocked the bridge and prevented them from leaving New Orleans:
So late Wednesday afternoon, the group set out for a bridge called the Crescent City Connection, where they would find the help they so desperately needed. But when they arrived atop the highway, the paramedics said, they were met by more police officers, this time from neighboring Gretna, La., who weren't letting anyone pass.
"If I weren't there, and hadn't witnessed it for myself, I don't think I would have ever believed this," Bradshaw said.
The officers fired warning shots into the air and then leveled their weapons at members of the crowd, Bradshaw said. He approached, hands in the air, displaying his paramedic's badge.
"They told us that there would be no Superdomes in their city,'' the couple wrote. "These were code words that if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River -- and you weren't getting out of New Orleans.''
The NY Times dropped the racial angle from their reporting, perhaps because the paramedics were white. Evidence? In addition to the name of one of the paramedics (Lorrie Beth Slonsky), we find this excerpt quoted by the San Fran Chronicle from their original account, as they describe the scene near the Monteleone Hotel:
"At that point, we had not seen any of the TV coverage or looked at a newspaper, but we guessed there were no video images of European and white tourists, like us, looting the Walgreens in the French Quarter...''
Emphasis added - the phrase "like us" does not appear in their version of the story at the Socialist Worker website running the story.
[Or, even more convincing evidence is just in - the MSNBC video has just popped up on Google News to reveal the grim white faces of Ms. Slonsky and Mr. Bradshaw insisting to Chris Matthews that the incident was racially motivated. So much for my two-cent sleuthing, and the Socialist air-brushing.]
The St. Louis Dispatch also has a first-person account of what is almost certainly the same incident, as described by a St. Louis lawyer and his wife. His version:
A group of about 200 Monteleone guests decided to try to walk out of the city to the east, and got to the on-ramp at the Crescent Connection bridge, where they were met by Gretna, La., police with shotguns. "They told us the bridge was closed to foot traffic," Scheer said. "Some locals had joined us and became extremely unruly, threatening to rush the officers. They fired their shotguns into the air."
A sidebar - the two timelines create a puzzle, but not a contradiction - the lawyer says that they planned to walk out on Wednesday, but decided to wait for chartered buses; the paramedics say the incident occurred on Thursday. OK - maybe the lawyer decided to wait a day for buses. Or maybe people set out from the hotel in two different groups. But by this account, the crowd got unruly before shots were fired.
Missing from the story so far - on whose authority was Police Chief Lawson acting? Per the Times, police from three jurisdictions were involved:
Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.
By Wednesday the New Orleans police effort had switched from rescue efforts to a crackdown on looting; by Thursday evening, Governor Blanco had made her famous comment that National Guard troops were on the way, "locked and loaded", and trained to "shoot to kill". Although I doubt that anyone from the Governor's office will rush forward now to claim responsibility for blocking the bridge, it may be that Lawson and the other district cops were simply following someone's idea of a crowd control plan.
In any case, Chief Lawson looks well positioned for his re-election run (as a Democrat), if these comments of this school board member from neighboring Jefferson Parish are any indication:
Mark Morgan, a member of the Jefferson Parish School Board in Louisiana, fled to Memphis from the New Orleans area with more than a dozen relatives when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.
He has since returned to Louisiana, but several of his family members remain in Memphis.
...Morgan, elected to the parish school board in March 2004, responded to questions from The Commercial Appeal by e-mail early last week after returning home.
Q: As we speak (on Monday), what is the state of conditions in your immediate area?
A: The City of Gretna is closed to the public and had been set up as a command post for the National Guard, FBI and other regional law enforcement offices, as well as local government. We have power, water, and have had food shipped into the compound.
Our police chief, Arthur Lawson, is the only reason we are secure and have supplies. He used personal contacts to secure our security and well-being.
Outside the compound there is water (not drinkable), gas and some electricity. The city is secure and has suffered almost no looting. We had to restrict access to the city, sometimes with the use of firearms, because looters from New Orleans were trying to cross into Gretna.
Q: What are your views about how federal and Louisiana officials responded to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
Evacuation was first class. We had had prior traffic problems because we are surrounded by water and the routes out are limited.
The scale of the tragedy was unprecedented, so it is difficult to compare the response to other tragedies.
Having said that, the federal response was unacceptable to me personally and I have yet to hear an explanation.
