Friday, September 30, 2005

Breaking News: The New York Times Hates President Bush

Normally, I tend to avoid Bill O'Reilly. I can never tell if he is actually trying to make a point, or just trying to get the audience to think that he is really intelligent.

However, in his latest talking points on FoxNews, he has an interesting observation at the end of the article (under the Most Ridiculous Item of the Day section).
One month ago today, Hurricane Katrina hit, and since then the wind has been unbelievable in the media. Just for fun, I had the "Factor" research staff check out to see just how many anti-Bush editorials and op-eds The New York Times has printed since the storm blew in. The number is 53. There have been 53 anti-Bush columns in the New York Times in a month.

My question to that paper is why bother? Why not just put the bold letters up on the editorial pages, "We hate Bush." You don't need any back up. You hate him, we got it.

Ridiculous? Of course. Unless you're waiting for the 54th article.
I especially agree with the last part. As ridiculous as the NYT has become, I have no doubt they have a very large echo chamber that is eagerly awaiting the next anti-Bush editorial.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More on the Confirmation

Well I for one am not surprised at all by the overall vote on John Roberts nomination. In this post two weeks ago I predicted a 14-4 committee vote and 70-75 votes on the floor. I was a little high on the committee and a little low on the floor predictions, but pretty close overall. Senate roll call is here.

The breakdown of Democratic votes shows a clear pattern. Senators from Republican leaning states tended to vote yes while those from Democratic leaning states voted no. (I'm trying to avoid the red-blue state labels.) In that sense, one could argue that these senators were accurately reflecting the views of the people who elected them. The counter argument, of course, is that judicial nominations should not be a partisan, political issue. But that's exactly what Schumer wants the process to be and it looks like that's what he's getting. So Althouse does have a point here - this is about results, not qualifications.

There are exceptions to the overall pattern, but many of them are easily explainable. Evan Bayh voted no because he's running for president in 2008 and feels that appealing to left-leaning primary voters is important to his chances - he already has plenty of moderate credentials. Harry Reid voted no because he's the party leader. I strongly suspect he would have voted yes if he were not part of the leadership, both because of the state he's from and his own fairly moderate positions. Tom Harkin may hail from a state that George Bush won in 2004, but he's a very liberal Senator, so his opposition is no surprise. On the other side there are a few that are harder to explain, such as Levin (MI), Leahy (VT), Dodd (CT). I suspect their votes are a combination of actual principle - Roberts really is extremely qualified for the position - and tactical voting to position themselves to oppose what could be a more vulnerable nominee for the O'Connor seat.

Roberts Confirmed As Chief Justice

By now I'm sure you've heard that Roberts was confirmed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by a margin of 78-22. As expected, there are many reactions already, ranging from celebration to horror. I've noticed two interesting reactions so far.

The first is by Ann Althouse, who makes this observation:
As to those 22 Democrats who voted no, they have openly embraced an ideological view of the Court from which they can never credibly step back. For them, appointing Supreme Court Justices is a processes of trying to lock outcomes in place, and we shouldn't believe them if in the future they try to say otherwise.
She then lists the 22 senators who voted no and adds:
I hope no one on that list is running for President.
While I completely understand her point, I can't say I agree. I think there is a good portion of the American population that will likely vote for someone because they voted no on Roberts. The idea that the senate is suppose to vote on the qualifications of the nominee and not the potential rulings on key issues is far, far from the mind of many Americans.

The other observation (which has been noted by many) is that of the Democratic senators from red states, only 3 voted no:
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Tom Harkin (Iowa)
Harry Reid (Nevada)
It will be very interesting to see if the no vote hurts any of these three politically (or if the yes votes by the other help them).

Glenn Reynolds Is A Mean, Mean Man

This post is more of a meta-post about what it is like to author a blog.

While people blog for many reasons, it is very often true that one of the goals becomes increased readership. Consider this: A blog author gets inspired and crafts a long and well-worded post. I don't care what the subject of the post is. It could be politics, it could be cooking, it could be NASCAR racing, it really doesn't matter. If the author then checks traffic later and sees that only four people have read the post, something happens, and the goal of increased readership is born.

There are many articles on how to increase blog traffic, but one of the clear ways to do so is to get linked by one of the "big boys"; a link from a popular blog can temporarily increase the traffic of a small blog by 10x, 100x, 1000x. The most common example of this is getting a link on Instapundit, authored by Glenn Reynolds. Getting a flood of traffic because of a link by Glenn is known as an instalanch.

So recently, Instapundit posted a sign-up sheet for bloggers to go see a screening of the movie Serenity. I did so, posting my review here and my thoughts on the process here. I even wrote Glenn an email, thanking him for the opportunity. Later, I noticed that Glenn had seen the movie as well, and posted his mini-review. In this post, he linked to a number of other blogs that had also posted reviews.

Was it possible? Could I expect my first instalanch? The answer was no, as the Internet Freedom Trail was not one of the blogs he linked. That evening, he posted a follow-up, listing more blogs that had reviews. Did it happen this time? Could I expect a flood of traffic? Again, no.

As it happens (and I have no idea why) my review has for a time been the #1 result on Google's blogsearch, #2 on yahoo, and listed prominently on blogcritics, among other places. The result has been about a 100x increase in traffic over the last few days. I honestly feel a little guilty as this blog is supposed to be about politics and social issues, not movie reviews. My co-author Keith has jokingly (I hope) told me that I'm a sell out...

So in the end, maybe it's for the best that I didn't get an instalanch for an off-topic post. On the other hand, maybe it was my once chance for blog fame. I guess we will never know.

OK, back to politics...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

More Debunking Of Protest Pictures

Perhaps as a photographer I'm more interested in this whole idea of misleading people with photographs and selective editing than most. Nevertheless, I think this analysis of yet another photograph from the anti-war protests last week is interesting enough to pass on. (Hat tip: little green footballs)

Follow the link and read the whole thing (it's not that long and is mostly pictures), but the short summary is that a picture that looked like a young girl showing here innocent feelings against the war in Iraq was seemingly staged by one of the organizers of the event and a member of the Communist party.

I'd prefer more information but even the analysis available, above, is something you'd never see in a mainstream media report.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why A Movie Review?

One post down, I review the movie Serenity, due out in theaters this Friday. Obviously movie reviews are not the normal fare here, so why now? Well, partially because I was asked and partially because I was fascinated that I was asked.

