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Jonah Goldberg Complains That Media Treats Boys Who Cry Wolf Like Boys Who Cry Wolf

Welcome to November. As DDay joked on Twitter last night, we’ve officially moved out of October Surprise month.

I guess Jonah Goldberg was thinking of the same timing when he wrote a column–posted at midnight on October 31–complaining that the press had not taken the Benghazi attack more seriously.

If you want to understand why conservatives have lost faith in the so-called mainstream media, you need to ponder the question: Where is the Benghazi feeding frenzy?

[snip]

Last week, Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that sources on the ground in Libya say they pleaded for support during the attack on the Benghazi consulate that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens. They were allegedly told twice to “stand down.” Worse, there are suggestions that there were significant military resources available to counterattack, but requests for help were denied.

If this is true, the White House’s concerted effort to blame the attack on a video crumbles, as do several other fraudulent claims. Yet, last Friday, the president boasted that “the minute I found out what was happening” in Benghazi, he ordered that everything possible be done to protect our personnel. That is either untrue, or he’s being disobeyed on grave matters.

This isn’t an “October surprise” foisted on the media by opposition research; it’s news.

There are just a couple problems with Jonah’s complaint, though. There’s his suggestion that reporting on Richard Mourdock’s belief that women should bear the children of their rapists is “ridiculous.” There’s his silence about the real October Surprises of history, the unpatriotic ones crafted by Republicans: Nixon’s negotiation with the Vietnamese and reported efforts to hold the Iranian hostages to hurt Jimmy Carter (and Jonah dismisses the seriousness of the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry).

But mostly there’s the evidence that the attacks on Obama’s response to Benghazi were explicitly intended to serve as an October Surprise. In fact, according to Craig Unger’s unrebutted report dating to the first day of October, Republicans explicitly called this line of attack an October Surprise.

According to a highly reliable source, as Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama prepare for the first presidential debate Wednesday night, top Republican operatives are primed to unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11.

The source, who has first-hand knowledge of private, high-level conversations in the Romney camp that took place in Washington, DC last week, said that at various times the GOP strategists referred to their new operation as the Jimmy Carter Strategy or the October Surprise.

He added that they planned to release what they hoped would be “a bombshell” that would make Libya and Obama’s foreign policy a major issue in the campaign. “My understanding is that they have come up with evidence that the Obama administration had positive intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the intelligence.”

The day after Unger’s report, Darrell Issa–not, as would be entirely appropriate, Mike Rogers–started a loud and clumsy attack that, while it correctly exposed State’s misjudgment about security for the mission in Benghazi, completed ignored underlying (and equally serious) problems with the CIA’s response. Republicans repeatedly leaked documents claiming they said one thing when in fact they said something completely different (though what they said was still serious).

In other words, a Republican source said Republicans were planning an October Surprise, and Republicans spent the entire month of October very obviously acting to turn Benghazi into one, all the while ignoring the really serious issues raised by Benghazi that should be discussed.

I think Jonah’s most pissed about this, a story about a classified August 16 cable reporting on an emergency meeting about threats to the Benghazi mission, predicting that the mission could not withstand a coordinated attack. The story reads very much like it is the intended bombshell Unger’s source reported, the warning Obama didn’t heed, held on ice for the entire month of October like a precious prize.

The story is news. And we will return to it, presumably, next Wednesday and in the weeks thereafter, as the serious people begin to take over this investigation from buffoons like Issa and Romney surrogate Jason Chaffetz.

But for some reason it happened to get leaked the weekend before the election. In most years, such a remarkably timed release would fit right into October Surprise campaign, dominating the weekend shows just before the election (the GOP apparently haven’t updated their October Surprise plans since early voting became so important).

Except Mother Nature had an October Surprise of her own. And unless stories start breaking about seniors stuck in powerless skyscrapers with no food, water, or means to get to street level to get those things (I think this is still a distinct possibility), the pre-election weekend will be dominated by pictures of President Obama looking very presidential in a crisis and pictures of Mitt looking increasingly desperate and weak.

The Republicans, it seems, had their October Surprise preempted by a real October Surprise.

That’s the thing about surprises, I guess. Sometimes they actually are surprises and not well-managed opposition campaigns.

