“From the beginning Spike Lee knew that Hurricane Katrina was a story he had to tell.”
That’s how The New York Times begins Agony of New Orleans, Through Spike Lee’s Eyes, on the director’s upcoming Katrina documentary. Times reporter Felicia R. Lee doesn’t tell readers of one of the reasons Lee was drawn to the story: he thinks the government may have deliberately flooded New Orleans.
That’s right. HBO wanted to make “the film of record” on America’s worst natural disaster, and entrusted the task to a man who thinks it may actually have been a government conspiracy. And it gave him $2 million to do it.
Could reporter Lee (no relation, I hope) simply have not been aware of director Lee’s conspiracy theories? They’re not hard to find. The director went on CNN and said: “I don't put anything past the United States government. I don't find it too far-fetched that they tried to displace all the black people out of New Orleans.”
Since Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans last summer, there has been a lot of media and left-wing speculation that the apparition called global warming is responsible for an upsurge in hurricane activity and intensity. Fortunately, for those seeking sanity amidst the hysteria, a new study written by a group that includes two members of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration published in this week’s Science Magazine refutes this contention (hat tip to Gary Hall).
Since this phantom meteorological nexus was first introduced to the public, it has become almost commonplace in the lexicon of the new religious cult known as the Global Warmingists, and is a mainstay of the sect’s leader, famed political scientist sans climatology degree Dr. Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. In fact, this is a central tenet in Gore’s recent schlockumentary, An Inconvenient Truth, as evidenced by the following passages at the movie’s website:
• With 2005, the worst storm season ever experienced in America just behind us, it seems we may be reaching a tipping point – and Gore pulls no punches in explaining the dire situation.
• The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
Yet, as first reported by Martin Merzer of the Miami Herald on June 27, not all scientists are drinking Gore’s Kool-Aid:
“Hardball” host Chris Matthews was Jay Leno’s guest on “The Tonight Show” Tuesday, and did more Republican bashing than even he usually does (grateful hat tip to Greg Tinti at Outside the Beltway with video link here). One of the first zingers was directed at former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Leno asked Matthews what he thought of Gingrich’s claim on Sunday that what is going on now in the Middle East is World War III. Matthews responded, “I think Newt is World War III.”
A bit later, Leno asked about the recent expletive that President Bush was caught saying to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 summit, and what Matthews thought about the press feeling that they needed to cut the word out of their broadcasts. Matthews saw this as a great opportunity to swipe at the Bush administration about a totally irrelevant issue: “I wish they'd cut out the 16 words that got us into Iraq, however, but they didn't cut those 16 out.”
The next interesting vignette was when Leno asked Matthews his opinion of Rudy Giuliani. Matthews began with something that will strike many conservatives as the height of hypocrisy:
If you are a celebrity, businessman or ex-president with a liberal persuasion and you have a cause to promote chances are someone from NBC's Today will traverse many miles to place a microphone in front of your face. On this morning's Today show Brad Pitt, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates all got face-time to promote their causes. However it was Pitt who stole the show with this piece of Greenie hyperbole: "We just can't keep consuming ourselves into extinction."
In the first half-hour of Today NBC's Campbell Brown highlighted Bill and Melinda Gates and Clinton's efforts to combat disease in Africa and in the 8:30 half-hour Ann Curry trudged through flood-ravaged New Orleans to promote Brad Pitt's effort to rebuild the city. On the surface one has to applaud any charitable effort to fight disease in Africa or reconstruct New Orleans but it would be nice if viewers were spared the liberal hero worship such as Brown calling Gates and Clinton, "two of the most fascinating people in the world."
Another friend sent a giggle with the HBO press release on Spike Lee's forthcoming Katrina documentary. Is Spike Lee seeking a "wide range of opinions"? Bayou Buzz has details, including this piece of the press release:
Lee and his team selected nearly 100 people from diverse backgrounds, representing a wide range of opinions, to be featured in the film, including Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Harry Belafonte, Wynton Marsalis, CNN´s Soledad O´Brien, Terence Blanchard, Rev. Al Sharpton, Wendell Pierce, Sean Penn, Kanye West, local media and other New Orleans residents.
It might be a pretty big event: It "will have a world premiere August 16 in New Orleans before a potential 10,000 people. The premiere in New Orleans will be one year after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. On Wednesday, Aug. 16, Acts I and II will be presented free of charge before a potential audience of 10,000 people at the New Orleans Arena."
