Friday, September 30, 2005

'Wow' is right!

I've come across a number of otherwise sane people who claim that George Bush is the "worst. president. ever.", or that his is the most inept administration ever, or that corruption dominates his presidency.

On the later, he has a surprising defender: Chris Matthews! The following is from JPod at The Corner:
    Just now, Chris Matthews on "Hardball" went after New York leftist Mark Green for calling this a "corrupt" administration. To which Matthews shot back, "Any convictions? Can you name one conviction? One person in this administration who has been convicted of a crime?" To which Green mentions the indictments of DeLay and Jack Abramoff.

    "They don't work for the administration," says Matthews. "Can you name a single instance of proven corruption?"

    Green, as is his wont, hemmed and hawed and licked his lips. Ben Ginsburg, the Republican on the other side, just stayed silent. Props to Chris.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Want a broadband connection in your bedroom? Kitchen? Living room? No need to wire every room in your home, nor set up a wireless network... just plug in to your electric outlet, and enjoy 170 Mbs/second!

Thanks, Matsushita!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Events in Iraq

If you're looking for thoughtful, detailed, and cogent analysis of ongoing military operations in Iraq (at least those ops that are public), I highly recommend Bill Roggio. Mr. Roggio is technically an amateur, in that he is a software analyst by trade, but he is also a veteran and -- most importantly -- indicates an acute ability to determine the nature of ongoing ops from publicly-released information.

Again, Bill is highly recommended.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Just in case you missed it...

Google news alerts are good ways of keeping track of people and/or institutions, etc. that are occasionally in the news. I have one set up for "Pope Benedict", and while Zenit and EWTN News keep me abreast of most details regarding the Holy Father, Google news alerts sometimes snags things not found in the Catholic news services.

For instance, I'll bet not many people saw the press releases (here and here) from one Dominic Sanchez Falar. Mr. Falar informs us that Pope Benedict is an "anti-Mary Pope," because he refuses to released the true Third Secret of Fatima.

Now, for many informed Catholics, this is an oft-heard claim; there are various individuals and organizations who claim that various aspects of Fatima are unfulfilled, or that there are parts of the third secret yet to be released, etc. etc.

But Mr. Falar has most definitely upped the ante. He helpfully informs us that the true Third Secret was revealed to him directly by Mary, and that it is this:
    The Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima states Mary’s divinity.
    Mary is God, Mary is the Soul of the Holy Spirit.
Betcha didn't know that did ya?

At least Mr. Falar is honest (in a wierd way): the name of his group (no information available on number of members) is "Mary-Is-God Catholic Movement."

Friday, September 16, 2005


I forgot to mention that this week's Catholic Carnival is up at Our Word And Welcome to It.

Check it out!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Benedict's style: "Radical continuity"

That's from Austen Ivereigh's Godspy article, "The Monk under the Mitre". It's an excellent, article, and if I were to quote all the gems in it, there'd barely be anything left unquoted. But here are a couple of the choicest of them:
    In 1978 John Paul II inherited a Church that was unsure, after the battles under Paul VI, what it believed. In 2005 he left no one in doubt. It falls to Benedict to make clear why the Church believes what it believes, to show that what it teaches sets us free. Benedict's task is to convey the beauty of belief, and that believing must involve belonging.


    Benedict, as his choice of name made clear, looks to the counter-culture of European monasticism in the early Middle Ages, which served society precisely by being quietlybut no less awkwardly—in contradiction to it. Hence his emphasis, in Cologne, on fostering vital cells of church life which emphasise quality not quantity ("Form communities of faith!" he urged). Gone is the triumphant city on the hill; Benedict's is the era of leaven in the mass, of small but vibrant faith groups in parishes, of movements and associations which operate like underground cells, attracting believers and supplying the vitality which the Church needs above the ground.

    Pope Benedict has a style. And he has a strategy. If we find them hard to make out, it could be that our eyes need to adjust. We are so used to waiting for a flag-waving crusade that we fail to notice the flap, flap of a monk's cowl.