The looting spun out of control and (responsibility for) that falls squarely on the slow response of the feds. Federal troops should have been here no later than 24 hours after the storm to maintain order. It took more than six days and they are still not here in full force. No National Guard are in my area yet, even today. No Red Cross yet.
FEMA has actually prevented local agencies from getting supplies in. They have canceled shipment that local authorities arranged.
If not for our police chief, we would have almost nothing -- no fuel, no food.
Local FBI and DEA are using a small-town police force, Gretna police, to run operations because there is no support from the federal government yet....
Q: Do you think race has been a factor in the response to this tragedy? If so, how?
No. I really think it was a function of the military being spread too thin in this country as a result of the war in Iraq.
Q: What do you see as the future of New Orleans? Can it ever recover?
It will recover and be an even better city.
Mr. Morgan sounds like a good Democrat - all the problems are due to Bush, the Feds, and the war. But not to race. And what about Chief Lawson - racist rogue, or just following orders? Who will report, so we can deride? MORE ON CROWD CONTROL: Another first person account of the flight of the Monteleone guests - two Canadians essentially missed the action on the bridge:
Mr. Morgan sounds like a good Democrat - all the problems are due to Bush, the Feds, and the war. But not to race.
And what about Chief Lawson - racist rogue, or just following orders? Who will report, so we can deride?
MORE ON CROWD CONTROL: Another first person account of the flight of the Monteleone guests - two Canadians essentially missed the action on the bridge:
Two Saskatchewan tourists stranded in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina joined a group of 100 visitors trudging to a highway in hopes of catching a ride away from a city thrust into chaos by water and wind.
Larry Mitzel of Saskatoon and his friend, Jill Johnson of La Ronge, on what had become a holiday in hell, walked 10 kilometres in a torrential downpour carrying all the belongings they could manage. When shots rang out, police told the group to turn back -- they wouldn't find a route to safety there.
The crowd estimate is different, the timing of the rain is different, and these two weren't clear who was shooting - I blame Canada.
That said, they provide a useful peek at police strategy in the French Quarter:
When all hotels were ordered to evacuate, they appealed to National Guard personnel for help in getting out.
"The first four days were spent trying to contain us, to herd us," Johnson said. "There was no thought given to evacuation. It was all police and National Guard, and it was all, contain, contain, contain. Focus on the looters. Shoot to kill anybody after dark. Get everybody together under one roof so we can control them. We didn't need that. We needed out of town."
The police held people at the Superdome as well, per the WaPo:
At the Superdome, designated by Nagin as one of 10 refuges of last resort for people who were unable to evacuate, National Guard troops allowed dozens of refugees to sleep on the walkway surrounding the huge building as conditions inside deteriorated, but authorities refused to let them leave.
The Times continues to probe the confusion amongst Federal, state, and local lines of authority that marred the New Orleans relief effort.
Their lead offers a puzzle about buses:
The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.
Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out.
They were an obvious linchpin for evacuating a city where nearly 100,000 people had no cars. Yet the federal, state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough to empty the shelters.
Now wait. Bloggers everywhere have seen the photos of the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool;the MSM, through the Houston Chronicle, reported on Sept. 8 that "City officials had 550 municipal buses and hundreds of additional school buses at their disposal but made no plans to use them to get people out of New Orleans before the storm...".
Somehow, those municipal buses never appear in this Times story. Yes, they were flooded by the time the Governor was frantically looking for them, but it still seems to be a bit of news that is on point.
In any case, the Houston Chronicle gives us this:
As Hurricane Katrina approached Sunday morning, New Orleans officials advertised city buses would be used to pick people up at 12 sites to go to the "last resort" shelters.
It's unclear how many buses were used. Planners decided not to use any of the New Orleans school buses for early evacuation, Wilmot said.
Photographers recorded images of them lined up in neat rows and submerged — though one was commandeered by Jabbar Gibson, 20, who ferried 70 passengers to safety in the Reliant Astrodome.
Let's see if the good people of the great state of Mississippi put him in charge of more things.
MORE: Since we mocked the Times coverage of anything related to race in the previous post, let's mock them again - is it interesting/newsworthy that Mr. Ford is a successful can-do black businessman in the deep South? I'll say that it is, and I bet the Times thinks so, too. So how does the Times tackle this? By employing their normal dodge of running his picture, and with this cryptic, vaguely racist hint:
Before the storm, Mr. Ford, a tall, panther-slim man, was known here as a golf-course owner, caterer and role model for young African-American entrepreneurs.
