Friday, September 30, 2005

Robert No-Facts is shrill:

Robert Novak: Bashing Bush in Aspen: For two full days, George W. Bush was bashed. He was taken to task on his handling of stem cell research, population control, the Iraq war and, especially, Hurricane Katrina. The critics were no left-wing bloggers. They were rich, mainly Republican and presumably Bush voters in the last two presidential elections.

The Bush-bashing occurred last weekend at the annual Aspen conference sponsored by the New York investment firm Forstmann Little & Co. Over 200 invited guests, mostly prestigious, arrived Thursday night (many by private aircraft) and stayed until Sunday morning for more than golf, hikes and gourmet meals. They faithfully attended the discussions presided over by PBS's Charlie Rose on such serious subjects as "global poverty and human rights" and "the 'new' world economy." The connecting link was hostility to President Bush.

"All discussions are off the record," admonished the conference's printed schedule. Consequently, I will refrain from specifically quoting panelists and audience members. But the admonition says nothing about personal conversations outside the sessions. Nor do I feel inhibited in quoting myself. Even if I am violating the spirit of secrecy rules, revealing criticism of Bush by this elite group, and the paucity of defense for him, is valuable in reflecting the president's parlous political condition.

The Forstmann Little Aspen Weekend is made possible by the generosity of Theodore J. Forstmann, a doughty supporter of supply-side economics and longtime contributor to the Republican Party. Invited guests are drawn from government, diplomacy, politics, the arts, entertainment and journalism.

I was surprised that the program indicated the first panel, on stem cell research, consisted solely of scientists hostile to the Bush administration's position. In the absence of any disagreement, I took the floor to suggest there are scientists and bioethicists with dissenting views.... The response was peeved criticism of my intervention and certainly no support.

I do not see myself as a defender of the Bush presidency, and I am sure the White House does not regard me as such. But as a member of the second panel consisting of journalists, I felt constrained to argue against implications that Hurricane Katrina should cause the president to rediscover race and poverty. My comments again generated more criticism from the audience and obvious exasperation by Charlie Rose. Indeed, after the closing dinner Saturday night, the moderator made clear he was displeased by my conduct.

After the first two panels, I feared I was the odd man out in accepting Teddy Forstmann's invitation. But during a break, one of the president's closest friends -- who had remained silent -- thanked me profusely for my comments. That set a pattern. Throughout the next two days, men and women who were mute publicly thanked me privately for speaking up. When I said nothing during one panel discussion, some people asked me why I was silent.

Longtime participants in Forstmann Little conferences (this was my first and, after this column, probably my last) told me they had not experienced such hostility against a Republican president at previous events. Yet, they were sure a majority of the guests had voted for Bush.

This analysis was reported to me over lunch by a financier who regularly attends these events. When he thanked me for my comments and said he shared my sentiments, I asked why he did not express them publicly at a session. He replied that he did not feel able to articulate what he felt. Critics of the president who are vocal and supporters who are reticent comprise a massive communications failure.

U.S. News & World Report disclosed this week, with apparent disdain, that presidential adviser Karl Rove took time off from the Katrina relief effort to be at Aspen. He was needed as a counterweight. I settled in for serious fireworks, expecting Bush-bashers to assault his alter ego at the conference's final session. However, direct confrontation with a senior aide must have been more difficult than a remote attack on the president. It would be a shame if Rove returned to Washington without informing George W. Bush how erstwhile friends have turned against him.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Texas Grand Jury: shrill and empanelled

Grand Jury deliberations are secret, but we're sure they're saying something like:

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh two seconds of deliberation R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii! AAAAAAIIIIIIIII!!!!

And when DeLay calls his indictment "partisan", we're pretty sure that means the grand jury went out for drinks afterwards. Party on.

Yes, the Belgravia Dispatch is shrill:

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH: Fishback : Even the most committed Rumsfeld-phobe (which I most assuredly am) struggles to believe this:

Another source informs that the word is around that Rumsfeld has taken a strong interest in this. He is quoted as saying "Either break him or destroy him, and do it quickly." And no doubt about it, that is just what they are doing. Expect some trumped up charges against Fishback soon, similar to what they did to Muslim Chaplain Captain James Yee, whom they accused of treason with no solid evidence and then, when those charges evaporated, went on to accuse him of adultery. The bottom line, as the NYT reports today, is that the military and the Bush administration are determined to stop any real investigation about how torture and abuse came to be so widespread in the U.S. military. The scapegoating of retarded underlings like Lynndie England is an attempt to deflect real responsibility for the new pro-torture policies that go all the way to the White House. It's a disgusting cover-up and it rests on breaking the will and resolve of decent servicemen and women brave enough to expose wrong-doing.