As James Taranto suggested Monday in his WSJ 'Best of the Web' column, at some point you can question a person's patriotism. Cindy Sheehan surely crossed that Rubicon long ago. But just in case there was any doubt, Sheehan made things perfectly clear this evening, flatly stating that she'd rather live under Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez than George Bush.
Sheehan made her comments during a Hardball appearance, during which guest host Norah O'Donnell, sitting in for Chris Matthews, gave her a surprisingly rough ride. At one point, O'Donnell asked: "Why go stand by side by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Why do that? Would you rather live under him than George Bush?
Just 74 words into its article announcing Ken Lay's death, the AP somehow found it pertinent to report that Lay was "nicknamed 'Kenny Boy' by President Bush."
The MSM has gotten more mileage than a 'Ford Excuse' coasting downhill out of W's 'heck of a job, Brownie' to then-FEMA Director Michael Brown in the wake of Katrina. Looks like they're going to stick with a winning formula, even when it comes to the dead.
AP is of course unsubtly trying to tie Pres. Bush to the Enron scandal. In doing so, AP ignores the fact that the Clinton administration had chummy dealings with Enron. Beyond that, the implication is that Bush only bestows sobriquets on good friends. As the WH press corps well knows, he has nicknames for many of them, including a good number whom no one would confuse for administration fans.
Newsweek's cover story this week is a new feature called their Giving Back Awards. Expecting a dose of unknown heroes, instead the magazine honors some famous faces, like Brad Pitt and CNN's Soledad O'Brien, honored for her passionate coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The headline called her "The Professional" and oozed in italics: "In a drowning city, who spoke out for those in despair? She did." But as he honored the CNN anchor, Newsweek's Jonathan Darman felt the need to insult every government rescue attempt:
Simple, human kindness—the kind you can teach a child—was embarrassingly absent in the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. As the country watched in horror as state and federal officials did little to help the stranded multitudes, television anchors, who so often act as though they're not of this world, for once understood the outrage. As the days wore on and the city continued to flounder, they articulated our astonishment at the vast incompetence we all witnessed.
Last night CNN and Larry King gave the Democratic party a generous election year gift. King’s guests consisted of 9liberal Democrat Senators, four of whom are up for reelection in November, and 0 Republicans. Larry King noted that a few weeks ago he had the Republicans on. However, that program, on May 18th, was designed to have Republicans fight each other and show divisions in the Republican party. But last night, Larry King made it clear this was going to be an opportunity for these Democratic Senators to show unity and attack the Bush Administration and the Republican Party:
"Tonight, exclusive, all 9 Democratic women of the United States Senate [Senators Hillary Clinton-NY, Barbara Boxer-CA, Dianne Feinstein-CA, Patty Murray-WA, Maria Cantwell-WA, Debbie Stabenow-MI, Barbara Mikulski-MD, Blanche Lincoln-AK, and Mary Landrieu-LA]. Could one of them become the first female President? How do they think Bush is doing, and how would they do it differently? Together for the hour next on Larry King Live."
Today's Chicago Tribune editorial, "How do you spell futility? FEMA," rightly condemns the estimated $1.4 billion in Hurricane Katrina relief funds that were wasted on items such as "jewelry, Caribbean vacations, pro football tickets, pornographic videos, divorce lawyer fees and a sex-change operation." It points out that Government Accountability Office auditors say that almost one in every six dollars targeted for aid ended up in the hands of swindlers.
The Tribune fails to mention that one possible reason for fraud was harsh criticism that FEMA wasn't dishing out the bucks fast enough.
An example of that was a September 8, 2005 Tribune editorial titled "When governments fail citizens." The editorial noted: "The initial federal response, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was a tangle of red tape." Moreover, it stated that help was delayed "while FEMA bureaucrats dither(ed) over paperwork."
What do you call someone who rips off the American taxpayer by spending Katrina relief funds on champagne, "Girls Gone Wild" videos or gambling sprees? Why, a "victim," of course. At least, you do if you're an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Times.
The sub-headline in the editorial in today's LA Times reads like a parody of liberal paternalism gone wild: "It's Wrong to Blame Victims for Spending Irresponsibly." No, that's not a misprint.
While acknowledging that the 16% of improper expenditures 'is indeed high', the Times doesn't want us to get all worked up about it: "some misuse of the FEMA-issued debit cards is hardly shocking."
Elvis Costello in March (on VH-1) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction concert, before playing with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint: "I feel very lucky and very proud that music jumped to the aid of New Orleans back in September...But it’s a drop in the bucket for what is needed. There is a lot of things that I could say. I could say something like we are fighting the wrong wars in the wrong countries and not dealing with the people here that are living in this country that are not living right."