A role model? Could Bill Gates or Steve Jobs be role models for young, entrepreneurial blacks? Could Colin Powell or Condi Rice be role models for aspiring soldiers or diplomats of the white persuasion? Could a young white man in Jackson possibly aspire to the sort of success enjoyed by Mr. Ford and even, (gasp) adopt him as a role model?
Why do I ask? If the editors had dropped the picture, the writer was still covered, and that was the only point to the "role model" reference.
Are racial tensions and divides a part of the New Orleans story? One might think so. Here, for example, is a story from the UPI telling us that the suburban police blocked the bridge leading from New Orleans across the Mississippi River to Gretna. Two paramedics from San Francisco described the incident as racially motivated, and, from Memeorandum, we see that lots of folks (including Glenn Reynolds) agree that race may have been a factor in the police conduct.
So how does the NY Times cover the racial dimension? With the same confidence and candor that they cover race-based stories in their Metropolitan section, which is to say, they totally whitewash it.
Gone, from the Times reporting, is this editorializing from the San Fran paramedics (as found in the UPI version, or in their original account:
We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.
Instead, the Times limits themselves to this:
"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing."
I am not opposed to "just the facts" reporting. However, it is a fact that an eyewitness to the event claimed that it was racially motivated; the Times ought to address that.
Now, is the allegation credible? If the Times concluded that it was not, they should include that too. Instead, we get this "Lots of the News That's Fit to Print" tapdance around a story that might typify the class, race, and geographic divisions in and around New Orleans.
A bit of reporting would have helped. For example, the two paramedics from San Francisco claim to be able to understand to coded language of the southern cop, so they know that "We don't want another Superdome" means "We don't want black people here", rather than, for example, "We don't want to take in 5,000 people with no food, water, shelter, sanitation facilities, or police protection, thereby reprising the debacle at the Superdome". Is the decoding provided by the Californians plausible? They were traveling with a group that had been guests at a downtown hotel - was this group mostly white? Were the paramedics white? One is named Lorrie Beth Slonsky, which sounds, well, Polish.
If the Times had simply reported that the police turned away a group of mostly white people led by white people, this story might have presented a different complexion. Instead, we may never know.
Or the Times might have given us more on the make-up of Gretna, LA. The UPI describes it as "a bedroom community". Fine, what kind of bedrooms - is this a yuppie enclave, a gated community, or what?
Lacking the resources of either the Times or UPI, I am forced to rely on Google, from which I learn that Gretna is about 35% black, that it has a median income that trails Louisiana as a whole, and that about 11% of the adults have a college degree, or higher, a percentage which also trails both Louisiana and the country. A yuppie enclave? Hardly.
Well, working class homeowners want to protect their property too, I have no doubt. And keep in mind - people will be more inclined to evacuate if they believe they can rely on the police to protect their property in the homeowner's absence.
So what happened in and around Gretna? Was this just one more example of the complete confusion that developed under Mayor Nagin, or did brutal, racist cops compound the misery of the (mostly black) refugees in New Orleans?
The Times will be on this, I am sure. Meanwhile, if the disaster in New Orleans was going to trigger a national conversation about race, the Times has turned it into a pantomime.
MORE: Naturally, I can't find an example just now [But here are 1, 2, 3 in the continuation], but regular Times readers are regularly entertained by stories that read, roughly, "Two pedestrians were assaulted outside a subway station last night. Police are looking for a man between 5' 8'' and 5' 10" wearing jeans and a blue Nike warm-up jacket, with a gold earring in his left ear".
Whether the two witnesses were astute enough to notice their assailant's skin color is normally left unrevealed by the Times. However, if the crime is sufficiently heinous they will finesse the editorial policy by printing a police sketch or photo.
Or, on the subject of New Orleans, an example of the Times tapdancing is here - "In Tale of Two Families, a Chasm Between Haves and Have-Nots" describes the plight of two families evacuating New Orleans. Only the photos illuminate the race issue.
On the other hand, the Times did run a Week in Review article, "What Happens To A Race Deferred", which directly admits that race is a factor in New Orleans. Groundbreaking. Now, if race would be allowed to creep into their other reporting...