Would Rummy, who while despicable on many levels, I wouldn't accuse of being dumb (aside from his dim inability to plan for the post-war and an insurgency), really say "(e)ither break him or destroy him, and do it quickly"? I will say this. If I conclude in the coming days, analyzing data as rationally and reasonably as I can, that a cover-up to silence Fishback is being mounted from the top, that's when I get off the bus.

National Review drives Arnold Kling into shrill unholy madness!

EconLog, NRO babble, Arnold Kling: Library of Economics and Liberty : Why does National Review Online embarrass itself with this sort of economic commentary?

Budget deficits are only too large if they usurp the private economy's need for physical capital and labor, thereby precipitating an inflationary surge.

So, as long as there is are any unused resources in the economy, the government should increase spending? payments simply reduce account balances in the private sector. Nothing "goes" anywhere; the government doesn't "get anything." To reinforce this point, if you pay your taxes in actual cash, or buy Treasury securities (government bonds) with actual cash, the Fed shreds the cash. Likewise, if you donate cash to the federal government for Katrina, it shreds it. In fact, if you take a $100 bill and burn it, you've donated that $100 to Katrina!

I'm sorry, but I've read the preceding paragraph several times, and it makes less sense each time. Same with the following:

Will private borrowers be crowded out [by increased government deficits]? Impossible. The causation is "loans create deposits," as taught on day one of every traditional money and banking class. The act of borrowing itself creates exactly that same amount of new liabilities (deposits). The process is "self funding" and circular, as a matter of accounting. The concept of a "pool of savings" that somehow gets "used up" by borrowers is a throwback to the time of fixed exchange rates and gold standards, and has no application in today%u2019s floating-exchange-rate world.

When I was in grad school, I somehow missed the lecture where they said that government deficits are self-funding in a flexible exchange-rate regime.

I would suggest that NRO clean out its stable of economics writers and instead choose from some of the other bloggers around. James Hamilton or Andrew Samwick or Russ Roberts or Don Boudreaux or Tyler Cowen or Alex Tabarrok.

The incoherent babble that is NRO economics today simply will not do.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Arnold Kling R’lyeh wagn’nagl fhtagn! Kling fhtagn!! Kling fhtagn!!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

There, there. Now, now. Daniel Gross has made the mistake of reading too far in the pages of National Review, and has succumbed to shrill unholy madness. In the afternoon, we take him off campus down to the Miskatonic River to watch the Ancient Old Ones rend their prey with their tentacles:

Daniel Gross: September 18, 2005 - September 24, 2005 Archives: Who is the biggest nincompoop writing about business and economics on National Review?... Kathryn Jean Lopez makes her bid for greatness today. In a piece about Wal-Mart, she makes it clear that she thinks that everybody working at Wal-Mart has health insurance:

But, the employer of a million people has been known to provide health insurance to over 90 percent of its workers (the others covered by another family member).

Has been known by whom? Not by Judge Richard Posner, who wrote... "Wal-Mart provides health insurance to fewer than half its employees (though, as some critics neglect to note, many of the others are covered by spouses' health insurance or by Medicare), and it charges those employees whom it does cover a significant fraction of the total insurance premiums." Not even Wal-Mart makes such a claim. Lopez could have simply surfed over to Wal-Mart's website and learned that the company has 1.2 million associates and that last year it insured 568,000 associates, or about 47.3 percent. That's substantially less than 90. And if all the others that Wal-Mart wasn't covering were covered by another family member, as Lopez blithely assumes, without citation or evidence, why would Wal-Mart employees and their dependents be enrolled in government-run insurance programs like Medicaid.

You don't need a full-time fact-checker to catch and correct an embarrassing error like this. You just need a sentient human being.

So, do the people who "edit" the content at National Review really also believe that all Wal-Mart employees have health insurance? Will they run a correction? Or do they just lack the intelligence, professional pride, or energy to bother to check.

Say, rather, that they follow the line laid down when their spiritual guide William F. Buckley was hinting we should think seriously about whether George C. Marshall perhaps was a Maoist agent: intelligence and professional pride get in the way of making stuff up, and so are not useful.

Kevin Drum asks a question:

The Washington Monthly: THE F-WORD.... From Andrew Sullivan today:

"CORPORATIST CRONYISM": An arresting analysis of the Bush administration's governing "philosophy." More like Spain and Italy in the 1930s than anything resembling Anglo-American conservatism.

Um, did Sullivan just call Bush a fascist? Just curious....

