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Ed Driscoll

The Perfect Storm

A couple of posts by Ace of Spades should be bring a modicum of comfort to GOP voters:

If, as we are all now saying, “the polls were right,” then they were right pre-Sandy, too. If they weren’t right pre-Sandy, why is the left covering Nate Sliver with laurels? His entire thesis was “the polls are right,” and not just at the end, but the whole way through.

Datum: Bush was ahead in polls by 3 points going into the 2000 election. Then the DUI story broke on the weekend before the election. He wound up losing the popular vote by around 0.5%. Late breaking news which had a greatly disproportionate impact on the vote. Its importance was not due to its actual importance — its importance was due solely to its recency.

What if the whole election was swung by a random Black Swan event which had nothing to do with anything that was being debated throughout the past two years?

I think people are averse to crediting so much to chance and chaos.

And then there’s this:

The winning party talks up a realignment that will permanently keep them in power. The losing party is despondent at that notion– they sense it’s true. How can we beat anyone, the losing party things, if we cannot beat this unqualified, dishonest, smug, man who has set the country on a suicide mission which will destroy it?

Why can’t the country see through the Imperial Presidency of this corrupt corporate cronyist? What’s wrong with America? What’s wrong with us?

The losing party thinks they’ll never win an election again.

And then…

I won’t spoil the surprise if you haven’t read it yet.

Update: Allahpundit isn’t so sure about how many Sandy intervened in the election.

Marathon Mike

November 2nd, 2012 - 8:50 am

“‘We Need Food, We Need Clothing’: Staten Island Residents Plead for Help 3 Days After Sandy,” ABC reports. However, as the New York Daily News notes, such horror stories aren’t preventing Mike Bloomberg from focusing on more important mayoral duties:

Desperately needed food, water and generators were being rushed Thursday to Sandy-ravaged Staten Island while local leaders blasted the city’s “idiotic” plan to stage the New York City Marathon in the midst of the crisis.

Staten Island Councilman James Oddo urged Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider, especially while rescue efforts are still underway on the hard-hit South Shore.

“The notion of diverting even one police officer, one first responder, one asset away from this carnage is beyond irrational,” the Republican lawmaker told The Daily News.

“The mayor said to me, ‘We’re not going to diminish what is happening on Staten Island.’ You know what happens on marathons – you put a cop on every corner. How are we going to have enough resources?”

Speaking of which, the New York Times evidently has enough resources, in spite of the myriad disasters caused by Sandy, to run stories such as this article yesterday: “A Restroom Plan Can Reduce Worry:”

A raceday outfit. A prerace meal. A playlist. A warm-up routine.

And there is one more thing runners obsess over but are often too shy to discuss in public: making sure that digestive issues have been dealt with. “If you don’t address it or wing it then that’s when you lose valuable time in the marathon,” John Honerkamp, chief coach for New York Road Runners, said.

It is a vital part of any proper prerace routine, said Adam Banks, chief executive of NY SportsMed, a sports therapy practice. “Carrying that extra weight with you for 26 miles is extremely uncomfortable.”

That’s why 1,750 portable restrooms, from A Royal Flush, are placed at the start of the New York City Marathon.

“A lot of runners laugh about it, but a really important component to having a good race is doing your prerace business,” said Beth Risdon, a running coach and running blogger.

No really — that’s an actual headline and the first paragraphs of an article in the most important paper in the most important city in the world in a time of natural disaster.

Gray Lady Down, indeed.

(Cross-posted at Instapundit.)

It’s the Personal Touch That Counts

August 29th, 2012 - 2:22 pm

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

“There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

Obama on the evils of automation, June of 2011.

“Obama Honored Fallen SEALs By Sending Their Parents a Form Letter Signed By Electric Pen.”

Gateway Pundit today. Click over for the photos.

As Ace writes in response, “Obama Is Officially Trying To Lose This Race” — additionally confirmed by these dueling headlines linked to by the Drudge Report just now:

“Carney: Obama ‘Did Not’ Watch Republican Convention, Instead Watched Sports.”