Sandy’s Teachable Moment on Infrastructure

In a remarkable development, the devastation from Sandy now is finally moving a least a portion of the national conversation onto the very important topic of infrastructure and how we need to renew our degrading infrastructure in addition to hardening it against new waves of damage due to weather extremes brought on by climate change. Consider this bit of truth-telling from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy on Rachel Maddow’s show last night:

But it’s not just Malloy who sees the need to have the future in mind during the recovery from Sandy. Today’s New York Times carries an article in which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo discusses how preventive steps need to be taken in the near future:

On Tuesday, as New Yorkers woke up to submerged neighborhoods and water-soaked electrical equipment, officials took their first tentative steps toward considering major infrastructure changes that could protect the city’s fragile shores and eight million residents from repeated disastrous damage.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state should consider a levee system or storm surge barriers and face up to the inadequacy of the existing protections.

“The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level,” Mr. Cuomo said during a radio interview. “As soon as you breach the sides of Manhattan, you now have a whole infrastructure under the city that fills — the subway system, the foundations for buildings,” and the World Trade Center site.

The Cuomo administration plans talks with city and federal officials about how to proceed. The task could be daunting, given fiscal realities: storm surge barriers, the huge sea gates that some scientists say would be the best protection against floods, could cost as much as $10 billion.

It is sad that such a level of devastation is needed before there is talk of action. As recently as last month, the Times carried yet another warning that exactly this type of damage was becoming increasingly likely:

But even as city officials earn high marks for environmental awareness, critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Only a year ago, they point out, the city shut down the subway system and ordered the evacuation of 370,000 people as Hurricane Irene barreled up the Atlantic coast. Ultimately, the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm and spared the city, but it exposed how New York is years away from — and billions of dollars short of — armoring itself.

“They lack a sense of urgency about this,” said Douglas Hill, an engineer with the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University, on Long Island.

Instead of “planning to be flooded,” as he put it, city, state and federal agencies should be investing in protection like sea gates that could close during a storm and block a surge from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean into the East River and New York Harbor.

And it was exactly that storm “surge from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean into the East River and New York Harbor” that flooded lower Manhattan and the New York subway system. Considering that estimates yesterday on the financial impact of Sandy were already going as high as $25 billion (and I expect that number to go up by a lot as more damage is discovered), an investment of $10 billion for a surge barrier, coupled with a massive push for revitalizing and hardening the electrical and transportation systems behind the barrier, looks like a very wise investment. Sadly, though, as Malloy points out, half the country doesn’t believe in infrastructure investment. At least, that was the case before Sandy. Will infrastructure scrooges who were directly impacted by the storm finally see the importance of being proactive, or will yet another teachable moment be lost?

Provide For the Common Defense or Go Galt?

We awake to a changed and battered country this morning. CNN’s headline at CNN.com currently blares “Millions wake to devastation”, while AP gives us a state-by-state rundown of the effects of Hurricane (and then Superstorm) Sandy. At a time, though, when the natural American response is to help one another, we have perhaps the strongest example of what is at stake next Tuesday as we go to the polls for a Presidential election. Here is Mitt Romney in the Republican debate hosted by CNN:

The idea that an “immoral” FEMA should be disbanded in favor of private sector disaster response did not go over well with the editorial staff of the New York Times. From this morning’s editorial:

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages. After Mr. Romney’s 2011 remarks recirculated on Monday, his nervous campaign announced that he does not want to abolish FEMA, though he still believes states should be in charge of emergency management. Those in Hurricane Sandy’s path are fortunate that, for now, that ideology has not replaced sound policy.

A common refrain for the Galt crew is that they want to go back to the basics of the Constitution. And yet, here is the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The simple truth is that if we wish to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare in the face of such a huge storm, then a Federal agency coordinating the preparations before the storm and the response afterwards is the most efficient plan. Putting disaster capitalists in charge instead would only lead to many more deaths and huge delays in response times.

As the country responds to this terrible blow from the storm, it is worth considering whether we wish to go back to the ineptitude of the Katrina response (or worse) or if we want to work together for the common defense through a properly funded FEMA.

Sandy Makes Turn, Landfall in Mid-Atlantic Expected by Monday Night

In the 8 am update from the National Hurricane Center, NOAA has announced that Hurricane Sandy is now moving to the north-northwest. In the previous update, Sandy was headed due north, so this means that the turn toward the coast of the US has begun and the expected track leading to landfall along the Delaware or New Jersey shoreline remains in place. There are many dire predictions that have been made for this storm, so I will not repeat all of them here, but I do want to emphasize some of the most important pieces of information from the latest update.