Compare that to the Sunday Washington Post mini-review of the new album by Elvis Costello and Allen Touissant, called "The River in Reverse," in which Joe Heim noted: "For creating an album linked so clearly to a city's misery, it's unfortunate that the pair have no plans to donate any percentage of the album's profits to a deserving Katrina charity."
CNN’s Bill Schneider sounded more like a spokesman for the Democratic Party than a seasoned political analyst during the 4pm EDT hour of today’s The Situation Room. In his report on the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the impact it will have on the 2006 mid-term elections, Schneider opined over a picture of Bush looking out the window of Air Force One:
"The President’s image of compassion was shaky to begin with, even though he calls himself a compassionate conservative. Bill Clinton felt your pain. George Bush flew over it."
That zinger met with strong approval, not surprisingly, from Schneider’s colleague, Jack Cafferty during his Cafferty File segment minutes after Schneider’s report: "Great line from Bill Schneider. ‘Bill Clinton felt your pain. George Bush flew over it.’"
Hannah Storm, co-host of CBS’s "The Early Show," interviewed CNN’s Anderson Cooper, anchor of "Anderson Cooper 360" about his new memoir. Storm was gushing over Cooper, referring to him as "one of the brightest stars in the news business" and as the "popular CNN anchorman," as she introduced him:
"Anderson Cooper is one of the brightest stars in the news business. The popular CNN anchorman became a household name after his reporting on Hurricane Katrina. But, this is certainly not the first time the seasoned journalist has come face to face with death and disaster. For years, Cooper's been covering war and poverty in countries that often get little attention here at home. And, he writes about both his personal and professional experiences in his new memoir, ‘Dispatches from the Edge.’"
Beware of supposedly objective scientists and their not-so-secret political opinions. At the tail end of "Today" on Monday, MRC's Geoff Dickens found that one Louisiana scientist had a two-faced moment on Hurricane Katrina. Al Roker asked: "We had historian Douglas Brinkley here and his book The Great Deluge and he suggested that, that Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff should resign. What's your take on that?"
Ivor Van Heerden, author of a new book simply titled "The Storm," seemed to agree that Chertoff should go, as NBC showed a photo of Chertoff and former FEMA boss Michael Brown: "I think that if you do not have disaster experience, you shouldn't be in these positions of leadership. You need to have folk who have been through the fire, so to speak to understand all the complexities of dealing with a disaster. It, it's wrong to bring in folk who do not have that experience." But experience wasn't everything when it came to Ray Nagin:
Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin filed a Monday story from the New Orleans Jazzfest this weekend. Late in the story, she noted rock star Bruce Springsteen "delivered a scathing assessment of President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina." Having surveyed the city on Saturday, he said "The criminal ineptitude makes you furious. This is what happens when political cronyism guts the very agencies that are supposed to serve American citizens in times of trial and hardship." The federal government is shoveling billions and billions to New Orleans and liberals are still saying the agencies are "gutted."
Eilperin wrote that Springsteen played a two-hour set Sunday night that included a rewritten version of the folk song "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" with new Katrina-response lyrics:
A leading hurricane forecaster, name not given, was to release his predictions today for the 2006 hurricane season, and Harry Smith of CBS’ "The Early Show" used this as an excuse to relive the problems with FEMA during hurricane Katrina. As his guest, Smith interviewed Jane Bullock. Smith introduced Ms. Bullock:
Harry Smith: "Jane Bullock is a former Chief of Staff at FEMA."
Yet he never mentions that while she worked for several decades at FEMA, she held this lofty position exclusively during the Clinton Administration for Clinton buddy James Lee Witt. Her high place in the Clinton administration could have helped put her anti-Bush comments into some context. (The same omission occurred on the CBS News website.) Bullock claimed:
ABC started off this week's focus on global warming by falsely presenting a liberal journalist and author as a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Former Boston Globe editor and reporter Ross Gelbspan was the centerpiece of Geoff Morrell's March 26 World News Tonight report. Morrell labeled Gelbspan a "Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist." But Gelbspan never won the award, which was given to seven reporters in 1984 for a social issue -- series on race relations in Boston -- not a scientific dispute like climate change.
