Friday, September 30

HOUSTON CHRONICLE DEFENDS MSM'S KATRINA COVERAGE

Anne Linehan is to be commended for this apt post at "blogHouston.net" for taking the Houston Chronicle's editorial board to task for rationalizing the MSM's gross distortions, hyperbole, and egregious misinformation in its post-Katrina coverage of New Orleans' travail after the levees broke.


HARRIS COUNTY: 201 BURGLARIES BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 23RD AND 25TH

The "Houston Chronicle" (registration required) identifies yet another travail attending the unprecedented evacuation of a major American city -- home and business burglaries while Houstonians fled Rita's wrath.

Law enforcement officials interviewed this week said there were increased reports of burglaries of residences and businesses between Sept. 23 and Tuesday. They also arrested an above-average number of burglary suspects, many of whom were caught in the act after alarm systems and alert neighbors notified police.

Harris County deputies recorded at least 201 burglaries of residences and businesses between Sept. 23 and 25.

"That's not normal. Those numbers are high," said Sgt. Terry Wilson of the sheriff's office burglary and theft division.

Many residents of the Lakecrest Village Apartments at 9393 Tidwell in northeast Houston returned home this week to find that burglars had kicked in doors to take children's clothes and food, televisions and videogame consoles.

"We used our rent money to pay for gas and food to evacuate, and we come home to see our (televisions) had been stolen and our food eaten," Tameko Wilson said.


And the crime statistics could get worse:

Houston police said they arrested at least 74 suspects, but they will not know how many residences were burglarized until they can compile statistics next month.

But at least the Houston Police Department made arrests after the city emptied out pre-Rita; the New Orleans Police Department saw their role in a different light post-Katrina.



INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM CENTER AT GROUND ZERO NIXED

Hallelujah!

Betsy Newmark delivers some great news. And kudos to Governor Pataki.

I signed an online petition urging that the so-called International Freedom Center idea be killed and I'm pleased as punch that the groundswell against this liberal-inspired travesty was heeded.



RONNIE EARLE: SIR LANCELOT OR PARTISAN ZEALOT?

Compare this all too flattering article, which damn near deifies Texas district attorney Ronnie Earle as an unsullied "corruption hunter" of the first rank -- a veritable knight in shining armor (who's made it the "capstone of his career" to nail Tom Delay to the wall) -- with this NRO piece that serves to tarnish the sheen of this Lonestar Sir Lancelot.

SOURCES: National Review Online and Financial Times

HAT-TIP: Matt Drudge

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Mark Tapscott reports in this post that Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled Tuesday of this week that "the privacy rights of illegal aliens convicted here of crimes, including the most serious felonies, are more important than the public's right to know data needed to assess how the government is complying with the law that requires such aliens to be escorted out of the country upon their release from jail." I'm not a lawyer, but isn't that tantamount to a violation of the Freedom of Information Act?

Juxtapose Judge Leon's ruling with a similarly egregious ruling this week that got Bill O'Reilly in a justifiable lather last night during the opening segment of his "O'Reilly Factor" (scroll down and view Bill's "Talking Points" video) -- namely, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein's ruling, in a case brought by the ACLU, that 74 additional, incendiary Abu Ghraib photographs must be released by the federal government, because the Freedom of Information Act requires that the government do so, and regardless of what impact their release may have on Americans in uniform fighting terrorism overseas.

So black-robed activists secure liberties for lawbreaking illegal aliens (forgive the redundancy), while at the same time showing no compunction about putting our men and women in uniform in harm's way! Just two more examples of a federal judiciary that's out of control.

Are you angry yet?


SOURCES: The Associated Press (AP) and "The O'Reilly Factor."

LOS ANGELES TIMES TAKES "NAYS" TO TASK

Is the worm turning at the "Los Angeles Times?" First, the Left Coast's liberal media stalwart endorses the confirmation of John Roberts and now this morning it takes to task those Democratic senators, Hillary Clinton among them, who voted against Roberts' ascendancy to the United States Supreme Court as its Chief Justice.

Well now, I think I'll go fetch a third cup of coffee and re-read the editorial and savor it for awhile. What must Patterico and Hugh Hewitt be thinking! It's just 6:00am PDT in California. They may not have even seen the LAT yet.


HAT-TIP: Lucianne


Thursday, September 29

TONIGHT: LAST CHANCE TO VOTE IN RUFFINI'S STRAW POLL

Be a participant. Click here and follow the yellow brick road to cast your vote(s) in Patrick Ruffini's September Straw Poll.

Tomorrow Patrick will be compiling results.

NOTE: ACSOL is sure generating a lot of votes!



I AGREE WITH FRANK, WHO AGREES WITH PEGGY

If agreeing with Frank Laughter and Peggy Noonan qualifies me as a Libertarian, than I guess I am one (or becoming one), although I've never thought of myself in those terms, content, as I am, with being a self-described Reagan Republican.

I know this: government has become too intrusive and too all-encompassing in our lives, and far too many people turn to it with overweening expectations for their every need and blind rage when any among them goes unfulfilled.

Katrina and Rita survivor/evacuees in the Houston area were sent to a venue where (after waiting in horrendously long lines in stifling heat) they could do some one-stop shopping for relief aid by selecting to talk to one or more representatives from 90 federal government agencies on hand to assist them.

What's wrong with that picture?


THE ANCHORESS SAYS "NO!" TO RNC DONATION REQUEST

This post from The Anchoress is priceless! (She marvels at Peggy Noonan's writing, but I marvel at hers!).

The Anchoress has refused the Republican National Committee a telephone request for donations, because of the soft glove treatment Republican Senators gave Lousiaina's woefully inept democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco. The Anchoress is understandably outraged.

Ironically for me, in separate conversations this week with my brother, one of my two sisters, and my father, each expressed varying degrees of dismay with President Bush, the Republican Party, and House and Senate republicans over their failure to deal with our country's porous borders and an illegal immigration problem that has reached egregious levels.

My wife and I live in Texas. My parents, brother and two sisters live in California. The family sees firsthand what an indifferent president and a do-nothing, GOP-controlled Congress have failed to do vis-a-vis a wholesale invasion of this country by lawbreakers and the resulting effects and implications.

Each, along with me, refuses to provide the GOP with any more contributions until vigorous action is taken and by that we don't mean amnesty.

It would appear that the GOP is finding multi-faceted ways to disappoint its conservative base these days.

Anyway, good for you, Anchoress!


NEW ORLEAN'S PD: WHAT "MELTDOWN," MICHELLE?

Michelle, last time I owned one Cadillac's had air-conditioning! You sure there was a meltdown and not a too-cool cool-up?