The answer is, "Yes." Andrew Sullivan did just call George W. Bush a fascist.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sebastian Mallaby is shrill:

'Whatever It Costs': By Sebastian Mallaby: It's hard to say what's worse: The incompetence of the administration's initial hurricane response or the cowardice of its follow-up. Faced with a small hit to his ratings, the president who once boasted of ignoring polls is rushing to spend billions of other people's dollars on saving his political skin. His philosophy is, "It's going to cost whatever it costs." That phrase should be the title of some future history of the Bush era.

The worst part is, President Bush doesn't even think his splurge will be effective. If he really believed that government could overcome racial inequality by targeting subsidies at minority businesses, he should have rolled out a national program long ago. But he doesn't believe anything of the kind. His promises of racial healing are entirely cynical.

What Bush really believes is that government is ineffective. Or at least that's what he says he believes: Late last week he declared that his (self-) reconstruction program should be financed by cuts in other government spending rather than by tax increases, so as to "maintain economic growth and vitality." In other words, government spending is bad because it's inefficient and wasteful. Leaving money in private hands is intrinsically superior. If Bush believes that, why does he think that government should build whole shantytowns of provisional housing? Why doesn't he believe in the private rental market of the South, which is offering 1.1 million units of vacant property?

Early on after the catastrophe, Small Government Bush suspended a law that props up construction wages paid by federal contractors, with the result that workers in the disaster zone will have less disposable income but government will save money.

One week later, after the panic had set in, Reconstruction Bush was yammering about $5,000 worker recovery accounts, which would come on top of the free government homes and sundry other benefits that the administration is also promising.

If Bush used this moment as he used the aftermath of Sept. 11, some of this spending could be forgiven. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon exposed the nation's complacency about terrorism; Bush stepped forward and changed that. In a similar way, Hurricane Katrina exposed the complacency of our business-as-usual attitude toward domestic government. Bush has barely noticed.

The complacency begins with the appalling state of federal staffing. It's not just that the hapless former boss of the Federal Emergency Management Agency knew more about horses than floods. It's that the government agencies that must now manage relief are missing senior officials, either because their confirmations have been held up in the Senate or because the administration has yet to appoint anyone. As The Post reported last week, seven of the top positions at the Department of Housing and Urban Development stand vacant. Perhaps it's no surprise that the administration has cooked up its crazy shantytown proposal.

This staffing crisis is well known; two months before the 2001 attacks, about half of the national security positions stood empty. But Katrina creates an opportunity to tackle the problem. The federal government needs to be returned to an earlier era, when more executive-branch positions went to career civil servants who didn't need to be confirmed and didn't owe their jobs to college roommates. Bush hasn't even raised this issue.

Katrina also exposed the corruption in the way government dispenses money. The levees around New Orleans were inadequate not because the nation spends too little on water infrastructure; far from it. They were inadequate because water funds are allocated by cronyism rather than by cost-benefit analysis. On any honest crunching of the numbers, fortifying New Orleans looked like an excellent investment. But undeserving projects hogged all the money because they had more powerful sponsors in Congress. Bush hasn't breathed a word about this scandal.

Or take the perverse state of federal flood insurance. Because the program is subsidized, the feds are effectively paying people to build vulnerable houses on the beach; then they bail out flood victims whether or not they've actually signed up and paid their premiums. You might think that Katrina has driven home this lesson once and for all. Bush shows no sign of having grasped it.

Most seriously of all, Katrina exposed the government's incapacity to prepare for emergencies. The failure of response to a predicted flood in New Orleans is only the tip of the iceberg. Name just about any potential disaster, from a bioterrorism attack to avian flu, from an interruption in the flow of Saudi oil to a crash in the dollar. Are the feds prepared? Of course not. They are not even preparing for problems that are 100 percent assured, such as the coming baby bust.

After the terrorist attacks of 2001, Bush rose to the challenge -- perhaps rather too vigorously. After Katrina, he's lost his political nerve and all sense of the big picture. The hurricane has exposed our government as complacent, corrupt and unprepared; it has also created a brief and fleeting chance to launch bold reforms. Yet Bush seems content to accept business as usual. He will sit back and wait for disasters, then write large checks. Hey, it's going to cost whatever it costs. Is this supposed to be leadership?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I sense it will be a long time before Fareed Zakaria votes for a Republican:

MSNBC - Leaders Who Won't Choose : President Bush explains that he will spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the Gulf Coast without raising any new revenues. Republican leader Tom DeLay declines any spending cuts because "there is no fat left to cut in the federal budget." This would be funny if it weren't so depressing. What is happening in Washington today is business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe. The scariest part is that we've been here before. After 9/11 we have created a new government agency, massively increased domestic spending and fought two wars. And the president did all this without rolling back any of his tax cuts--in fact, he expanded them--and refused to veto a single congressional spending bill. This was possible because Bush inherited a huge budget surplus in 2000. But that's all gone. The cupboard is now bare.

Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history. Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. These figures come from the libertarian Cato Institute's excellent report "The Grand Old Spending Party," which explains that "throughout the past 40 years, most presidents have cut or restrained lower-priority spending to make room for higher-priority spending. What is driving George W. Bush's budget bloat is a reversal of that trend." To govern is to choose. And Bush has decided not to choose. He wants guns and butter and tax cuts.

People wonder whether we can afford Iraq and Katrina. The answer is, easily. What we can't afford simultaneously is $1.4 trillion in tax cuts and more than $1 trillion in new entitlement spending over the next 10 years.... Robert Hormats of Goldman Sachs has pointed out that previous presidents acted differently. During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt cut nonwar spending by more than 20 percent, in addition to raising taxes to finance the war effort. During the Korean War, President Truman cut non-defense spending 28 percent and raised taxes to pay the bills. In both cases these presidents were often slashing cherished New Deal programs that they had created.... The U.S. Congress is a national embarrasment, except that no one is embarrassed. There are a few men of conscience left, like John McCain, but McCain's pleas against pork seem to have absolutely no effect. They are beginning to have the feel of a quaint hobby, like collecting exotic stamps.

Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest. So we shovel out billions on "Homeland Security" to stave off nonexistent threats to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana while New York and Los Angeles remain unprotected. We mismanage crises with a crazy-quilt patchwork of federal, local and state authorities--and sing paeans to federalism to explain our incompetence. We denounce sensible leadership and pragmatism because they mean compromise and loss of ideological purity. Better to be right than to get Iraq right....

[W]e need government. We already pay for it. Can somebody help us get our money's worth?

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Zakaria R’lyeh wagn’nagl fhtagn!

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Press: So Not Shrill It's Exasperating

What a bizarre reality we live in where the most powerful person in the world can pretend to not know something in such a transparent and hamfisted way and not get called out for it:

Mr. Bush, surveying storm damage in Gulfport, Miss., initially brushed aside reporters' questions about Mr. Brown's resignation.

"I was spending time with people," he said, referring to his tours of the devastated areas in New Orleans and elsewhere in the Gulf Coast region. "It was unbelievable. So, I can't comment on something that you may know more about than I do."

The president said he had not discussed the resignation with Mr. Brown or Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, which oversees FEMA. He said that he would speak to Mr. Chertoff later from Air Force One.

"Maybe you know something I don't know," he said to reporters asking about the resignation. "There will be plenty of time to figure out what went right and what went wrong. There's time to try to blame somebody but they want to get their lives back together."

Seriously, does anyone who has covered Washington politics for more than fifteen nanoseconds believe that Bush didn't force Brown to resign? I mean, I kinda feel sorry that Bush had to break his "no one gets fired no matter how criminally negligent you are" policy--plus, he probably already scheduled the medal ceremony that will now have to be cancelled. But the fact that no one pointed out Bush's obvious disingenuous behavior shows the American press core has hit a new low.

Translation: You spineless hosers.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cato's Doug Bandow is shrill: : Administration is always surprised, never accountable, Friday, September 9, 2005 By Doug Bandow: WASHINGTON -- Is George W. Bush a serious person? It's not a question to ask lightly of a decent man who holds an office worthy of respect. But it must be asked. No one "anticipated the breach of the levees," he said, after being criticized for his administration's dilatory response to the suffering in New Orleans. A day later, he told his director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Michael Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

The most important duty at the moment obviously is to respond to the human calamity left by Hurricane Katrina, not engage in endless recriminations. But it is not clear that this president and this administration are capable of doing what is necessary. They must not be allowed to avoid responsibility for the catastrophe that has occurred on their watch.... In 2001, George Bush's FEMA cited a hurricane hit on New Orleans as one of the three top possible disasters facing the United States. No wonder that the New Orleans Times-Picayune, its presses under water, editorialized that "No one can say they didn't see it coming."...

[C]onsider the president's belief that Brown has been doing a great job. Brown declared last Thursday -- the fourth day of flooding in New Orleans -- that "the federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today." Does the head of FEMA not watch a television, read a newspaper, talk to an aide, check a Web site or have contact with anyone in the real world?... But no one has been held accountable for anything.

The administration set this pattern long ago: It is constantly surprised and never accountable.... The administration underestimated the problem, failed to plan for the predictable aftermath, and refused to accept responsibility for its actions -- just like when the president took America into war based on false and distorted intelligence. Then the administration failed to prepare for violent resistance in Iraq. The Pentagon did not provide America's soldiers with adequate quantities of body armor, armored vehicles and other equipment. New terrorist affiliates sprang up, new terrorist recruits flooded Iraq, and new terrorist attacks were launched around the world, all contrary to administration expectations. In none of these cases has anyone taken responsibility for anything...