On his Countdown show Thursday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted part of his "Worst Person in the World" segment to attacking former First Lady Barbara Bush over a donation she made to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, a donation she required be used to buy education software for Houston schools from her son Neil's software company. Olbermann snapped that if you "make the charity give the donation to your son, it's not a damned donation anymore!" However, the Countdown host neglected to mention that the Bush family had also given other donations without any requirement as to how the money should be spent.
During his regular "Worst Person in the World" segment, Olbermann normally chooses three nominees to be awarded the dishonor of that name. His three nominees are labeled as "Worse," "Worser," and "Worst." Citing the Houston Chronicle as a source, Olbermann tagged Barbara Bush with the label of "Worst" because of the earmarked donation that would require the buying of software from her son's company. However, the Countdown host failed to mention that the Houston Chroniclearticle also relayed, citing former President Bush's chief-of-staff Jean Becker, that the Bush family had given additional donations to the Katrina fund without any requirement as to how they should be spent: "Becker said she wasn't at liberty to divulge how much money the Bush family gave to the hurricane funds, but said the ‘rest of their donation was not earmarked for anything.'" (Transcript from Olbermann's show follows.)
On March 11, the Times fronted an interviewed with what it claimed was the infamous "hooded inmate" from Abu Ghraib prison. But Ali Shalal Qaissi, the man they interviewed and pictured on the front page, was not the man in the now-iconic photo, as the Times explained in the March 18 edition.
Donna Fenton, whose alleged struggles with the FEMA bureaucracy were the subject of a sympathetic (and in retrospect, extremely gullible) March 8 profile by reporter Nicholas Confessore, was not the victim of Hurricane Katrina that she claimed to be. Yesterday she was arrested for fraud and grand larceny. The editors' note in the corrections box of the Times explains:
Earlier this month, the New York Times wrote about a Katrina evacuee, Donna Fenton. The story focused on the difficulties the woman had encountered in receiving assistance, highlighting her frustrations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Yesterday, the woman, who had falsely claimed to be a Katrina victim, was arrested for welfare fraud and grand larceny. Today's Times reports that story, and notes its previous coverage appeared "more than a month after Brooklyn prosecutors, prompted by suspicious officials at the city's welfare agency, began investigating her."
VH-1 watchers enjoying the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction concert Tuesday night received some perhaps unsurprising political commentary along with the music. When rock singer Elvis Costello came on stage to perform with New Orleans music legend Allan Touissant, he took a few shots at the Iraq War and the Bush administration's apparent inability to handle Hurricane Katrina because of that war:
I feel very lucky and very proud that music jumped to the aid of New Orleans back in September...But it’s a drop in the bucket for what is needed. There is a lot of things that I could say. I could say something like we are fighting the wrong wars in the wrong countries and not dealing with the people here that are living in this country that are not living right. You could call to account the people who have the audacity to blaspheme and say that Katrina was a judgment of God on the city of New Orleans. This is absolute nonsense because the devastation that followed Katrina was man-made, as we now know.
He’s baaaack. Although it certainly shouldn’t be lost on the reader that such statements are good marketing for his soon to be released film about Hurricane Katrina, controversial actor and director Spike Lee, in an interview with the New York Observer, once again addressed the possibility that New Orleans’ levees were intentionally exploded. In addition, he suggested that folks who consider this possibility are similar to Jews that talk about the chance of another holocaust happening. His reasoning? Well, it happened before:
“‘Here’s the thing,’ he said. ‘Even today, a large part of the African-American community of New Orleans thinks that those levees were bombed. Now, whether that is true or not, that should not be discounted.’ He rattled off past government trespasses: 1927’s Great Flood of Mississippi, when the levees were, in fact, blown up; the flooding of the Ninth Ward during Hurricane Betsy in 1965; the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
“‘So, in the collective mind of African-Americans, it is not some science-fiction, hocus-pocus thing to say that the government is doing stuff,’ he continued. ‘Even if it didn’t happen, you cannot discount it and dismiss it as Oh you people are crazy. It’s what people think—talk to Jewish people. Because of the Holocaust, you know, anything that happens, it’s like, ‘Oh! It’s starting again.’ And I’m not going to fault someone of Jewish ancestry that feels like that because that happened! This is history.’”
What's beautiful about this reasoning is that Lee has created a marvelous self-fulfilling prophecy that seems to have eluded him: high profile folks like him continue to float this idea, and then say that since people believe it is possible, it is significant. Amazingly, he continued to try and justify this premise:
Tonight's Hardball post-mortem special on the just-concluded Memphis straw poll of GOP presidential hopefuls was a treasure trove for political junkies.