(PS: O'Reilly should use this as the "Ridiculous Item of the Day")


SOURCES: Michelle Malkin and Mark In Mexico

HOUSTON CHRONICLE'S EDITORIAL PAGE MUM ON DELAY

Nice post by Kevin Whited at "blogHouston.net" on the early reticence of the Houston Chronicle's editorial writers to expound on the indictment against local Congressman Tom Delay.

Kevin observes:

Every major newspaper in the state managed to comment on the DeLay indictment today, except of course the major newspaper that actually serves DeLay's district. How embarrassing for the Chronicle. Perhaps the editorial idealists will get rested up enough from the hard work of putting out a newspaper during a big news event to work up an opinion for tomorrow's newspaper. In the meantime, here are editorials from the Dallas Morning News, Austin American-Statesman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and San Antonio Express-News.




WHAT'S GOOD FOR CRAWFORD RANCH OUGHT TO BE GOOD FOR PROPERTY OWNERS ALONG THE BORDER

In the aftermath of the George Soros-funded, Cindy Sheehan-led, monthlong anti-war protest and rank, liberals' love-fest, circus and roadshow outside of President and First Lady Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, local officials have passed ordinances prohibiting parking and camping along country roads, including those in proximity to the Bushes' property, as well as against "sewage receptacles," which I take to mean porta-potties.

Now then, I must ask, if lawmakers can move so swiftly and efficiently to shield the Bush household outside of Waco, Texas, from the unwashed masses yearning to assault the president's quietide, then why can't Congress protect the rights of American property owners along the contiguous U.S.-Mexico border from illegal aliens, their weapons-carrying smugglers, and the kinds of marauding gangs that jump the border and terrorize American citizens?

Ah, if only the president had bought ranchland in south Texas (or, say, along the New Mexico-Mexico border). If only ... if only it were so.

Then things might have been finally looking up for those Americans neither the president, nor the U.S. Congress, has heretofore sought to protect.


SOURCE: Associated Press (AP) report carried in the "Houston Chronicle" (registration required for online edition).

JOHN ROBERTS CONFIRMED IN 78-22 VOTE BY SENATE

An so it is done. John Roberts will be sworn in as Chief Justice at 3:00pm EDT today at the White House, as a result of a favorable 78-22 confirmation vote in the United States Senate.

As the "Washington Post" (registration required) reports (excerpts follow):

Justice John Paul Stevens, the senior associate justice who has been performing the chief justice's duties since Rehnquist died, will swear in Roberts at 3 p.m. today at the White House. Roberts will participate on Monday -- the first Monday in October -- in a Supreme Court investiture ceremony as the justices begin their new term.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters after the confirmation, "I believe that there's a very decisive bipartisan flavor to this vote. Judge Roberts -- soon to be Chief Justice Roberts -- got half of the Democrats and Senator Jeffords," an independent. "And to come away with 78 votes, considering where the Senate was in such contentious straits earlier this year, I think is really remarkable."

Roberts, 50, will be the youngest person in the exalted position of chief justice since John Marshall, an appointee of President John Adams. Marshall took office in 1801 at the age of 46.

Roberts, who also becomes the official head of the federal judiciary itself, is 17th in a line that includes such historic figures as John Jay, Marshall, Roger Brooke Taney, Charles Evans Hughes, Harlan Fiske Stone and Earl Warren.


Here's how the confirmation vote unfolded.

Democrats voting against President Bush's nominee were the "usual suspects," Hillary Rodham Clinton among them:

Akaka, Hawaii; Bayh, Ind.; Biden, Del.; Boxer, Calif.; Cantwell, Wash.; Clinton, N.Y.; Corzine, N.J.; Dayton, Minn.; Durbin, Ill.; Feinstein, Calif.; Harkin, Iowa; Inouye, Hawaii; Kennedy, Mass.; Kerry, Mass.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Mikulski, Md.; Obama, Ill.; Reed, R.I.; Reid, Nev.; Sarbanes, Md.; Schumer, N.Y.; Stabenow, Mich.




CONGRESSMAN DAVID DREIER UNACCEPTABLE TO REPUBLICAN CONSERVATIVES

The story, of course, is all about former and formidable House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) of Surgar Land, Texas, indicted yesterday by a Travis County grand jury on one count of felony criminal conspiracy for allegedly being involved in an exchange of corporate cash funneled to Texas House candidates back in 2002. The mainstream media and the blogosphere are awash in Tom Delay stories and commentary. Just turn on any 24/7 cable news channel, or read any of today's front page headlines of major metropolitan newspapers, or look at "Tom Delay" in Technorati's search engine pecking order to know this to be true.

But a story within the story may well be the rebuff given southern California Congressman (and House Rules Committee Chairman) David Dreier (R-CA), as reported in the "Houston Chronicle":

Several officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an aide to Hastert contacted California Rep. David Dreier on Monday about assuming the majority leader's duties in the event DeLay was indicted. Several lawmakers said such a change would have made it easier for the Texan to eventually regain his post.

But by Tuesday, as the grand jury completed its work in Austin, Texas, Blunt forcefully asserted his claim to the job in conversations with the speaker, according to several GOP officials.

At the same time, conservative lawmakers quickly made known their unhappiness with Dreier as a potential stand-in for DeLay.

At a private midday meeting, several conservative lawmakers argued that Dreier's voting record was too moderate. According to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, some participants in the meeting said the Californian had voted in favor of expanded federal funding for stem cell research and against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. There also was grumbling that the Californian favored a less restrictive policy on immigration than many conservatives.

"There was a lot of discussion in that room about will ... he advance the conservative agenda?" said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who attended the meeting and said he personally would have been comfortable with Dreier in the post.

Other officials said a show of hands near the end of the session showed support for a postponement in selecting a temporary majority leader if it were to be Dreier. A delegation was dispatched to inform Hastert, who in the meantime had decided to recommend Blunt instead.


Blunt, of course, is Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO), who will succeed Tom Delay as House Majority Leader, at least for the interim, as a result of the indictment against Delay and the political scandal in its wake, and owing to his backing by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who read the tea leaves astutely in terms of his party's conservative base's displeasure with the prosepect of Dreier.

As a center-right, conservative blogger and one who focuses, in large part, on the porous borders/illegal immigration issue, I have long followed David Dreier's rise in the halls of Congress, aware that up until his difficult re-election in 2004, in which he did a rather disingenuous about face, he's long been soft on the burgeoning illegal immigration problem, both in California and nationally. Indeed, widely popular southern California area radio personalities John Kobylt and Ken Chiampo of the "John and Ken Show" on radio station KFI waged a highly successful campaign to expose Congressman Dreier during his re-election bid in 2004.