Praise God for this pope!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Human Tragedies

That's the title of this post by Leon at RedState, which reads in part,
    the pro-choice movement panders to all that is deplorable about our society. It is the glorification of selfishness, it is the deification of one's own personal agenda, it is the callous disregard for those in lower positions. The pro-choice movement encourages the path of least resistance, never caring that the path is paved with the corpses of the defenseless and needy. It conjures images in my mind of those who would loot during lawlessness created through tragedy, of those who callously and shamelessly profit from the misery of others - who seek to take advantage of a system that will not or cannot punish them for their wrongdoing. It is everything that was wrong with Enron and the technology bubble of the late 90s, when personal greed run amok devastated the finances of millions.

    Conversely, the pro-life movement seeks to encourage all that is good and noble about humanity. It encourages those facets of our human nature that make us proud when we witness them surface in our society. Love for others. Heroic self-sacrifice. Giving of one's own means to provide sustenance for the defenseless and the weak. Every time parents make a choice to keep a child they didn't plan for, it conjures images in my mind of firemen running into burning buildings, of families opening their homes to complete strangers in times of crisis, of everything that is good about the existence of the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
Powerful words.

Well done, Leon.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It pays to ask people who know

It recently dawned on me out divergent the latin original and english translations of the Gloria of the Mass are; I memorized the latin version a few years ago, and of course in so doing I noticed some differences. But some things escaped me. Before elaborating, let me present the latin, a literal translation thereof, and finally the approved english translation:

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris,
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus Sanctus.
Tu solus Dominus.
To solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise You. We bless You. We worship You. We glorify You.
We give you thanks for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son.
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
You who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
You who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For You alone are holy.
You alone are Lord.
You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father.
We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father.
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
You are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Now, there are obviously some substantial changes from the latin to the approved english translation. "We praise You. We bless You. We worship You. We glorify You.
We give you thanks for your great glory" becomes "We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory."And other examples are apparent.

But what most struck me was this: in the latin, "We praise You. We bless You. We worship You. We glorify You. We give you thanks for your great glory" comes after "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will," but in the approved english version, the translated (and truncated) equivalent comes after "Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father" instead. So the praise, blessing, worship, glorification, and thanksgiving is no longer addressed to God (in the highest), but is now addressed to the Father (in particular).

So it seemed to me that where the official latin directs the praise, blessing, worship, etc. to all three persons of the Most Holy Trinity (because the referent is simple "God"), the approved english translation directs that praise, etc. to the Father in particular. And that seems to be a pretty significant change.


I mentioned this to a number of people and they all agreed with me. But then I met someone who is an expert in these things, and he was able to explain it for me (and remind me of something I knew once, but had forgotten).

In Catholic liturgical prayer, Deus is used to refer to the Father. Even though it is literally translated as God, and even though one might presume (as I did recently) that God always means all Three Persons, that is not the case in liturgical prayer. Instead, the implication is that the Father in particular is being addressed.

This is seen in a number of places; for instance, many of the introductory prayers of the Mass read Deus in latin but are translated Father in english, and rightly so, based on the fact that our prayer is made to God (the Father) through the Son and in the Spirit. I knew this once, but had forgotten it.

So while there many be other problems with the approved english translation, this is an instance in which ICEL got it right.

Like the title of the post says, it pays to ask people who know.
A completely off-topic post

When I moved from Minnesota to Steubenville in the Ohio Valley, I soon realized that Ohio Vallians (from Steubenville to Pittsburgh) aren't very good at using their turn signals; they are at best intermittent.

Needless to say, one thing I was looking forward to when I moved to Sioux Falls and returned to the upper Midwest was the basic considerate nature of folks in these parts, which includes signalling their turns.

Boy was I wrong.

As hard as it was for me to believe, Sioux Fallsians are actually worse at signalling than Ohio Vallians! It's as if they don't know what that little stick on the left side of their steering column is even for! And its not just people in this city, or even the state: on Sunday I drove down to Omaha, and plenty of Iowegians decided signalling was optional (at best). For goodness sake: Romans have better driving etiquette that a lot of the people in my new home! And if you've been to Rome, you know that that's quite a statement!