“McConnell: Obama prepping for PGA, not presidency.”

But hey, the man needs to relax, eat his waffle, and kick back with some ESPN at night, given what his day job entails: “Just a reminder: Obama campaigning today, doing online chat while storm pounds Louisiana.”

Urgent Memo to Mitch Landrieu

August 27th, 2012 - 5:03 pm

“This time, before the storm hits, please remember you have half a thousand buses to evacuate your citizens who need help this time,” Doug Ross writes, in an “Urgent Memo for the New Orleans Mayor.”

‘Not Understanding God’s Plan’

August 27th, 2012 - 3:26 pm

This just in from actor, theologian and meteorologist Samuel L. Jackson. Apologies in advance for the blast of Tarantino-esque language:

“Unfair Shit: GOP spared by Issac ! NOLA prolly Fucked Again! Not understanding God’s plan!”

Why do liberals root for hurricanes so often?

“Has God forsaken the Republican Party?…Weather forecasts show that a storm, likely to grow into Hurricane Isaac, may be chugging toward . . . Tampa, where Republicans will open their quadrennial nominating convention on Monday.”

– Dana Milbank, the Washington Post, this past Tuesday.

“R convention delay due to Isaac: I guess God has ways to shut that whole thing down”

– Former Mich. Gov Jennifer Granholm turned Current TV newsreader, on Saturday.

“Samuel L. Jackson Upset God ‘Spared’ GOP From Hurricane, Quickly Apologizes.”

– Headline, Big Hollywood, today.

“Actress Ellen Barkin retweets wish for Isaac to wash pro-lifers out to sea; blames Twitchy.”

Headline at Twitchy.com today.

“Here’s an idea,” conservative blogger JWF quips today. “Barack Obama in his acceptance speech four years ago said he’s lower the sea levels. Doesn’t he have the power to simply command Hurricane Isaac to stop now?”

And speaking of four years ago, here’s a flashback to our video on that year’s crop of leftists rooting for hurricanes:

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(Yes, the title of the above video was inspired by one of the many great songs written by the first man on the moon.)

Last night, Glenn Reynolds featured the “Blog Comment of the Day,” which could be found at William A. Jacobson’s Legal Insurrection site:

“Fascinating that a man shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ as he mows down 35 people on an army base isn’t motivated by Islam… but a guy who has the same name as hundreds of others—and says nothing as he fires—is obviously a Tea Party zealot.”

As Glenn replied, “It’s all about the narrative.”

W. Joseph Campbell, the veteran journalist and author of Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, who blogs at his Media Myth Alert Website writes that the MSM is “Slow to learn: Lesson for journos in Brian Ross’ egregious error on ABC.” But they’re only lessons to be learned if the MSM considers itself to be in the reporting business. They do not — they’re in the business of advancing narratives which help advance the right (read: left) politics:

How did Ross — a veteran television reporter whose ABC biography unabashedly declares him “one of the most honored and respected journalists in the country” — come to disseminate “information before it was properly vetted”?

ABC’s apology didn’t say.

It may have been that Ross was excessively eager to be first in reporting a linkage to a conservative political movement. He may have been unable to restrain his ideological inclinations. He may have been misled by a producer.

Whatever the reason, his error on a television program that attracts 4.5 million viewers was inexcusable — and eminently preventable.

In the swirling uncertainty that invariably marks the hours after a disaster, journalists are well-served to show deliberation and restraint, to be mindful that error and distortion often blight the first reports of dramatic events.

I discuss this phenomenon in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, noting that “it is a near-certainty that erroneous reports will circulate in a disaster’s immediate aftermath.”

I also point out in Getting It Wrong:

“By recognizing that implausible rumors and exaggerated casualty tolls almost always are among the first effects of major disasters, journalists may spare themselves considerable embarrassment and their audiences great confusion.”