This from their webpage in August 2004:

Two popular radio talk-show hosts are planning the “political human sacrifice’ of a Republican they deem weak on illegal immigration, and they’ve got a longtime area representative in their sights. Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, is on the short list of potential targets for John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou – hosts of “The John & Ken Show’ on top-rated Los Angeles talk station KFI- AM – who say Republicans in Congress are standing idly by as undocumented immigrants wreak havoc on the state’s economy and clutter up freeways, prisons, hospitals and schools. Read the story here.

Here's evidence of just how intense the "defeat Dreier" campaign waged by that radio show became.

And this from the "Washington Post":

Rancor over illegal immigration has become a staple on conservative blogs and talk radio, with much of the wrath directed at Bush. Stein, of the immigration reform group, said the president has dragged his heels on security improvements and "is not leading the American people on this issue."

The outcry may be resonating. House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) got a jolt during his 2004 reelection campaign, when radio hosts in his outer Los Angeles district decided to make him a "political human sacrifice" for his immigration views, Dreier said, accusing him, among other things, of advocating Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants.

"I said to myself, nobody's going to believe I want to give Social Security checks to people who are here illegally," Dreier recalls. Then he polled voters and found that people not only believed the allegation but had resolved "to never vote for David Dreier again." He won with 54 percent of the vote, a lower proportion than previous years, and has since taken a prominent role in advocating the Sensenbrenner measures, although he also supports guest-worker programs.


And here's how "Americans For Better Immigration" rates David Dreier's voting record on immigration.

I would suggest to readers of ACSOL rightly fed up with the national security threat our nation's porous borders pose and the deleterious impact of 11+ million illegal aliens afoot in America, that David Dreier's belated epiphany vis-a-vis immigration reform and border security was likely more about getting re-elected in a campaign made infinitely more difficult by the pounding he took on these issues from the "John and Ken Show" and that we're better off that he will not be stepping into the powerful position held by Tom Delay.

After all, isn't it bad enough that George Bush -- an apologist for open borders, amnesty, and liberal Guest Worker programs -- is in the White House and permitting a wholesale invasion of our country! Let's not flank him in the House chamber with yet another high-ranking, pro-illegal immigration seed pod carrier.

OTHER BLOGGERS WEIGH IN: The American Mind; Ace of Spades HQ; and, Michelle Malkin. Oh, and What Attitude Problem? should be read, as well.


THE EVACUATION: A DISASTER WITHIN A DISASTER

Since I published this post on Tuesday of this week the Hurricane Rita-related death toll associated largely with the evacuation of Harris and its neighboring counties (and not the hurricane itself) has trebled.

The "Houston Chronicle" (registration required for online edition) is reporting now that a total of 109 lives were lost in Rita's aftermath, a number of which resulted directly from a mass exodus in stifling heat and disastrous gridlock, compounded by egregious fuel shortages.

Cindy Horswell and Edward Hegstrom of the Chronicle write (excerpts follow):

A Chronicle survey of Houston-area counties and those along major evacuation routes to the north and west indicates that at least 107 people were killed by last week's hurricane or died in accidents or from health problems associated with the evacuation of 2.5 million people from their homes.

One day before the expected announcement of a state-county-city task force to examine the problems that plagued the exodus, which doubled or tripled the travel time between Houston and other Texas cities, Mayor Bill White conceded, "I don't think the evacuation should be a disaster in itself."

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, whose wife spent more than 12 hours in a U.S. 290 traffic jam, called for a careful review of the evacuation. "People are downplaying the fact that people died in the evacuation and that is not right," he said. "Is the chance of dying greater in the movement than in the storm? That's the question we need to consider."


The reporters continue, describing a bleak, desperate situation, as motorists and their passengers fled the Rita-threatened area:

Law enforcement officers not prone to tears said they often wept openly as they dealt with the repercussions of the flight from Rita.

"It was horrible," said San Jacinto County Sheriff's spokesman J.J. Stitt.

Stitt helped provide a police escort for a charter bus filled with elderly residents from the Houston area en route to a local hospital. Earlier, the bus driver had made a 911 emergency call to authorities as his passengers sickened. By the time officers arrived, two were dead.

At Conroe Regional Medical Center, spokesman Fritz Guthrie said 600 patients arrived at the hospital during the evacuation — about 25 percent more than normal.

"Most of them arrived with effects of the heat — heat exhaustion and heat stroke," he said. Others came in with heart problems or blood clots in their legs from sitting too long. "We had people walking over from the freeway having babies."

La Marque resident Mary Lou Bourgeois, 92, became another Rita evacuation victim when she reluctantly joined her family fleeing via clogged I-10.

"She would never run," said her granddaughter Sheronda Bourgeois, 30. "She always said, 'If God is going to get you, he's going to get you.' "

After about 12 hours on the road Thursday — the family had gotten only as far as west Houston — the elderly woman began having difficulty breathing. She then lost consciousness. She died Friday at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital.

"We all have our self-doubt about evacuating," her granddaughter said. "No one wanted to die like those people in New Orleans and we thought we were doing the right thing by taking our grandmother with us. It's hurt the way she left us.

"We would rather her be at home, surrounded by her children and great-grandchildren."


This blogger examined the evacuation and the underpinnings of the evacuation plan in this post, published back on September 26th, and wrote:

In a city built largely on reclaimed swampland (Houston is called, after all, the "Bayou City"), large portions of it fall in flood plains and widespread flooding is a fact of life here after significant rainfall -- witness Tropical Storm Allison in June, 2001.

That's why the evacuation plan for the greater Houston area was grounded on mandatory evacuation from flood plain zones and areas that would be subject to storm surge and never contemplated a city-wide evacuation. A post-Katrina apprehension seemed to drive people from Houston who needn't have left and that apprehension was compounded by what some regard as ambiguous, CYA signals from local officials.

I continued:

Katrina and its horror stories, particularly those reported in the overweening 24/7 cable news coverage of the grotesque disaster that was the levee breaks in New Orleans and the subequent horrific flooding of the Crescent City, spawned a palpable fear in people who only weeks later were staring at a Category 5 hurricane swallowing up the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on a huge population center in southeastern Texas. It is altogether understandable that the calls for voluntary evacuations in advance of mandatory evacuations were heeded beyond the expectations of local officials and emergency planners. That was no doubt part of the equation.

But the other part is that hurricane planning must be communicated better by the media and made public by government officials. This sort of information should be widely disseminated and made intelligible before each hurricane season, so citizens can best assess their personal situations and know in what instances they're to run and in what instances they're to hide.

Fact is, people who needed to evacuate flood-threatened, well-defined zones in greater Houston were impeded in their exodus by people who chose to flee who were not. We can do better next time around and we must.

Ironic, isn't it? The post-Katrina story out of New Orleans was that thousands stubbornly failed to heed the evacuation call and thousands more were unable to do so owing to age, infirmity, or lack of transportation, made worse by the local and state governments' purposeful indifference to getting their citizens out of harm's way. By contrast, the emerging post-Rita story here in the Galveston-Houston area is of needless deaths owing to an evacuation too vigorously complied with and of the failure of officials to assure that 2.0+ million evacuees had available fuel (and water!) at roadside services along the designated evacuation routes.