Stephen Bainbridge is shrill: Iraq and Katrina : Remember when I said George Bush was pissing away the concervative moment by his mishandling of the Iraq war and its aftermath? I figured only the rabid Bush-haters on the left and paleo-right would make a connection between Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, so I decided to leave that meme to them. Until now.The deployment of thousands of National Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina struck hindered those states' initial storm response, military and civilian officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that "arguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq. "Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Blum.

Blum said that to replace those units' command and control equipment, he dispatched personnel from Guard division headquarters from Kansas and Minnesota shortly after the storm struck. ... "Iraq and other overseas commitments do not inhibit our ability to sustain this effort here at home," Blum said in an interview with three reporters who flew to Bay St. Louis with him Friday from Washington. (Link)

Even if Iraq won't prevent us from sustaining the response to Katrina, for a senior military official with Blum's evident experience to admit that it delayed the response is a pretty stunning admission. It's probably going to give the criticism of the administration and the GOP real traction with people of good sense and good will ... as it should.

Trent Lott is still shrill:

Lott responds to Brown being relieved of duties - The Clarion-Ledger : Statement from U.S. Sen. Trent Lott regarding the decision to relieve FEMA Director Michael Brown of overseeing Katrina relief efforts: "Something needed to be done. While I have been hesitant to publicly criticize Michael Brown, my staff and I had already concluded that FEMA was overwhelmed, undermanned and not capable of doing its job. My office has been successful in working directly with administration officials in Washington, instead of FEMA, to bring relief to Mississippians impacted by Hurricane Katrina. And we have worked with generous corporations, businesses and charities in funneling targeted relief to Mississippians where it is needed. Something needed to happen. Michael Brown has been acting like a private, instead of a general. When you're in the middle of a disaster, you can't stop to check the legal niceties or to review FEMA regulations before deciding to help Mississippians knocked flat on their backs. FEMA needs to just say 'yes' and get it done. I'm hopeful we'll see some changes in that direction after today's announcement."

Rod Dreher of National Review is shrill:

The Corner on National Review Online : THE COST OF CRONYISM [Rod Dreher]It would be very wrong, I believe, to let the ignominious Michael Brown be the scapegoat for FEMA's sins. Check out this front-pager from the WaPo. Turns out that a raft of FEMA's top leaders have little or no emergency management experience, but are instead politically well connected to the GOP and the White House. This is a scandal, a real scandal.

How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize?

With that thought, he begins to approach the heart of Bushism. He needs to stop thinking immediately, or he will join us in shrill unholy madness.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Law Professor Breaks It Down, Breaks Down

University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos looked into FEMA head Mike Brown's background and found... pocket lint?

When Brown left the iaha four years ago, he was, among other things, a failed former lawyer--a man with a 20-year-old degree from a semi-accredited law school who hadn't attempted to practice law in a serious way in nearly 15 years and who had just been forced out of his job in the wake of charges of impropriety. At this point in his life, returning to his long-abandoned legal career would have been very difficult in the competitive Colorado legal market. Yet, within months of leaving the IAHA , he was handed one of the top legal positions in the entire federal government: general counsel for a major federal agency. A year later, he was made its number-two official, and, a year after that, Bush appointed him director of FEMA.

It's bad enough when attorneys are named to government jobs for which their careers, no matter how distinguished, don't qualify them. But Brown wasn't a distinguished lawyer: He was hardly a lawyer at all. When he left the IAHA , he was a 47-year-old with a very thin resumé and no job. Yet he was also what's known in the Mafia as a "connected guy." That such a person could end up in one of the federal government's most important positions tells you all you need to know about how the Bush administration works--or, rather, doesn't.

Yes, Professor Campos, sometimes when you look at nothingness the nothingness looks back at you, with an annoying CNN ticker under it, no less.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Trent "I Like Strom Thurmond Because He Thinks Lynching Should Not Be a Federal Crime" Lott has joined the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill

POPLARVILLE, Mississippi (CNN): Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured. "FEMA and MEMA need to be saying, 'Yes' to Mississippi's needs, not,'No.,' the former majority leader said in a written statement.

"Mississippians are homeless, hungry and hurting." Similar stories of governmental red tape have been reported elsewhere, including a case of 100 surgeons and paramedics hindered from caring for hurricane victims in rural Mississippi.... "This is an emergency situation without peer, like nothing our generation has ever encountered," Lott said. "If suffering people along the Gulf Coast, from Mobile to New Orleans, are going to recover as soon as possible, we'll need an unprecedented public and private effort that can't be hampered by a process geared toward much lesser disasters."