Picture for a moment young women with their children, old people, families, single people gathered together in a make-shift community in the middle of chaos approaching police officers on a bridge begging for help. Picture them being white. Do you think the police would shoot over their heads and push them back?
For the reasons noted above, I can easily picture them being white. And if that turns out to be the case, it does not lessen my outrage at this police behavior.
Meanwhile, I continue to wonder whether a reporter will actually report on this. Or perhaps some lefty blogger could track down the two Socialists who started this:
LARRY BRADSHAW and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY are emergency medical services (EMS) workers from San Francisco and contributors to Socialist Worker.
"The Real Heroes and Sheroes of New Orleans" is their title - how PC are these two?
EDITED FOR EFFECT: Hmm. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes a slightly different version of the parmamedics story. They are describing their plight at the hotel:
At that point, we had not seen any of the TV coverage or looked at a newspaper, but we guessed there were no video images of European and white tourists, like us, looting the Walgreens in the French Quarter,'' the couple wrote in an eight-page account of their experience.
The phrase "like us" does not appear in the version of the story offered at the Socialist Worker.
And here in the Independent, we get this:
The following day Mr Bradshaw said they tried again to cross and directly witnessed police shooting over the heads of a middle-aged white couple who were also turned back. Eventually, late on Friday evening, the couple succeeded in crossing the bridge with the intervention of a contact in the local fire department.
The Plame investigation won't be over until the slim lady sings, but Reuters tells us that Judy Miller is practicing scales:
... lawyers close to the investigation say there are signs that the 20-month-long inquiry could be wrapped up within weeks in a final flurry of negotiations and legal maneuvering.
Asked if talks were under way with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a Justice Department prosecutor, to secure Miller's testimony and release, Abrams said: "If there are any discussions, they would be private."
"She is there (in jail) for a reason. At this time, the reason is still there. She made a promise and, unless properly released from her promise by her source, she has no choice but to continue to take the position that she's taking," Abrams said.
Arianna's sources tell her more about an imminent 'sing and spring' deal.
[For comparison - try to find Abrams' mention of a proper release from a promise in his appearance with Lou Dobbs on August 15. I can't! But here is some flavor:
ABRAMS: Well, I'm just unhappy that so many people can't distinguish politics from principle. Judy Miller is acting out of principle. She would be acting the same way if her source were from the left or the right, Democrat, Republican, hawk or dove. She made promises of confidentiality. She thinks it's a matter of honor and adherence to First Amendment principles that she has to keep her word.]
We will now indulge our standard whining about the absurdity of the Reuters lead:
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, locked up for refusing to reveal who told her a covert CIA operative's name in a probe that may be nearing a conclusion...
Please. The name of the specific source appears on her subpoena, so no one is waiting for her to "reveal who told her a ...name". Secondly, it is far from clear that the source (leakers say it is Lewis Libby) passed a name to her - plenty of folks have speculated that she gave info about Wilson and Plame to Libby.
Mickey points out that Katrina may have washed away Ms. Miller's last chance to attract some favorable attention. Fine, blame Rehnquist, too.
The interplay of local, state, and federal authority is too subtle for some bloggers, who have opted to simply blame everything on Bush:
We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they’re TV trucks around.
Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.
Bush is censoring everything? Better alert the NY Times - they have a long, evidently erroneous story explaining that the National Guard is under the control of Louisiana Governor Blanco.
Hat Tip to Jeralynn Merritt, an attorney who might be able to shed some light on this.
Arlen Specter's Senate hearing into Able Danger has been re-scheduled for Wed., Sept 21. A witness list has not yet been announced, but Able Danger skeptics will be keen to hear from Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who promises to be an exciting witness.
Let's recap - Congressman Weldon, (R, PA) brought "Able Danger" to national attention about a month ago. Able Danger was a secret Pentagon data-mining project attempting to identify links between Al Qaeda members worldwide.
With Weldon's appearance in the Times, two bombshells went off. One was that the Pentagon group had allegedly identified four of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, including leader Mohamed Atta, in the spring of 2000. However, legal eagles in the Defense Dept. advised against sharing this info with the FBI.
Second, two representatives of Able Danger had met with the 9/11 Commission, but no mention of the Able Danger success and suppression appeared in the Commission's final report, which prompted questions about the credibility of the Commission.