OF POWER OUTAGES AND ROLLING BLACKOUTS

The greater Houston area's Local 2 News, whose website is "Click2Houston.com," is reporting that power outages continue in their viewing area and will likely persist for another couple of weeks. That's bad news for thousands of homeowners and business people whose lives have been disrupted by Rita.

Meanwhile, the rolling blackouts, which this blogger and his wife have been experiencing firsthand, should be over and done by the weekend. Yesterday's blackouts here in the Lake Conroe area were by far the worst to date. Power at our home went off around 12:00 noon and, except for coming back up for frustratingly short periods of 10 to 15 minutes or so several times mid-afternoon and early evening, was not restored until approximately 10:00pm CDT last night. Yesterday was blazingly hot -- over 100 degrees -- and the house heated up and became very toasty.

What's particularly annoying is that the blackouts are not scheduled, so they cannot be anticipated. Moreover, there's been a complete lack of direct communication from the utility company, which in our case is Entergy. The media was told by Entergy spokespeople that the blackouts would last for approximately an hour, but that's anything but true and truth (or something approximating it) is what customers expect and deserve. I don't know how the elderly are coping through this and especially those with special needs. And it must be difficult for the schoolchildren to concentrate in classrooms without benefit of air-conditioning during what has been a record-setting heat wave in September here in southeastern Texas.

Robert Stanton of the "Houston Chronicle" (registration required for online edition) reports the following in this morning's edition, painting a grimmer picture than the Local 2 News report:

The blame for the misery can be placed squarely in the lap of Hurricane Rita, which ripped through the region over the weekend. High winds sent trees into power lines, cutting power to thousands of residents.

"We have never suffered a crisis as bad as this one," said Entergy-Texas spokesman Mike Rodgers. "This is the worst thing that has happened to the Entergy-Texas system."

Rodgers said Entergy customers can expect three to four weeks without power.


Stanton continues:

As of midweek, about 370,000 homes and businesses in Texas were without electricity. The numbers included 254,000 customers of Entergy-Texas and another 70,000 customers of CenterPoint, which serves much of the greater Houston area.

Entergy-Texas dispatched 10,000 linemen, tree trimmers and support personnel from as far north as Ohio and as far east as the Carolinas, also part of a mutual aid agreement.

"We're making progress, but we're severely hampered by the serious damage to our transmission system," Rodgers said. "No transmission ties are functioning between the eastern half of our service territory, Beaumont and Port Arthur, and the western half, Conroe and The Woodlands.

"We're still getting our distribution lines restored, but we need the transmission lines to bring the power in to the distribution lines (along public streets)," he said.

Complicating matters, many returning residents are cranking up air conditioners in the near-record heat, taxing an already strained system, he said.

To prevent a total blackout, Entergy-Texas has implemented rolling outages for about 142,000 customers in Montgomery, Grimes, Walker and Liberty counties, Rodgers said.

The rolling outages were initially supposed to last an hour, but now they're lasting several hours.

"We regret that (longer outages)," Rodgers said. "We're sorry because we know how miserable that makes people.


The "several hours" claim is bogus, I assure you. And that's the very thing that has Entergy's customers in an uproar. The information being given the media is inconsistent and departs, oftentimes in wholesale fashion, from reality. We went about 10 hours without electricity yesterday here in our portion of Montgomery County!

So, I don't know if blogging today will be light owing to ongoing power disruptions. I trust readers of ACSOL will understand.



Wednesday, September 28

TOM DELAY: "SKUNKY INDICTMENT" OR THE REAL DEAL?

The "Houston Chronicle" (registration required) is reporting that House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) of Sugar Land, Texas, has been indicted by a Travis County, Texas, grand jury on a single felony count.

Excerpts from the Chronicle story follow:

A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land on a single count of felony criminal conspiracy involving an exchange of money that made corporate cash available to Republican Texas House candidates in 2002.

The indictment alleges that DeLay conspired with two of his political associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Virginia, to convert $190,000 in corporate money into individual campaign contributions through a transfer of funds using the Republican National Committee.

Colyandro and Ellis last year were indicted on a money laundering charge involving the transfer. They were reindicted earlier this month to add a criminal conspiracy charge each.

In taking its action today, the grand jury reindicted Colyandro and Ellis on criminal conspiracy charges and added the charge against Delay. Criminal conspiracy is a state jail felony.

One of Delay's lawyers, Bill White, said prior to the indictment being returned that the facts of the case would not support an indictment against DeLay.

"It's a skunky indictment, if they have one, a dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinking to high heaven," White said.

The investigation focuses on the activities of a political action committee Delay formed in 2001 — Texans for a Republican Majority.

It was run by Colyandro with the assistance of Ellis, who is the director of Delay's Americans for a Republican Majority.

TRMPAC raised and spent almost $650,000 in corporate money to influence the 2002 Texas House races. State law restricts the use of corporate and labor union money in races for elective office.

The indictment claims Delay, Ellis and Colyandro conspired to raise $190,000 in corporate money for TRMPAC. The money was then sent to the Republican National Committee and was converted into donations from individual donors, which would have been legal under Texas law for use by a candidate.

The RNC then sent the money to seven specific Texas House candidates, the indictment alleges. Two of the Republicans listed in the indictments are from the Houston area, state Reps. Dwayne Bohac of Houston and Larry Taylor of Friendswood.


Delay is adamant that he did nothing wrong.

"I have done nothing wrong ... I am innocent," DeLay told a Capitol Hill news conference in which he repeatedly criticized the prosecutor, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. DeLay called Earle a "unabashed partisan zealot," and "fanatic," and described the charges as "one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history."




SOURCE: Houston Chronicle story by R.G. Ratcliffe and Janet Elliott

FOLLOW-UP: This from Kevin Whited of "blogHouston.net" quoting from an Associated Press (AP) story, as well as the "Austin-American Statesman." Kevin also links to several press releases from the offices of U.S. Representative Delay. Here's Michelle Malkin's coverage. And Sean Hackbarth weighs in in this post at "The American Mind."

Filed in:

ROLLING BLACKOUTS PERSIST IN SOUTHEAST TEXAS

We're experiencing periodic, post-RITA electrical blackouts again today, some of several hours' duration, and I expect this sort of thing is going to persist for some time given something like 350,000 homes being without electrical power in Texas.

So blogging can be fitful.

This is our electric utility company here in the Lake Conroe area.

Hope readers of ACSOL understand. I'm trying! But got to have juice!