One obvious conclusion: it was good night for Mitt Romney. As a northerner, someone from Massachusetts and a Mormon at that, finishing second in the South was a notable accomplishment.
But Chuck Todd of the Hotline suggested another headline:
"The biggest thing: we'll look back at this conference by saying this is when we found out that Haley became McCain's southern sherpa. He has made McCain bona fide. I think a Haley-McCain coupling from this weekend sends gigantic shock waves to Republicans."
In the weekly Friday afternoon roundtable with Cam Edwards at NRANews.com, he brought up three stories he had seen that he doubted had received much national media attention:
1. AP reported a sports-and-politics story from Puerto Rico: "While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: "Down With Fidel," sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with fastball velocity." A Castro stooge was upset with a man with an anti-Castro sign. He was lectured on free speech by the local police.
2. Frank Greve of Knight-Ridder had an unusual story: chronicling something that didn't happen: a teen crime wave predicted by "conservative criminologist John DiIulio." Greve also notes he wrote a book on it with Bill Bennett. Neither man had comment. But there's still a good-news-for-Bush angle in it: "Americans are experiencing the sharpest decline in teen crime in modern history. Schools today are as safe as they were in the 1960s, according to Justice Department figures."
For some time now, Chris Matthews has played the leitmotif of a "second-rate second term" at the White House. When on this evening's Hardball he invited Margaret Carlson to whack the Bush pinata, there were embarrassing consequences for the toothy ex-Time editor, now languishing at Bloomberg News.
Matthews tried his best to tee it up for Carlson:
"Margaret, I look at a pattern of events and they come out of people's mouths, conservatives, liberals, whatever: Katrina - competence question. That nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, and now the ports issue. Is there a pattern of not being on base as we say in baseball, being caught off base by the President?"
And the Katrina-blame game goes on. Today’s participants were country music stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. During a news conference on Thursday, the couple began lashing out over the “slow” response to the hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast last August. And, of course, President Bush was right in the crosshairs.
As reported by ABC News (with a hat tip to Drudge): “Faith Hill and Tim McGraw — two stars who usually stay out of politics — blasted the Hurricane Katrina cleanup effort, with Hill calling the slow progress in Louisiana and Mississippi ‘embarrassing’ and ‘humiliating.’”
The article continued:
“'To me, there's a lot of politics being played and a lot of people trying to put people in bad positions in order to further their agendas,’ McGraw, a 38-year-old native of Delhi, La., told ABC News Radio.
“‘When you have people dying because they're poor and black or poor and white, or because of whatever they are — if that's a number on a political scale — then that is the most wrong thing. That erases everything that's great about our country.’"
AP hyped up the rest of the press last Wednesday about its "confidential" tape it wrongly suggested was evidence Bush lied about no one discussing the breaching of New Orleans levees before Hurricane Katrina. On Friday, AP backed down with a "clarification," admitting "The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking."
None of this is mentioned in Newsweek, which wraps up its issue on Sunday. Most egregiously ignoring the new AP line was Jonathan Alter's "Conventional Wisdom Watch," which continued its Keith Olbermannesque streak of shameless Bush bashing. Bush received his traditional down arrow with the snarky line: "Falsely claimed no one could have predicted New Orleans levee breach. Let's go to the videotape!"
Last week’s Associated Press release of a video, taken just prior to Hurricane Katrina’s arrival in New Orleans last August, has generated a new round of second-guessing and finger pointing regarding who is to blame for the supposedly slow, poor response to this natural disaster. Falling under the fold was an in-depth cover story on this subject by an unlikely source, Popular Mechanics.
In its March issue, PM took on virtually all of the media myths and misnomers that were so drilled into the citizenry by press representatives that many have become part of the public psyche. Thankfully, its authors made it clear right in the first paragraph that they planned on pulling no punches:
“In the months since the storm, many of the first impressions conveyed by the media have turned out to be mistaken.”
How mistaken? Well, PM and its staff put together a list of seven myths concerning Katrina that have been purported by the media, and like a good mechanic, quickly isolated the flaws inherent in the press coverage while making much-needed repairs.
The editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine used an AP story on Bush allegedly being warned about levees being breached in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina touched down as a jumping off point to seethe with wrath against Bush, calling him stupid and a liar and his conservative supporters “sociopaths.”
The next day, the AP story was “clarified” in a way that completely undermined both its and editor Michael Tomasky’s point.
(Update: A reprint of Tomasky's piece tops CBS's Opinion page today, which is even less excusable, given that the underlying AP story was knocked down two days ago.)