Sunday, September 11, 2005

Like Waiting For Godot

The New York Times, having published the usual nonsense from Dowd, Krugman, Herbert and Rich, finally steps forward with two pieces from which the reader cannot escape concluding that failure to apply the talents of the Corps of Engineers to the levees around New Orleans was in substantial measure the fault of senate Democrats like Mary ("I might have to punch him (Bush) - literally") Landrieu, and that the delay in getting troops to the city was largely due to reluctance on the part of Governor Kathleen Blanco to give up her authority and her confusion over what steps were necessary for the federal government to get troops into the area.

John Tierney writes that:

[S]uppose [Congressional] investigators try to find out why the Army Corps of Engineers didn't protect New Orleans from the flood. Democrats have blamed the Iraq war for diverting money and attention from domestic needs. But that hasn't meant less money for the Corps during the past five years. Overall spending hasn't declined since the Clinton years, and there has been a fairly sharp increase in money for flood-control construction projects in New Orleans. The problem is that the bulk of the Corps' budget goes for projects far less important than preventing floods in New Orleans. And if the investigators want to find who's responsible, they don't have to leave Capitol Hill.

Most of the Corps's budget consists of what are lovingly known on appropriations committees as earmarks: money allocated specifically for members' pet projects. Many of these projects flunk the Corps's own cost-benefit analysis or haven't been analyzed at all. Many are jobs that Corps officials don't even consider part of their mission, like building sewage plants, purifying drinking water or maintaining lakeside picnic tables.

The Corps is giving grants to improve New York City's drinking water. In Massachusetts, the Corps offers BMX-style bike jumps at a lake near Worcester and runs a theater next to the Cape Cod Canal showing a video of "Canal Critters."

In rural Nevada, an area not known for hurricanes or shipping channels, the Corps has been given $20 million for construction projects. When I asked an official why so much was being spent in Nevada, he said that the money was paying for wastewater treatment and mentioned the name of Senator Harry Reid, the Democrat's leader in the Senate.

"Senator Reid is a great and good man," the Corps official explained, "and he is on our committee."

This week Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat, lambasted Mr. Bush on the Senate floor. "Everybody anticipated the breach of the levees, Mr. President," she said. But she and others from the Louisiana delegation have been shortchanging the levees themselves. As Michael Grunwald reported in The Washington Post, they've diverted large sums to dubious Corps projects aimed at increasing barge traffic, not preventing floods. Ms. Landrieu forced the Corps to redo its calculations when a project to deepen a port flunked its cost-benefit analysis.

As for the responsibility of Democrats at the state and local level for the delay in getting aid to the evacuees in the days after the flood a trio of writers from the Times notes that:

For reasons of practicality and politics, officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon, and then at the White House, decided not to urge Mr. Bush to take command of the effort. Instead, the Washington officials decided to rely on the growing number of National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana, who were under Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's control.

The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.

As criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina has mounted, one of the most pointed questions has been why more troops were not available more quickly to restore order and offer aid. Interviews with officials in Washington and Louisiana show that as the situation grew worse, they were wrangling with questions of federal/state authority, weighing the realities of military logistics and perhaps talking past each other in the crisis.

To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.

While combat troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges.

But just as important to the administration were worries about the message that would have been sent by a president ousting a Southern governor of another party from command of her National Guard, according to administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials.

"Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area.

Viewpoint offers no criticism of Ms Blanco. She was in a terrible spot and may have thought she had good reasons for her delay. We only wish to point out how despicable it is of the Left which was almost obsessively scathing in its criticism of the administration in the days after the storm to have used this calamity to attack Bush politically. Not interested in waiting for the facts to be brought forward, they were determined to hang him first and have the trial later. He was called a racist, incompetent, oblivious, dangerous - every mean, hurtful adjective that mean, hateful people could put into print and some they could only put on blogs.

Now it turns out, as more sober observers were saying from the beginning, that though there may be lessons to be learned from this disaster on the federal level, the great share of the responsibility for how events unfolded in the immediate aftermath must be borne by the victims themselves, some of whom displayed atrocious behavior and very poor judgment, the administration of New Orleans, and Louisiana state officials, including Senator Mary Landrieu.

We'll be waiting in the days ahead for the apologies to start rolling in to the White House, but we won't be surprised if we have to wait for a very long time. The sorts of people that were so quick to say the contemptible things about another human being that Bush's critics were saying about him, the sorts of people who were so quick to pull the trigger on the shotgun of blame and recrimination, are not the sorts of people who have the class, the character, or the maturity to acknowledge that they were wrong.

Handsitting in the Governor's Office

Robert Washington at International House of Punditry takes Governor Blanco to task for a mistake we hadn't yet heard about. It appears that Mr. Washington's father is a doctor licensed in Wyoming but not in Louisiana. He and numerous other doctors went to Louisiana to render medical care to those who needed it but Governor Blanco waited several days to sign the waiver that allowed them to practice in her state. For four days after the hurricane all that medical expertise sat on its hands waiting for the Governor to act.

Here's the relevant portion of the story:

A lot of doctors (including him) rushed to New Orleans (at their own expense) to help in the effort. Doctors (especially in refugee centers like the convention center and the Superdome) were overworked and there weren't enough to deal with the health needs of refugees.

Dad doesn't have a license to practice medicine in Louisiana. He's licensed in Wyoming. Since licenses are issued by states, it's illegal for him to practice medicine in a state where he's not licensed. He can't (for example) just drive to South Dakota and go to work in a hospital there. He would need to be licensed by that state's medical board. He holds licenses in multiple states, but not Louisiana.

In emergencies like natural disasters it's normal for states to suspend this requirement and offer temporary reciprocity with the other 49 states, recognizing their licenses as being valid in the affected state. In an emergency, who cares where your doctor's license comes from? Usually this requires a proclamation from the governor stating that there's an emergency and that out-of-state licenses will temporarily be as good as in-state licenses.

In Louisiana, it took several days for the governor to issue such a proclamation. Meanwhile, doctors from all over the country just sat around in New Orleans, unable to do anything. Before you say "they should have helped people anyway" you should know a little about what could happen to them if they did. Practicing medicine without a license recognized in the state you're in is a major crime, usually a felony with a long prison sentence. Even if the state doesn't prosecute you for it, doing it voids your malpractice insurance which means you may lose your ability to practice anywhere. And if Dad practiced medicine without a license in Louisiana, he could face disciplinary action here in Wyoming. Committing a felony (even in another state) is often just cause for stripping someone of their medical license. And if anyone he treated in Louisiana later sued him for malpractice, he would have no insurance and no defense. Under the law, all unlicensed medical practice is malpractice, even if you don't do anything wrong.

These laws are designed mostly to protect people from impostors who aren't really doctors or who have lost their license for some reason. But they apply as much to people with out-of-state licenses as people with no licenses at all.

So how long did the governor of Louisiana take to issue the proclamation allowing out-of-state doctors to practice there? Several days. She didn't issue it until September 2, and even then some doctors in the state couldn't even find out it was issued because they didn't bother to tell much of anyone. The only reason my dad found out is because someone from the medical licensing board in Texas managed to get a copy and did everything you can imagine to get word to doctors on the scene.

A lot goes on in a disaster, so maybe you're thinking the governor of Louisiana had too many things to worry about. I think that's bulls**t. Preparing for a disaster means making lists of the things you're supposed to do when disaster strikes. Issuing a reciprocity proclamation is standard procedure. Other states have done it the same day as other disasters. New York issued theirs on 9/11. Florida has issued them several times as hurricanes struck. Someone is supposed to have the list and make those things happen. In the meantime, the governor of Louisiana was all over tv, bawling her eyes out and tearfully congratulating herself and other politicians.

In Mississippi, the reciprocity proclamation was issued days earlier. I guess their governor spent less time on tv and more time doing his job.

The waiver was issued four days after the storm. If FEMA had been this slow the media would be roasting them on a spit for it. Tim Russert would be calling for Chertoff's scalp. Will we hear calls for Ms Blanco to resign her office? Nah, she's a Democrat.