Getting It Wrong revisits the badly flawed news reporting of Hurricane Katrina’s assault on New Orleans in 2005 — which offers enduring if unlearned lessons for journalists about the near-certainty of error in disaster coverage.

The reporting about Katrina’s destructive assault, I write, “was in important respects flawed and exaggerated. On crucial details, journalists erred badly, and got it wrong.”

The MSM’s response to all of that would be a loud, “So what?” As always, the narrative trumps all. From their point of view, Katrina wasn’t botched; as the New York Times said the previous year when it dismissed Dan Rather’s RatherGate debacle, it was merely “fake but accurate.” The media’s truthiness in Katrina ultimately served a higher purpose, which could be seen in the election results the following year and in 2008.

And so what if Brian Ross is fired from ABC? Vivian Schiller of NPR can fire Juan Williams for a thoughtcrime that he expressly stated he didn’t act upon, recommend Soviet-style psychiatry for him, and bounce back on her feet (or “fail upward,” as Stacy McCain recently put it) as “Chief Digital Officer” at NBC News’ Internet division. If you thought NBC was rather biased now…

And speaking of Rather-biased, Dan Rather is still working on TV, albeit he’s now found in the bowels of your DirecTV guide instead of at the top of it; and to bring a decade worth of disastrous network news “reporting” full circle, recently wrote — or at least put his name atop — a new article at CNN.

Ross will do fine, whether at ABC or some other bastion of old media “journalism.” From the point of view of either his current or future employers, his was a job well done yesterday.

Related: From Joel Gehrke at the Washington Examiner, “A Short, Incomplete History of Media Trying To Tie The Tea Party To Tragedies.”

Update: Yesterday, Jim Treacher wrote:

This goes beyond speculating about a murderer’s motives. This is slandering an individual who had nothing to do with a terrible crime, while the families of the victims are still reeling, just because of his political beliefs. You’d think liberals and the media (pardon the redundancy) would’ve learned something after Gabby Giffords and all those other people got shot, and somehow it became Sarah Palin’s fault. But again, learning from their mistakes: What’s in it for them?

Check back in November for the answer to that. Or ask Jay Carney.

Convention Clusterfark Bad Omen for Dems?

June 26th, 2012 - 12:49 pm

According to the lefty Talking Points Memo site, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is the latest Democrat to bail on her party’s presidential convention:

“In years when Claire is on the ballot, she has historically not gone to the convention,” the aide said, “because she believes it’s important to stay in Missouri to talk to voters.”

The aide stressed that McCaskill did not attend the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when she was running for governor of Missouri.

Interesting comparison to that convention; and more on past conventions in just a moment. But first, let’s do a head count. Are we up to seven Democrats now? Last Wednesday, The Daily reported, “At least half a dozen Democratic officials have said in recent days that they won’t attend the Democratic National Convention this September in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the president will formally receive the party’s nomination for a second term:”

The latest: New York Democratic Reps. Bill Owens and Kathy Hochul, both of whom won special elections in recent years – in 2009 and 2011, respectively – that were heralded by party leaders.

“I guarantee that my time will be better spent meeting the farmers, small business owners and other people who put me here,” Hochul told The Daily today.

A spokesman for Owens gave a similar explanation.

“He just has a packed schedule back home,” he said.

This comes on the heels of Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz saying he’d opt out, and a trio of West Virginia Democrats — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall — all doing the same. Even though most of the convention-skippers have claimed they’d simply rather spend time back home, the political undertones are clear. After all, these Democrats share one thing in common: They answer to a conservative-leaning electorate that, at best, views Obama with a great deal of skepticism.

So skipping a late-summer convention that doubles as a love-fest for Obama is something of a political no-brainer, especially considering the fact that a week full of extravagant parties doesn’t make for the best optics with the country still in the midst of a fragile economic recovery.

“It’s an easy way to make a statement that you’re independent,” said Democratic strategist Steve Murphy. “There are tight districts where Obama’s not doing particularly well, and it makes sense from a political perspective for these folks. But I’m not sure how much difference it makes. After all, they’re going to have to defend their voting records either way.”

