Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A dirty bait and switch

If K-mart or Merck tried something like this, Nightline and 20/20 would be all over the story. I guess they feel somewhat constrained by the fact that the victimizer was ABC television and their "Extreme Makeover" program.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Double standard

Patterico touches on one of my pet peeves here :
I would have liked to have seen some reference to Padilla’s adopted name, Abdullah al Muhajir.

Why is it wrong to use Cassius Clay or Lew Alcindor but OK to use Jose Padilla or call Suleyman al-Faris by his old name John Walker Lindh?

Friday, September 09, 2005

This is just wrong.

Very wrong. I think Captain Ed hit the nail on the head:
Can you imagine the outcry from the multiculturalists and the ACLU had the design incorporated a cross or a Star of David in honor of the victims? Why should we tolerate the Crescent that, inadvertently or deliberately, honors the terrorists?

Michelle Malkin has a round-up.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two real news stories on Katrina

This one from the Baltimore Sun shows what a resolute few can do even in the face of the worst adversity:
A do-it-ourselves shelter shines

In the week after Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, Anthion and others created a society that defied the local gangs, the National Guard and even the flood.

Inside the school, it was quiet, cool and clean. They converted a classroom into a dining room and, when a reporter arrived Monday, were serving a lunch of spicy red beans and rice. A table nearby overflowed with supplies: canned spaghetti, paper towels, water and Gatorade, salt, hot sauce, pepper.

At its peak last Wednesday, 40 people called the second and third floors home. The bottom floor was under water. Most of those taking up residence at the school were family, friends and neighbors of the poor, forgotten niches of this community.

This story from the New York Times has some facts that, if true, changes the whole picture on the federal response:
"While the situation in the Superdome was nightmarish and not satisfactory to anyone involved," Mr. Knocke said, "it was not a life-and-death situation, and we had to focus our priorities where we could."

Even so, he said relief crews delivered seven trailers filled with water and ready-to-eat meals to the Superdome before the storm hit on Aug. 29, along with another seven trailers on Aug. 30.


So the feds did deliver relief supplies to the Superdome early in the process. How did the media miss that?
Jay Rosen gets it

You have to be able to think, and if you can it doesn’t matter (for your journalism) if you break down and emote. If you can’t think, and draw conclusions that inform your reporting, then bringing passion to the table isn’t going to change a damn thing. Finally, I don’t think the challenge for American journalism is to recover its reason for being, but to find a better one. The world has changed. It’s not enough to be tough.

RTWT
Return of another Vietnam syndrome

Most of the better histories of Vietnam highlight the fact that the brass micro-managed the war and robbed small unit commanders of their initiative. A captain in a firefight soon found his radio crackling with messages, advice, and questions. Battalion and brigade headquarters wanted updates. On a bad day, his division commander would soon be circling the battlefield in a chopper. Saigon might join in. Instead of leading, the hapless company commander was briefing his chain of command while the bullets were flying.

Later, everyone seemed to agree that it was no way to run a war.

Today the media, with its instant global reach, forces the military to repeat those mistakes.

Al Jazeera reports that Marines fired on a mosque. CNN has pictures of a car shot at a checkpoint. Reporters clamor of answers at the White House, Pentagon, and CENTCOM HQ. Investigations are promised; information is gathered.

What does that mean for the men at the tip of the spear?

The same thing is happening in Louisiana. The cameras capture sickening images, the reporters profess outrage, the whole world sees and hears. Politicians pontificate and pundits lay blame. Answers are demanded.

There is no context nor is there any understanding of the vast logistical obstacles that the responders face. At the heart of the outrage is a collective confusion. Everybody on TV seems to think that everything that is desirable is always feasible. If it is feasible then every delay must be evidence of misfeasance or malfeasance. While we search for the guilty parties, we add to the friction that those on the ground face as they try to bring order out of chaos. Yes, lives are at stake, but all the yapping and faultfinding is not saving anyone.

Von Moltke said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. This is as true for disaster response as for a military campaign. Von Moltke's solution was to create an army whose officers could improvise when faced with the unexpected. But improvisation is career suicide when the media is second guessing every step of the process.

Responding to the Monday morning quarterbacks sucks up time, attention, and critical resources. At the tip of the spear, all of these are scarce and should not be squandered humoring the likes of Scarborough, Grace, or Greenfield.

UPDATE: This is a great discussion of the real world logistics involved in a seemingly inexplicable delay.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The best

These two posts may be the best thing i've read on Katrina and her aftermath.
ABLE DANGER: Filling in the blank spaces

Two interesting articles that provide some useful background for ABLE DANGER.

The Houston Chronicle profiles Fran Townsend. Clearly, she has become a major player in the Bush administration.

But by all accounts, Townsend has impressed Bush with a tough efficiency and a bit of a swagger that resembles his own. Her influence has grown to the point that Cabinet secretaries and agency directors who do not normally return media calls about White House staff members rush to phone with lavish praise for a profile.