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Trent Lott R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn! Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Trent Lott R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn!! Lott Fhtagn!!! LOTT FHTAGN!!!!

With Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott among the shrill, can Tom Delay be far behind?

Gregory Djerejian crosses the Krugman barrier and is finally, totally shrill!

Welcome Gregory! Report with your duffle bag to the Shoggoth Wing for your formal initiation into the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill:

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH: President "Heck of a Job" Bush: Well, it's not unbelievable, sadly. It has become standard operating procedure with this Administration. Colossal missteps are made (no serious attention paid to what might happen if the levees were breached, no thought of moving to expeditiously evacuate the Superdome, no apprecation that basic law and order might be grossly imperiled if the city became submerged in floodwaters, no contingency planning for an insurgency in Iraq, no appreciation of the full ramifications of tossing aside the Geneva Conventions) and time and again there is a staggering lack of accountability.

Well, here at B.D. we're sick of the empty bear hugs and cutesy nicknames, the circle the wagons damage control mentality, cheap ass-covering and rampant buck-passing, the guitar-strumming and talk of Trent Lott's porch looking all antebellum swell post reconstruction and Kennebunkport 'let them move to Texas' insouciance. Above all else, B.D is sick of the sheer spectacle of grim incompetence that humiliated this nation as New Orleans descended into mayhem reminiscent of wartime Haiti or Liberia--with hundreds if not thousands perhaps needlessly dying because of government ineptitude (though the human toll would be immense even if the planning and governmental reaction had been far superior).

There was massive culpability, to be sure, at the local and state level as well. But, make no mistake, the federal response during the first week was grotesquely amateur. Particularly with FEMA, of course, but also at the now so risibly named Department of Homeland Security. The government failed in its most fundamental duty--ensuring the basic physical safety of its citizens. And it failed miserably.

Does anyone have confidence that, tomorrow say, if Tulsa or Peoria or Dallas or Chicago where attacked by a chemical or biological weapon--that our government would be able to mount an effective response? I certainly don't. After all, the government knew a Category 4 or 5 was about to slam into New Orleans. There won't be any such warning issued by al-Qaeda, of course. I'd like a tri-state national emergency area declared, as Newt Gingrich has suggested, with Rudy Giuliani in charge of mounting a massively ambitious reconstruction project through the Gulf Coast.

I want to see adults at the helm, I want to see competence, I want to see seriousness of resolve and purpose, rather than clueless figures like Mike Brown being told they are doing a "heck of a job." I'll have my own in depth analysis of Katrina very soon, hopefully tomorrow night (I've been travelling non-stop since the disaster hit), but suffice it to say for now that, like David Brooks, B.D. has reached his "bursting point." See you tomorrow.

Andrew Sullivan assures us that--unlike, say, Paul Krugman--he is not a Bush hater: - Daily Dish: FIRE BROWN NOW: More support here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Again, this covers the spectrum from left to right, except for the most shameless of the Bush partisans. And again: few of these people are exempting the local authorities for dereliction of duty either. But the feds dropped the ball. Maybe this time - for the first time - this administration will actually show accountability. Update: more Brown resignation calls here and here.... BUSH WILL INVESTIGATE HIMSELF: This is becoming a farce. Can anyone put him in touch with reality?.... BROWN WAS TOLD: Rich Lowry has more devastating details on Brown's incompetence.... FEMA VERSUS RELIEF: A round-up of some of the most head-smacking stories of incompetence....

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "3:32 P.M. [Monday] Ben Morris, Slidell mayor: We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators, we've heard that they've gone around seizing equipment from our contractors. If they do so, they'd better be armed because I'll be damned if I'm going to let them deprive our citizens. I'm pissed off, and tired of this horseshit."... THREE SOPHOMORES SAVED SEVEN PEOPLE: But the feds were helpless. If you're not outraged yet, read this story. Money quote: "We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai." But this is the Bush administration, buddy. They still haven't secured the road to the Baghdad airport, remember? (Hat tip: Alex Whalen.).... FIRE BROWN NOW: More blogger pressure to get rid of an unqualified boob who got the job because it was previously held by his college room-mate can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and, especially, here....

THE BIG UNEASY: A 2003 study reveals the precariousness of New Orleans and the impossibility of adequately protecting it in time for Katrina. All the more reason that evacuation plans should have been ready to go, in place and, if not, for swift federal rescue efforts. (Hat tip: Porkopolis.)... UPDATE ON NORTHCOM: Carpetbagger corrects to say that it was FEMA and not the president who did not give the necessary order to get to work.... FIRE MICHAEL BROWN II: "If Mike Brown is left in place, it is more than saying he did a "heck of a job", it means that by the standards of our times, a "heck of a job" means abject failure. We can do better, and we should force our leaders, no matter what their position is or party they belong to, to do better." - restlessmania....