Perhaps the reduction in attendees isn’t just limited to vulnerable politicians.  “Facing a major deficit, Democrats are scaling back on their convention festivities,” Erika Johnsen writes at Hot Air:

Democrats canceled a political convention kick-off event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and will move the activities to Charlotte’s main business district, the convention’s host committee announced. …

The move comes as party planners are grappling with a fundraising deficit of roughly $27 million, according to two people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss internal party politics. With a party ban on direct contributions from corporations, the host committee has raised less than $10 million, well short of its $36.6 million goal, said one of the people. …

In January, Steve Kerrigan, chief executive officer of the convention committee, said that Democrats were shortening their convention from four days to three “to make room for a day to organize and celebrate the Carolinas, Virginia and the South and kick off the convention at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Labor Day,” Sept. 3.

Kerrigan also announced that Obama would accept his party’s nomination at the almost 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers professional football team. The outdoor finale would echo Obama’s convention speech at Invesco Field in Denver four years ago. …

Republicans have not placed any restrictions on where they raise money and have secured corporate contributions from such companies as AT&T Inc. (T), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO) to meet their $55 million target.

As Big Government’s John Sexton adds:

Of course the Charlotte Motor Speedway hasn’t moved since January, so why is this just becoming a problem now? Bloomberg News has the answer. “With a party ban on direct contributions from corporations, the host committee has raised less than $10 million, well short of its $36.6 million goal…” Ouch! Less than ten million is bad. It’s also vague. How much less than ten million did they raise?

With Democrats unable to raise even one-third of their fundraising goal, they were forced to cut a few more corners off their already stunted convention. They’ll need whatever money is left to outfit the 74,000 seat Carolina Panthers football stadium for Obama’s nomination acceptance speech. Hopefully Britney Spears’ set designer can come up with another colonnade of Doric columns on the cheap.

Usually any shortfalls in corporate campaign cash are quickly made up for by the Democrats’ union friends. In this case, that’s not happening because of more poor planning by Democrats. North Carolina is a right-to-work state, so unions “have been reluctant to contribute to the convention because Charlotte lacks unionized hotels and is in a state where compulsory union membership or the payment of dues is prohibited as an employment condition.”

When Hurricane Gustav slammed through the Gulf states in late August of 2008 and caused the GOP to lose a day of their presidential convention, Michael Moore and Don Fowler, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, both bragged that it was proof that, as Fowler was caught on video uttering, “This just proves that God is on our side.” So if that presidential convention woes are a precursor to disaster in November of 2008, what to make of this year’s clusterfark on the opposite side of the aisle?

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Or thuggishness, misanthropy and nihilism, depending upon how you look at it, as our enlightened betters on the left demonstrate their love of mankind:

Or to sum it all up, “We’re not really people to them. It’s not an accident that New York Times columnist referred to his critics on Twitter as “right-wing lice.” — and as someone noted on Twitter, not at all getting — or losing too much sleep over — the historical eliminationist rhetoric implicit in such a phrase.

The Ottawa Citizen reports, “Hurricane experts admit they can’t predict hurricanes early; December forecasts too unreliable:”

Two top U.S. hurricane forecasters, famous across Deep South hurricane country, are quitting the practice of making a seasonal forecast in December because it doesn’t work.

William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say a look back shows their past 20 years of forecasts had no predictive value.

The two scientists from Colorado State University will still discuss different probabilities of hurricane seasons in December. But the shift signals how far humans are, even with supercomputers, from truly knowing what our weather will do in the long run.

Fancy that — weather and climate experts seemed much more confident a decade ago:

The New York Times was also pretty despondent about snowfalls never returning to New Yorkback then.

RFK Jr. also wrote in the L.A. Times in September of 2008 that global warming has made snow in the DC region “so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don’t own a sled.”

That was before “Snowmageddon” arrived in the region in February 2010…which was also blamed on global warming by Time magazine.