ANN COULTER REVISITED

I'm putting up this post with its link to John Hawkins' (of "Right Wing News") collection of scintillating Ann Coulter quotes, because just last night my brother and I were talking about her at length over the telephone (and in very favorable terms) and contrasting her quick, razor-sharp wit and ability to articulate conservative principles with the halting, garbled-syntax of the president's wayward efforts at elucidating extemporaneously a compelling point of view. When he speaks off-the-cuff, I wince. My brother, by contrast, just flips the channel. He's at that point now with George Bush.

We're both conservative republicans, although my brother leans a bit more towards libertarianism than maybe I do. But each of us is fast losing confidence in the Republican Party and both of us are thoroughly fed up with the porous borders situation and the incomprehensible contradiction in terms when the president pontificates on fighting terrorism, while hypocritically turning his back on the throngs (10,000/day) of illegal border-crossers entering our country at will in what is tantamount to a wholesale invasion of our country.

Anyway, enjoy Ann Coulter. She gets it RIGHT more than the president ever does. Anymore, I think he's just a democrat in disguise!


MCCAIN KISSES SHEEHAN'S ___ AND CINDY KICKS HIS IN RETURN

Captain Ed reports on Senator John McCain's (RINO-AZ) continued penchant for political grandstanding in front of the national media (shades of Jesse Jackson's modus operandi) and how it has backfired (causing him to ignominiously backpedal) this time around with the queen of the whacko left, Cindy Sheehan. If it weren't so pathetic, it'd be laughable.

How does John McCain make Patrick Ruffini's straw poll main ballot and Newt Gingrich is excised from the list? Go figure! The showman from Arizona has only garnered a measly 6% of the straw poll vote thus far, which is a statement in itself about his viability as a presidential contender given his name recognition. Americans are beginning to get it.


THE PRESIDENT'S GULF COAST OVER-FLIGHTS

If President Bush wants to make good use of Air Force One and his fleet of helicopters, than I suggest he cease making those recurrent trips to the Gulf Coast (a total of seven to date) to survey hurricane damage and begin flyovers along the contiguous U.S.-Mexico border to witness an invasion of this country so malevolent in size and scope that illegal immigration now far exceeds legal immigration in numbers. There are now 11+ million illegal aliens (not "undocumented workers," please!) in this country and 10,000/day more are breeching our borders, and yet all we hear from the president is his continuing support of amnesty and "Guest Worker" programs. And, worse, he betrays that misguided acceptance of illegal immigration in these kinds of muddle-headed decisions.

What I suggest the president and First Lady do is to sell their beloved Crawford, Texas, ranch right now and buy ranchland along the Texas-Mexico border so the president can get a better sense of what his wholesale indifference to the plight of American property owners who live on or in proximity to the Mexico border has wrought. Maybe were he to purchase property in south Texas, say in the Rio Grande Valley, he'd get up close and personal with this consequence of his frightful inaction. Of course, he'd have the benefit of Secret Service agents, something everyday Americans whose property is trespassed and violated by illegal aliens cannot avail themselves of.

The noise level continues to grow (make no mistake about that), but the president's congenital stubbornness just keeps getting in the way of common sense and fulfilling his obligations as president in enforcing the laws of the land. That Patrick Buchanan would now suggest impeachment of the president signals that the rising crescendo of Americans fed up with illegal aliens and their deleterious impact on the country's treasure, taxpayers' wallets, and our nation's social fabric, is beginning to carry over at last into the political arena. Indeed, this could be every bit as big an issue in the 2006 election season as the war in Iraq.

If surveying hurricane damage from the air is more about understanding the impact of natural disasters, than the president trying to restore his decimated political luster, then doesn't it follow that an invasion merits at least comparable attention from the president? After all, President Lincoln went to the front lines during the Civil War.


THE REPUBLICAN BASE JUST ISN'T EXCITED

Count me in in that equation! Bush is turning me off and I am tuning him out. And so are many others who similarly voted for him.

Betsy Newmark points this morning to a column by Fred Barnes in "The Daily Standard" that makes a good case that the Republican base isn't enthralled with the current list of likely candidates for the party's presidential nomination in 2008. And the non-candidates (what Patrick Ruffini in his monthly Straw Polls terms as "fantasy candidates") who would likely inspire the base -- e.g., Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and Jeb Bush -- appear to be just that: adamant non-candidates.

Just as Ruffini left Newt Gingrich out of the roster on his "Main Ballot," so too does Fred Barnes not even make mention of him in his column. I regard that as a serious oversight. In my book, he's the sleeper candidate (currently testing the waters) who could resurrect the enthusiasm of the Reagan era and restore a capital "C" to the word Conservative.

Why am I disheartened as one who voted for George Bush in 2000 and again in 2008?

1) Porous borders and an abject neglect in dealing with the illegal immigration problem, which represent a material contradiction in terms with the president's avowed determination to win the war on terrorism (his credibility is shot) -- the man is looking the other way while our country is being invaded;

2) Lack of fiscal restraint -- the president and the Republican-controlled Congress spend like drunken democrats and have failed to date to excise pork and identify necessary offsets given the need for huge expenditures for the war in Iraq and the Katrina-Rita disasters; Bush, no matter his words to the contrary, is an incorrigible proponent of Big Government;

3) A fundamental failure to articulate conservative Republican principles -- i.e., Bush has become the antithesis of Ronald Reagan and is anything but a "Great Communicator";

4) Failure to formulate a comprehensive energy policy.

I agree with Fred Barnes: the Republican Party is in serious, fundamental trouble in terms of retaining the White House in 2008.

As the editors of National Review" have written:

President Bush is in a perilous political state. His slipping poll numbers are partly a result of softening support from his Republican base. If Bush doesn't take decisive steps to try to offset the billions of new Katrina spending, the forecast will be: Danger, more softening ahead. Never in the Bush years has conservative discontent been so high, nor so justified. With a few false moves in the crucial weeks ahead, Bush could see even more of the life-blood squeezed from his presidency.

If the Democratic Party could ever find it within itself to jettison its far left, extremist fringe that continues to dominate the party, it might find some easier sailing in the roiled waters of a conservative movement that has lost its True North.



MULTI-FACETED BIG GOVERNMENT

Last night while watching the 10:00 pm news here in the Houston area, a news anchor mentioned a venue where people impacted by Hurricane Rita could go and find as many as 90 different federal government agencies on hand with representatives who could help. I turned to my wife and said: Good God, imagine that -- if that doesn't tell you something about how big Big Government has become in this country!


Tuesday, September 27

MOST RITA-RELATED, HOUSTON-AREA DEATHS A RESULT OF EVACUATION

"Click2Houston" reports this evening what this blogger expected would be the case once the Hurricane Rita post mortem was done in the Houston area -- namely, that most of the 31 people who died from Harris County, Texas, were victims of the evacuation, not of the hurricane.