The marketers behind the Serenity movie thought it would be a good idea to invite bloggers to early screenings of the movie. The assumption being that they would write reviews of the movie in their blog after the fact (though I was under no obligation to do so). So they made signups available--I found out about this all via a post on Instapundit.

Ever since the blogosphere took on Dan Rather and won, I've been fascinated about how blogs and the media were going to interact. During regulatory arguments, it has been suggested that blogs and the mainstream media are very similar entities. This movie review request seemed to be strong supporting evidence of this. Traditionally, only professional movie reviewers got sneak peeks of a movie and were asked to review it before release. Now, blogs were breaking into that tradional role.

It was definitely an interesting experience. I arrived a half-hour early to find a long line of people waiting to see the free screening. I was able to bypass the line, as my name was on the press list--along with I'm assuming more traditional Austin media members. It seemed surreal that I would be on a press list just because I maintained a blog. But they guy with the clipboard had a list with my name on it and into the theater I went, up to a reserved section.

I don't plan to make a career out of reviewing movies. But I found the real world example of the merger of blogs and mainstream media too compelling not to take part, at least this one time.

Serenity Movie Review

For my half-dozen loyal readers: no, you haven't gone to the wrong blog. What follows is a movie review of the movie Serenity. As for just why I'm reviewing movies on a blog devoted to political, economic and social issues, please see this post, which hopefully explains things. (And if you are a die hard fan who can't wait to see the movie, don't worry; I'm including no spoilers below.)

This is probably a unique blog review of Serenity, as I've never seen the TV show Firefly, upon which the story of Serenity is based. Worse yet, it is my understanding that in some ways this movie is the series finale that never was, as Firefly was cancelled on short notice. Because of this I expected to be confused by the plot, especially if the script attempted to tie up loose ends from a season of storylines.

I did go in with somewhat of high expectations as well, since Serenity was written and directed by Joss Whedon. I was a big fan of Whedon's more famous TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Specifically, I always thought that the writing and stories on Buffy were far more complex and sophisticated than people who could only scoff at the show could realize. So I expected similar complexity from Serenity.

Did I get what I expected? Yes and no. The plot was easy to follow and while there certainly seemed to be something of a rich history that was alluded to but never fully explained, it didn't get in the way of the film. The pace of the film was notably good. There wasn't a dull moment or a scene that lingered too long throughout the entire movie. Was it complex? I'd have to say no. There were a few twists here and there, but nothing shocking. I suppose this is to be expected. It is harder to develop a complex story in a 2-hour movie as opposed to 24-hour television season.

The acting was interesting, as the cast is pretty much the same as the cast of the Firefly TV show. This worked to great advantage as the small crew of a spaceship had a clear sense of camaraderie that was I think would have been hard to accomplish if the actors hadn't worked together so much before the movie. My favorite performances were by Summer Glau, as River (though admittedly her role as young girl having suffered extreme emotional trauma made it easy to sympathize), and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the villain and makes him a fascinating character in his own right.

Overall I enjoyed the movie. Judging from the reactions of the rabid fans in the audience, it will be a huge hit with people intimately familiar with Firefly. Compared to the wealth of horrible sci-fi and action movies out there, Serenity is heads above its competition. While it won't be winning any major awards, it is sure to please fans of the sci-fi genre.

Media Exaggeration And Hurricane Katrina

Like many out there, I was glued to the TV at times during the Katrina landfall. I remarked once that it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion; you knew you were going to see something horrible, but you couldn't look away. All the information, from the sheer number of deaths to the anarchy and non-social behavior, was at the same time horrifying and riveting.

Now, the LATimes is reporting that many of the reports were either gross exaggerations or now known to be completely false. Apparently the New Orleans Time Picayune has a similar report on their web site, but the web site seems available via registration only, so I can't confirm that. The AP has picked up the story here.

Commentary on this breaking realization can be found at the Corner of the NRO and GOPBloggers. As conservative blogs, you can imagine their reaction. I'm still looking for a liberal reaction to the story, but I've been unable to find one as of yet.

Truth And The Anti-War Protests

I've avoided blogging about the farcical "anti-war" protests in Washington this past week. I've done so mainly because I don't really think they are legitimate. They protestors couldn't seem to stay focused on the Iraq war; the comments made spread to almost every other issue imaginable. Since I don't find it interesting that there are thousands of liberal people in the country who love to get together to protest for the sake of having a protest, I've avoided the subject.

However, while you might suspect that the whole event is just a photo-op, you might be surprised just how staged it is. Wizbang blog (hattip Instapundit) has done some fact-checking on a particular protestor and found some interesting results.

If you follow the link, you'll see a picture of man at the protest holding a sign saying "I am a Republican and I'm ashamed of this GOP." You'll also see that the man, Jeb Eddy, is a fraud. Below the picture is a list of his campaign contribution, which amount to thousands of dollars to the Democratic party and the Kerry presidential fund.

The freedom of speech is alive and well in the U.S., so by all means, please protest your heart out if the mood strikes you. But to "protest" by walking around with a flat out lie written on a sign, pretending to be someone your not...well, that's just pathetic.

September Presidential Straw Poll

Patrick Ruffini often conducts non-scientific straw polls, typically relating the presidential elections. His latest one for September is up.

While the results are of course not definitive, they are usually very interesting. Ruffini lets you sort by state (and this time tagged key words). If you are enough of a political junkie to even be thinking about the next presidential election, check it out.

Giuliani In 2008

Lorie Byrd, of polipundit fame, has an interesting guest article at townhall. The article concerns the effects of hurricane Katrina and how Giuliani's potential as a presidential candidate was increased by them. Here main point:
On September 11, we saw what a leader looks like during a crisis and it looked like Rudolph Giuliani. In contrast, the recent example of New Orleans’ Mayor Nagin taking to the airwaves cursing the federal government and calling for the cavalry, not only did not look like leadership, but made Giuliani's performance on 9/11 look positively, well, presidential by comparison.
I completely agree. Nagin looked completely out of his element after Katrina. Giuliani seemed to come into his own after 9/11.

In the article, she also notes that the biggest difficulty with Giuliani winning the presidency is him winning the Republican nomination. Giuliani is not social conservative (particularly on abortion) and the fear is that he would loose the votes of the religious right. While I feel that this fear is justified, I must say I don't understand the behavior. I would think that someone seeking a socially conservative president, when given the choice between Giuliani and someone like Clinton or Dean, would see the importance of getting out to vote for Giuliani. If a slightly red state becomes slightly blue because of the lack of a conservative Christian vote, how does that help the Christian cause?

