Archive for September, 2005

Objects In Space

September 28, 2005

Also caught the Serenity blogger preview last night. Liked it, didn’t love it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun flick with a lot of slam-bang, and as others have noted, an unusual amount of solid character writing for the genre from creator Joss Whedon.

That said, I have to disagree with Steve on one point: I suspect people who didn’t see the “Firefly” TV series (and not many did) are going to be more than a little lost. I thought the script assumed too much familiarity with the characters and their histories–although I should note that Glenn, who apparently hasn’t seen the show, liked the movie just fine, so it’s possible I’m all wet. Then again, Glenn is a science fiction fan, and this is a movie expertly tailored to the smart-SF crowd. I have my doubts about it crossing over to a larger audience, but I’d be happy to be wrong about that.

For those who were already familiar with the show, it’s great fun, even if some of the characters got relatively short shrift just by the nature of the beast (Jewel Staite’s wonderful Kaylee, for instance, didn’t have much to do in this movie, but she still gets the best one-liner in the script). I liked the story a lot, particularly the explanation of how the cannibalistic Reavers came to be (which made a hell of a lot more sense than “they just went nuts because space is so big”). It takes chances, and isn’t afraid to get very, very dark. Whedon pretty openly based his lead character on Han Solo, but for all the happy-go-lucky-ism that implies, this really isn’t an upbeat tale–and good for Whedon for dodging that temptation.

On the other hand, for all the kudos that “Firefly” received for presenting “realistic” science fiction, the movie repeats one of the show’s most annoying conceits, with characters recovering almost instantly from major traumatic injuries. Granted, that’s also a conceit of the Western, from which the “Serenity” world borrows heavily, so perhaps it’s a feature and not a bug, but it still bugs me.

To sum up: I had a good time, and if I’d paid for a ticket, I wouldn’t have regretted the time or the cost. It’s the kind of thing you’ll like, if you like this kind of thing.


This Is Why I Don’t Try To Steal His Beer

September 25, 2005

From today’s Washington Post:

Something wasn’t quite right about the pewter flagon on the auction block in front of Donald Herr.

The antiques expert knew it was authentic, and the “1762” marking in front attested to its age. But something about the pitcher’s feet — tiny cherubs’ heads — jogged Herr’s memory.

Normally, the flagon would have two feet in front and one in back to make the container easier to tilt forward for pouring Communion wine into goblets. But this flagon was different: It had one foot in front and two in back.

Just like a flagon that was stolen from the Historical Society of Frederick County 30 years earlier.

Herr rushed home to look at pictures of the stolen decanter. He had collected the images long ago while writing a book about pewter church antiques, and he found that the two flagons were identical, down to the dents and the initials of its creator, Johann Christoph Heyne, an 18th-century German craftsman in Lancaster, Pa.

Donald Herr is my father-in-law.

The Post article leaves out most of the story, but he went to some pretty remarkable lengths to make sure that nobody unknowingly bought a stolen item, and that the decanter got back to its rightful owners. Due to staff turnover, nobody at the historical society even remembered that it had been stolen. Neat stuff.

“You Are Stuck On Stupid”

September 20, 2005

If you haven’t seen it already, check out this transcript of General Honore’s press conference in New Orleans. Better yet, click through and listen to the audio, it’s even better. Duane’s commentary at Radioblogger (just below the transcript) is spot-on, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnesses to a rare and wonderful moment: a new catch phrase has been born.

Good Grief

September 14, 2005

The Blogfaddah linked this ABC story about a Louisiana congressman requisitioning a National Guard truck and several soldiers to check out his house in New Orleans last week:

The water reached to the third step of Jefferson’s house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson’s front lawn so he wouldn’t have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.

Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck.

Okay bad enough, but at a human level, I guess it’s understandable to be concerned about one’s home, even though grabbing a Guard unit during an emergency for your own use is entirely inappropriate for a congressman. But it gets worse:

The Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News the truck became stuck as it waited for Jefferson to retrieve his belongings.

Two weeks later, the vehicle’s tire tracks were still visible on the lawn.

The soldiers signaled to helicopters in the air for aid. Military sources say a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to Jefferson’s home. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the time.

A rescue diver descended from the helicopter, but the congressman decided against going up in the helicopter, sources say. The pilot sent the diver down again, but Jefferson again declined to go up the helicopter.

After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission.

… “I can’t comment on why the congressman decided not to go in the aircraft,” [Coast Guard Commander] McPherson said. “Did it take a little more time to send the rescue swimmer back a second time? Yes… You’d have to ask the congressman if it was a waste of time or not.”

The Louisiana National Guard then sent a second 5-ton truck to rescue the first truck, and Jefferson and his personal items were returned to the Superdome.

Schneider said he could not comment on whether the excursion was appropriate. “We’re in no position to comment on an order given to a soldier. You’re not going to get a statement from the Louisiana National Guard saying whether it was right or wrong. That was the mission we were assigned.”

But wait–it gets still worse:

In an unrelated matter, [Oh, really? How are you so sure of that? –WC] authorities recently searched Jefferson’s property as part of a federal investigation into the finances of a high-tech firm. Last month FBI officials raided Jefferson’s house as well as his home in Washington, D.C., his car and his accountant’s house.
Jefferson has not commented on that matter, except to say he is cooperating with the investigation. But he has emerged as a major voice in the post-Katrina political debate.

… A senior federal law enforcement source tells ABC News that investigators are interested in learning if Jefferson moved any materials relevant to the investigation. Jefferson says he did not.

And you just took him at his word? I repeat: good grief.

Saved, After All

September 13, 2005

Here’s some good news:

Auburn freshman defensive end Alonzo Horton’s prayers have been answered.

A week after being informed that his two younger brothers had died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in addition to his aunt Hattie Wimberley, Horton learned that 8-year-old Jerry Taylor, Jr., 6-year-old Delorean Taylor and his father Jerry Taylor, Sr. have been found alive and well in Houston.

“I found last night that my brothers and daddy are safe in Houston, Texas,” said a relieved Horton Monday night in Auburn. “It was a sigh of relief. I can’t really explain how I felt that they are alright.”

Early last week Horton found out that Wimberley had drowned in New Orleans. Days later, he was told by a cousin that he had also lost his two younger brothers. The two boys were allegedly lost when water surged into the Abramson High School gym, which was being used as a shelter, and presumed dead.

I bet there are a lot of stories like this being played out right now. I sure hope so.

Tales From The Crescent City Connection

September 10, 2005

Regarding the story about the Gretna, Louisiana police chief closing the Crescent City Connection bridge out of New Orleans last week, I have a data point to add.

A good friend of mine rode out the storm in Uptown New Orleans. She and her husband hadn’t heard about the levee breach, and he took off for his job Tuesday morning, thinking like most people that the city had survived a near miss. After he’d left, my friend found out about the flooding and the looting, and drove out of town on Tchoupitoulas Street, which runs next to the Mississippi River levee on the south side. She went right past the Tchoupitoulas Wal-Mart as it was being looted (with New Orleans cops joining in), and made it out on the Crescent City Connection into Gretna. I don’t know whether she was stopped at the bridge or not.

Here’s an interesting addition: after she’d made it out of town, my friend realized that she’d brought along all the emergency supplies–when her husband could well need to go back to their house before leaving himself (she was never able to reach him during all this time, but they’d arranged for a meeting place with relatives out of town, just in case). So she drove back over the bridge to her house, dropped off the supplies, grabbed as many of her valuables as she could quickly pack, and left the city again, once more crossing the Crescent City Connection to Gretna. Her husband eventually made it out as well, they’re both fine now.

She’s white, if it matters–and maybe it did.

Myths Busted

September 8, 2005

I had a long post just about composed here, but luckily for you folks, I lost it to a mysterious system glitch. So here’s the abbreviated version:

Two of the most explosive post-Katrina charges were debunked over the last 24 hours. One of them, that the eeeevil Bush Administration has starved the Army Corps of Engineers for money to maintain and repair New Orleans’ levee system, was demolished in that noted redoubt of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the Washington Post:

In Katrina’s wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush’s administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state’s congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana’s representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

For example, after a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations. The Corps also spends tens of millions of dollars a year dredging little-used waterways such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Atchafalaya River and the Red River — now known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, in honor of the project’s congressional godfather — for barge traffic that is less than forecast.

The Industrial Canal lock is one of the agency’s most controversial projects, sued by residents of a New Orleans low-income black neighborhood and cited by an alliance of environmentalists and taxpayer advocates as the fifth-worst current Corps boondoggle. In 1998, the Corps justified its plan to build a new lock — rather than fix the old lock for a tiny fraction of the cost — by predicting huge increases in use by barges traveling between the Port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

In fact, barge traffic on the canal had been plummeting since 1994, but the Corps left that data out of its study.

Landrieu was quoted over the weekend threatening to “punch in the mouth” anybody who criticized the local officials in Louisiana over their response to the hurricane. I doubt she’s rethinking that threat in light of this Fox News report from yesterday, but after I first saw it, I definitely thought a few mouth-punches were in order:

[Brit] Hume: [The Red Cross was] Standing by, ready. Why didn’t FEMA send The Red Cross into New Orleans when we had all of the people there on that bridge overpass and elsewhere. Why not?

[Major] Garrett: First of all, no jurisdiction. FEMA works with The Red Cross, The Salvation Army and other organizations but it has no control to order them to go one place or the other. Secondarily, The Red Cross was ready. I got off the phone with one of their officials. They had a vanguard, Brit, of trucks with water, food, hygiene equipment, all sorts of things ready to go where? To the Superdome and convention center. Why weren’t they there? The Louisiana Department of Homeland Security told them they could not go.

Hume: This is isn’t the Louisiana branch of the federal Homeland Security? This is —

Garrett: The state’s own agency devoted to the state’s homeland security. They told them you cannot go there. Why? The Red Cross tells me that state agency in Louisiana said, look, we do not want to create a magnet for more people to come to the Superdome or convention center, we want to get them out. So at the same time local officials were screaming where is the food, where is the water? The Red Cross was standing by ready, the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security said you can’t go.

Hume: FEMA does, presumably at some point, have some jurisdiction over some military forces. Of course, the first responders there are the National Guard. Why didn’t FEMA send the National Guard in? You heard that cry from many people.

Garrett: FEMA does not have jurisdictional control over any state’s National Guard, only the governor does. The governor in this case, Kathleen Blanco, A democrat, did use the Louisiana National Guard for some purposes, did not deploy them in massive numbers initially and they were not used to move any of these relief organizations in and they could have been for the very same reason I talked about earlier, the state decided they didn’t want the relief organizations where the people needed it most because they wanted those people to get out.

Hume: But even today we know that Governor Blanco has now decided that a mandatory evacuation may not be necessarily after all. But we can go into that later. What about the use by her of the National Guard to impose law and order during the early looting and all of that?

Garrett: She had a choice, as I am told. She could have taken up the offer from FEMA to federalize all of the activities in Louisiana, meaning that FEMA would be in control of everything. Not only law enforcement, but everything else. She declined to give them that authority. So essentially FEMA was trapped between two bureaucracies. One the Department Of Homeland Security where many of its decisions have to be reviewed and in some cases approved, and a recalcitrant state bureaucracy that wasn’t going to give them the authority they needed to make things happen, among them, the National Guard.

Blogger John from Wuzzadem independently confirmed Garrett’s story–which, for some strange reason, has not been picked up by any major news outlet other than Fox:

Here’s the Red Cross FAQ entry (entitled “Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?”) that liberal web sites (and irresponsible politicians) are using to indict FEMA and the USDHS:

Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

Yesterday I called the National Affairs office of the Red Cross (202-303-5551) and talked with Red Cross spokesperson Lesly Simmons, who told me that the shipment was not turned away by the US Dept of Homeland Security, but by this agency:

The Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LHLS & EP); formally the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP), was created by the Civil Act of 1950 and is under the Louisiana Military Department.

Ms. Simmons also told me that the Red Cross has never mentioned any involvement in this incident by FEMA, because FEMA wasn’t involved.

Note to the MSM: this is called reporting. I think it might be in some of your job descriptions, but I’d be happy to post a correction if I’m wrong about that.

So here we have the governor of Louisiana, acting out of God-knows-what motivation–probably nothing more malign than bureaucratic cowardice, but that was plenty destructive enough–refusing to send nearby food and water to all those people who were trapped in downtown New Orleans, at the mercy of both the natural elements, and an unleashed criminal element in their midst. And she also refused to give authority to her own National Guard to enter the city in force and end the violence

Again, this has not been reported elsewhere. Can you imagine–can you even conceive of the reaction if George Bush had told the Red Cross to stay away from the Superdome?

But hey, if you’re the MSM, there’s a simple answer: Doesn’t matter. It was all Bush’s fault.

You Haff My Gwatitude

September 2, 2005

According to TruthLaidBear’s rankings, VodkaPundit’s Thursday fundraiser brought in at least $600 in donations to Mennonite Disaster Services. Thanks, folks, and if you made a donation but haven’t logged it in a TLB, please do so.

I’d love to beat that conniving bitch Catalano.

UPDATE: Total is now $2,175. If I were the gloating type, I’d say, “In your face, Michele!”

But since I’m a kind, caring and compassionate sort of guy, I’ll just link to her Kids of Katrina post, instead.

Oh, and if you haven’t made a donation yet, hey, it’s still Thursday somewhere. Or something. Here’s the giant list-o-charities, just for your convenience.

UPDATE UPDATE: Wow. Over $4,000 in reported contributions now (Monday afternoon). Y’all rock.

Before The Storm

September 2, 2005

The “it’s all Bush’s fault” meme has obviously taken hold in the land of the moonbats. I can only chuckle wryly in anticipation of the hoops they’ll have to jump through to explain away this:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

That’s an AP story from August 28, the day before Katrina made landfall.

Wait, I’ve got it already. Bush waited too long to convince the governor and mayor to order an evacuation that they would have ordered sooner if they hadn’t been waiting for the call from Bush. Oh, and Bush told them not to bother making any other preparations, because he’d handle it all five minutes after the winds got under 100 miles an hour. And then the trap was set!

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Turning off the snark, the end of the article is flat heartbreaking:

In a neighborhood in central city, a group of residents sat on a porch. It was almost a party atmosphere.

“We’re not evacuating,” said Julie Paul, 57. “None of us have any place to go. We’re counting on the Superdome. That’s our lifesaver.”

She said they’d spent the last couple of hurricanes there. They would wait for a friend who has a van to take them, because none has cars.

At a nearby gas station, Linda Young, 37, was tanking up her car.

“I’m really scared. I’ve been through hurricanes, but this one scares me. I think everybody needs to get out,” she said.

She said they planned to leave Saturday but couldn’t get gas, and didn’t want to go without it, so got up early and got in a gas line.

In the suburbs, evacuations were under way.

“That sun is shining too bright for this to be happening,” said Joyce Tillis, manager of the Holiday Inn Select at the airport in the suburbs as she called the more than 140 guests to tell them the hotel was under a mandatory evacuation. “It’s too nice a day.”

Tillis lives inside the flood zone in the community of Avondale. She said she called her three daughters and told them to get out. “If I’m stuck, I’m stuck,” Tillis said. “I’d rather save my second generation if I can.”

Hat-tip to K-Lo at NRO.


September 2, 2005

The “Interdictor” has been posting photos from downtown New Orleans since before the storm hit. Here’s today’s archive.

This shot caught my eye. If you look at the top center of the frame, you can see the old sign for Werlein’s Music. I bought my first guitar there on New Year’s Eve of 1987. The store has since moved off of Canal Street (there wouldn’t be anything lighter than a grand piano left there today if they hadn’t), but the sign stayed up.