The graphic above, which is from the 5 am update, shows the sheer size of the storm very effectively. The current wind field has tropical storm force winds already along the coastline from North Carolina through Massachusetts. In the Public Advisory portion of the 8 am update, we learn more about the storm’s size:

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 175 MILES…280 KM…FROM THE CENTER…AND TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 485 MILES…780 KM.

That means that the red oval of hurricane force winds in the graphic has a diameter of 350 miles. In other words, a 350 mile stretch of coastline is due to receive hurricane force winds. Similarly, the orange oval of tropical storm force winds has a diameter of 570 miles, an almost unheard of size for a storm anywhere on the US East Coast.

Besides the expected wind damage, though, this storm is likely to produce very significant storm surge flooding. At this link, NOAA allows the user to plug in a selected storm surge height and then see the probability of the surge exceeding that value. I plugged in a five foot storm surge and got the following map:

The five foot storm surge is important, because that would be the level at which it is possible that water could begin to flood the New York subway system, which would be estimated to cause billions of dollars in damage. From Jeff Masters at Weather Underground (emphasis in the original):

Sandy is now forecast to bring a near-record storm surge of 6 – 11 feet to Northern New Jersey and Long Island Sound, including the New York City Harbor. This storm surge has the potential to cause many billions of dollars in damage if it hits near high tide at 9 pm EDT on Monday. The full moon is on Monday, which means astronomical high tide will be about 5% higher than the average high tide for the month. This will add another 2 – 3″ to water levels. Fortunately, Sandy is now predicted to make a fairly rapid approach to the coast, meaning that the peak storm surge will not affect the coast for multiple high tide cycles. Sandy’s storm surge will be capable of overtopping the flood walls in Manhattan, which are only five feet above mean sea level. On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene brought a storm surge of 4.13′ and a storm tide of 9.5′ above MLLW to Battery Park on the south side of Manhattan. The waters poured over the flood walls into Lower Manhattan, but came 8 – 12″ shy of being able to flood the New York City subway system. According to the latest storm surge forecast for NYC from NHC, Sandy’s storm surge is expected to be at least a foot higher than Irene’s. If the peak surge arrives near Monday evening’s high tide at 9 pm EDT, a portion of New York City’s subway system could flood, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. I give a 50% chance that Sandy’s storm surge will end up flooding a portion of the New York City subway system.

Unfortunately, the 8 am NHC advisory contradicts Masters on the point of only one tide cycle being affected by the storm surge:

ELEVATED WATER LEVELS COULD SPAN MULTIPLE TIDE CYCLES RESULTING IN REPEATED AND EXTENDED PERIODS OF COASTAL AND BAYSIDE FLOODING.

One last bit of bad news from NOAA is that Sandy could still strengthen somewhat:

REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT THE MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS REMAIN NEAR 85 MPH…140 KM/H…WITH HIGHER GUSTS. SANDY IS EXPECTED TO TRANSITION INTO A FRONTAL OR WINTERTIME LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM PRIOR TO LANDFALL. HOWEVER…THIS TRANSITION WILL NOT BE ACCOMPANIED BY A WEAKENING OF THE SYSTEM… AND IN FACT…A LITTLE STRENGTHENING IS POSSIBLE DURING THIS PROCESS. SANDY IS EXPECTED TO WEAKEN AFTER MOVING INLAND.

The next several days will be trying for the Mid-Atlantic area. I urge everyone in the region to listen carefully to local emergency managers and to follow their guidance.

If Hillary Named Fat Al Gore a Foreign Terrorist Organization…

I’ve been thinking about how things would be different if Hillary Clinton named Fat Al Gore–my metaphorical name for climate change–a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The FTO designation, you’ll recall, is the official designation that signals the US considers an entity a dangerous terrorist organization. The criteria are:

  • The organization must be foreign based.
  • The organization engages in terrorist activity or terrorism, or retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
  • The terrorist activity or terrorism of the organization threatens the security of United States nationals or national security of the United States.

As I see it, the “foreign based” is the only stretch here. While American carbon use is one big contributor to Fat Al Gore (in the same way American foreign policy has been one contributor to Islamic terrorism), we can ultimately claim Fat Al Gore lives in the atmosphere. That’s foreign, right?

As for terrorism? Fat Al Gore’s latest incarnation has shut down the entire Eastern Seaboard. Pictures of Sandy have inspired awe and fear even among experienced Fat Al Gore watchers. Sandy will do billions in damage, and has already killed 51 people. This is a spectacular, horrifying disaster, just as terrorist attacks are.