Just think about that for a moment. The evacuation -- the largest in U.S. history -- was a killer.

Excerpts from the news report follow:

The death toll from Hurricane Rita has climbed to 31 in Harris County, KPRC Local 2 reported Tuesday. The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office said most of the victims died during the evacuation.

Officials released the following statistics.
  • Nineteen people died or became sick in vehicles. Most of the victims were transported in nursing home caravans.
  • Seven are potential hyperthermia, or heat-related, deaths.
  • Twenty-three of the victims are over 50 years old.
  • The youngest victim was a 14-month-old boy who had a temperature of 102.
  • The oldest victims (two people) were 92 years old.

In a post I published last Thursday, September 22nd, in advance of Rita, I wrote:

The good news: Houstonians took local officials' calls for voluntary evacuation seriously and cooperated beyond expectations earlier this week in the face of Hurricane Rita tracking towards the Galveston-Houston area. And when mandatory evacuations were subsequently issued for people living in identified flood plain and storm surge areas there was not the reluctance to leave dwellings that was in evidence in New Orleans in advance of Katrina. Accordingly, and no doubt made more compelling by the egregious disaster that was local-state ineptitude in Louisiana, an area of some 4.0-4.5 million people here in southeastern Texas has witnessed the largest evacuation of a major population center in the history of the United States. Figures range from 1.3 million to nearly 2.0 million people trying to get out of Dodge.

The bad news: people have been channeled onto major highway arteries identified in Houston's emergency evacuation planning and these routes (example: Interstate 45) have been choked with gridlock, devoid of fuel, out of water, bereft of roadside services, including lodging, and, worse, boiling with the heat of record temperatures; and all have added up to cars breaking down, cars running out of gas, people breaking down, and people running out of gas.


Mayor White advised this evening that it's now too late to evacuate. He may be saying that because in the same breath he described the prescribed evacuation routes as having "dire road conditions." Dire!

This report in the "Houston Chronicle" (registration required), filed late this evening, gives you a flavor of what I'm talking about.
Not a pretty picture. Heed the government's warnings, then find yourselves virtually trapped in your automobiles.

In this post, published the following day, Friday, I opined:

This blog pointed to an emerging controversy in this post last night. Essentially what has happened is that the state was responsible for ensuring adequate supplies of fuel to effect the evacuation and it did not deliver. As a result, people are stranded in their cars and trucks along designated evacuation routes with Hurricane Rita fast approaching and they're more vulnerable now than if they were sitting in mobile homes in the storm's path. The last thing you want to be stuck in is an automobile in hurricane force winds.

Understand that the evacuation, which may well exceed 2.0 million people, began in earnest earlier this week, and the gridlock that ensued in blazing record heat has been compounded by a lack of available fuel, which seems to have caught local Galveston-Houston officials by surprise.

It's not been a pretty picture and I suspect political fall-out will come in time.

Texas took in approximately 250,000 Katrina evacuees from neighboring Louisiana and Mississippi with an efficiency that drew plaudits from around the country. What appeared early this week as a similar example of solid governmental pre-planning and execution in commencing evacuations of hurricane-threatened areas of southeast Texas has evolved now, with Rita's arrival less than 24 hours away, into a mini-disaster of its own with countless people made more vulnerable for having followed the instructions of public officials.

This is an upended exodus that may, in time, when the post mortem is completed, result in the exodus of some elected officials. It's all about execution and accountability, and, scandously, hundreds of thousands of voters have been left stranded in their cars, many abandoning them along the roadside in utter frustration. And as horrific as conditions have been, the worst is still before them -- RITA.


This post, which I published on Monday, September 26th, in the aftermath of Rita, is, I think, worth your time to read in its entirety, given the loss of life owing to a mass evacuation that in serious respects went awry.

In it, I offered the following observation:

But the other part is that hurricane planning must be communicated better by the media and made public by government officials. This sort of information should be widely disseminated and made intelligible before each hurricane season, so citizens can best assess their personal situations and know in what instances they're to run and in what instances they're to hide.

Fact is, people who needed to evacuate flood-threatened, well-defined zones in greater Houston were impeded in their exodus by people who chose to flee who were not. We can do better next time around and we must.

A woman interviewed on the news this evening spoke of how her elderly mother expired in the backseat of their automobile while the family was stuck in evacuation gridlock in intense heat and with the car's air-conditioning turned off to preserve fuel. That's just not acceptable.

FOLLOW-UP: Here's the rival station's report -- "KHOU.com" (Channel 11 News).


"WATER COOLER TALK" -- WILL "STAN THE MAN" FORM IN THE GULF?

Goodness! If you live in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, you ought to read this post from "SciGuy" (Eric Berger) who, I should add, acquitted himself well during the ramp-up to Rita. He deserves kudos (but I'd rather he not have written this piece!).

An excerpt:

As much as this pains me to say: Maybe.

In the course of reporting a story on a cool front headed our way Thursday (don't get your hopes up too much, it's a weak one), I called Chris Hebert, a forecaster at ImpactWeather.

Chris is a sharp guy, and a crack hurricane forecaster, so I asked him about the disturbance. Here's what he said:

1. There is potential for development, with some rotation characteristic of a tropical storm already present in the upper atmosphere.

2. Chances are better than not the system will become Tropical Storm Stan near the Yucatan Peninsula by Thursday or Friday.

3. Neither Rita nor Katrina stirred waters in the Bay of Campeche or southern Gulf of Mexico, so conditions there remain ripe for intensification. The same model that predicted those storms could reach category-5 status says "Stan" could become as strong as a category-4.

You tellin' me, Eric, that in a matter of days we'll be moving all of the stuff from the yard back into the garage one more time and testing the Houston-Galveston evacuation plan all over again? Come on, Eric -- give us a break!!!



RITA-RELATED ASIDE

Our electrical power went out about an hour and a half ago and now is back on. It's 100 degrees here in the Lake Conroe area north of Houston and the heat index must be approaching 110 degrees given the insufferable humidity. The house began heating up.

My understanding is that the electric utility companies are doing a series of rolling power outages today as part of their efforts to restore power to over 370,000 homes and businesses still without power in Texas. Given that fact and what I believe to be over 1 million homes without power across the Gulf Coast region owing to the Katrina-Rita knock-out punch, I'm not complaining. Indeed, I consider my wife and I blessed and I really feel for those who remain without the basic necessities of life -- water, electricity, gas, plumbing, and a dry, watertight shelter. This is an environment in which functioning air-conditioning (or at least whirling fans) is a must.

I was in the middle of writing a post on Michael Brown, the former director of FEMA, when the power went out and the computer shut down. I'm not going to try to reconstruct it. Brown wouldn't have appreciated my comments. Whether or not he got a raw deal from the press, Louisiana officials, and the Bush Administration, complaining about it publicly only causes further damage to his image and personal brand in the marketplace.

