15 February 2006

Congressional blackwash

[source, source]

At 2:00 this afternoon, the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina will release its final report after more than five months of investigation. POPULAR MECHANICS obtained excerpts of a draft copy of the report last night.

We’ve given the report an initial read and found it riddled with poor logic, internal contradictions and exaggerations…

For now, though, here’s a quick overview of what seems to be the report’s most troubling shortfall: consistently blaming individuals for failing to foresee circumstances that only became clear with the laser-sharp vision of hindsight.

For example, the report states:

“Fifty-six hours prior to landfall, Hurricane Katrina presented an extremely high probability threat that 75 percent of New Orleans would be flooded, tens of thousands of residents may be killed, hundreds of thousands trapped in flood waters up to 20 feet, hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures destroyed, a million people evacuated from their homes, and the greater New Orleans area would be rendered uninhabitable for several months or years.”

This statistic is referred to often, and refers to computer modeling of a direct Category 5 hurricane landfall in New Orleans. However, it’s also a distortion. According to the data the Committee itself examined, 56 hours prior to landfall, Katrina was a relatively weak Category 3 storm, heading west in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next few hours, it began its turn north, but where the storm was going to make landfall along the Gulf Coast was any weatherman’s bet (the average 48-hour margin of error is 160 miles). In fact, it was not until the next day, Saturday, that it became more of a certainty that the hurricane was heading toward New Orleans. Furthermore, hurricane forecasters and emergency managers tell PM that until about 24 hours before landfall, hurricanes are too unpredictable to warrant the sort of blanket evacuation orders the report describes.

And according to transcripts obtained by POPULAR MECHANICS of the Sunday, August 28, videoconference between FEMA, DHS, Gulf State authorities, the National Weather Service and the White House, as late as Sunday—only 24 hours before landfall—National Hurricane Center storm tracks predicted: “There will be minimal flooding in the city of New Orleans itself.” The death tolls listed in the congressional report presuppose: A) certainty that the storm would hit New Orleans directly, and B) certainty the storm would strengthen to a Category 4 or 5. Neither of these propositions was certain 56 hours prior to landfall. And, in fact, the hurricane was a Category 3 storm when it did hit.

The Committee report also criticizes the DHS and FEMA for not including the Department of Defense in their pre-storm and immediate post-storm planning. However, the same August 28 transcript shows that DoD was included from the beginning. In reality, despite organizational shortcomings, the rescue spearheaded by the National Guard and the Coast Guard turned out to be the largest and fastest in U.S. history, mobilizing nearly 100,000 responders within three days of the hurricane’s landfall. While each of the 1072 deaths in Louisiana was a tragedy, the worst-case scenario death toll would have been 60,000. [emphasis added]

What do you call an report by a Congressional majority that inaccurately makes its own party’s administration look worse? A blackwash?

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Anything for the story, unless it's something of ours


Australia’s SBS television uncovered more photos from Abu Ghraib and promptly put them on television. They were also immediately published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Oddly, even though they will undoubtedly inflame Muslim sentiment all over the world, neither media outlet believed it was sufficient to merely describe the photos in plain English.

It is worth repeating the original observation, that Old Media clearly makes its decision based on whether the loonies will be mad at them. A more subtle observation is that Old Media doesn’t consider being mad at the West to be being mad at them.

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Doctor, I get humiliated when I do this

Tim Blair is following a very amusing story concerning Michael Leunig, an Australian cartoonist. It seems that in response to the Comic Jihad, the Iranian mullahocracy decided to “strike back” by having a contest for the best Holocaust denial cartoon. Some one then submitted a Leunig cartoon which was immediately accepted. Despite this un-authorized submission, no one familiar with Leunig’s work found it implausible. Leunig, however, is quite upset. I hold to the view that if you don’t want to win theocratic anti-semitic cartoon constests, don’t draw cartoons that could win.

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Not that there's anything wrong with that!

[source, source]

“We implore the students of the Kennel Club to show the nation this weekend what makes Gonzaga different,” Kennel Club advisers David Lindsay and Aaron Hill wrote in a letter in the student newspaper, the Bulletin. “We challenge the students of the Kennel Club to exhibit the class, the creativeness and the competitive drive that has become a foundation of this great university.”

Fans of No. 5 Gonzaga have been asked to stop yelling “Brokeback Mountain” at opposing players. The reference to the recent movie about homosexual cowboys was chanted by some fans during Monday’s game against Saint Mary’s, and is apparently intended to suggest an opposing player is gay.

While there is the obvious point that Lindsay and Hill are implicitly claiming that there is, in fact, something wrong with being gay, it seems to me that this is one more case where the alledged victims (if any) seem to view things quite a bit differently than their concerned “protectors”, what with the public embrace of homosexuality by that community. On the other hand, maybe it’s like race relations, where whether certain words are insulting is based on the race of the speaker, not the word itself.

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