Perhaps you could argue Fat Al Gore is not a terrorist because it has no political goals. But I think Mother Nature probably does have some policies she’d like us to implement. Hell, we’re going to change our policies in response to Fat Al Gore one way or another, the question is when.

And clearly Fat Al Gore threatens the US–more than any other terrorist right now (and that would be true even without Frankenstorm bearing down on the East Coast).

If Hillary named Fat Al Gore an FTO, the first effect would be to criminalize financial support of Fat Al Gore. Chevron’s $2.5 million donation to defeat Democrats? Material support of terrorism. Continued subsidies to the fossil fuel industry? Material support of terrorism. We could even start arresting people pursuing policies that support Fat Al Gore and throw them away for long prison terms.

The other thing that naming Fat Al Gore an FTO would do is change our response. No longer would it be enough to respond competently (or incompetently) when Fat Al Gore attacks our country. No longer would a reactive response be enough. The goal would change, immediately and at great political cost, to–as much as possible–preventing Fat Al Gore from striking the country.

Now, if Hillary did name Fat Al Gore an FTO, you can be sure all the politicians who’ve been in the back pocket of Fat Al Gore would complain. They’d argue the designations were political.

But as I see it, that complaint was neutralized when State removed MEK from the FTO. Tom Ridge was quite happy when State used designations politically with MEK. How can he complain when designations work the other way, by holding him responsible for supporting Fat Al Gore.

One thing’s clear: our primary security apparatus–that fighting terrorism–does not now address our primary security threat–Fat Al Gore. Maybe it’s time to change that.

Wherein DC Sir Lancelots Turn Their Tail And Flee Like Candyass Sir Robins

Attention Americans:

Those brave elected and appointed representatives who represent YOU in the Federal Government are fleeing! Well, granted, I guess that doesn’t really account for the elected members of Congress who have been diddling and twiddling their thumbs, among other things, for a while now in order to suck at the tit of corporate cash, while doing nothing for you on the record at their elected jobs (no, Darrell Issa’s dog and pony show doesn’t count) and throw it around to perpetuate a fraud on you.

But, as they say in movies, that is something completely different.

No, here is the notice I take just a little umbrage with:

Non-emergency employees (including employees on pre-approved paid leave) will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:

required to telework,

on official travel outside of the Washington, DC, area,

on leave without pay, or

on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.

Telework-Ready Employees who are scheduled to perform telework on the day of the announcement or who are required to perform unscheduled telework on a day when Federal offices are closed to the public must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agencies’ policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.

Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksites unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

As friend of the blog, Timothy Shorrock, noted:

No government Monday. A state of anarchy will reign!

I’m with Tim, we are all SO SCREWED!

Okay, and I’m going to take a flyer that Mr. Shorrock agrees, the nation may not only survive, but actually prosper without the usual cabal of corrupt con men and bloodsuckers that generally run things in Washington DC on a “normal” day. Call me crazy, but I am going out on that limb.

Here is my issue: They are all bozos on that bus. Pretty much all of the NOAA, CNN and other data intensive models have been prediting this likely Sand path for days.

Our Men in Havana, er, I mean men and women in DC, are just figuring this out now??? Perhaps the usual rhesus monkey brains were otherwise occupied still figuring out the Administration’s housing policy.

And, look at the directive. What does it really say? That the poohbahs suggest common workers, just being notified a couple of hours before they go to sleep, do what they were already doing, or already had the option to do, and work from home. For any others unable to do so, the suggestion is they take leave.

In short, the real backbone of the federal government, the regular workers, are being treated in a tardy and tawdry manner.

By the 1% MOTUs. Shocking, no?

So, while the politicians who are not already cravenly out of town on your dime are absent, even the remaining Knights of The Pinhead Table run like crazed Sir Robins.

Ain’t that America?

Uh, yeah, so tomorrow will be different from exactly what other day you federal jackasses??

Because, Congress, the DOJ, the SEC, the FEC, the NLRB, and all the rest, BEFORE SANDY, were sooooooo totally responsive to the needs and desires of their constituents.

On a serious note, this hurricane is pretty clearly a grave matter for human safety. Care SHOULD be taken. The projected damage had the DC/Eastern Virginia/Maryland area in the cone of danger in nearly every projection.

The federal government waited until now to tell regular workers, the real backbone of our functioning government to, paraphrasing “stay at home if you have that already available, or otherwise work as best you can.

That is loathsome from a leadership of cowardly and craven Sir Robins. And, on the remote chance you do not understand what a “Sir Robin” is, watch the video.