But back to Rita's impact here. We continue to experience problems with our land-line phones and even occasionally our cell phones. Friends and relatives have had problems reaching us. And the local markets have yet to restock basics such as eggs, bread, and butter. But life here is normal with a capital "N" compared with the hardships so many are having to endure.

I read today in the Houston Chronicle about the hard-hit town of Livingston, Texas, which is north-northeast of us up I-45 and not too far from here. An earthen dam there was damaged by Rita's hurricane-force winds and they've been releasing water at the dam's spillway to bring the water level down in Lake Livingston enough to effect repairs. Apparently the high winds pushed large boulders used to mitigate erosion in the earthen dam. My God -- boulders! To think we moved small statuary from our planters into the garage for fear that they might become missiles.


KATRINA AND THE APOCRYPHAL MSM REPORTING THAT WAS ITS STAPLE

Here's a round-up of posts by bloggers who have layed bare the truth that there was far too much in the way of apocryphal story-writing and brazen, ratings-whipped, cable-TV hyperbole in MSM reporting in the wake of Katrina's landfall, and particularly following the levee breaks that inundated New Orleans.

Sean Hackbarth puts up this post at "The American Mind" in which he writes:

It's been three weeks since the levees broke, and New Orleans was turned into a lake. One of the more dramatic stories was of the literal raping, killing, and pillaging that happened at the Superdome and convention center. It's interesting that no witnessness or alleged victims have come forward to personify the horrors that supposedly happened in those places. That's because much of the violence was false. The idea that the Superdome during the Hurricane Katrina flooding turned into a little Baghdad is a myth propagated by a MSM intent on advancing conventional wisdom instead of seeking truth.

Not to be outdone is Frank laughter at "Common Sense Junction," who scalds the MSM:

Remember those macabre stories of mayhem, murder, rape and torture at the New Orleans Superdome and at the NOLA Convention Center during the days after Katrina hit? Remember the actual descriptions of murder aired by one cable TV channel after another? One man told of a police officer that shot and killed a man in cold blood right outside the Superdome and nonchalantly drove away in the dead man’s car. The man dutifully repeated the story for each of the cable news channels and nobody asked for a second witness.

Remember the criticism of Bush because the White House failed to heed the “repeated warnings being broadcast 24 hours” before FEMA responded?

Remember those stories, all mixed in with the rhetoric about how badly George Bush had personally screwed up the relief effort?

Well, body count time has arrived and so has the time to establish the manner and cause of death.


Richard at "Hyscience" doesn't hesitate to weigh in either:

Remember all the stories of rapes and murders in the Superdome in New Orleans?

Would you believe that most of those stories were contrived??


Nor does Kevin at "Wizbang":

Remember the good 'ol days (last month), when TV and print media were slapping each others back - congratulating each other on what great work they'd done in reporting on Hurricane Katrina?

What if everything you thought you knew about life in New Orleans immediately after Katrina turned out not to be true?


And, by all means, read this post of Michelle Malkin's on the Gray Lady's penchant for distortion!

Never take the words they (the NYT) print at face value. Ever.

You've probably already been doing that for a long time. But now you have the Times' own editors affirming that even they don't take their writers' words as factual assertions--but instead read them as "figurative references." Check out the Editor's Note today explaning away a slanderous libelous error made by reporter Alessandra Stanley that the paper had refused to correct--even when confronted with irrefutable video evidence that her claim was flat-out false:



Bottom-line, one must be a critical reader and viewer these days! Don't be manipulated.

FOLLOW-UP: This from "ACE" is just too good not to add as an addendum to this post. Do read it.


SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES AND GIULIANI AND ABORTION

I voted for George Allen in Patrick Ruffini's September Straw Poll, but that's solely because Patrick opted (for reasons I don't understand) to exclude Newt Gingrich from the "Main Ballot," as well as from the "Fantasy Ballot." Newt is my choice at this juncture. My litmus test is four fold: 1) pro-life; 2) fiscal conservative; 3) tough on border security and illegal immigration; and, 4) must be the antithesis of George Bush (who I voted for in 2000 and again in 2004) -- i.e., able to articulate his policies and points of view and communicate eminently well with the American people. I am a Reagan-conservative. Reagan met this litmus test.

Betsy Newmark isn't concerned with "#1" on my list, at least from the perspective of her candidate preference and the primary attributes that drove her to select Rudolph Giuliani in Patrick's straw poll. That disappoints me, because in my view the sanctity of life should form the bedrock of one's political, as well as religious convictions, and should always be priority #1.

Lorie Byrd (who Betsy links to this morning), also selected Giuliani and makes her case in this "Townhall.com" column, in which she writes:

An admirer of Giuliani and a believer that he had a good shot at the presidency long before Hurricane Katrina, I now find myself becoming a full-fledged fan of the prospect. I will likely get some grief from some of my fellow pro-life, social conservatives, but I hope they will consider not only what an attractive candidate Rudy would be in the post-Katrina political climate, but also to consider the attributes Giuliani would bring to the presidency.

I think the world of Betsy and Lorie as politically-conservative bloggers and incisive political analysts. They're smart people, good people, and politically well-versed. I guess I just cannot fathom how they or any conservative Republicans can back-burner the abortion issue, whether as a matter of political practicality or conviction (I suspect in their cases it's the former). I don't mean this to lay "grief" at Lorie's feet (or at Betsy's for that matter). I understand that politics is the art of compromise and accomplishing the doable through consensus-building. But expediency should never trump morality. Never! I don't subscribe to the theory that one should look at the "whole candidate," as if a Pro-Choice position should not undermine the cumulative worth of other conservative virtues. Rather, I subscribe to what Allen Keyes said: "The abortion issue is a Declaration issue. It's an issue that goes to the very heart of our principles and how we apply them."

The 48+ million deaths of unborn children since the horrific, fateful Roe vs. Wade decision are an abomination so apocalyptic in their magnitude that the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice divide in this country should not be thrown in the mix with other mundane issues of state to be weighed in the endless woof and warp of political considerations. Protection of the innocents, except in cases where the life or health of the mother and/or preborn are of paramount medical consideration, must be a line in the sand. The sanctity of human life should be of such moral conviction and religious standing that it transcends all other issues that come before mankind and its political institutions. Political courage is needed in these troubled times marked by a sinister, progressive-secularist movement in this country and a growing fascination with nihilism.

