Thursday, September 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Hmm. Everyday my my unique details goees up, but my ranking goes down.

Wassup with that?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Following the LAT, the NYT (Fear Exceeded Crime’s Reality in New Orleans) is joining the chorus of stories noting that the reporting of utter chaos in post-Katrina New Orleans was over the top and misleading (if not mythical). I would note that the tone of this story strikes me a a bit more cautious in terms of criticizing the media-driven hyperbole than the LAT story.

After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists – the core of the city’s economy – were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.

The mass misery in the city’s two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.

A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public.


What became clear is that the rumor of crime, as much as the reality of the public disorder, often played a powerful role in the emergency response. A team of paramedics was barred from entering Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper’s report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets, said Farol Champlin, a paramedic with the Acadian Ambulance Company.

On another occasion, the company’s ambulances were locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers of all its water – a report that proved totally untrue, said Aaron Labatt, another paramedic.

What strikes me is that this all comports with some comments I made in the midst of the coverage (here) wherein I noted that reporting stories of extreme violence, often without adequate evidence, was hindering the relief effort. Some commenters disputed my assessment, but it would appear I had a point:

Faced with reports that 400 to 500 armed looters were advancing on the town of Westwego, two police officers quit on the spot. The looters never appeared, said the Westwego police chief, Dwayne Munch.

“Rumors could tear down an entire army,” Chief Munch said.

During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department’s sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

Specifically, I was especially struck at the time that the cable coverage was rife with reports of a Hobbesesque state of nature within New Orleans while simultaneously criticizing relief workers for not rushing into the city. At the time I maintained that the press coverage was actually contributing to the slow response that they were also vehemently criticizing.

As with assessments of the responses by government and private organizations, I think that the magnitude of the events have to be taken into consideration in criticizing media coverage. Still, I do think that some self-assessment needs to be undertaken here–especially by cable news. The coverage underscored the current manner in which 24/7 cable coverage (especially when covering a live event) weakens or entirely tosses rules of evidence. I like getting information as quickly as possible more than most people (it’s my bloggin’ nature) but gee whiz, rumor should not be presented as news–especially when such rumors can lead to serious real world consequences.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: N.J. Gov. Hopeful Says He Sold His Stock

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jon Corzine no longer holds shares in Goldman Sachs, his former employer, according to his campaign.

The funny thing is that the Frist situation ends up making stories like this more prominent. So that even if all the Goldman Sachs stock was properly dealt with, the atmosphere created by Frist combined with other issues linked to Corzine equals the ability of Corzine’s opponent to make a bigger deal out of stock questions than otherwise would have been possible.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

For those paying attention to the aftermath of the Japanese elections (via the CSM): Koizumi’s revolution gains momentum.

Some very interesting stuff.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via ABC News: Blunt picked to replace DeLay as US House leader

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously elected Roy Blunt of Missouri as their majority leader, replacing Tom DeLay, who was forced to give up the job after being indicted by a Texas grand jury, lawmakers said.

After a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, lawmakers said Blunt’s position was an interim arrangement for the rest of the year and that he would share leadership responsibilities with Rep. David Dreier of California.

It was not immediately clear how Blunt, who had had been the third ranking Republican member of the House, would share duties with Dreier, the chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Ok, so he and Dreier will share, but Blunt will be the frontman, unlike the previous report that suggested it would be the other way around.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Polls: Corzine’s Lead Slipping in N.J.

Three polls released within 48 hours show the New Jersey governor’s race has tightened, with Republican Doug Forrester capitalizing on an ethics furor to cut Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine’s double-digit lead to as little as 4 percentage points.

Interesting. I am somewhat surprised.

Just goes to show that ethics problems can effect one’s electoral fortunes.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Bloomberg: Frist Faces Heat as SEC Orders Formal Investigation

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces a near-term ordeal unwelcome to anyone, particularly an ambitious politician: an official probe into his personal financial dealings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC authorized a formal order of investigation of Frist’s sale in June of HCA Inc. shares, people with direct knowledge of the inquiry said yesterday. The order allows the agency’s enforcement unit to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the order hasn’t been made public.

And yet another nail goes into the coffin for Frist’s presidential ambitions.

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By Steven L. Taylor

OTB has it.

James also has worthwhile analysis on the overall situation here, and comes to the following conclusions, which I think is on-target:

Still, DeLay has been under the cloud of various ethics charges for quite some time and it’s truly a shame that the House GOP delegation has not dumped him before now. I have no view as to whether DeLay is guilty of anything criminal in this particular matter but he skirts the line between ethical and unethical conduct on a regular basis. Surely, the House Republicans can do better.

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By Steven L. Taylor

More from the New York Times, we get the basics of the charge:

The DeLay organization was charged with accepting a contribution of $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care and one of $20,000 from AT&T. A statewide business group, the Texas Association of Business, was also charged.

State law prohibits use of corporate contributions to advocate the election or defeat of state candidates, and prosecutors accuse the DeLay organization of engaging in a complex scheme to circumvent the law.

The seriousness of this, it seems to me (at first blush anyway) is going to be how much the circumvention was a “scheme” and how involved it actually as, and particularly how involved Delay was in the circumventing.

It seems likely that all of this will end revealing a great deal of convoluted attempts to stop the inevitable flow of money into campaigns. However, even if one isn’t especially scandalized by the use of corporate funds for campaigning (which is another issue), one cannot try to creatively avoid the law.

If anything, it seems to me that this whole case will underscore the labyrinthine nature of campaign finance rules and regulations.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT: Delay Is Indicted and Forced to Step Down as Majority Leader

Mr. Hastert has recommended that Mr. Dreier assume Mr. DeLay’s duties as majority leader, with Representative Roy Blount of Missouri, the present majority whip, taking on some functions. Republicans were meeting this afternoon to put the speaker’s recommendations into effect.

I guess DeLay has large shoes to fill–so much so that a two-headed replacement is needed. And while I know that this is “temporary”–I have a feeling that it will eventually be permanent.

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