If he could get the nomination, I don't think he would need the far right vote to win the election. I think he would be very attractive to independents and moderate democrats who are frustrated with the moonbat pull of Kos, Soros, and the like. As a case in point, even Eleanor Clift, who marches in step with the loony left most of the time, asked, "Where is Giuliani when we need him?"

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Stupid Argument Over Intelligent Design

Sadly, the intelligent design debate is back in the courts. I don't really have much to say about this other than to express my disbelief that we, as a society, are still arguing about such things. I suppose this sums up the situation as well as I could:
Brown University professor Kenneth Miller, the first witness called by the plaintiffs, said pieces of the theory of evolution are subject to debate, such as where gender comes from, but told the court: "There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory."

On the other hand, he said, "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community."

In any event, I wish people could at least be honest about the reasons for their arguments. I don't appreciate comments such as:
"This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda," argued Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Of course the case stems from a religious agenda; to suggest otherwise is insulting.

NASA: Back To The Moon

NASA recently unveiled its plans to return men to the moon. You can find details of the plan linked off of NASA's homepage. The plan is to return men to the moon by 2018, at an estimated cost of about $104B. There are three aspects of the plan that I find raise interesting questions?

Is 2018 too long to wait?

At first, my initial thought was, "Yes." Thirteen years is a long time for political pressures to point to the space exploration as wasteful and unnecessary. (By comparison, the Apollo program took 8 years.) As short-sighted as such views may be, expecting them is only prudent. Upon reading more of the details of the plan, I'm a little heartened. Non-manned missions start much sooner (within five years). If these missions can capture the spirit of the American people as some of the Mars reconnaissance missions have, then I feel better about the chances of the program continuing to fruition.

Is $104B too expensive?

I would have to say no, for three reasons. First, $104B spread out of 13 years is only $8B a year. In terms of the federal budget, $8B is a rather insignificant amount. Second, NASA administrator Griffin has said that no increase in the NASA budget is being requested. His quote at the announcement press conference was:
Griffin said he is not seeking extra money and stressed that NASA will live within its future annual budgets of $16 billion. Funding within the human spaceflight program will be redirected to achieve this goal, and not "one thin dime" will be taken from science projects, he said.
Third, the total cost represents 55% of what the Apollo program would have cost today, adjusted for inflation.

Is the new launch vehicle a step backwards in technology?

The new plan calls for a new launch vehicle--one that splashes down in to the ocean as opposed to the more controlled landing exhibited by the space shuttle. It is tempting to want to see a more sophisticated vehicle. For years, articles have been written about advance concept vehicles that take off and land as a plane, using new engine technologies such as scramjets. I have to remind myself that "more advanced" is not always better.

As a perhaps odd example, consider Dell computers when they first started. They were heralded as changing the industry, letting people order a customized computer directly on the web. But it is my understanding that that actual process was not as advanced as it appeared. An order placed on the web showed up on a display in front of an operator at Dell. The operator would take the information in the order and retype it in on an old-style green-screen display that was actually linked to the factory. The automated web order was actually not automated at all. Such a system is clearly not the most advanced possible, but the point is that it worked; it worked so well that Dell now dominates the home computer market.

Overall, I would say I'm satisfied with the plan. Perhaps most importantly, I'm grateful there is a plan at all. I continue to believe that space exploration is important and, at the current costs, a fantastic investment.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Aftermath Of Hurricane Rita In Austin, Texas

Hurricane Rita has come ashore and I thought I'd share with you a picture that shows the aftermath of the storm in Austin, Texas. The picture is of a duck pond, close to my house (actually in Round Rock, just to the north of Austin).

As you can see, there are actually a few clouds in the sky. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, some wind (up to 25 miles per hour), and a 20% chance of rain.

I went to the local H.E.B. (supermarket) yesterday just to see, and the entire aisle they normally have devoted to bottled water was bare. They were also almost out of milk, with just a few gallons of whole milk left. I can't imagine people actually panicking because of this non-event for central Texas, but apparently people did.

I read a report that so far there are no deaths associated with Hurricane Rita. That is certainly good news and I applaud the efforts of all involved who worked to keep people safe and the situation under control. But I hope that in the future we take away the respect and the need to prepare from the hurricane season of 2005, and leave the mindless panic behind.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Recent Hurricanes Not The Result Of Global Warming

For all my media bashing, I feel compelled to point out when they do exhibit the professionalism to report all sides of a story. Case in point is this article, linked from the front page of CNN, which explains that the recent string of bad hurricanes is not the result of global warming.

The meat of the article is a quote from Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center:
But don't rush to blame it on global warming, experts warn.

Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday that we're in a period of heightened hurricane activity that could last another decade or two.( See scientists collect data -- 1:33)

"The increased activity since 1995 is due to natural fluctuations (and) cycles of hurricane activity driven by the Atlantic Ocean itself along with the atmosphere above it and not enhanced substantially by global warming," he testified
Other scientists at the center were interviewed and added:
Mayfield's colleague at the National Hurricane Center, meteorologist Chris Landsea, said two recent studies about global warming and hurricanes raise more questions than they answer. He added that the impact of global warming is "minimal for the forseeable future."
(And I'll try not to focus on the fact that a meteorologist studying hurricanes is named Landsea.)

Terrorism Prevented In Los Angeles

The AP is reporting that three men were arrested for planning "shooting rampages" at LA-area military sites. News like this rarely seems to get enough attention in the press so I thought I'd highlight it here.

In any event the above seems like a much more beneficial use of FBI resources that idiocy like this. Glenn over at Instapundit notes that Congress is requiring that the FBI devote resources to this endeavor. So I don't know if one should blame Bush, as leader of the executive branch which controls the FBI, or blame Congress, but someone should be blamed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good News From Iraq via Chrenkoff

In one of the lengthiest installments of the series, Chrenkoff has posted Good News From Iraq, Part 35.

Sadly this post is to be the last in his very interesting, ground-breaking series. Apparently he as accepted a position with an employer whose policies do not permit employees to maintain a blog. The series itself will continue at a new blog, with new contributors, at Good News from the Front.

So with typical warning that it is not a short read, I highly suggest you read it now.

Hurricanes And National Panic

As I sit here in Austin, TX typing this, hurricane Rita is its way to Texas. Clearly for the coastal cities near Galvestan, the storm represents a significant danger and people are wise to evacuate.