She is also not shy about using her clout:
Asa Hutchinson, then an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, recalled that he deferred to his absent boss. But Townsend, the top White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, had a higher authority to invoke. "You don't understand," she said. "The president will be calling momentarily. We need your position."
From a basement office in the West Wing, Townsend runs President Bush's far-flung campaign against terrorism. Her two predecessors were four-star generals who brought decades of experience to the fight. Townsend, 43, a former mob prosecutor, has a different credential - the president's ear
.

Townsend may be Bush's Gorelick. ABLE DANGER raises serious questions about her leadership of OIPR. Yet her powerful role in the White House may hinder our ability to discover the whole story.

This is especially true if Donald Sensing is correct that Chertoff is in trouble as head of the Department of Homeland Security. What if Bush replaces Chertoff with Townsend as head of HS?

The other article is a 2001 piece that gives a flavor of how domestic counter-terrorist efforts by the military were viewed pre- 9/11.

Military role grows on home front

A couple of representative quotes:

Some argue that the role makes sense in light of the threat posed by modern terrorist groups. But a diverse coalition of civilian law enforcement agencies, civil rights advocates and libertarian groups worry about allowing the military to play so prominent a role on U.S. soil.
"There used to be a bright line separating the military from involvement in civilian affairs," says Steve Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the American Federation of Scientists. "The pernicious aspect of terrorism is that it threatens to erode what is a clear distinction. We are seeing them on all these 'fronts.'"

And this:

Officials at several key civilian agencies - from the FBI to the Public Health Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency - say the military's growing role in preparing for a domestic terrorist attack is disconcerting.
"We used to be the main people involved in this," said a domestic preparedness official with the Public Health Service who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "Now, there are fewer of us and more of them
."

See also:
The Wall and Fran Townsend
Time to check the plans

Captain Ed and Hugh Hewitt are right-- let's hold off on the political debate for a few days. There is more important work to be done and in any case, we do not have enough facts yet. There is no point in adding yards of commentary to a handful of rumors.

The military has a saying: "amateurs talk about strategy; professionals talk about logistics." I think that second part applies to disaster relief. CNN sits in a hotel in the city and wonders why the trucks have not arrived with water. Behind that question lies a host of others. Cable news is oblivious to the importance of those other questions and this ignorance confirms their amateur status.

Irish Pennants is very good on this point.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is entailed in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, no gasoline is available, and roads and airports were covered with water or debris. Yet this was done within four days of Katrina dissipating. The most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history is being libeled as a national disgrace.

Katrina has revealed weaknesses in our emergency response. In the coming weeks we can learn how to do better. But the key to that learning is asking the right questions and understanding what the real problems were.

All disaster recovery begins at the local level. The next disaster will happen some place other than New Orleans. Now is a great time for local media and bloggers to question our local agencies to make sure that the obvious mistakes of New Orleans are avoided. In particular, what happens on day 2 and 3? How solid are the steps to ensure that those people who evacuate will have food, water, and medical attention? Can those steps withstand an unexpected jolt?

The Harrisburg area has a well-publicized, well-defined evacuation plan because of Three Mile Island. I am confident that state and local government can get people out of harms way if that should be necessary. The potential problem, however, is that those people will be moved into rural areas. I'd like to know how the TMI plan addresses the need for food and water. I plan to ask many questions this week.

The Boy Scouts understand life's realities better than most journalists do. "Be prepared". (I think the Texas translation is even better.) A couple of small inexpensive items can do wonders in an emergency.

A tough flashlight and batteries. I'm partial to this one because the LEDs give outstanding battery life. (Up to 160 hours.)

Hand sanitizers, peroxide, and chlorine bleach.

A space blanket and disposable hand warmers can keep you comfortable if you have to spend the night in your vehicle or outdoors.

A multi-tool or Swiss Army knife is always a good thing to have at hand.

A water purifier. These are for campers, but they can save your life. They kill bacteria, parasites, and viruses. A nice thing to have if your water supply is compromised.

I keep my kit in a small bag in my truck. I've never had to use all of it at once, but I have used almost everything in it at one time or another. It has never been a life-threatening situation, but I was glad to have them anyway.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Jack Shafer speaks for me

Why cable news does a bad job with crisis coverage:

News you can lose

Friday, September 02, 2005

Good sense on disaster relief

Over at Macsmind

For example:
Getting help in isn't as easy as CNN or CBS would have you believe. Simply put you just don't drop a "pallet of food and water" into a crowd wating below. Unless you want to see little old people and the infirmed mauled by the "stronger".
Leadership

The slow disaster down in Louisiana makes one thing crystal clear. Crisis leadership is a rare thing and enormously valuable. The governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans may be fine human beings. They may even be able administrators. But neither one of them is Rudolph Giuliani.
Katrina

The most important thing i have to say is contribute to the Salvation Army. Words are useless, political wrangling is almost obscene. No amount of blogging is going to get water to the people in dire need.