Blowing Like A Hurricane: Sandy Trash Talk

There are so many current, and extant, memes and winds with which to open up that which is the Emptywheel blog Trash Talk. Ima gonna get in such HUGE problems from Marcy for not featuring Meat Loaf right here on the cover of our own Rolling Stone.

Sandy, the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight
Forcin’ a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm [October] night
Down in the town, the Circuit’s full of switchblade lovers,
so fast, so shiny, so sharp
As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open
like Latin lovers on the shore
Chasin’ all them silly New York virgins by the score

But I can’t do it. Not gonna do it. Probably gonna be fired from this blog, as a degenerate itinerant. I am a so screwed.

Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie
For tellin’ fortunes better than me

And, you know, I could have used Madame Marie so far this year. My predictions have been seriously for shit.

Okay, I will deal. And move on to the games in play for the bookie at the joint underneath the boardwalk.

I don’t know where Sandy is going to get off, i.e. hit on the coast, but if you are anywhere on the projected path, then let preparation and safety come first. Our friend Cindy Kouril lives in the danger zone, and she has some thoughts.

But rigging for bad weather is not the only thing going on, we have sporting competition afoot!

The biggest story is the World Series where, somewhat surprisingly, the Giants have jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Tigers. As the series opened up in San Francisco, it might not be that surprising, the shelling put on Justin Verlander in game one sure was. But now it moves to Detroit. Since Bud Selig and MLB simply will not allow a day game to be played any longer, the temperature come game time should be in the vicinity of 36-38 degrees. It is more than possible for the Tigers to run off a couple of games before going back to San Francisco. We shall see.

As to the student athletes, we are just about to hear the big prediction from the ESPN Gameday crew. Is there anything more idiotic than their new practice of having a guest celebrity “help” them? Today it is some al-Qaida looking dude apparently (I think) from “Kings of Leon”. Seriously, it has just gotten asinine. At any rate, the big game this week is the Domers at the Sooners. Love to stop having to say the game of the week involves the Irish, but terrified at the prospect of having to root for freaking Oklahoma to stop said trend. GO SOONERS!

Big Blue invades Cornfusker land. The King of Leon picks teh Bo Merlots. I dunno bout that, think the Nebraska can take the Merlots. THE Ohio State University goes to the Not JoePas; Penn State has been a pretty good story this year, starting out the year 5-2 and 3-0 in conference. Think the Buckeyes will put a dent in that record, though OSU’s starting QB is nicked up so it may be close. Not all the good matchups are in the Big 10.X, Gators at Dawgs will be a real test for Mr. White’s boys and the Texas Tech not quite yet Dead Raiders at Kansas State game may be good too. Colin Klein is something.

In the pros, I’m actually pretty interested in the Fish at the Jets, Jets, Jets. Miami is way better than anybody thought, and their defense may actually be ahead of Rex Ryan’s. Gonna roll with a Fishy upset. The Dirty Birds at the Santa hating Iggles should be an epic throw down. The Falcons outclass Philly in every category and pundits are saying both Andy Reid and Mike Vick are goners. So Iggles it is then!! Seattle at Detroit should be interesting, assuming Matt Stafford can get the grass out of his hat. The Good Elis go down to the Jerry Dome to visit Mr. Romo. Do the ‘Boys have anything for the Gents? I don’t think so. The seemingly rejuvenated Saints travel up to Mile High to take on the Peytons. Later in the year I’d probably pick the Donkos, but right now, think the Saints will smoke them. Aaaannnd, believe it or not, the Cardinals are on Monday Night Football! Yep, hell has frozen on over. The Niners will be in town to visit Spidey Dude Fitzgerald and whatever schlub is going to try to pitch him the damn ball. I think it’s Red Skelton this week. Look for the Niners to roll.

Also up is the Indian Grand Prix from the Buddh International Circuit. Sebastian Vettel has taken a six point lead on Fernando Alonso. Vettel is on pole with Red Bull teammate Mark Webber joining him in the front row. Hamilton starts in P3 on the grid. Looks like Vettel is going to sprint to another driver’s crown unless a shunt or mechanical problems stop him. Vettel is very smooth and good from pole though, so not likely at the Indian.

Okay, let it be known that Marcy MADE me put some Loaf in this oven. Paradise By The Dashboard Light it is then. Hey, forget the Meat, Ellen Foley can flat out wail baybeee! Don’t sleep on it, rock this joint.