Whoops, sorry, that was Don Fowler, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, back in late August of 2008, when Hurricane Gustav caused the first day of the 2008 Republican convention to be scrubbed:

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Similarly, Michael Moore added back then, “I was just thinking, this Gustav is proof that there is a God in Heaven,” when interviewed by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

This past Friday, Charles Krauthammer tweeted, “Earthquake, hurricane, Obamacare. When does it stop? Seven more and I vote we let the Israelites go…” It’s a funny line, and nobody thought that Krauthammer was directly invoking biblical wrath.

Responding to Michelle Bachmann expressing similar sentiments to Krauthammer, Ed Morrissey adds:

Bachmann certainly didn’t follow it up with warnings about God’s wrath, as one might if arguing this point seriously. Instead, her comments pointed to wrath of a kind more consequential in elections:

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’” Bachmann said at a campaign event in Sarasota, Florida on Sunday.

“Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending,” she said.

So yes, it’s a joke, which would be apparent to everyone who isn’t obsessing about the Dominionists and their secret plans to join the Illuminati, the Bildebergers, and the Freemasons to impose a Christian theocracy on the United States, in conjunction with space aliens. But at least the media is rational enough to tell us that space aliens know how to stimulate an economy.

When they’re not rhetorically rooting for hurricanes themselves — just so long as they don’t sail up Park Avenue, and risk blowing out the windows of the Grill Room of the Four Seasons.

Pretzel Logic

August 27th, 2011 - 2:51 pm

Two posts at Instapundit highlight the circular logic of today’s society. First up, check out this New York Times paragraph, and the text highlighted by Gerard van der Leun on Mayor Bloomberg’s evacuation plans for Hurricane Irene.

Or the lack thereof:

On Friday, city officials issued what they called an unprecedented order for the evacuation of about 370,000 residents of low-lying areas, warning that Hurricane Irene was such a threat that people living there simply had to get out. Officials also made what they said was another first-of-its-kind decision, announcing plans to shut down the city’s entire transit system Saturday — all 468 subway stations and 840 miles of tracks, and the rest of the nation’s largest mass transit network: thousands of buses in the city, as well as the buses and commuter trains that reach from Midtown Manhattan to the suburbs. — Evacuations Ordered in New York as Hurricane Irene Nears – NYTimes.com

Mayor Bloomberg is one America’s most aggressive pushers of the Nanny State — but its escalating costs and concurrent dwindling demographics are rapidly turning it into the Granny State as Glenn Reynolds writes, leading an Insta-reader to ask:

Reader Clifford Grout writes: “Grandparents were often the family safety net before the fall of extended families and the rise of the welfare state. If we’ve come full circle, then… what’s the point of continuing the welfare state? Wondering…”

Empowering politicians and employing bureaucrats, apparently.

Sheesh. All of these double-standards are enough to make you want to find some politics-free entertainment somewhere.

Say, what’s on ESPN?

Related: “Hurricane Irene closes in on quiet, anxious NYC.”

Quote of the Day

August 23rd, 2011 - 7:54 pm

“People on twitter might be joking, but in all seriousness, we would see a bigger boost in spending and hence economic growth if the earthquake had done more damage.”

Paul Krugman, or his ghostwriter, today.

Presumably Japan had a sufficient quantity of broken windows for Krugman’s liking.

Update: I doubt that Krugman would appreciate the humor, but Michael Ramirez’s latest cartoon dovetails perfectly with his quote.

Update: Allahpundit on the complexities and contradictions of a Timesman:

Update: And here’s the man himself weighing in. It wasn’t his Google+ page. Duly noted, and I apologize for the error. But I hope he addresses the argument in the fake tweet on his blog. If World War II ended the Great Depression, why is it outrageous to think a Keynesian might see an economic boon to a natural calamity?

“If Paul Krugman is wondering how and why so many people–myself included–could have been taken in by the fake Google+ page put up in his name, all he needs to do is to go back over his previous writings,” Pejman Yousefzadeh adds.

Magnitude 5.9 Earthquake in Virginia

August 23rd, 2011 - 11:51 am

As Instapundit notes, “A magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Virginia:”

UPDATE: Readers felt it as far away as Baltimore, Delaware, and Lehigh, Pennsylvania.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hard to believe, but reader Eric Halpern says he felt it in Hartford: “My vertical blinds were rocking back and forth, and we all came out of our offices to ask, ‘Did you feel that?’”

My mom in South Jersey just called to tell me she and her neighbors felt the quake as well. She described it as feeling the floor was about to cave in, and then turned on the TV to see shots of office workers leaving their swaying skyscrapers in Philadelphia and NYC on the TV news. That jibes with what Tina Korbe at Hot Air writes: “Numerous bystanders and longtime residents evacuated from buildings in New York said they hadn’t felt shaking like this since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The same thought echoed in the corridors of the Pentagon, too.”

Bryan Preston has continuous updates and links at the Tatler.

Update: But of course: “Obama Golfing in Martha’s Vineyard When Earthquake Hit.”

Drudge is wondering if more smiting is soon to come: “As Hurricane Irene barrels north towards the Florida coast, it is looking more and more likely the storm will make a big splash on the D.C. region this weekend.”

Filed under: The Perfect Storm

One Million Gone in 30 Seconds

July 18th, 2011 - 12:49 pm

“1 Million Dead in 30 Seconds” — that’s one scary headline on Claire Berlinski’s new City Journal article:

While it is very expensive to tear down and replace, or reinforce, inadequate housing, it isn’t expensive at all to bolt heavy goods to the walls or to move heavy furniture away from beds. Rarely is this done in Istanbul. The odd thing is that everyone does fear the coming quake. Last year, a minor jolt panicked the city and sent the Turkish word for earthquake, deprem, to the top of Twitter’s trending topics, but almost no one knows what to do if it happens, or cares to know. I know many people in Istanbul who are wealthy enough to live in safer buildings but don’t.

They are fully aware of the risk. When asked why they don’t do anything about it, they shrug. They’re fatalistic. Most Turks think day to day, not long-term.

Contrast Turkey with Japan, where “there’s no such thing as an honest mistake,” as one American who has lived there for years puts it. “Every mistake is a moral failure. In other words, you should have worked harder, you should have prepared better, you should have been more careful. So even their [emergency] practice drills have to be rehearsed. Everybody has practiced.” After the March quake, journalist Kirk Spitzer, who lives in Japan, wrote about the culture of earthquake preparedness there: “Our shelves are lined with rubberized material to keep glasses and plate-ware from sliding; nothing fell over and broke, not even delicate champagne glasses we brought from Paris. Elsewhere, floor-mounted latches kept bedroom and hallway doors from slamming or breaking loose. Picture rails built into the ceiling kept even heavy frames from crashing to the floor.”

Ordinary, middle-class Japanese people take these steps to protect their drinking glasses. Many museums in Istanbul fail to take similar steps to protect priceless sculptures, ceramics, and cuneiform. They sit unsecured on pedestals or underneath light fixtures that would fall on them in heavy shaking. The storage rooms, according to people who work in them, are a hazard zone. This isn’t a matter of comparative wealth; it’s a matter of culture.

You see a similar failure to turn worry into action at the governmental level. Local officials in the municipality of Beşiktaş have elaborate earthquake plans—they showed them to me in a PowerPoint presentation. But they exist only on PowerPoint, where they have existed since 2008 without any progress made toward implementation. This is characteristic of the great majority of earthquake plans drawn up in Turkey since the 1999 quake. No one knows about them—certainly not the public; they look quite thorough, but they do not translate into action. No one seems to have the authority to act on the plans. No one seems to have the authority to release whatever funds would be needed to implement them. No one seems even to know who would have that authority. The funds and grants awarded by various international development agencies for retrofitting and earthquake preparation simply disappear.