What has struck me, however, is how the recent events caused by hurricane Katrina have caused a national obsession with getting prepared for hurricanes. The effects of Rita on Austin are forecasted to be a little rain and winds approaching 25 mph. Yet there are reports on the local news of people flocking to stores, clearing the shelves of survival items such as bottled water and batteries. I happened to be in a grocery store yesterday and was confused by the long lines at every register until I got home and started reading the news stories.

Honestly, if it wasn't for the current national panic regarding hurricanes, a storm with rain and mild winds would only be newsworthy because of the disruption it might cause to this weekend's Austin City Limits music festival.

Hurricanes can be devastating, but I feel like everyone in the country needs to take a deep breath and relax.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

CNN and Katrina Disbelief

I was watching CNN (NewsNight with Aaron Brown) last night and the story of the moment was how New Orleans had been declared "basically dry" months ahead of initial estimates. The story has now made it to the web, available here. Most of the time was spent with Brown trying to wrap his mind around how the initial estimates could have been so wrong. He seemed genuinely shocked that things had turned out different than first expected.

I continue to be generally shocked with the naivete of the reactions to the Katrina disaster. Thankfully, we as a country have very little experience of dealing with a category 5 hurricane striking a city built below sea level. All the experts in the world can use all of the latest models to try to predict just how the interaction of a hurricane and the costal land mass will unfold and their predictions would still be subject to huge margins of error. Therefore, one should not be surprised that the pumping was thought to take months and ended up taking just several weeks. One should not be surprised that the death toll was originally estimate to be over 10,000 and, at the moment, is currently near 1,000. Order of magnitude errors are to be expected in a situation (again thankfully) so untested as what happened to the gulf coast.

I will put aside my usual skepticism and not belabor the fact that the initial estimates (months instead of weeks, ten thousand instead of one thousand) all made the situation seem even more horrific than it already is. I can't imagine the need to exaggerate the level of devastation to attract more viewers when most of the country was already riveted to the story, but I suppose it is possible.

But everyone, the media and viewers alike, would do well to remember just how hard is to "get it right" a priori with events of this magnitude. And while initial estimates are hopefully the best educated opinion, one should always remain skeptical of their true accuracy.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Roe v. Wade History

LA Times writer David Savage has a very interesting look at the development of the Roe v. Wade decision (link via Yahoo). Worth noting is that the author of the opinion, Justice Blackmun, and other justices apparently did not intend the decision to be as far reaching as it turned out to be. It's well worth a read. It's also a good reminder that court decisions can have implications far beyond what the judge (or a pundit) may expect at the time. (H/T: Volokh Conspiracy).

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Media Coverage Of President Bush's Katrina Speech

I made a point to surf the major news channels after President Bush's speech tonight. I found the variety of the reactions to be interesting, if not surprising.

ABC: They had a panel of a handful of citizens outside the Astrodome. As one might expect the responses they got were somewhat random. It was an interesting approach, but not one that I typically find particularly compelling.

(Update: I thought I'd point out that it seems I was switching channels too rapidly in an effort to get the "first reaction" from each channel. Polipundit has a round-up of the blogosphere's reaction to the comments, which were apparently--and surprisingly--pro-Bush.)

CBS: CSI, maybe the season premiere. I'll at least give them credit for not hiding their priorities.

NBC: Brian Williams was repeating the phone numbers and internet addresses that President Bush had given during the speech. Specific focus was given to helping families locate missing people. I'd have to say that this was probably the most useful of the media responses.

FoxNews: In a never ending effort to be "Fair and Balanced", FoxNews had a panel of editorial writers, presumably covering the spectrum from liberal to conservative. The most noteworthy comment was that both sides described the rebuilding portion of the speech as "if they were listening to LBJ."

CNN: Through a number of interviews was focusing solely on the "who is to blame?" angle and ignoring the rest of the speech. I suppose like CBS I should give them credit for not hiding their priorities.

MSNBC: They conducted an interview with Louisiana Lt. Governor Landrieu. Landrieu was echoing part of the speech, saying that great care had to be taken to ensure that rebuilding money didn't get wasted via fraud and political corruption.

Personally I think the biggest story will be how the rest of the country reacts to the rather ambitious rebuilding efforts that President Bush outlined in the speech. There was no mention of considering any other avenues other than rebuilding New Orleans with better hurricane and flood protection. He also spoke of using a variety of government programs to "break the cycle of poverty" in the region. Both of these goals were easy to get behind emotionally, but the cost of each will be enormous. It will be interesting to see how long the population as a whole will remain supportive of the efforts, no matter the cost.

As for the speech itself, it was fairly typical Bush fare. It was well-written, even eloquent in places. It made less than subtle references to the importance of religion to the health of the country. It was delivered sincerely by Bush with the usual number of stumblings and mutterings one has come to expect. As typical for such a speech, I doubt it will change the mind of either Bush supporters or the get-Bush-at-all-costs camp, but such is the nature of politics.

Change In Tenor Of Katrina Coverage

I've been away on vacation for over a week, thus the lack of any posts. During my return trip I had the pleasure of four hour layover in the Salt Lake City airport. Much of that time was spent under a monitor showing CNN. Of course, the coverage was almost entirely Katrina related.

Having been separated from both mainstream media coverage and the blogosphere, a change in the tenor of the coverage was immediately apparent to me. When I had left for vacation, the underlying question in every news story was how could have the government have failed so badly in responding to the storm? The coverage I witnessed at the airport was missing much of this angle.

The stories were diverse and covered both good and bad aspects of the situation along the gulf coast. The choices ranged from up-to-the-minute, breaking news stories to human interest stories depicting the courage with which some are facing the destruction wrought by Katrina. One of the most striking changes was that many stories involved coverage of the national guard efforts and in every case, the men and women of the guard were depicted in a heroic, positive light.

I cannot know for sure what caused this change in tenor. Perhaps the reporters now living in the aftermath of the storm fully understand the scope of the destruction. They are now answering the more immediate (and pertinent) question of "What is being done to survive and recover?" as opposed to "Who is to blame?" Perhaps the recovery efforts have so gripped the nation that the viewers find caustic, investigatory reporting unpalatable at the moment.

Whatever the root cause, I find the change a welcome one.

More battles to choose wisely (Roberts)

I'm going to make a prediction. When John Roberts' nomination is voted on in the Judiciary Committee, it will not be a party line vote. Roberts will receive at least a few Democratic votes. My gut feeling is it will be a 14-4 vote. Then on the floor he will receive a solid majority.