Aistotle did not envision politics as a practice devoid of moral considerations or education. Nor did he think long-standing customs were seperate and apart from the political realm. The Judeo-Christian ethos, upon which our great nation was founded, did not embrace the "reproductive rights" and "privacy" of women in the context of the abortion of preborns. Nor did the United States Constitution, for that matter. Strict constructionists on the United States Supreme Court know that, as did our Founding Fathers. And, fact is, Roe vs. Wade never contemplated the ubiquitous abortion-on-demand social climate of today or the sea change in this country's mores that it wrought (or, worse, the grissly practice of late-term, partial-birth abortions).

So, no matter that Rudolph Giuliana is affable, articulate, and supremely intelligent; and, no matter that he was tough on crime, a stellar administrator, and nonpareil leader in the aftermath of "9/11," as mayor of New York City. While fine attributes one and all, absent his publicly stated willingness to seek to protect the unborn, it is the opinion of this writer that no collection of resume essentails should earn him a vote absent the transcendant virtue of believing that abortion-on-demand is morally repugnant and must be brought to an end in this country. Were he to so state, I'd be obliged to weigh him very seriously, for I am the first to agree that in most other ways he'd be an attractive, energetic candidate who could retain the White House for the Republican Party.

For now, however, I find Newt Gingrich to be the candidate having many of Giuliani's attributes, but trumping him with the heartfelt conviction that abortion mills must be closed. But that predilection at this point is not in cement. Gingrich's personal moral lapses concern me, as they do other conservatives, and his Achilles Heel is not to be taken lightly. Of course, in doing that appraisal, one should recall the words of Madison that if men were angels, government wouldn't be necessary.


FEMA GETTING HAMMERED AGAIN BY MSM

The "Houston Chronicle" pulls no punches this morning in naming FEMA as the bogeyman for all that has been deemed lacking thus far in the emergency response to Hurricane Rita devastation in southeast Texas.

Reporters Minaya, Ratcliffe, and Khanna write:

Frustration and anger mounted in Southeast Texas on Monday over the response to Hurricane Rita by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With homes smashed, trees and power lines downed and a looming shortage of food and water, one official even threatened to take federal relief supplies by force, if necessary.

"If you have enough policemen to take it from them, take it," Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith said Monday during a meeting of city and county officials.

They continue:

FEMA has been under fire for weeks for its response to Hurricane Katrina, after thousands of people were left stranded in New Orleans for days without food or water.

The magnitude of Rita's damage appears to be less than Katrina's, and FEMA officials on Monday set up 16 stations in nine East Texas counties. The stations will distribute water, ice and food.

'Short on food and water'

Still, Southeast Texas officials charged that the federal agency's response to Rita was inadequate.

"We are very short on food and water, and the FEMA trucks that were supposed to be here just aren't here," Griffith said.

FEMA officials did not respond to requests for comment on the complaints. But Steve McCraw, Texas director of Homeland Security, said he spoke with Griffith, the official in charge of managing the disaster locally, and understood his anxiety.

"You know, when you ask for something, you want it right away. You want generators. You want food, and you want water right there," McCraw said. "He's going to get frustrated when he doesn't get things immediately, and we understand that."

But, McCraw said, "I have confidence that FEMA will get that to them."

Rita left behind upended trees and snapped power lines on nearly every Port Arthur street. Virtually the only movement Monday came from emergency crews, a handful of military personnel and energy trucks repairing lines.

But Ortiz said he had seen only three FEMA officials on the ground as of Monday afternoon. "They are supposedly bringing us some diesel, but I haven't seen it yet," he said. "We are relying on some of the refineries in town to keep us on the road.

"The (FEMA) director is a very nice person," Ortiz added, "but that is not what we need now. We need someone who is going to do what they say they are going to do."

The mayor said there were not enough supplies for residents who remained in the city during the storm and the few who had slipped back in since it passed.

I followed the 24/7 Hurricane Rita coverage on television rather extensively and the oft-repeated comments by local Houston officials, at the time the threat from Rita was aimed at Galveston-Houston, was for residents who remained behind to expect FEMA to roll 48 hours after the storm had passed through the area.

That makes the carping I'm reading in the Chronicle this morning appear a little quick on the draw. Why the mayor of Port Arthur has his knickers in a twist over FEMA failing to supply people who did not evacuate as instructed and people who have returned when they were specifically told not to by the Governor of Texas is beyond me.

Mayor Bill White of Houston, who along with Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, held regular press conferences during week-long preparations last week in anticipation of Rita's landfall, complimented the cooperation and participation of FEMA officials any number of times and there was specific talk of FEMA's pre-landfall staging of assets and supplies. But it was repeatedly emphasized that local and state governments were the designated emergency first-responders, not FEMA, and that FEMA would hit the ground 48 hours after the hurricane had passed.

Could it be that the lion's share, if not all of FEMA's assets and supplies were staged in or near Houston and that the principal problem now is one of getting it all up the coast to hurricane-ravaged areas along the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast border? The Chronicle report isn't clear on this other than offering the following:

Andre Wimer, city manager of Nederland said he was tired of getting the run-around from federal officials.

"We spend the day faxing and talking, and we don't get any feedback," Wimer said.

"I realize that there is a significant logistics issue, and I appreciate that. But there is a significant amount of equipment and manpower sitting at (local FEMA headquarters), and for whatever reason, it has not been released," Wimer said.

Regardless, looks as though President Bush will be taking it on the chin again. Some things never seem to change. He's already on the hook for the levees breaking again in New Orleans.

FOLLOW-UP: I think it's fair to say that the Bush Administration hasn't been treated objectively by the Associated Press. I find it interesting, therefore, that in this AP story FEMA isn't taken to task anywhere near as hard as in the Houston Chroncile piece. Readers' "Comments" would be appreciated in evaluating the thrust of the two MSM articles and how FEMA fares in each.


RUFFINI'S SEPTEMBER STRAW POLL (VOTE HERE)

We've done this before -- it's time for Patrick Ruffini's Straw Poll and you can link to it right here and cast your vote.

As with last month's edition, you'll vote for the candidate of your choice on the "Main Ballot" and then determine on the "Fantasy Ballot" if you prefer one of those candidates were they, in an ideal world, running. If, however, you want to stick with your "Main Ballot" choice, then merely select "Keep My Vote The Same" on the "Fantasy Ballot."

Do remember to indicate the state in which you're registered to vote.

A new feature this month is that Patrick is giving you the ability to Tag your vote. Read his instructions. This is a novel idea.

I'm disappointed that Newt Gingrich, who was added to the Straw Poll ballot in August has been removed from it in September. He's not even on the "Fantasy Ballot." He remains my first choice at this juncture; but, alas, to participate I'll have to go with another, probably George Allen.

Why Bill Frist is on the "Main Ballot" eludes me. What's Patrick thinking? Frist is about as viable a presidential nominee for the Republican Party as I am an Olympic marathoner. Harry Reid regularly eats Bill Frist's lunch. Frist ought to go back to doctoring full-time.

So, vote now!