"LET THEM MOVE TO TEXAS": Barbara Bush has her Marie Antoinette moment: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this --this is working very well for them." Personally, I still can't sleep for anticipating Trent Lott's "fantastic new porch."... FIRE BROWN NOW: Jeff Jarvis adds his voice. If you're a blogger - right, left or center - and have called for him to be fired, let me know. I'll link.... FIRE BROWN NOW: The Times-Picayune joins the chorus.... DID CHERTOFF LIE? He said Katrina's impact on New Orleans' levees was unexpected. The man who briefed him before Katrina hit says otherwise. Is Chertoff simply lying his way out of trouble?...

BLAMING THE LOCALS: That's the Bush strategy. And the local authorities did indeed fail badly.... But a disaster of this magnitude is obviously beyond the scope of a single mayor or governor. And it became clear very quickly to anyone with a modem or a TV that a disaster was happening. The federal officials are on record denying the calamity even as CNN and Fox were broadcasting it. Chertoff is still denying that anyone foresaw such a scenario even as Brown has said they were on the verge of a plan for dealing with it; and anyone with Google can see umpteen predictions, warnings and analysis of just such a scenario for years. The president told Diane Sawyer that no one anticipated the breach of the levees - about the dumbest thing he has said since the "Mission Accomplished" fiasco. Today, the WaPo, in the piece cited above, has this: "As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said." Hmm. As a reader pointed out, the record shows she did such a thing the previous Saturday. And that Bush had declared one the next day. When the administration's excuses are this patently thin - and contradict each other - you know that this time, even Karl Rove cannot blame someone else....

FIRE MICHAEL BROWN: Here's a great blog post about the blithering idiot, Michael "heck of a job" Brown, hired with no credentials to run a critical agency at a time of national peril. I guess some of us pundits bear the blame. We should have known that someone who had been fired for being unable to run an Arabian Horse Association had the job of responding to a national disaster in the war on terror. He was hired because a Bush crony, Joe Allbaugh (also hired because he was a major Bush fundraiser) liked him. The good ol' boy network at its most brazen. If the president wants to recover even a little from what has happened to his reputation, he has to fire Brown. Now. That's the test of whether he gets it.... This is a competence issue. It's a question of national security. Fire Brown now.... EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I spent my graduate school career studying hurricanes. At each conference I went to, starting in the late 90s, the panels talked about their thoughts on the most vulnerable city in America, on their nightmare scenario: it was always New Orleans.... FEMA and other agencies should have had concrete plans on how to deal with this eventuality. They've been shown to have none that could get aid to the city faster than nearly 4 days after the storm ended....

THE DISCONNECT: CNN - which has just had one of its finest hours - puts together a string of quotes from officials compared with what their own reporting showed at the time. The gap between Bush rhetoric and reality in America is stunning. Now transpose that to Iraq. And worry.... MICHAEL BROWN: The feckless FEMA head was basically fired from his previous job. A simple test of whether this administration has any understanding of even basic accountability will be if he remains in his job once this disaster is over. And of course, Bush will never, can never, fire anyone for incompetence.... QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What is highly surprising now is the disintegration of the administration's mask of competence and confidence, as New Orleans sinks day by day into squalor and savagery, a shocking panorama of unrelieved human suffering." - Camille Paglia, today. Surprising? Well, I guess their mask has now slipped. I should clarify my comments of the last couple days. None of this is good news. The death toll because of the administration's incompetence is a human tragedy. At a deeper level, as a believer that we have to win in Iraq, I worry that the public's trust in anything this administration says about reality may soon disappear altogether. The will we need to persevere in Iraq depends to some extent on trust in the administration. The trust, already battered, may now collapse. This calamity happened in a region where support for the president was relatively strong. It benefits none of us - least of all the beleaguered Iraqis - that this has happened and is still happening. But we know now at least how the citizens of Iraq must feel - besieged, bereft of sufficient security, and reassured by smug Bush administration pabulum. They're on their own, just as surely as the remaining citizens of New Orleans were left to fend for themselves. But, hey, stuff happens, doesn't it?...

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "'The good news is - and it's hard for some to see it now - that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house - there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.' (Laughter)." - president George W. Bush, today. Just think of that quote for a minute; and the laughter that followed. The poor and the black are dying, dead, drowned and desperate in New Orleans and elsewhere. But the president manages to talk about the future "fantastic" porch of a rich, powerful white man who only recently resigned his position because he regretted the failure of Strom Thurmond to hold back the tide of racial desegregation....