Journalistic Suicide Bombers

The Islamic jihadis in Iraq and elsewhere wrap themselves in explosives and run into the streets yelling "God is great. Death to America" as they blow themselves to kingdom come in an attempt, sometimes successful, sometimes futile, to destroy others. Here on the home front we have our own version of the suicide bomber ensconced in the editorial offices of several of our nation's major newspapers.

The Roberts nomination and the post-Katrina blame game have inspired liberal journalistic jihadis, waving their incendiary scribblings in their hands, to rush into the streets and blow to smithereens, if not themselves, then certainly any reputation for credibility, objectivity and clear thought they may have still possessed. Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Robert Herbert and now Richard Cohen - it seems like a human wave of lefty scribes hurling their columns at the White House hoping to damage it with awesome blasts from their word processors. To their great disappointment, given the lameness of their efforts, they may as well be throwing firecrackers at Godzilla.

The WaPo's Richard Cohen straps on the bomb belt and sashays forth into public view with an unfortunate column in which he confesses up front that as a young man he flunked out of college. He mentions this detail as a prelude to lamenting that John Roberts has a record which is "appallingly free of failure."

Mr. Roberts' record of success means he hasn't had to struggle like common folk and thus probably doesn't understand our problems. He doesn't say why a Supreme Court Justice should be someone who understands the difficulties of the poor. He is not, after all, being nominated for Chief Pastor. Presumably, Mr. Cohen thinks that someone who has consistently demonstrated that they don't make bad decisions is manifestly unsuited for the Supreme Court.

Somehow he manages to extricate himself from the awkwardness of that argument and glides from John Roberts' nomination to the New Orleans debacle:

It took a certain kind of cold arrogance to come up with the evacuation plan that New Orleans devised: Get everyone out of town. But what about those who could not get out of town? What about those with no cars or those already living on the streets? In other words, what about the very poor?

The poor? It's as if the idiots up and down the line never heard of them. It's as if no one at the top of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or at the White House knew they existed. Check that. They knew, but it was theoretical: Oh, they'll manage.

Somebody please send a memo to Mr. Flunked out of College: Evacuation plans and execution are the province of the local municipality, not the feds. If the city chooses not to put its plan, such as it was, into effect, the feds are hardly to be faulted for not doing it for them. This is a simple concept, but perhaps the memo should repeat it so that Mr. Cohen has a better chance of comprehending it.

Our intellectual hero, who does not shrink from labelling people trying to do the right thing in Katrina's stressful aftermath "idiots", next leaps in a single bound to the Intelligent Design controversy trying to touch all the liberal bases and weave together all of Mr. Bush's alleged faux pas into one neat tapestry:

[T]he Supreme Court is no place for a sluggish thinker who thinks -- if that is the word -- that in the schools the non-theory of "intelligent design" ought to be taught along with the theory of evolution. (What next, alchemy and chemistry?).

Alchemy. Ha, ha, Good one. Well, Mr. Flunked out of College, perhaps you, being among the cognoscenti which looks with such scorn upon those dim bulbs, like the president, who think ID should be taught in school and which holds these rubes in derision at your Georgetown cocktail parties - perhaps you would like to publicly debate someone, like, oh, almost anyone in the ID movement, on the issue. How about David Berlinski, an outstanding mathematician, or Bill Dembski who has two or three PhDs? No? Are you backpedalling, sir? Science is not your field, you say? Well, you must be expert enough to feel safe in insulting those who suggest ID be taught in public schools by calling them "sluggish thinkers." Come on, Mr. Quick Thinker who has exactly no degrees, put up or shut up. You demur? You'd rather not employ your finely honed mind to show off your superior grasp of the issue? Too bad. It would've been fun to watch.

Like the columns of his colleagues, Mr. Cohen's article offers no argument. It makes no case. It's a simple screed which he should be embarrassed to publish, but as a devout journalistic jihadi, he's unmoved by his own inadequacies. His column, like those of the aforementioned writers, is an editorial page version of the suicide bomber's shout of Allahu Akbar, Death to the Great Satan Bush, just before he blows himself to bits.

Ed Morrissey at Captains' Quarters finds much else not to like in Cohen's essay.