No wonder people call Minnesota the Promised Land. We actually know how to drive.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The 46th edition of the Catholic Carnival is up at A Pentient Blogger.

You won't find any posts from me (as is obvious, I've been a bit slow in posting these days), but you'll find plenty of good stuff from others.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Again on the LANG

Just to be clear (because some people refuse to acknowledge it):

Responsibility for the National Guard of each state is with the governor of that state.

As one guy said, “The constitution says the governor is in charge of the Guard. The president would have to invoke the Insurrection Act to over-ride that. No president has done that since the Civil War. And he would have to do it over the head of the governor. Bush is not there yet.”

People who blame the President and/or FEMA and/or any other federal agency because the LANG were not deployed appropriately or in a timely manner are simply mistaken about their chain of command.

Other good comments from the same guy:

--“None of those poor people were moved prior to the storm. They were told to go to the Superdome, but they had to walk there. Whose responsibility is that?”

-- “General Honore in one day got 20,000 people evacuated from the convention center with a ground and air evacuation. Have you heard about that in the media?”

--“The DoD has been tasked with 40-50 missions here. DoD is the go-to organization for DHS. DHS is trying to build the capacity, but doesn't have it yet. DHS is all brain power and no brawn.”

--“Michael Brown has not done a good job and is in over his head. But, in fairness, FEMA is not organized to handle a catastrophe of this size.”

--“There are no law enforcement problems in Mississippi. They have been acting there with the cooperation of the governor. In New Orleans, they don't have the same kind of cooperation from the governor or the mayor. It's not as stream-lined or as effective as it could be.”

--“The New Orleans police disintegrated. The national response plan calls for state and local to be the first on the scene. But the catastrophe wiped out the whole local infrastructure and the emergency communications. 80% of the police disintegrated and they are just not beginning to re-constitute.”

As is evident by my agreement with these comments (and what I've said elsewhere), no branch of government is free from error in this catastrophe.

Anyone who tries to single out the federal government for blame has an agenda. Period.

Simple as that.

Update: here's a guy who thinks the feds have done little wrong. I don't think I agree, but it is an interesting read:
    I have to disagree vehemently however with many of your posts on the Fed reaction to the Gulf Coast disaster.

    Has Brown made some comments that seem, I emphasize seem because many reports have not provided context, stupid? No doubt.

    Is the Dept of Homeland Sec probably a bureaucratic disaster. Yes.

    However, despite what you "think", it does not seem probably that Brown being more astute at press conferences, or FEMA being independent of the new dept would have made one iota of difference to the manner or the speed of the Fed response.

    It's all a matter of logistics. The logistics of getting federal responders and supplies, most of which can't be preplaced for fear of having them destroyed by the storm itself, into a disaster area that large is truly difficult.

    This isn't Star Trek. There are no transponder doohickies to make the NTl Guard and supplies of food, water, fuel etc appear magically when you want them to.

    Please please read Jason van Steenwyk at

    The guy's a guardsman who's been involved with disaster relief for many years in Fla.

    His conclusion is that this is the fastest the Feds have ever been, the fastest possible reaction.

    Please don't make the mistake the Left is making in using this disaster to promote some of your pet causes. Argue against the Dept of Homeland Sec as much as you want. But this isn't the time to do it, nor are they at fault on this.
I think Brown is in over his head. But I think the logistics point is an excellent one, as I've indicated implicitly in previous posts.
Blaming someone else doesn't mean they're at fault

A lot of local officials in the NOLA area are blaming the feds (specifically FEMA) for the delays in the relief effort, and a lot of people in blogdom and the media are giving voice to those complaints.

I already noted below how I think Michael Brown is going to have to answer some serious questions, and I've noted that there are mostl likely problems in how the feds handled aspects of the effort.

But the fact that the locals are pointing their fingers at the feds doesn't mean that they are innocent of failures, and that seems lost on a number of those who are giving voice to the locals' complaints.

Here's an example: I've been following the WWL Katrina blog for the local news (it's been one of the best sources for the last week), and today it's got a quote from the Jefferson parish President, Aaron Broussard, who said, "I'm not surprised at what the feds say, they're covering their butts. They're keeping the body counts down because they don't want to horrify the nation. It's worse than Iraq, worse than 9-11. They just don't want to know how many were murdered by bureaucracy."

Look, it wasn't until the President urged Gov. Blanco to get the people out that NOLA issued a mandatory evac, and that was the day before landfall! So if "bureaucracy" murdered anyone, it's the local bureaucracy! There are plenty of other examples that could be given, but in following what I've already said, I think it's best to wait before determining culpability.

In the meantime, I hope others will be as suspicious and critical of local officials as they are of the feds.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to repeat that I think we need to let some time pass before we start determining culpability for the problems with the relief effort in NOLA, if for no other reason then it will allow all of the relevant facts to be collected. I've also stressed that the problems with the relief effort are in many cases far more complex than I think some people believe.

Having said that, I've read some of the things which Michael Brown -- director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration -- said prior to and after Katrina's landfall on Monday, and frankly, I don't see a way to put a positive spin on them.

For instance, on Saturday he said, "Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation -- not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly," and ""Katrina was much larger than we expected."

I really don't know how he can say that... anybody who was following the storm online or on tv knew what was being said by the National Weather Service et al about the high potential of catastrophic damage, statements which I don't recall hearing about other hurricanes that have hit our country. We knew by Sunday that Katrina was a Category 5, and there had only been three C5's that came ashore on U.S. soil. How Brown can say what he did is unclear, to say the least.

Nor do I know how he can say that he expected the water to "drain away fairly quickly"... NOLA is below sea level, and I'd presume he knew that (if he didn't, he should have, to make a colossal understatement). And with the rain of a C5 hurricane, how can one expect the water to be pumped out quickly?

Mr. Brown will definitely have some questions to answer in a week or two. Provided things from this point go well enough to justify keeping him on the job.
A couple interesting posts...

From Glenn Reynolds:
    a reader sends these comments:

    Buried at the end of the WaPo's critical article on FEMA's decline is this crucial paragraph:

    Other federal and state officials pointed to Louisiana's failure to measure up to national disaster response standards, noting that the federal plan advises state and local emergency managers not to expect federal aid for 72 to 96 hours, and base their own preparedness efforts on the need to be self-sufficient for at least that period. "Fundamentally the first breakdown occurred at the local level," said one state official who works with FEMA. 'Did the city have the situational awareness of what was going on within its borders? The answer was no."

    Measuring from the passage of the storm from the target area -- say 1500 hours on Monday, THE PLAN would therefore expect federal aid at the earliest at midday Thursday.

    Does this excuse any bureaucratic errors that we will find to have been made? No. But it should put the federal response in perspective.

    Oh, and all the blithe comments on how quickly we were able to get troops to Iraq and the Navy to Sumatra shows a short-term memory loss. The buildup for Iraq took place over a period of months, and the Navy's trip from Asian bases to the Indian Ocean, unimpeded by crumbled infrastructure, took a number of days.

    As I've noted before, it's not like calling Domino's. I think that all the efforts at politcal point-scoring now are misplaced. There's plenty of blame to go around, and plenty of opportunities to figure out how to do better in the future. Those are likely to get lost in the fog of name-calling.

From the same post:
    This story from the Washington Post suggests problems with coordination between state and federal authorities:

    Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said. . . .

    Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.

    I'm all for federalism, but this doesn't seem like the time for that sort of thing. I'm not clear on what legal authority the President has to simply take charge over a governor's objections; I'm not aware of that problem coming up before. Presumably Congress could -- subject to some fairly limited Constitutional constraints -- address this via legislation if necessary, though it's probably too late for that to do much good now.

    Several readers note that the Post story seems to be wrong -- at least here is a proclamation of a state of emergency by Gov. Blanco from August 26. I suspect, however, that what the Post article refers to is a declaration that would place the National Guard under federal control. Here's a piece from the L.A. Times on that:

    Although active-duty U.S. troops are being used in the relief effort, constitutional limits prevent them from performing law enforcement duties.

    Pentagon officials stressed that only National Guard troops, which are under the control of governors when operating within the United States, may be given law enforcement duties.

    Only a presidential decree would allow active-duty federal military troops to be brought into a law enforcement mission, and officials said they did not envision that would be necessary in this case.

    This sounds right, though I haven't researched it independently:

    Here’s the quick legal skinny: There’s a difference between money and boots on the ground; the governor (surprise!) immediately asked for the former.

    Under the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385), the president can’t use armed forces (including national guard in federal service) for law enforcement absent congressional directive. (Some courts, however, have held that this does not apply to the Navy (U.S. v. Yunis, 924 F.2d 1086 (C.A.D.C. 1991)) and the Coast Guard (U.S. v. Chaparro-Almeida, 679 F.2d 423 (5th Cir. 1982)), both of which seem to be more useful here, since it looks like that nobody without boats can provide any serious logistical or enforcement functions in NO.)

    But upon request of the governor, or perhaps on his own initiative, the president can use the federal military by invoking the Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C. §§ 331-34). What’s happening in NO might be called “insurrection” or “rebellion,” but that’s a politically-dangerous stretch.

    Much more here.
From Jonah:

    I've got to say, I'm begining to revise my views on the Bush response. I do think Bush missed an important political opportunity. I don't mean this in a partisan sense (however the partisan benefit for him would have been obvious). There was a window of opportunity for Bush to seem like he was out in front of this and I do think that window was missed. He's played catch-up admirably, but the political problem he created for himself will endure. That said, it's becoming increasingly less obvious that more first responders etc, would have made an enormous difference in the aftermath of this unfolding calamity. The disaster zone after 9/11 was less than 40 square blocks. Rescue vehicles shot straight down Broadway, Fifth Avenue, the West Side Highway etc. The disaster zone, as the President mentioned, is the size of Great Britain. Would relief vehicles have made it to the center of Ground Zero on 9/11 immediately if the rim of the disaster area was deep inside New England? All of the truly damnable mistakes were made before Katrina hit land. Why weren't more people evacuated? for example. Such mistakes are legion and fall disproportionately at the state and local level. And whatever criticism I stil think is valid for the President, the hysteria about how Bush doesn't "care" about black people is as stupid as it is disgusting.
More thoughts soon.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Media and "What took so long?"

That's the question on everyone's minds: why did it take so long for relief efforts to begin? We don't have cable, so this week I watched NBC Nightly News for coverage of events (beside various websites and blogs), and by Thursday, this question was at the forefront.

And understandably so: thousands of people were without food and water and other basic human needs. It doesn't take much to understand why this question was being asked.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem that MSM (or at least NBC) was too interested in actually getting an answer to that question. In the multiple segments I saw dealing with the issue, the majority of each story was devoted to showing the misery of those waiting for relief, as well as to those calling for relief to arrive more quickly. Gov't officials were interviewed, but never in what I would describe as a systematic way. It seemed as if the reporter had already concluded that the gov't (at whatever level, but usually the federal) had dropped the ball, and hence any answer given was immediately suspect. Rather than attempting to find the truth, it seemed that reporters were more interested in trying to get officials to admit their mistakes.

Instead, why didn't they present those responsible with a list of questions and let them respond in detail? For instance...
  • Why were there so many people left in the city when Katrina made landfall?

  • When were the Louisiana National Guard deployed into NOLA? And was this deployment en masse, or piecemeal?

  • Were relief supplies pre-positioned around NOLA before Katrina made landfall? If not, why?

  • From tv reports, it appears that the relief effort was slow in coming and in delivering. If the relief supplies were pre-positioned around NOLA, what efforts were made to deliver those supplies, when did those efforts begin, and to what extent?

  • Again from various media reports, it appears that communication networks within and among the various agencies and gov'ts responsible for relief efforts were inadequate if not not existent. Is this the case, and if so, why? Wouldn't those agencies be prepared to establish those communications networks in situations like these?

    (NB: I do think that there are good answers to at least some of these questions.)
Unfortunately, the stories I've seen haven't proceeded in such a manner. Again, the modus operandi seems to be to assume that mistakes were made, and to get the officials responsible for them to just admit it.

I, for one, would like these sorts of questions answered first, and then we can proceed with determining culpability.
Domino effect

Last night on NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell had a (surprisingly objective) piece on what caused the delays in getting water and food to those who need it in NOLA:

1. Because the mandatory evac order only came on Sunday, many people were unable to get out before Katrina hit. (In defense of Mayor Nagin, it's important to note that the city gov't sent buses throughout the city to pick up those who had no transportation themselves; it's also important to note that it was apparently President Bush who urged that a mandatory evac be given. Listen to this presser by Gov. Blanco from mid-week, from minute 39 to 44.)

2. After Katrina cleared the area and relief efforts began, the helicopters which were intended to deliver supplies to those still in the city had to be re-tasked to search and rescue operations, and as anyone who has been watching tv knows, there were thousands of people on rooftops, etc. needing evac ASAP.

3. This retasking prevented relief efforts from beginning as quickly as they would have. Remember, there were a very limited number of roads passable for the multi-ton trucks carrying the supplies (see post from yesterday); a major airdrop is all but impossible in an urban setting (more in another of yesterday's posts); and the only remaining option -- driving supplies in by smaller trucks -- just takes a long time.

As I've stated more than once, mistakes were made. But determining precisely what was or wasn't done, who erred, etc. is far more complex than many apparently realize.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Why the rush to assign blame?

Plenty of people in all the media (blogs, print, tv, radio, etc.) and all ends of the spectrum are blaming various politicians (local, state, and federal) and agencies (local, state, and federal) for what's happening in NOLA right now.

Why? And do those making these judgments have sufficient knowledge to render them?

In many instances, the problems are far more complex than they initially appear. For instance, equipment and supplies were pre-positioned around NOLA, but the extensive flooding has made their delivery into the city exceedingly problematic (see the some of the comment threads here regarding the near-impossiiblity of airlifting those supplies, and the earlier post from today regarding the near-impossibility of driving them in). There are other examples as well.

The point isn't that no one is at fault (there's probably plenty of fault to go around), but that in most cases, we simply do not know who bears the brunt of it. Sure, in some instances, the problems are most likely straightforward enough to recognize where the error was made and by whom. But it seems unlikely to me that this is the case in the majority of instances.

Instead of immediately wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth over what was or wasn't done, let's do what we can to help, let the air clear, and then -- with possession of as many facts as possible -- determine culpability and -- just as importantly -- how we are going to correct our planning for the future.
History & naturalism

On the recommendation of a friend who is a biblical scholar, I'm reading Craig Keener's The Gospel of John: A Commentary as prep for a bible study on the Gospel according to St. John I'm offering in the diocese this fall. In one section, Keener discusses modern skepticism toward miralces in the context of biblical studies, and -- with help from R. T. France -- sums things up nicely:
    "History" in the sense of "what happened" may be distinguished from "history" in the theoretical sense of "what can be explained by natural causes without recourse to supernatural causes." (vol. 1, pp. 265-266; citation is from R. T. France, "The Authenticity of the Sayings of Jesus," pp. 101-143 in History, Criticism, and Faith, edited by Colin Brown, Downers Grove, Ill.: Zondervan, 1989)
Only by way of an a priori presupposition (that miracles are impossible) can one conclude that none of the miracle narratives in Scripture (the NT in particular) are mythical.

Another good quote is from footnote 355 on p. 266:
    One of Hume's arguments against miracles was that most reports stemmed from "ignorant and barbarous nations"; that he neglects to critically evaluate the influence of his own culture in suppressing such phenomena accentuates his ethnocentrism. [Emphasis added; citation omitted]
More from Corner correspondents
    Mr. Goldberg: I'm sick and tired of the media's treatment of the Katrina relief efforts. I run a trade association of tank truck carriers trying to assist in the relief efforts by transporting food and potable water. I'm in regular contact with many of the companies, and here are some "on the ground" facts:

    1) Large trucks (80,000 lbs. gross weight) almost always have to use the Interstates. For trucks attempting to come in from outside the area, most of those roads (approaching the disaster area) are either closed or have bridges out. The so-called secondary roads may be somewhat passable, but their bridges (over rivers and streams) are not built to sustain such loads. Simply stated, you can't get there from here.

    2) Trucks domicled in those areas (because that's where the companies traditionally serve customers) are still underwater, thus the equipment is not accessible;

    3) Nobody in their right mind is going to take loads of gasoline and fuel oil into a city controlled by unfriendly folks carrying automatic weapons. A tank truck loaded with 8,000 gallons of gasoline can produce a very impressive fire;

    4) Those local trucking companies can't contact their drivers. There's no power, thus (even) cellular is unavailable, and many of the drivers homes (in places like Kenner, Slidel, Metarie, etc) have been destroyed and families dispersed. I have one member with about 120 drivers and mechanics in that immediate area. To date, management has been able to contact 12. Those in the National Guard have been mobilized and are not available to drive.

    5) Pumps -- needed to load the vehicles -- don't work because there's no power;

    Finally, it's very interesting to see the media not-so-subtly inferred racism. NO's neighboring communities, noted above, and others are mostly composed of middle-class white neighborhoods. They too were flooded with the same level of devastation and face the same food/water shortages. So far, they've been "off camera". I'm genuinely puzzled by this.

    If only George Bush could join the Governor in a photo-op "cry-a-thon" all of these problems would go away.
I do think that the President's image was weak the last couple of days, but I also think that things are happening. Are there problems? Of course, as he said. But are they as serious as it sometimes seems? I don't think so.
Comments from Corner readers

Interesting comments from an email to Jonah:


    I am seeing and reading all the commentary about the "slow" Federal response to Katrina and, perhaps its my background as a military logistician (retired now for a number of years), but I'd like to offer a few observations. As we say in the military, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We plan, pre-position and prepare and then have to adapt to the chaos of battle Clausewitz dubbed the "fog of war." While the shameless mayor of New Orleans sounds off like an aggrieved pimp on the radio, a military operation, involving both Guard and active duty, that dwarfs our invasion of Panama has been gathering and underway since Tuesday. I saw the first alert orders go out Tuesday. (The President, BTW, issued disaster emergency declarations even before Katrina made landfall.) The first order of business for any operation, relief or military, is assess needs, routes of ingress and egress, etc. We're looking at a disaster area covering 90,000 square miles--this is not just New Orleans. Moving the right supplies and people to the right area in the right order is complex, even with a fully functioning communications net and an intact road network. Here we are, 96 hours after landfall, and thousands of troops, tons and tons of supplies, and a fleet of warships are there or due to arrive shortly. This is no small feat.

    It should be noted that Gov Blanco was slow to ramp up the LA Guard--you don't simply call a Guardsman and tell him to report in two hours. By law, they can take as much as 72 hours to report so that they can get their affairs in order. If they show up sooner, great, but the point is, while all media--and some at the Corner--obsess over the Fed's performance, the flaccid response of local and state authorities in Louisiana made a daunting task even tougher. The Guard and military, for example, rely on local authorities to provide some idea of where victims are, and, as we have heard, Nagin's office didn't bother telling FEMA that Nagin had directed people to the NO Convention Center. Likewise, CSAR and medical units are not combat outfits. Having to bring in more troops to quell the animalistic behavior of some (and that behavior, BTW, broke out before the rains even stopped, though Blanco and Nagin didn't seem to care) means the flow of supplies and evacuees is slowed.