I'm not a Bush-hater. I backed the war. Initially, I trusted and supported this president to the hilt at a time of great danger. But I was forced to back Kerry of all people because Bush's gross incompetence at a time of national peril was simply too great a risk to continue...

What would he write if he were a Bush hater?

Kevin Drum is shriller than ever!

He writes:

The Washington Monthly: BUSH AND KATRINA.... For what it's worth, I'd like to make absolutely clear why I hold George Bush accountable for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.... I don't blame him for being on vacation... for a certain amount of chaos in the initial response... for rolling FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security... for focusing more on terrorism than on natural disasters. That was a natural reaction to 9/11. Nor do I think that Bush doesn't care about natural disasters....

Rather, what happened was a series of decisions... that taken together made Katrina more damaging than it had to be.... These decisions were deliberate and disastrous, and that's why I think Bush deserves a large part of the blame for what happened....

January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.

April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."

December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy and former college roommate, Michael Brown, who has no previous experience in disaster management and was fired from his previous job for mismanagement.

March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.

2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.

Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."

June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."

June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

August 2005: While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.

So: A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.

Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

Daniel Froomkin is really shrill:

Dealing With Political Disaster: President Bush somehow missed the significance of what was happening on the Gulf Coast last week as he and his political guru, Karl Rove, flitted between Texas and California and, finally, Washington. But now, facing what is clearly a full-scale political disaster, Rove and a handful of other masterful political operatives have gone into overdrive. They are back in campaign mode.This campaign is to salvage Bush's reputation. Like previous Rove operations, it calls for multiple appearances by the president in controlled environments in which he can appear leader-like. It calls for extensive use of Air Force One and a massive deployment of spinners.

It doesn't necessarily include any change in policy. It certainly doesn't include any admission of error.

It utilizes the classic Rovian tactic of attacking critics rather than defending against their criticism -- and of throwing up chaff to muddle the issue and throw the press off the scent.

It calls for public expressions of outrage over the politicization of the issue and of those who would play the "blame game." While at the same time, it is utterly political in nature and heavily reliant on shifting the blame elsewhere.

But in some ways, this post-Katrina campaign poses Bush's aides with unprecedented challenges.

The problem -- an achingly slow federal response to what has turned out to be one of the greatest natural disasters this country has ever faced -- can be traced at least in part to one of the Bush White House's most defining characteristics: The protective bubble within which the president operates.

Bush's aides intentionally keep him mentally and physically aloof from any ugliness -- political or otherwise. It lets them keep tight control over the presidential imagery and stay on message.

But inside his bubble, Bush first failed to recognize what was becoming clear to almost anyone watching the news: That Americans needed help. And in his two meticulously staged visits to the Gulf Coast on Friday and Monday, it is precisely because Bush was kept so far away from dissension or mess that he appeared so out of touch.

He cracked jokes on Friday, including one about his drinking days in New Orleans, but has yet to confront the true horror of the situation so widely seen on TV. He has yet to acknowledge the disgrace of a major American city being rendered uninhabitable on his watch. He has yet to come face to face with people left to suffer for days in hellish conditions and explain to them why their government failed them. And he has yet to demonstrate the strength that Americans require from their president in a time of crisis.

This crisis finds the president looking impotent at best, incompetent at worst. And there is an element of whining to Bush's refusal to shoulder his responsibility -- especially should the press continue to make it clear how intensely he and his top aides are trying to pass the buck...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Joe Gandelman is shriller than ever:

The Moderate Voice - ...."sat on a wall....": All of the Presidents during our lifetime -- Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, the first George Bush and Bill Clinton -- would have immediately rallied the nation, focused the national need to help victims, taken firm hold of federal rescue-aid machinery, and subsequently symbolized the strength, sincerity, and efficiency of the American Presidency and the federal government during a time of crisis.

This wasn't done.

And what did they say about Humpty Dumpty?

I'm afraid he's too far gone into shrill unholy madness to claim to be a "moderate voice" anymore. His weblog needs a new title--badly. For he is one of those who has been driven insane by the mendacity, incompetence, and malevolence of George W. Bush and his administration.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Newt Gingrich recognizes that the Bush administration is incompetent to preserve our security:

Newt Gingrich: I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?

Welcome, Mr. Gingrich, to the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Shrill!

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Newt Gingrich R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn!! Gingrich Fhtagn! Gingrich Fhtagn!! Gingrich Fhtagn!!! GINGRICH FHTAGN!!!!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Manchester Union Leader is shrill:

The Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News - 01-Sep-05: AS THE EXTENT of Hurricane Katrina's devastation became clearer on Tuesday -- millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews can't reach some regions -- President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before.

Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage.

A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease...