September 02, 2005

Hurricane Idiotarianism

I was going to write a post bemoaning people who view the worst natural disaster in American history through a narrow partisan lens. But what’s the point, really? Boys will be boys – or hacks will be hacks as the case may be. And besides, this wouldn’t be America if we didn’t grouse about our least favorite politicians on a regular basis. So…whatever. Most of us aren’t going to “go there,” so to speak, but if it makes ya happy then carry on.

I have infinitely more patience for partisan hacks than for the idiotarians. You remember the idiotarians, right? The ones who said we deserved the September 11th attacks for their own pet reasons?

Well, they're back. I knew it would happen, too, almost immediately after I heard the storm was headed straight for New Orleans. It was as predictable as sunshine in the morning.

Jeff Jarvis quotes Franklin Graham on Fox News.
This happens when we take God out of our schools and God out of our society.
Actually, this happens when storms form over large bodies of warm water in summer and then smash into populated areas near that warm water. Hurricanes are older than Christianity. They are older than human beings.

Franklin Graham, I think it’s safe to say, is pro-God. He’s not, you know, anti-God. You could say, I suppose, that he’s an apologist for God if you felt like looking at it that way. I wouldn’t normally use that kind of language to describe a person of faith, but today I think it’s appropriate - at least in this one individual case. Graham’s God just murdered thousands of people and destroyed one of our finest cities, not to mention several smaller cities nearby. Unless Graham is going to tell God to get stuffed – an unlikely occurrence, I think – then apologist is in order.

If I were inclined to look at natural cataclysms through a theological lens, I would say the devil is in New Orleans today. At the very least the street predators rampaging in the city don’t resemble tools of the Lord as I remember them from Sunday School. But that’s just me. No one pays me to opine on the supernatural, and I spend precious little time dwelling on these sorts of questions. I prefer to think about these events from a scientific perspective and dismiss Franklin Graham as a religious version of Noam Chomsky.

I would like to know, though, why someone who blames the victims of horrific destruction is considered a respectable member of our society.

UPDATE: Paul Brinkley in the comments notes that someone in Jeff Jarvis' comments said Graham's quote was taken out of context, that he was referring to the thugs in the city and not the hurricane. I don't know about that. I can't find a transcript anywhere and I do trust Jeff to quote things properly. He's a pro. And he's a Christian. He has no anti-God or anti-Christian axe to grind.

In any case, I'm not religious and I would not become a predator if my city were hit by a disaster. If Christians want to be respected by non-religious people, they may want to stop talking about us as though we're monsters or that it's our fault other people become monsters. Graham is in my "jerk" column no matter what the context of his remarks.

SECOND UPDATE: The jury is out on whether or not Franklin Graham is an idiotarian. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now and say that he is not. But we all know the religious idiotarian school of thought is out there. It’s the whole “Sodom and Gomorrah” view of the world.

SoCalJustice points out Rev. Bill Shanks in the comments.
Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.

“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."
Someone please tell the reverend that Meteorology 101 courses are widely available at community colleges everywhere.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 2, 2005 04:40 PM


We've got our Franklin Graham, they've got their Robert Kennedy.

Posted by: Carlos at September 2, 2005 04:47 PM

I've never heard of Franklin Graham. Who is he? Where do they find these folks?

Posted by: chuck at September 2, 2005 05:16 PM


He is Billy Graham's son. He is supposedly very "mainstream" and "respectable."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 2, 2005 05:22 PM


I won't stick up for FRanklin Graham in this case, but I will stick up for God. God didn't cause this tragedy, just as he didn't cause 9/11. For those of us who believe in providence, we know that God will comfort those suffering. Some are really convinced that God sent this disaster. I'm sorry, I'm just not going with that. I'm with you, I'll blame this on the Devil, or the cruelty of nature (the storm falls on the just and the unjust).

Anyway, I respect Graham, but he blew it this time. He usually rises above the Fred Phelps/Jerry Falwell nonsense.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at September 2, 2005 05:29 PM

This is all quite weird. I always had respect for Billy Graham, for, unlike Jim Bakker and Charles Keating, Graham kept his nose clean and his fly zipped, and furthermore, took pains to avoid even the appearance of philandering. So he was not only walking his talk; he was smart about it. What few soundbites I heard from him were similarly respectable and genuine.

I was hoping his son would inherit his good sense. Now I'm not so sure.

Posted by: Paul Brinkley at September 2, 2005 05:35 PM

Rafique: I won't stick up for FRanklin Graham in this case, but I will stick up for God.

No need. I'm not ragging on God here. My complaint is aimed solely at Franklin Graham.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 2, 2005 05:35 PM

Err. This just in. Comment from kat-missouri, on Jeff Jarvis' blog:

"[...] I do believe he was referring to the uncivilized behavior of the “thugs” or “looters” or whatever your favorite word is for the crazies we now have running around New Orleans terrorizing people.

His point was that God as a tool for morality and teaching that we should love our fellow man and be our brother’s keeper, is an important tool in civilization. Without that sort of morality (whether you want it from God or from other concept), this it what becomes of men left in situations where government and man made laws are destroyed: immoral, depraved and murderous behavior.

Now, you may agree or disagree on that point, but I do think that such a good blog should refrain from casting the comments made out of context to the question and the discussion.

He was not referring to the hurricane itself."

That view was upheld later in the discussion.

So OK, Franklin Graham's back on my good list. I had a feeling that Context, that ol' demon of our time, would prove to tip things back.

Posted by: Paul Brinkley at September 2, 2005 05:41 PM

Reserving judgment on Franklin Graham until a transcript is produced, but either way, he's got nothing on Rev. Billy Shanks:

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.

“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."

The New Orleans pastor is adamant. Christians, he says, need to confront sin. "It's time for us to stand up against wickedness so that God won't have to deal with that wickedness," he says.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at September 2, 2005 06:07 PM

Well, that certainly changes things. I owe Franklin Graham an apology. I think he does have a point. This crisis apparently has brought out the worst in many people. He arguing that this is what happens when we lose our focus (God). I do think it's infinitely more complicated that prayer being kicked out of schools, but when people forget themselves, and forget their neighbor, you get the anarchy we see in New Orleans.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at September 2, 2005 06:12 PM

an apologist for God


That's a great line, Michael.

Posted by: Benjamin at September 2, 2005 06:19 PM


Guess we will just have to wait for a transcript. If, however, Graham's remarks were directed against the lumpenproletariat terrorising the city, he had a point. Not that God is neccessarily the answer, but there is no excuse for the crap going down nor should anyone offer one. Sometimes folks have just got to behave. I had to tell a kid the same after I had his mother call the cops to keep her ex from coming over and beating her up. Again. My tolerance for that sort of shit isn't very high these days.

Did Jeff get it right? Maybe, maybe not. If he had a recording he would be on firmer ground.

Posted by: chuck at September 2, 2005 07:23 PM

True to form aren't you Michael?

Posted by: Xixi at September 2, 2005 07:30 PM

So far, from the wingnuts, I've heard:

That the hurricane was shaped like a fetus because God was angry at all the abortionists.

That God sent the storm to punish people for removing the Ten Commandments from the classroom.

That God killed all those people to stop them queers from having their party.

That God's wrath was in response to the general decadance of the city - you do know that women show their boobies there?

In other words, there are a lot of batshit insane people out there, and it will be nice if someone remembers this the next time someone says "all liberals are responsible for yelling at Ward Churchill whenever he opens his mouth, but conservatives have no such crazy people on their side, so they're in the clear".

Posted by: The Commenter at September 2, 2005 07:51 PM

Xixi: True to form aren't you Michael?

I guess!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 2, 2005 07:59 PM

Who is this "God" person you all keep referring to?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 2, 2005 09:36 PM

After 9/11 both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson disgraced themselves by similar comments about America deserving it because of fornication or Victoria's Secret catalogs or something and this had the fortunate effect of for the most part removing them from the national debate.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at September 2, 2005 09:42 PM

Even if Graham meant the lawlessness, still plenty of kooks to go around. If he meant lawlessness then I would tend to agree, though probably not in the way he meant (hard to say exactly, but based on his past I would assume so).

"In any case, I'm not religious and I would not become a predator if my city were hit by a disaster."

While safe in projecting that towards Graham there are Christians and other religious people who don't really mean what you think they do when they say that (myself included). It's like society vs anarchy - hard to say that the American system is better than the British, or the british better than the Aussis, and so on. In a sense a "society- relatavist". But it is possible to say they are all better than anarchy and point out that when anarchist rule you get things like in New Orleans (this is where most moral relativist seem to fail - while one moral set may not be superior to another it doesn't follow that "no morals" is just as good). There are many down there living in total anarchy who are not looting, not killing, and helping quit a bit. Yet having no form of govt or control down there at the moment is a big chunk of the problem right now.

I would say that taking God (basically morality, though Graham specifically means his version of christianity) out of teachings has had this type of impact long term. Short term the removal of God (or morals) from those people is definatly happening to the looters. But then, looters and killers having no sense of morals is sorta by definition huh?

Posted by: strcpy at September 2, 2005 09:50 PM

I agree wholeheartedly that anybody who blames this tragedy for our country's allegedy sinful ways, yada yada need to be publicly flogged. In fact, I would broaden the definition a bit to include those who blame the tragedy on not ratifying Kyoto (like Robert Kennedy Jr.), or for using fossil fuels. One group of idolitarians claim to worship God. The other group appears to be in awe of Gaiea (sp?). Both make me sick.

Posted by: Sean P at September 2, 2005 10:09 PM

The opinions and comments of religious fundamentalists seem almost beneath discussion. How can anything they say on any subject not sound primitive and benighted?

A more meaty subject is what this hurricane is going to mean for the Bush administration. I think it's going to destroy him. His pathetic performance makes him look like the lazy, smirking frat boy that he probably is. One shouldn't make political hay out of a hurricane, but you can certainly judge the quality of the government's response. There is surely lots of bad news still to come, more people (read poor blacks) who died horribly while the government was getting its butt in gear. And what happens if white guardsmen start shooting black looters? Race riots. Whatever happens, the media won't let this thing rest. Bush's enemies who have run into a brick wall on Iraq will use this to massacre him.

Posted by: MarkC at September 2, 2005 10:23 PM

Mark C --

Great. When does Bush come up for re-election?

Posted by: Todd Grimson at September 2, 2005 10:35 PM

Michael, I was waching Fox when Graham was on, and just to be clear I'm a Buddhist and I find both Franklin and Billy immensely annoying.

Graham was pretty clearly talking about the lawlessness, and not the hurricane, and you and Jeff both are off the mark on this.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at September 2, 2005 10:39 PM

Marc C wrote:
Bush's enemies who have run into a brick wall on Iraq will use this to massacre him.

I know what is meant here ... however there is some very real criticism to be leveled at FEMA, and state government. Over a year ago, a FEME exercise called "Hurricane Pam" which basically acted out what played before our eyes last week. At the end of the exercise, many recommendations were made but many were not acted on. Keep in mind, this was concluded over a year ago. Why exactly were some recommendations not acted on? There may be some political enemies that want to see Bush "massacred" over this, however, that should not prevent a full investigation into the failures and subsequent accountability doled out. If Bush defends and rewards those responsible (as he did with George Tenet of the CIA after the Iraq WMD debacle) then he is as culpable as those who are ultimately responsible.

Here are some quotes by federal officials tasked with handling just such a disaster:

"We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts," said Ron Castleman, FEMA Regional Director. "Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies."

"Hurricane planning in Louisiana will continue," said Colonel Michael L. Brown, Deputy Director for Emergency Preparedness, Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "Over the next 60 days, we will polish the action plans developed during the Hurricane Pam exercise. We have also determined where to focus our efforts in the future."

An investigation must be made into why the disaster preparedness plans didn't materialize this time around but it seems that part of the blame would be lack of funding and manpower. Is it at all out of line to suggest that maybe if we weren't involved in a war of choice we might have both more manpower and funding? Oh, and tax cuts for the wealthy didn't help the funding side of that equation.

Sorry, for getting "off topic" but I think concentrating on sensationalist quotes by a two-bit preacher aren't going to advance public policy.

Because of the poor response in this disaster, I don't have much faith in disaster response here in the northwest.

Posted by: Jim Jones at September 2, 2005 11:10 PM

When bad things happen, the righteous will prevail and the wicked will be punished.

That's how I learned it.

Laziness and slothfulness are the attributes of wickedness, since most poor people are poor because of their laziness and slothfulness, they are wicked. And the wicked will be punished.

Now many of you "so-called" Christians are softening up.

What happened, Satan took your balls?

Posted by: NeoDude at September 2, 2005 11:40 PM

When bad things happen, the righteous will prevail and the wicked will be punished.

That's how I learned it.

Laziness and slothfulness are the attributes of wickedness, since most poor people are poor because of their laziness and slothfulness, they are wicked. And the wicked will be punished.

Now many of you "so-called" Christians are softening up.

What happened, Satan took your balls?

Gosh, if anyone was asking for a banning, NeoDude certainly is. I am hoping that was parody or satire but judging from some of NeoDude's other posts I think not. This was simply offensive thought not worthy of commenting on. HOwever, it is along the same vein as Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham so maybe that is par for the course here.

Posted by: Jim Jones at September 2, 2005 11:59 PM

I don't understand what NeoDude is talking about. Sam Raimi (director of "The Evil Dead") said that there are three rules for horror films.

1. The innocent shall suffer
2. The guilty must be punished
and I think this last one is kind of optional:
3. The dead shall rise

Is that where you were going, dude?

Posted by: Todd Grimson at September 3, 2005 12:46 AM


No, I was discussing some right-wing Christian sociological paradigms...a.k.a. God's justice.

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 12:49 AM

"Is it at all out of line to suggest that maybe if we weren't involved in a war of choice we might have both more manpower and funding?"

Pretty much. Tennessee's 278'th took several months to deploy - last I checked we didn't have that long. At best they would be weeks out and we are close and should be amongst the first. Since the bulk of Iraq is based on similar troops it wouldn't have made a difference. Did you expect hundreds of thousands to mobilise in 48 hours? Or even a week (not even that long yet)?

Money wise - that's not our problem. We have money, we have gas, we have food, we have water, we have all the supplies we need. What we lack is a way to move it and distribute it. The Iraq war has nothing to do with that. The simple fact that mobilising that amount of people and equipment takes a minimum amount of time. Add in that New Orlean's (and LA's in general) procedures were terrible and you have disaster.

After a few weeks you may (or most likely, will not) see Iraq have an effect. While not insignifigant, there isn't that much of our resources over there.

While there are quite a few area's that FEMA and the federal govt has dropped the ball, those are not them.

Not to mention that you are complaining that Bush can't see the future.

"Oh, and tax cuts for the wealthy didn't help the funding side of that equation."

Yes, it actually did. Revenue increased because of it. At least to me, the govt having more money helps this, look to spending (something this administration isn't too good on) for something not helping. I suppose your mileage may vary, maybe sticking it to the rich helps hurricane victims in some way I'm not aware of.

Posted by: strcpy at September 3, 2005 01:47 AM

While clearly a lot of the left's criticism is hyperbolic and has gone off the rails ("global warning did this", etc), it is hard to imagine how any non-partisan person can be anything but disgusted with the Bush adminstration's response to this disaster. Bush officials have blamed the victims for not leaving, when many of them were old, poor or in some cases stranded tourists. They have been incredibly slow to respond. They have publicly declared ignorance of facts everyone else in America knows (Bush saying no-one thought the levee would breach? Is he that clueless? Chertoff saying that he had not heard people were running out of food at the convention center, etc.) And it is now crystal clear that the Bush adminstration has done nothing to make this country more prepared for an eventual terrorist attack. For a President that was re-elected because he was supposedly going to keep us safe this is unforgivable. He's had 5 years now.

Maybe all this is an argument for a parliamentary system. Bush seems a little too comfortable in his lame duck role - he's no longer accountable and he doesn't seem to care. The threat of a no-confidence vote does wonders to concentrate politician's minds.

Posted by: vanya at September 3, 2005 03:41 AM

Paul Brinkley in the comments notes that someone in Jeff Jarvis' comments said Graham's quote was taken out of context, that he was referring to the thugs in the city and not the hurricane.

Then I guess Franklin remains on my good list after all, as it is a proven fact that religious christians are less prone to crime than non-religious people.

Posted by: Carlos at September 3, 2005 07:56 AM

"as it is a proven fact that religious christians are less prone to crime than non-religious people."


Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at September 3, 2005 08:33 AM

"Yes, it actually did. Revenue increased because of it."

Tax revenue doesen't increase because of Tax Cuts, it increases when taxes are increased and more people paying taxes.

"I suppose your mileage may vary, maybe sticking it to the rich helps hurricane victims in some way I'm not aware of."

If by 'sticking it to the rich' you mean refusing them special tax leiniency, than yes I can see how that might help if it was an issue of inadequate funds. It's certainly makes more sense than the flipside of giving millionaires tax breaks causes hurricaines to go away.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at September 3, 2005 08:45 AM

Oh, this is rich. The world was a better, more peaceful, moral place back in the days when God was an integral part of education.

Because, you know, we didn't have things like slavery, bigotry, tyranny, crime, or war back then. Nope. Everything got bad when them libruls came in and took God out of society.

Except, newsflash, all those things which existed before religion was taken out of schools still exist. Not to mention the fact that despite religion having been separated from the state, most Americans (including most liberals) remain religious. Hmmmm...could it be that the two have abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with one another? Hmmmmmmm......

Posted by: The Commenter at September 3, 2005 08:55 AM

WEll, now Al-Queda knows we ain't ready for another attack!

Bush is a cheerleader pretending to be a athlete.

I think you right-wingers are worshipping the wrong God, that's why this nation gets screwed.

God ain't no Texan Cheerleader!

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 09:31 AM

Just to throw in my own unsolicited opinion on the Franklin Graham segment, I was also watching the broadcast live and heard Rev. Graham's comments...and while I like others do not have a full transcript to review, I DEFINITELY understood his comments to be referencing the lawlessness of the thugs rampaging in the aftermath, NOT insinuating that the entire hurricane was a Wrath of God Moment.

One can take issue that he may have been a bit opportunistic in using that moment to make his point (which, I have no doubt, is his truly-held belief), but to cast his comments otherwise is the result of deliberate misrepresentation, pre-conceived bias against evangelicals (ie, hearing what you want to hear), or at a minimum, failure to listen to what the man was actually saying.

For the record, I'm a Christian but not of the evangelical strain, and quite honestly don't particularly enjoy being on the receiving end of that evangelism. Even so, I've been mostly neutral-leaning-toward-favorable in regards to Rev. Graham.

It should be noted, however, that the rest of the segment also had Rev. Graham making an appeal to ALL denominations to work within their churches to find local parishes in the disaster areas to help out, and take in, their fellows who were victims of the tragedy. Using the "infrastructure" of their denominations to get relief to the folks that needed it. A totally private-sector and worthwhile endeavour, and sound reasoning in my thoughts.

In addition, Rev. Graham's own charity (Samaritan's Purse) was already in action, and had busses loaded with relief goods en route to the disaster area. I don't specifically recall him saying anything about that in the segment, but I had done my own reasearch earlier in the day to find out which charity I thought my first donation would be the most efficient in getting immediate relief to the folks on the ground.

I ended up not donating to Samaritan's Purse, instead choosing Salvation Army...not for any ideological reasons, merely because I concluded that SalvArmy had a better infrastructure and the means to get real tangible relief to folks that needed it as soon as possible.

There are plenty of idiotarians out there fully deserving of ridicule. Save your powder for them. Franklin Graham, while maybe not your cup of tea, was one guy who was actually doing something to help, with his own charity already on its way to providing relief, and using his "celebrity power," if you would call it that, to urge churches to organize and get folks taken care of. He's not particularly my cup of tea either, but right now, in regards to this disaster, he's one of the good guys doing the right things.

Posted by: Lonely Federalist at September 3, 2005 09:32 AM

If you don't worship Jesus, you worship matter who you are...Liberal, Buddhist..etc, multi-culturalism IS moral relativism, any pluralism is rubbing shoulders with the devil!.

Man, Graham ain't no liberal...he is all about That Old Time that God's anger is among the nation you wimpy right-wingers want to water down the Rev. proud stance!

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 09:47 AM

Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or suffer!

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 09:50 AM

Vanya: Show me ONE QUOTE from Bush blaming the victims for not leaving Katrina, because I haven't heard anything.

As far as the response from the Bush Administration, it was slow and ineffectual, but if it wasn't for Bush's appeal to the NO Mayor to order a mandatory evacuation, most of the city residents would have stayed (the Mayor stated in the pre-hurrican press conference that he was ordering the evacuation at the request of the Bush Administration).

Posted by: Sean P at September 3, 2005 10:52 AM

...the Mayor stated in the pre-hurrican press conference that he was ordering the evacuation at the request of the Bush Administration

Yeah, covering his ass if nothing happened. Now he's trying to cover his ass 'cause something did happen. I read up on Nagin and he seemed to be an improvement on former mayors but he sure hasn't covered himself with glory recently. The whole situation seems well beyond his moral and executive capacity.

Posted by: chuck at September 3, 2005 11:55 AM

I'm tired of people trying to point fingers at George Bush. He saved countless lives by pushing the Mayor and the governor for a mandatory evacuation. The response of the federal government was as fast as posible, nobody could have done a better job. After hurricane Andrew it took the fed a full 9 days to go in to Florida in force. It took the feds this time 3 days after the Levy broke to move in in force. The logistics for this kind of operation are impossible for the average person to comprehend. It takes a damage assesment team to go in assess what they are up against. Then the must put together a plan of operation. Then they must coordinate with all of the agencys that are to be part of this operation. They must secure all or the equipment and supplies necessary for this kind of massive response. Then they must move all of these things in to place before they can begin operations. Add to the problem armed gangs attempting to impede the operation. This does not happen over night folks there is no magic button the president can push to make everything better. This is the real world where we real phyisical barriers to overcome. I have heard all you critic sitting back and taking shots at our president,while he acts with class and blames only the hurricane, even though it must be tempting to point the finger back at some of his critics. Is it too much to ask that we all pull together as Americans and leave politics out of it? Probably.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 3, 2005 12:03 PM


Calm down a bit, will ya?

Lonely Federalist: to cast his comments otherwise is the result of deliberate misrepresentation, pre-conceived bias against evangelicals (ie, hearing what you want to hear), or at a minimum, failure to listen to what the man was actually saying.

I didn't hear the clip and don't have a transcript. Jeff Jarvis quoted him, and Jarvis goes to church every Sunday. He even gives guest-sermons there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 3, 2005 12:09 PM

Government disaster officials had an action plan if a major hurricane hit New Orleans. They simply didn't execute it when Hurricane Katrina struck.

Thirteen months before Katrina hit New Orleans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill that Ronald Castleman, then the regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called "a very good exercise."

. . . "It was very much an eye-opener," said Castleman, a Republican appointee of President Bush who left FEMA in December for the private sector. "A number of things were identified that we had to deal with, not all of them were solved."

. . . "It's hard for everyone to understand why buttons weren't pushed earlier on," Castleman said of the federal response.
As the first National Guard truck caravans of water and food arrived in New Orleans on Friday, former FEMA officials and other disaster experts were at a loss to explain why the federal government's lead agency for responding to major emergencies had failed to meet the urgent needs of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the most dire of circumstances in a more timely fashion.

But many suspected that FEMA's apparent problems in getting life-sustaining supplies to survivors and buses to evacuate them from New Orleans -- delays even Bush called "not acceptable" -- stemmed partly from changes at the agency during the Bush years. Experts have long warned that the moves would weaken the agency's ability to effectively respond to natural disasters.

FEMA's chief has been demoted from a near-Cabinet-level position; political appointees with little, if any, emergency-management experience have been placed in senior FEMA positions; and the small, 2,500-person agency was dropped into the midst of the 180,000-employee Homeland Security Department, which is more oriented to combating terrorism than natural disasters. All that has led to a brain drain as experienced but demoralized employees have left the agency, former and current FEMA staff members say.

Via Needlnose

To bad those storm victims were not citizens of a Bush state, like Florida…’cuz then the Preznit could show them how real Americans get treated in a disaster.

I hear 80% of the Floridians stayed, even after the call to evacuate, and they got all the love right-wing statist could muster.

I like the way you right-wingers become anti-state when it involves poor people…especially black poor people, but are super socialist when it is the wealthy and middle-classes who need the nanny state!

Posted by: Stupor at September 3, 2005 12:56 PM

I like the way you right-wingers become anti-state when it involves poor people…especially black poor people, but are super socialist when it is the wealthy and middle-classes who need the nanny state!

Damn, another liberal racist. Can't you give up using black folk for your pathetic political ends? They're just folks, you know.

Posted by: chuck at September 3, 2005 01:04 PM

If you believe they are "regular folk" why do you allow your Preznit to screw them over?

I bet more money was spent lining the pockets of Bush's friends than the safety of "regular folk".

Lot's of money has been spent "protecting us from terror" we may need protection from Bush!

Posted by: Stupor at September 3, 2005 01:11 PM

Here is a story about the lack of evacuations in FL during a mandatory evacuation period before Hurricane Charley in 2004. According to Pasco County sheriffs 75% of the residents failed to heed the mandatory order in 2004. The Pasco County population is 93% white with 10.7% below the poverty line and 82% home ownership rates. Mike Brown and Chertoff can fuck themselves with their "we told them to evacuate" nonsense. You prepare for reality - not some mythical 95% evacuation.

Posted by: Stupor at September 3, 2005 01:28 PM

Well, the Floridians did have the advantage of a governor who is actually competent to perform the job to which he was elected. Lousiana is at a severe disadvantage in that respect.

It was Gov. Bush's prompt actions coupled with good planning and an effective statewide effort (probably involving about 48% Dem's) that mitigated the effect of that hurricane.

People who elect Democrats to positions of responsibility are always taking their lives in their hands. I'm surprised that more of them don't spend a great deal of time in prayer. It's not as if they can rely on on ability or competence to see them through.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at September 3, 2005 01:55 PM

I think certain Republicans only respect wealthy White Democrats...too many Black and Poor Democrats were hit the hardest, that is to be expected with all the racist waelthy Republicans running the nation.

Posted by: Stupor at September 3, 2005 02:08 PM

The same wealthy Republicans that staged that wonderful war in Iraq are using it for for the Gulf Coast!

"Stuff happens," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news briefing on April 11, when asked about widespread looting in Baghdad.

"But," he continued, "it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, 'Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan.' That's nonsense."

Two days later, faced with overwhelming proof of mayhem in Baghdad, Rumsfeld again disavowed responsibility for the looters' rampage.

When the interviewer pointed out that Iraqi museum officials claimed that they had asked the U.S. military to protect the museum, and that the military had refused, Rumsfeld responded: "Oh, my goodness. Look, I have no idea."

Looting, he concluded "isn't something that someone allows or doesn't allow. It's something that happens."

Posted by: Stupor at September 3, 2005 02:18 PM

Re the hoodlums wreaking havoc in NO this week - I'll bet a huge factor was drug addiction - the predatory folks attacking hospitals, stealing useless electronics etc (probably to sell later for drugs). NO has a huge drug problem. Imagine how many stayed put rather than head out of town where they would have had to abandon any hope of getting their fix any time soon.

That aside, though, and re the idiotarian angle, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine how ugly the race debate is gonna get in the coming days. Already we have liberals (like Michael Moore) accusing republican Bush and the feds of not caring about the poor black citizens of NO and on the other end of the spectrum, white racists implying what else would you expect from a bunch of blacks but looting. The latter idiotarians totally ignore that the vast majority of Katrina's victims (obviously black) were extremely orderly and calm and patient and the former seem to want to ignore that NO's mayor is black and the governor a white female liberal democrat.

Re the fed response - I'm with JoefromMass. And I would add that the fact that a couple of reporters can land in a disaster zone with a cameraman within a day of a disaster and spotlight the tragedy ensuing and beam it all around the world instantly, cannot be confused with the kinds of logistics needed to mobilize a mass and effective response. I'm sorry that Shep Smith is frustrated after standing on a bridge for a few days. And there he is is saying - I've been standing here for 2 days so where the hell is the military? That is ridiculous. I'd like to ask Shep if it occurred to him to bring 100 bottles of water with him.

As I understand it - it was a local responsibility - meaning the mayor - to prepare the superdome. Where are the stocks of supplies? Where are the huge generators needed to get the toilets to flush? How about pointing the finger there for starters?

And since the whole race issue is apparently bound to figure prominently in the coming days - I'll preempt it with an observation. I saw an article about a 20 year old black kid who commandeered a bus - it may have been a school bus, I'm not sure - but the local cops hanging around apparently gave him the go-ahead - and he drove the bus right out of town to Houston - picking up 70 anonymous passengers along the way. Whomever he came across. They all pooled their money for gas.

Meanwhile, every shot from NO shows young, muscled, athletic-looking black men standing around. I hope to God we're gonna see stories about how they formed groups to break into local hardware stores to steal axes and tools and then set off about town, climbing onto roofs and hacking their way into the homes of their neighbors, trying to rescue the poor folks trapped in their attics. Cause if not, then I just don't have the stomach to listen to the race-baiting crap coming from the left.

Posted by: Caroline at September 3, 2005 02:21 PM

Stupor is banned.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 3, 2005 02:22 PM

And since I'm on a rant of sorts I'll add this. I saw the interview with Anderson Cooper where he blasted the female Dem senator - what's her name - saying we're sick of listening to you politicians backslapping eachother and saying all the right things while doing nothing. But then everyone blasts Bush for not being more "political" and saying the right sorts of words and so on. I don't care whether he says the right words. I don't care whether he is in Crawford (Crawford has phones) rather than standing on some patch of dry ground in LA for a political photo-op. I only care whether he was calling the right shots from wherever he was. I suppose it will take some time to find out whether he did, in fact, call the right shots from wherever he was but my point is - these are 2 totally contradictory criticisms. If you're sick of politicians just saying the right thing for the cameras then don't take potshots at the president for not saying the right thing in front of the cameras. The only thing that matters in this situation is what anyone is DOING. And if Bush was doing nothing or doing the wrong thing, then by all means bring it on. But otherwise, STFU.

Posted by: Caroline at September 3, 2005 02:49 PM


Race isn't the signifier in NO. These are all just bastard children fathered by the dependency inculcated during the "War on Poverty". Theodore Dalrymple writes numerous articles for the City Journal which lay out the damage caused by the inculcation of depency in the UK by precisely the same sort of people who gave rise to it here.

Reading a bit of his stuff provides plenty of ammo against the nitwits spouting race bias garbage. All it takes to reduce people of any color to the status of livestock (with a fair number of predators feeding among them) is encourage them to think that government is an answer, rather than the font of many problems.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at September 3, 2005 03:12 PM

Stupor is banned.--MJT

Thank the GODS !!!

I don't post much anymore and the reason is solely due to dwarfs such as Stupor. These loons are mentally/emotionally disturbed. That Stupor is banned is great but they ALL say the same things. He just says it bluntly and crudely .

I am not really a great fan of GWB. I respect his foreign policy but otherwise I am so-so. Hell I can't even vote there.

I just can't tolerate the lunatics any longer. They need therapy or a good boot where it will do then the most good. The boot would be vastly cheaper.

Posted by: dougf at September 3, 2005 03:30 PM

Rick Ballard - I follow all of Dalrymple's articles partly because I work in Psychiatry and because he is such a rare voice of sanity. Did you see his interview in frontpagemag a few days ago?

Our culture - what's left of it

A quote:

"Dalrymple: I have noticed the disappearance of the word 'unhappy' from common usage, and its replacement by the word 'depressed.' While unhappiness is a state of mind that is clearly the result of the circumstances of one's life, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by circumstances beyond one's control, or a mixture of both, depression is an illness that is the doctor's responsibility to cure. This is so, however one happens to be leading one's life. And the doctor, enjoined to pass no judgement that could be interpreted as moral on his patients, has no option but to play along with this deception. The result is the gross over-prescription of medication, without any reduction in unhappiness.

As you put it, there is a complete disconnection between one's state of mind and the way one lives. Moreover, one does not have a right to the pursuit of happiness, one has a right to happiness itself.

I decided, as a matter of experience, that these attitudes are very destructive and - not surprisingly - lead to a lot of misery about which a mere doctor can do nothing, at least without making judgements.

FP: In your discussion of evil, you observe one central phenomenon: “the elevation of passing pleasure for oneself over the long-term misery of others to whom one owes a duty.” Kindly give us some of your thoughts on this reality.

Dalrymple: The idea that one's pleasure or desire of the moment is the only thing that counts leads to antisocial behaviour.

I do psychiatric research. In the field of depression currently. And practically speaking, that makes me a tool of the pharmaceutical industry. And I can assure you that no truer words have ever been spoken than what Dalrymple said in that interview:

"Moreover, one does not have a right to the pursuit of happiness, one has a right to happiness itself."

The "right to happiness", has replaced the right to the "pursuit of happiness" (as stated in our Declaration of Independence) - and that is an undeniable fact. Beware the psychologists is all I can say. I am only recently trying to come to terms with recognizing the damage caused to our society by the "therapeutic industry". It's major is all I can say at this point.

Posted by: Caroline at September 3, 2005 03:55 PM

The Second Battle of New Orleans has begun. Best wishs and prayers for our troops.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at September 3, 2005 05:36 PM

What Republicans are gearing up for is presenting a case that "the Federal government has failed," rather than Bush's policies or GOP policies.