    In any event, I hear a lot of people talking about the unprecedented scope and scale of the disaster, and, in the next breath, wonder what's taking so long. There is always room for improvement and this is not to say the Feds shouldn't take their share of knocks, but I've spoken with a number of military officers from other nations, including Third World states, who are studying here, and they are bemused by the spectacle of hand wringing and media panic.

    As the subject line says, just my two cents' worth.
And another from Rich's LA professor guy, answering two questions from Rich: 1) why seemingly so little preparation in NO?; 2) what to make of the mayor down there? Here's what he wrote:
    1) I think no one in the area ever thought that a storm of this magnitude would ever really strike New Orleans. A friend of mine at Tulane usually rode these storms out by opening his front door and sipping bourbon while watching the waves of rain pass. Fortunately he did not stay this time. The problem with planning is the same as the problem with flood control that I wrote to you about yesterday. There are simply too many competing agencies asking for the same dollars and jealously guarding their political turf. More importantly, no one anticipated the complete social breakdown that has occurred among those who refused or were unable to evacuate. The breakdown appears to be the culmination of decades of weak, at best, law enforcement with Orleans Parish that looked the other way at a lot of the crime that occurred in areas like the Ninth Ward, because the officers themselves were scared to go into many of the housing projects. Also, until within the last ten years the state police were not allowed by the city government to operate within the parish (the city's boundary is contiguous with the parish boundary). Some of this goes back to when Huey Long amended the state constitution to take control of the city from the elected city government; most, unfortunately, is the result of much more recent corruption (witness the recent indictments of many close aides, including family members, of the administration of former mayor Marc Morial). There were rumors flooding the state yesterday (Thursday) that the unrest and looting had spread to Baton Rouge and Lafayette, where many of the refugees who fled prior to the storm were located. I even received a forwarded email written by a Rapides Parish Sheriff's deputy (the parish I live in) that warned about the flood of refugees heading our way from the Ninth Ward and to be prepared for anything. The rumors were false, and the Sheriff has said to disregard the email; it was unofficial and the sender will be dealt with when the Sheriff returns (he spent the day in New Orleans observing the deputies he sent to aid in rescue efforts.

    2) People outside of New Orleans had high hopes when Nagin was elected. He was not a part of the competing political machines in the city. His background was as an executive in a cable company. He has done a good job at ferreting out corruption and trying to change the system, but he had not been able to really change the culture of the police force. When he took office the New Orleans Police Department had only just quit accepting convicted felons as officers. Unfortunately, he appears to have been overwhelmed by the force of events and the complete loss of the city's infrastructure. After 9/11 New York City, outside of Lower Manhattan, still had all of the basic city services; New Orleans as of Monday afternoon essentially had none, and neither he nor the governor exhibit the leadership needed. I was never a fan of the former governor Mike Foster, never voted for him, but I want him back. He would have taken his own boat to New Orleans and personally arrested the looters on Monday, shooting those that ignored him. That may sound callous, but it is what is needed. Governor Blanco this morning finally realized that, declaring war on the looters. That should have been done Monday afternoon.

    Sorry this is so long, but in Louisiana there are no quick easy answers, due to the nature of politics here. I hope this was helpful.
Check out this sign

It's on a storefront in NOLA, and reads, "Looters will be shot. Don't even try. I am sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns and a claw hammer."
The First 100 Hours

Here's a great post on what has been and what is being done in NOLA.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Guess what?

Despite what you're told by ABC News (in an interview tonight with former Senator John Breaux) and the Bush-hating leftouts, the levees didn't break because President Bush gutted the Army Corps of Engineers' budget. Erick at Redstate uncovered this little nugget from a NYTimes story:
    No one expected that weak spot to be on a canal that, if anything, had received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region. It did not have broad berms, but it did have strong concrete walls.

    Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said that was particularly surprising because the break was "along a section that was just upgraded."

    "It did not have an earthen levee," Dr. Penland said. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feel thick."
Emphasis added, and well worth it.

Let's kill this meme now, before it becomes a Known Fact.