This is hardly a earth shattering prediction. I've read plenty of people opining that Roberts will get upwards up 70 votes on the floor (although I don't remember reading much speculation about the committee). But here's my reasoning. A party line vote opposing Roberts would be a strategic blunder for the Democrats. Given his impeccable credentials, strong performance at the hearings and lack of any concrete reason to oppose him, a party line vote would be a clear announcement that the left will not accept any nominee from the Republican president. This statement would in effect marginalize them. Why would President Bush pay any more attention to their "advice" when basically any nominee would get the same response? The Democrats need to able to show through their votes that a more conservative nominee, someone in the mold of Scalia, is more objectionable. Otherwise the Senate will turn into a partisan rubber stamp on judicial nominees. Barring a filibuster, of course, but I don't think Senate Democrats are eager to see how a filibuster of a SCOTUS nominee would play with the American people, particularly since a number of them from Republican leaning states will be up for election in 2006.

I could be wrong in either my analysis of the strategic situation or how much the Democrats are beholden to their fund raising interest groups (who would no doubt urge complete opposition if Bush nominated a clone of Thurgood Marshall). But I wanted to on the record now, so I can take credit if I turn out to be right.

Update (9/16): Michael Barone, one of the most knowledgeable guys around when it comes to politics, writes that the committee Dems will all vote against Roberts but many other Dems will vote for the nomination. Obviously we won't know until it happens, but Barone's opinion is generally worth listening too.

Update (9/21): Floor vote prediction is 70-75 votes. I posted this in the comments thread on Polipundit so I figured I ought to put it here as well.

Choose your battles wisely (Pledge)

I've been reading various opinions about yesterday's Pledge of Allegiance decision, in particular written by atheists and secularists. (See the comment thread here at the Volokh Conspiracy for a typical discussion.) I've heard the arguments many times before from friends and acquaintances as well - that the words "under God" establish religion, are coercive when a teacher in a public school leads the pledge recitation, that they violate separation of church and state. I strongly disagree with these arguments, both from the standpoints of policy and constitutionality. But that's not the point of this post.

What would be the long term effect if in the end the Supreme Court does rule that recitation of the Pledge in schools is unconstitutional? Michael Newdow has likely undertaken his crusade on principle without much thought for the fallout. Polls clearly indicate that a vast majority of Americans do not think the words "under God" in the pledge are unconstitutional and should remain - 84-89% in this poll (scroll down). The majority is not always right - that's why we have protections in the Bill of Rights. But when the majority is as strong as it appears to be in this case it seems likely that that majority would take action to oppose a court ruling. In the case of the pledge I think it is extremely likely that a SCOTUS ruling would spark a movement to amend the constitution to explicitly allow (at a minimum) such ceremonial religious references. With support in the 80+% range, it would be likely to pass. (Such an amendment might well be very narrow in scope, but impact on interpretation of the First Amendment would be unknown.)

The concept of separation of church and state, not explicitly contained in our Constitution, has gained general acceptance in this country over the past century. Secularists have made significant strides towards removing religion from public life, in ways that would certainly surprise the drafters of the First Amendment. But the Pledge case (and related efforts such as removing "In God We Trust" from the currency) seems to me to be overreach. The backlash could well result in constitutional amendments that would set back the secularists cause. Thus the title of this post - choose your battles wisely, because some tactical victories may lead to defeat,

For the record, I do not think Newdow will prevail in his suit. I think it will be reversed by either the Ninth Circuit or the Supremes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Here we go again - Pledge declared unconstitutional

A U.S. District Court judge in California ruled today that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in unconstitutional. MSNBC report here. Michael Newdow, who had a similar case previously dismissed by the Supreme Court for lack of standing, had filed this action on behalf of three California families.

Strangely, according to the news report the judge felt that he was bound by the precedent of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who had ruled in favor of Newdow in 2002. The Supreme Court ruling in this case was that the case was dismissed because Newdow didn't have standing to sue on behalf of his daughter who he had no custodial rights. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding of this ruling is that the Supreme Court ruling overturned the Ninth Circuit ruling. As such it has no precedential value and does not bind the District Court in any way. This seems to open up a ready avenue for the Ninth Circuit to possibly overturn this ruling upon appeal. Keep in mind that the appeal will be heard by a random panel of three appeals court judges, which might end up being significantly different in legal perspective than the panel that ruled in favor of Newdow in 2002. Thus there is no guarantee that this case will even reach the Supreme Court, even though the issue may well reach the highest court eventually.

I do think that this ruling is a gift to Republicans and President Bush at a time when there are two vacancies on the Supreme Court. It certainly will be played up by the right in an effort to emphasize that the courts have overstepped their bounds and need to be curtailed. It is not clear how much effect this will have or how it will play out, but it can not help those on the left who want to stop the president's nominees or at least to moderate his second choice.

Update: Professor Eugene Volokh, who obviously knows much more about the law than me, comes to a similar conclusion about the Ninth Circuit precedent here.

More Roberts

I watched a large portion of Day 2 of the Roberts' hearing yesterday and some of this morning's action. Some of it made good theater, particularly when the nominee sparred with several of the more combative Democrats on the committee (Kennedy, Biden). Roberts carried himself very well through it all, speaking well and showing solid knowledge of the law. As expected, Senators spent much of the time making speeches instead of asking questions. The Republicans in particular were guilty of this, but what do you expect in "questioning" a nominee when it's a foregone conclusion that you will vote for the man?

Now into the second day of questioning the nominee, it's pretty clear that the nomination will clear the committee, receive a floor vote and be confirmed. The only question is the total number of votes. This is clear both from the tenor of the questions in the hearing and the media coverage. The cable news channels have cut away repeatedly from the hearing to cover other stories, including Bush at the United Nations. From this it seems clear that the media producers realize that there is little chance of any additional newsworthy fireworks, and as a result doesn't require constant coverage. Of course, without any major bombshells, either today or from the witnesses who will testify later in the week, there is no chance that this nomination will be derailed. None of this is surprising in the least, but it is interesting to see it play out exactly how many have expected it to since John Roberts was first nominated.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day One of the Roberts Hearings

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the confirmation of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States began today. Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBlog and Matt Margolis at Blogs for Bush live blogged the hearings. For my part, I attempted to listen to them via C-span.