Although his sources were anonymous at the time, it was eventually revealed that Weldon was relying on Lt. Col. Shaffer and Capt. Phillpott for much of his information. Shaffer had met with staffers from the 9/11 Commission in October 2003 while in Afghanistan, and claims that he told them that the Able Danger team had identified Atta in 2000; the staffers dispute this, but did follow up with document requests to the Pentagon.
Phillpott then met with 9/11 Commission staffers in July 2004. Both sides agree that Atta was discussed in that meeting, but Phillpott had no documentation to support the claim that Atta had been ID'ed, and none had surfaced in the Able Danger documents reviewed by the 9/11 Commission. (The statement of the 9/11 Commission is here.)
Well. Arlen Specter will be holding hearings, but UPI had a recent chat with Lt. Col. Shaffer. Let's get his latest on what he told the 9/111 staffers in their Oct 2003 meeting:
Shaffer told UPI that he told three staff members of the Sept. 11 commission about the Able Danger project, and the fact that it had developed information on al-Qaida before the attacks, at a meeting at Bagram airbase outside of Kabul on Oct. 21, 2003.
No one disputes that.
But he also says that he told them the project had linked some of the hijackers to al-Qaida before the attacks -- and that he told them Atta's name had been on a list of people linked to al-Qaida.
... "I told them that we, Able Danger, had identified two of the three cells that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks," Shaffer said. "At the end (of the presentation) I mentioned Atta."
Shaffer says he "sort of dropped (the name) in" at the end of the meeting, and his account of the difference in recollections is conciliatory, "If they want to say they didn't hear it, fair enough. But I know what I said. I said we had two of the three cells."
Shaffer too has a contemporaneous note of the meeting -- talking points he says he prepared for his presentation, and which he has provided to several committees on Capitol Hill.
He declined to provide UPI with a copy, but he did say that Atta was not named in them.
What?!? Shaffer took the trouble to arrange a meeting in Afghanistan (where he was serving at the time) and then buried the lead, only mentioning Atta at the end of the meeting and failing to include that tidbit in his written talking points?
My goodness. Here is how Weldon described his star witness last Aug 12:
On Thursday, Weldon told FOX News that the military official, who was under cover when he was in Afghanistan for the October 2003 briefing, is certain he told the staffers about Atta at that time.
The military intelligence officer who attended that meeting with staffers "kept notes of that meeting and will testify under oath that he not only told" the staffers about Able Danger's mission, but about Atta.
That jibes with an early report in the Times:
Colonel Shaffer said that he had provided information about Able Danger and its identification of Mr. Atta in a private meeting in October 2003 with members of the Sept. 11 commission staff when they visited Afghanistan, where he was then serving.
And here is a Shaffer from Aug 17:
Shaffer, however, claims he mentioned Atta by name to the 9/11 Commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, when the two met in Afghanistan in October 2003.
"I kept my talking points (from the meeting)," Shaffer said. "And I'm confident about what I said."
On the other hand, Shaffer left observers baffled when he spoke with Hannity and Colmes - per the Fox reporter, "Shaffer conceded that during his own personal briefing of Sept. 11 commission staffers in Afghanistan in Oct. 2003, he didn't specifically name the terrorists". However, the transcript left open the possibility that Shaffer meant to say, he didn't name any terrorists other than Atta.
His latest story may not represent a tremendous factual change, since Shaffer still says he mentioned Atta. But where is the credibility? He left Atta out of his own notes, none of the staffers admit to hearing him say it, he admits the mention was late in the meeting, almost as an afterthought - who is going to buy this?
[Who will buy it? The Captain has a plausible defense of Shaffer - "That sounds more to me like someone who gets very careful about calling people liars in public than a climb-down."]
MORE: Let's excerpt Shaffer's chat with GSN from Aug 23 after the break. He is describing his Oct 2003 meeting with the 9/11 Commission staffers:
The New Orleans debacle has proved to be a boon for Dems, such as Hillary, caught on the wrong side of the Iraq war. Now the entire party is uniting around a simple message of bigger, better government - Katrina Bad, Bush Worse. But can the MoveOn people actually move on, or will they hold out for pure anti-war candidates?
Hillary even dares to evoke the Duke himself, Mike Dukakis of the Massachusetts Miracle, with her brave, ideology-free vision - "It's time to actually show this government can be competent."
That's fine for 2005. But good luck come 2008, when the Reps may dredge up a competent governor (or ex-mayor!) of their own, and we are left reprising 1988 (or 2004) yet again.