They want to spin this into an indictment of the whole idea of Federal disaster relief, rather than an indictment of their own starve-the-government ideology.

If they manage that, then they can protect their Party and their ideology from damage, and continue to convince people that the government is the problem, not the solution (as Reagan put it).

They can continue to cut taxes. The GOP is already gearing up to make the elimination of the estate tax permanent, and Grover Norquist is already calling for more tax cuts - that's after Katrina devastated NO, BTW.

They can continue to use tax dollars to fund their cronies. Halliburton has already been given contracts to rebuild NO.

And the memory of a time when the federal government had a duty of care to its citizens in general, and in particular in times of crisis and devastation, will recede until it's completely forgotten.

I think the GOP might even be willing to throw Bush over the side on this one. Bush, after all, isn't going to face another election. But the GOP wants to keep its majorities in Congress, and wants to put another RW Republican in the WH. If they can isolate Bush, say it's the fault of one man rather than the fault of the ideology he represents, they're ahead of the game.

Posted by: CaseyL | September 03, 2005

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 06:04 PM

Neodude: "If they can isolate Bush, say it's the fault of one man rather than the fault of the ideology he represents, they're ahead of the game."

Explain to me in clear language how this is the result of the "ideology" that Bush or conservatives represent - as opposed to the result of the "ideology" that the mayor of NO or the Governor of LA or in general the ideology that "liberals" represents. Frankly I'm very curious to hear how throwing, literally throwing money at poor people, whether here in NO or there - in Africa, Palestine or wherever - makes any difference to the results we consistently see. But by all means, make your case.

Posted by: Caroline at September 3, 2005 06:19 PM


He's probably upset that Democrat Gov. Blanco has ordered the LA NG to shoot to kill poor black teenagers in NO. She still has total executive control and authority over the Guard there and it's not going to make for very pleasant headlines.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at September 3, 2005 06:36 PM

Rick - I thought Blanco issued threats that the NG would shoot to kill. Good God - everyone needs to reaquaint themselves with the way things were just a mere 50 years ago. It seems self-evident that when every single (criminal) life becomes so valuable - the corollary is that every single (innocent) life becomes cheap. Ordinary people understood that reality once upon a time. Now many people don't. And many ordinary people are now figuring that out - which is why so many normal everyday people now consider it prudent to arm themselves. How can I blame them? Liberalism is dead. In every way shape and form. It was just a beautiful dream.....

Posted by: Caroline at September 3, 2005 07:03 PM


You sound like a cleaned up version of David Duke.

Even cronies and amateurs can do a credible job when the pressure is on from the highest levels and the incentives are clear ... the summer and fall before an election in a crucial swing state where the Crony-in-chief's brother is governor. Plenty of pre-positioning, readiness, coordination, and no limits on supply then. No blaming of victims.

Nell L.

Yet even while emerging as a Washington power broker, Norquist has held on to the irreverent, in-your-face style that has been his trademark since his earliest days as a college activist in the 1970s. "I've been a 'winger' from way back," he says. "I was an anti-Communist first, and then I became an economic conservative. I think I've gotten more radical as I've gotten older." Today, he can barely suppress his glee at how much the movement has succeeded, saying that politics is shifting to the right while he remains constant. "I started out as a right-winger, and when I retire I want to be a squishy middle-of-the-roader," he jokes, chortling at the thought. To Norquist, who loves being called a revolutionary, hardly an agency of government is not worth abolishing, from the Internal Revenue Service and the Food and Drug Administration to the Education Department and the National Endowment for the Arts. "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years," he says, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

It looks like the Right-Wing movement to kill the government and weaken its services is working like a wonderful wet-dream.

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 07:37 PM

I guess you right-wingers wanted to start the drowning with Katrina.

Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 07:39 PM


Posted by: NeoDude at September 3, 2005 07:52 PM

No mate ...

Wasnt Bush dancing and singing with all his country bumpkins when a whole portion of America was blown apart...

Its not partisanship...its just Bush is an imbecile who seems its just fine and dandy to send mercenries to shoot and kill people looting peanut butter and jelly...

If you are so convinced of the idiot's performance just parachute him into a New Orlean's mob and lets see if he can convince them...

Posted by: unclejimbo at September 3, 2005 08:56 PM


Reading through the last couple of comments here I've come to the conclusion that God really is out to get the Democrats. I mean, look at the evidence, starting with 9/11. Even Michael Moore remarked that it was odd that the attack was made on Democratic New York instead of Republican Texas, but even he didn't see the full picture. It wasn't odd, it was a miracle! Then the Democrats picked "magic hat" Kerry to run. Do you think they could have made such a choice without divine intervention? And the nomination was all set up years ahead of time when the Dems decided to avoid an extended primary season. What mortal could plan ahead like that? Then O'Conner retired, and tonight... well, you get the picture. Better start to worry about Ginzburg. And Louisiana? Didn't they pick Blanco over Jindal in the last election? If God is on the ball, and I think He is, He is going to punish LA for going white instead of brown and turn the state red. Yes. The end times are coming, the ground is shaking, and the nuts are rattling from the trees. Are you ready, brother? Are you saved?

Posted by: chuck at September 3, 2005 10:23 PM

Michael, I'm not going to expect you or Jarvis to agree with Graham's theology, but for you to ascribe significance to the fact that both Jarvis and Graham are some kind of Christian is like pointing out that both John Ashcroft and Al Sharpton are Pentacostals. There's quite a wide spectrum in Christianity, and as much as I agree with Jarvis on many things, he has some pretty strongly negative views of the whole world of religious conservatives, accompanied by quite a lack of knowledge. I'll admit Graham has made some tactless statements, but I think Jarvis is a bit prejudicial in considering claims about Graham.

I don't know if this all makes sense - I'm tired and shouldn't be typing it now, but I'm suggesting being a little more skeptical of considering someone an authority just because they're also a Christian.

Posted by: YetAnotherRick at September 4, 2005 02:05 AM

Neodude: "Even cronies and amateurs can do a credible job when the pressure is on from the highest levels and the incentives are clear ... the summer and fall before an election in a crucial swing state where the Crony-in-chief's brother is governor."

Did you see the WaPo article article that Chuck linked to in the thread above?

"Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law."

Posted by: Caroline at September 4, 2005 03:20 AM

It is truly amazing how to a lot of the conservatives who post here Bush can apparently do no wrong. You just have to wonder what it would take to ever get them to admit that maybe he is not literally God's gift to the US. (Now I know some people actually sincerely believe that so I have no quarrel with them, at least those people are honest.) But really what are the odds that any President could go 5 years with no wrong decisions, every appointee qualified and competent, every mistake the result of the liberal media or liberal governors undermining him. What a man! It's this lock-step loyalty to the President that is the most offputting and frightening thing about the American Right. If there's a contradiction between Conservative principles and Bush's position, always choose Bush! Never admit mistakes! Never apologize! It is so reminiscent of Soviet propaganda it is truly scary. It is very interesting how the two conservative writers who most clearly perceive the difference between Bush and what is supposed to be Conservatism are both Brits - Derbyshire and Sullivan. For American conservatives it appears to be more important to attack your opponent than to actually stand for something.

Posted by: vanya at September 4, 2005 04:23 AM


Excuse me but the knee jerk reaction of the left, Bush is always wrong, is much more prevalent in todays society than anything I've seen from the right. As far as our presidents mistakes, yes he's made a few and conservatives have been quite vocal in thier displeasure, remember McCain/Fiengold, Amnesty for illegals, the senior prescription bill, not to mention the fact that he can't seem to articulate a position clearly without a telepromnter in front of him. Bush has plenty of faults but I believe the good clearly outwieght the bad. The thing I find so desturbing is that none or us know if anyone could possibly have done a better job in this crisis than Bush has done so far. We are not present during his cabinet meetings or his phone conversations. We don't know what factors go into his decision making or what logistical obsticals he faces. We cannot possibly know these things and yet we sit in front of our computers and pretend that we know everything because we watch the news. Do you really believe that our president is not doing everything in his power to help those people? He said himself that the response so far is not acceptable that we can do better and if mistakes were made that we will correct them. This desaster is unpresidented in American history and mistake will be made regardless of who is in charge. But the president is not playing politics or the blame game. Is it to much to ask that we all put politics aside and work together as Americans to help those poor people? I know the temptation capitalize on this crisis to hurt the president must be overwhelming for the left, but c'mon we're all Americans let's get it together.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 4, 2005 05:30 AM

Points of order:

1. The local governments, state and city, are the ones in charge of the relief effort.

2. The governor is the one who has to request National Guard troops.

3. The National Guard is under the control of the governor when in a disaster zone.

4. The interstates are largely destroyed, as are other major roads— and the minor roads left are incapable of supporting heavy-duty trucks and equipment. If you're driving a large rescue vehicle, do you trust that old single-lane bridge over the water? Likewise, many runways are destroyed.

5. Snipers have been shooting at the rescuers. (This may, in fact, be a major factor in the refusal to send international helicopters into the area.)

Given points one through five, why are people second-guessing the situation on hand? And why is it immediately FEMA's fault, when their extensive recommendations were not followed through on a more immediate level? (The Louisiana evacuation plans, for example, call specifically for the use of school and transit buses to get the car-less out of NO... yet no such plans were implemented, or apparently even thought of by those in the immediate command at the mayor's office.)

There's enough snipers in NO. We don't need them elsewhere.

Posted by: B. Durbin at September 4, 2005 01:55 PM

I have a take on the theology that Michael doesn't want to address. It's here. Not all conservative Christians by a long-shot jump on the "God is punishing sinners" bandwagon.

-Eight Iron, formerly "Didsbury"

Posted by: Eight Iron at September 4, 2005 07:49 PM

The blame game has already begun. The Mayor of NO will duck as much as he can. But, as I have written, he ain't no Rudy. I am beginning to believe that he was not only woefully prepared but that he was slow in assessing the situation as it evolved. If you don't have good information at ground zero you have problems. And if there is no existing local structure that the Feds can attach to then the process of emergency management can mire down quickly.
Yes there will be plenty of blame all around, but the local government and the ones who elected them will have much to answer for.

Posted by: edudude at September 5, 2005 07:07 PM

/i why someone who blames the victims of horrific destruction is considered a respectable member of our society /i

What makes you think being on Fox News makes one "respectable"? It's a terribly subjective term. I suppose writers relish such discussions, I find them generally uninformative and rancorous.

Posted by: nanobrewer at September 6, 2005 09:22 AM

A bit more of the conversation between the interviewer and Graham is quoted here:

Mr. Graham is talking about how people behaved, not about whether Katrina was sent in judgement by God. It's a horror to read about, in any case, a sort of Harlan Ellison-esqe "they'll be eating their babies by morning."

Posted by: malm at September 6, 2005 12:50 PM

Someone tell Michael Totten about chaos theory.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 7, 2005 05:47 AM

Well, I am late to this party and probably should pass, but I cannot help myself. As a Christian, Mr. Graham's statements are a pet peeve of mine. Frankly, Mr. Graham should read the Bible more and talk less. There is a whole book of the Bible, Job, written about how stupid these types of statements are. Job suffers terrible disasters and his friends keep saying that it must be because he has sinned. God describes one of these friends as a "fool." In Job's case, the disaster came because he was a good man!

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