My impression matched my expectations - a lot of blather. Today's hearing consisted simply of opening statements from the 18 Judiciary Committee members, the three senators tasked with "introducing" Roberts and the nominee himself. Nothing much of substance was said, with senators from both sides repeating talking points. I suppose someone who hasn't been paying attention might be interested to hear that Chuck Schumer thinks that Roberts must answer questions about previously decided questions, or that John Cornyn would advise him not to answer specific questions, or that Dianne Feinstein considers Roe v. Wade a most important issue (Sam Brownback too, although from the opposite side). But someone who hasn't been paying attention to the issue of judicial appointments probably wasn't watching the hearing.

John Roberts did make a very nice impression in his six minute opening statement, made without the aid of notes. But this too was completely to be expected from the accomplished Supreme Court litigator. It points to how well he is likely to perform over the next two days of questioning.

The real fireworks begin tomorrow morning.

Zogby's cognitive dissonance

Over at the Huffington Post, John Zogby posts in disbelief about the results of a new poll that has all of the president from Carter to Clinton beating George . Bush in a prospective matchup, while Bush still beats John Kerry. Zogby asks, "What am I missing here?"

It doesn't take much thought to figure it out. Past presidents have the advantage of no longer being in office. Their faults are somewhat shrouded in the mists of time. Not being in the limelight, not being the regular butt of comedian's jokes, not being blamed for current problems they can readily be viewed favorably as statesmen. Thus it's very easy to romantically assume that things would be better with the old guys than with the current officeholder. Thus Carter/Reagan/Bush Sr./Clinton have a natural advantage over G.W. Bush in such a poll.

Kerry, on the other hand, is fresh in the minds of Americans. His attributes and flaws were on display in the recent election. It stands to reason that a Kerry/Bush poll would be similar to the 2004 election results, since not much has really happened to change the relative appeal of either man.

I find it interesting that a national poll would waste it's time with irrelevant questions such as these. The cynical thought is that Zogby (a known Democratic supporter) was trying to find evidence to support a negative view of Bush. But a critical analysis of this particular line of questions shows the results to be mostly meaningless.

The comment thread on Zogby's HuffPost post was also interesting (yes, I did slog through to the end), if only to see all of the people who insist that the 2004 election was stolen and that Kerry really did win by a good margin. Not to mention the lack of critical thinking that allows one to respond to Zogby's question (about a poll taken in the summer of 2005) with accusations of stolen elections. What does one have to do with the other? I can't say I'm surprised - you can find the same kind of sentiment in comment threads on DU or Kos (and similarly partisan blinded comments on right wing sites as well).

Blame Game

I've had a hard time trying to blog over the past couple of weeks, as evidenced by the lack of posts. (Not that I'm usually very prolific anyway.) The reason is Hurricane Katrina, and specifically the maelstrom of spin and finger pointing that came in the storm's wake. Almost from the moment the levees were breached, it has seemed that the primary focus of attention from politicians, media and many bloggers has been assigning blame for what has happened or defending against such accusations.

One would hope that faced with a disaster of this magnitude the primary focus would be on saving lives and doing whatever is needed to rebuild the Gulf Coast region and the lives of the people who lived there. Unfortunately, I'm not naive enough to expect that. I understand why politicians and pundits play the blame game. In the current political environment everything is seen as an opportunity to score political points.

The government response has certainly been far from perfect. Those agencies involved (federal, state, local) should review what happened and do their utmost to learn from the experience and correct what can be corrected (some "problems" in our system are features and not bugs, as a computer programmer might say, and as such can't be corrected). There is a time for this kind of review. But it just seemed crass to me to indulge in punditry about the response while the disaster was/is unfolding.

FWIW, there has been plenty of good reporting and blogging about Katrina. In particular, I'm thinking about efforts by bloggers to suggest and collect donations for relief agencies and charities.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Roberts for Chief Justice

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died of cancer on Saturday at age 80. May he rest in peace.

Today Bush nominated John Roberts to replace Rehnquist as CJ. This means that his nomination to replace Sandra Day O’Connor has been rescinded. Bush will now nominate someone else to fill her seat.

This is a very smart move by George Bush. Roberts clearly has the professional qualifications to serve on the court. Attempts to smear him over the last two months have largely failed. He also seems to have an ideal temperament for Chief Justice – well suited to building majorities as needed, much more so than Antonin Scalia, for example. Some on the right remain concerned that Roberts is not sufficiently conservative, but the record that is emerging points to a man who is solidly conservative though not an ideologue.

Reports are that Democrats privately concede that they cannot stop the nomination. What this means is that it is very possible that Roberts will be seated as Chief Justice when the court opens its term in October. This is important, because the CJ (among other administrative duties) assigns opinions in any case in which he is in the majority. This can be a very significant power when exercised. By choosing the author of the court’s opinion the CJ can effectively strengthen or weaken the holdings. This is true even on cases with which he disagrees – a canny CJ can join the majority in a case where his vote won’t decide the case (5 other votes in favor) simply to assign the opinion to a justice that will write the least compelling or far reaching opinion. If the CJ seat remains open then this power is exercised based on seniority, meaning liberal Justice Stevens. It is clearly in GWB’s interest to place his own nominee in the CJ seat as soon as possible.

An added benefit to the choice is that with the O’Connor seat now open again, SDO may return to the court in October until her replacement is found. Her resignation in June was conditional on her replacement’s confirmation, although she could of course amend that at any time. If she does continue to serve then the court will not be faced with the prospect of having only 8 members (assuming Roberts is confirmed) evenly split between nominally liberal and conservative factions. A court that splits 4-4 simply affirms the lower court holding by default and is a recipe for an ineffectual court. Not to mention that fact that SDO is at least somewhat conservative.

Now, there is more than short term procedural moves at stake here. Elevating Roberts would be a bad idea if he were not a good candidate. But from what I have read I feel confident that he is a good choice

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Police Shoot, Kill Gunmen In New Orleans

Earlier today, there was an AP report that New Orleans police had shot and killed members of the Army Core of Engineers that were working to repair one of the levees. I was horrified but (thankfully) chose to wait on confirmation before blogging about it.

As it turns out, the story has a happy ending, if you can call it that. It turns out that the police actually shot and killed at least five gunmen (scroll down for the story) that were themselves shooting at the Army engineers. Even in the fact of such horror as the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans, I can't imagine what would possess someone to shoot at people trying to repair the levee. I am thankful that in this instance the police were around to restore a little order and sanity.

I think the first AP report and then the correction can be taken as an indication of just how chaotic things are in New Orleans right now. I don't fault the AP for getting the story wrong at first. It is difficult to get a true sense of the conditions down there, no matter how much TV coverage one watches. But one can easily imagine how confusing things were after the shooting.

At least the news in this case was not horrific, but only sad.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Unused Buses In New Orleans

Glenn over at Instapundit has been following an interesting story of unused buses in New Orleans. He first noted it here. And has followed up today with a link to high resolution pictures.

From talking with friends that lived in New Orleans, the general opinion is that it would have been hard to convince some people to leave even if transportation was available. But it would be a tragedy indeed if people that wanted to leave could have if these buses had been used.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Intelligent Criticism

Dave Wissing, at the excellent Hedgehog Report, has posted his views on how different politicians have handled the Hurricane Katrina disaster. In contrast with the hideous bile coughed up by Clift at Newsweek (see this post below), this commentary by Wissing is intelligent, makes you think, and isn't dripping with talking points from the loony left.

Notice that he gives Bush a bad grade for his response so far. But also notice that his review of Bush's actions is based on Bush's actual actions themselves. There's no mention of the war in Iraq, the estate tax, long vacations or any other standard attacking point.

Everyone please enjoy the protection of the first amendment; being able to freely criticize the government is one of the things that makes this country great. But when you feel the need, please do so intelligently, as Mr. Wissing has done. The outlandish agenda journalism that is running rampant has gotten more than tiresome.

Eleanor Clift's Astoundingly Ignorant Rant

It seems that the disaster of Hurricane Katrina has untied the staff at Newsweek, but sadly not to report the truth or to somehow help the situation. No, Newsweek seems united in using the deaths of hundreds (or thousands?) of people and widespread destruction to attack President Bush. Just a few posts down, Keith commented on the appalling comments of Fineman. Fellow columnist Eleanor Clift joins the party with a shockingly ignorant editorial "A Colossal Failure of Leadership," which is labeled as a "web-exclusive commentary". If this is the quality of something that is "web-exclusive", I might just have to rethink my stance and go back to print media.

Ms. Clift starts off with this idiocy:
I didn’t see the movie “The Day After,” which depicts the desolation and desperation in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Staring at the images from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is like watching that disaster movie in real time.
She didn't see the movie yet says the images are like watching the movie in real time? I haven't seen the movie either. Shall I suggest that Ms. Clift reminds me of that completely asinine reporter from the movie that no one could stand?
Her brainless rantings continue:
Where is Rudy Giuliani when we need him? We’ve had four years since 9/11 to prepare for a crisis with mass casualties, yet we seem totally unprepared.
This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the scope of the problem in New Orleans. Perhaps Ms. Clift should have taken a physics class just once in school instead of studying the art of the poisoned pen. An entire city was built below sea level, a category 5 hurricane brings 20 foot sea swell with waves on top of it, and she seems perplexed that everything isn't already taken care of? I noticed she continues to shine on Giuliani with:
But this was a moment for national leadership, and nobody rose to take charge the way Giuliani did in New York.
I'm sure when Giuliani announces his candidacy as a Republican next year, Ms. Clift will be first in line to help with the campaign. Oh, and by the way, Giuliani was the mayor of New York City. What does that have to do with national leadership? This next paragraph is particularly outrageous:
This has been a colossal failure of government. President Bush spent Tuesday, the day after Katrina struck, at a Medicare event in Arizona and then he made his way to a San Diego naval base for yet another anniversary tribute to the Greatest Generation. His concession to reality was adding a few words of compassion to his prepared remarks. Meanwhile, the greatest natural disaster in a century was unfolding at sickening speed with television cameras capturing footage of looting reminiscent of the days after the invasion of Iraq. Things were so bad “you almost wonder if Donald Rumsfeld is in charge,” said Marshall Wittmann, an analyst with the Democratic Leadership Council.
Wow, let's check the list. We have a snide mention of World War II veterans, a personal attack of President Bush's character, a portrayal of failure in Iraq, and a slam against Rumsfeld by a leader of the Democratic Party. That's a pretty impressive paragraph, even by loony left standards.

I don't really want to give any of Ms. Clift's writings any more press, but she ends with:
Congress had been planning to eliminate the estate tax, draining billions from a federal budget already reeling under the costs of a war. Marshall Wittmann, who used to advise John McCain, predicts that Bush’s tax-cutting days are over. “We’ve been living in la-la land,” he says. “This is a moment of sobriety when business as usual can’t continue.”
Ahh, I understand, it's the elimination of the estate tax that's causing all the problems along the gulf coast. Actually, from reading the editorial it is clear what Ms. Clift's real point is. She hates President Bush. She hated him before Katrina, she hated him after Katrina. She doesn't like his economic ideas and she doesn't like his political ideas. It seems she doesn't like any of his ideas. The hurricane and the suffering of thousands is just a convenient excuse for her to show the world just how deep her mindless hate runs.

To Ms. Clift I have this to say. This is not been a failure of leadership. You view it as that, but you weren't going to follow President Bush no matter what happened or didn't happen in New Orleans. You'll probably be disappointed to learn, if you can open you mind enough to do so, that a growing number of people are getting tired of the continual and baseless attacks on President Bush. Ask outside your tiny little sphere of fellow biased journalists and you will find that even people who never even considered voting for the man can see your slanderous, ignorant rant for what it is.

I can only hope Newsweek decided to employ different columnists in the future. Ones, perhaps, that think for themselves instead of spewing out a very tired--and false--diatribe.

Reasons To Hope In Iraq

I imagine most potential readers of this are riveted by the events in New Orleans and the gulf coast; I know I have been recently. But the combination of the horrible events that are unfolding before the eyes of the world and the shrill commentary of number of people who seem more fixated on blaming people for the disaster than reporting the news has driven me to look for more positive news elsewhere.

Surprisingly I found it in Iraq. Mark Steyn has an interesting editorial column titled, 'Why I remain an optimist," that is a must read. He comments on an excerpt from the proposed Iraqi constitution:
‘Iraq is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-sect country. It is part of the Islamic world and its Arab people are part of the Arab nation.’

That first sentence alone is a remarkable declaration for this part of the world and, if the second partly qualifies it, well, hold your horses before screaming Iranian-style theocracy. It was never likely, in Iraq as in Afghanistan, that an overwhelmingly Muslim country would not give formal recognition to that reality in its constitution, but what’s important here is what’s not said. Iraq ‘is part of the Islamic world’, but it’s not an ‘Islamic republic’, as Iran is. ‘Its Arab people are part of the Arab nation’, but Iraq itself is not: it’s not the ‘Arab Republic of Iraq’, as it is the ‘Arab Republic of Egypt’ and the ‘Syrian Arab Republic’.

No one can predict with accuracy the outcome of the Iraqi constitutional vote on October 15. But I find Steyn's analysis fascinating.

Blame Democracy

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many voices have been raised to ask who is to blame? This is a completely natural human reaction in the face of tragedy - people want to know why this happened. Some of the voices are blatantly partisan, seeking to pin blame on political opponents or push their own causes. Others, such as this NY Times Op-Ed They Saw It Coming, focus on explaining the how's and why's without any obvious agenda beyond wanting a safer New Orleans. The author also discusses what could be done in the future to protect the region from future hurricanes.

But if we're looking for something beyond natural forces to blame for broken levees, flooded cities and even less than perfect response plans, I think there's one obvious answer. Blame democracy. Democratic societies habitually ignore signs of danger. They tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Governments have priorities, which in a functioning democracy are set by the will of the people. Some have complained that the federal government did not properly fund levee construction. But until there's a crisis this wasn't a priority for the people (certainly not around the country and possibly not among folks in New Orleans either). A congressman who wants votes will emphasize on popular priorities like education and give short shrift to long term problems that may or may not materialize before that politician retires.

It takes a visionary leader to push against the competing political forces to implement (and fund) something which is important but doesn't seem pressing to the public. Contrary to popular assumptions about politicians I believe that such leaders do exist. But it's no surprise to me that the natural tendencies of our system prevail in most cases. As they perhaps did in New Orleans.

As Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Appalling commentary by Howard Fineman

In the midst of tragedy and devastation, isn't it nice to know that some people can only see the crass political angle? Hundreds or thousands of people have been killed because of Hurricane Katrina and hundreds of thousands are now homeless, but Howard Fineman can only focus on "a political storm brewing" in his commentary War on the Mississippi.
For years the Pentagon’s standing readiness plans required the country to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously. But no one anticipated what we face now: a war in Mesopotamia and another along the Mississippi.
In his rush to view everything through anti-Bush lens, Fineman equates the natural disaster in the Gulf region to a war which we are not prepared to handle because of the war in Iraq.
And now: the Storm and the Flood, which have inundated the Gulf Coast in deadly water. This is, literally, an invasion of the homeland, and it will require a warlike response from a nation and a military already stretched thin.
In what conceivable way is this literally an invasion of the homeland? (Yet another writer who doesn't seem to understand what the word "literal" means.) There are no foreign nationals attacking American citizens or bombs going off. Civil order has broken down in many of the ravaged areas. While I find the actions of looters who are taking advantage of the situation despicable, equating the situation to an invasion shows a serious lack of perspective and judgment, even as a rhetorical device.
National Guard officials insist that they have enough men and women on hand to do the job, but common sense tells you that they could use the others stationed abroad. The U.S. Navy is dispatching supply ships to the region, but battling the waters that cover the region will require many more resources.
From the accounts that I have read there remain thousands of National Guardsmen in the region who not yet been mobilized (information from a day or two ago, may be old). There are certainly many more in other parts of the country that have not been activated. This indicates that we do have the resources to deal with this situation regardless of the deployment of troops to the Middle East. Not to mention the fact that the majority of troops in Iraq are not Guardsmen. Does anyone think that the First Marines should be brought back to aid in New Orleans? Would Fineman really call for their deployment if they were not overseas?
As is typical, some people are never willing to trust the opinions of the professionals, at least not when they are military.
Andy Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans. Will George Bush? His poll numbers already at near-record low levels, he will have to oversee the rescue of the gulf in the midst of a changing climate in Washington. The public’s sense of where America is headed—the “right direction/wrong track” numbers—are dismal. Gas prices are high and unsettling. Congressional Democrats, reluctant since 9/11 to take on a “war president,” finally have decided to do so. And Republicans, knowing that they’ll be facing the voters a year from now, are beginning to seek ways to distance themselves from him.

This president doesn’t need Karl Rove to explain the political importance of disaster relief. It’s something Bush responds to naturally, and he knows the risks of seeming to be an insensitive, to-the-manner-born president. When hurricanes hit Florida before the last election, he and his brother, Jeb, were on the case, Big Time. Now three Red States are hit, hard, and the challenge is likely to be much greater.
Now the meat of the column. Fineman shows that his primary concern in assessing the situation is how the disaster might hurt Bush. Thousands dead? A city ravaged? It's all good as long as the president's poll numbers get worse. Red states took the damage? Even better! The satisfaction that seems to come through his writing is sickening.
And just after Labor Day, hearings will start in the Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. Expect the Democrats to drop their caution and go after him with all they’ve got. They’re coming to the conclusion that they have nothing to lose, and they are being pushed in that combative direction by a grass-roots base furious at the congressional party for not having taken a tougher line against the president months if not years ago.
Democrats are being pushed by a grass roots and media base that is so maddened by their hatred of this president that they can't see anything beyond the possibility of wounding or thwarting Bush. If the Democrats follow Fineman's lead and attempt to politicize this tragedy, turn it into nothing more than an opportunity to bash the administration, then they will certainly have plenty to lose. The Democrats are the minority party in Washington now. This path leads to a political wasteland.
But now they sense blood in the rising water.
Appalling. Howard, there is real blood in the water. That's much more important right now than politics.

Update: Peggy Noonan on makes the same comparison between the situation and a war:
Last week I said that this is the wrong time in hostory to move forward with the wholsesale closings of military bases thourought the U.S. Terrorism was on my mind, but the incredible tragedy on the Gulf Coast is giving us a new gulf war, one in which we must help an entire region get back on its feet after being leveled by an ancient foe, the hurricane, and what is happening there right now in New Orleans and Mississippi seems tragically illustrative of the fact that local military presence can be crucial in times of grave national emergency.
Another bad comparison and I disagree with using this disaster to push against base closings. At least Ms. Noonan's tone is more respectful and this is merely a small part of her column which is mostly focused appropriately on the situation.

Looters Fire On Airlift Helicopters Over The Superdome

Frankly, I'm speechless. The airlift operations removing people from the Superdome to dry land so that they can head to Texas has been suspended due to gunfire directed at the helicopters.

MSNBC seems to be the first to cover the story.

I don't think anyone can imagine just how horrific the situation in New Orleans will become over the next month. I can only hope that situations in the less populated areas along the gulf coast will be more controllable.