Fatalism kills. Short-term thinking kills. But above all, corruption kills. On the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, Nicholas Ambraseys and Roger Bilham published an extraordinary study in Nature. Using data from Transparency International’s Corruptions Perception Index, they calculated that 83 percent of all deaths from building collapses in earthquakes in the past 30 years took place in countries that were “anomalously corrupt”—that is, in countries that were perceived to be more corrupt than you would predict from their per-capita income.

* * *

A quarter of a million people were killed in Haiti, and God knows how many more were maimed, physically and emotionally, by collapsing buildings. This will happen again and again, in larger and larger numbers, with ever-weepier celebrity telethons to accompany the carnage. But you’ll see no calls to save the world from corrupt building practices on your grocery bags at Whole Foods. Nobody will suggest that the American government enter into seismic risk reduction treaties with other nations.

Spin the wheel: Bogotá, Cairo, Caracas, Dhaka, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Katmandu, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, New Delhi, Quito, Tehran. It will be one of them. It isn’t too late to save them. But we need to say the truth about why they’re at risk in the first place.

You know what to do next.

Quote of the Day, Early Entrant

June 15th, 2011 - 7:58 am

“Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired President of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, have been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom. I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.”

Conan O’Brien, during his recent commencement address at Dartmouth. The president he’s referring to is George H.W. Bush, who was voted out of office in 1992 for Bill Clinton.

And I guarantee that we’ll see even more damning examples of what’s wrong with America in the next year and a half.

Like a Hurricane

June 1st, 2011 - 2:25 pm

At MSNBC, not surprisingly, it’s two networks in one, as James Taranto notes in today’s Best of the Web column:

Economic Disaster, Take 2
Our friends at NewsBusters.org offer this priceless juxtaposition from the MSNBC website. According to a report yesterday, natural disasters help explain the high unemployment rate:

Sadly not all workers have been so lucky. Their homes or places of business have been destroyed in this year’s wave of storms, tornadoes and flooding. That means thousands of workers in the South and Midwest could be out of work for some time, potentially pushing up the nation’s jobless rate and further taxing financially strapped state unemployment funds.

But an MSNBC report in 2004, when unemployment was much lower and a Republican was in the White House, made the opposite claim

Economists, who have been burned over the past few months by reports that fell short of expectations, are once again looking for a solid report, partly because of an expected rebound after four hurricanes tore through Florida and other southern states in August and September.

The 2004 report also observes: “With the election over, the monthly employment report due Friday lacks the sense of urgency and drama of recent months, when the closely watched figures were apt to set off waves of political rhetoric and spin.” Plus ça change!

No wonder it’s so hard for the left to decide when it’s the proper time to root for a hurricane.

As always, life imitates Monty Python:

Mr Verybigliar: (Michael Palin) Well there is a considerable financial advantage in using the services of El Mystico. A block, like Mystico Point here, (indicating a high-rise block behind him) would normally cost in the region of one-and-a-half million pounds. This was put up for five pounds and thirty bob for Janet.

Voice Over: But the obvious question is are they safe?

(Cut to an architect’s office. The architect at his desk. Behind him on the wall are framed photos of various collapsed buildings. He is a well-dressed authoritative person.)

SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: ‘MR CLEMENT ONAN, ARCHITECT TO THE COUNCIL’

Architect (Graham Chapman): Of course they’re safe. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. They are as strong, solid and as safe as any other building method in this country provided of course people believe in them.

Think Progress, last week: “Catastrophic Climate: Storms Kill 292 In States Represented By Climate Pollution Deniers.”

And yes once again, the left are rooting for hurricanes. Fire make sky gods angry!

Related: Weather is Not Climate Unless People Die.”

Creative Self-Destruction at the New Yorker

March 22nd, 2011 - 8:58 am

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James Surowiecki of the New Yorker is the latest writer to declare the broken windows fallacy invalid if the destruction is large enough:

In a study of eighty-nine countries, the economists Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya, after controlling for every variable they could think of, found that countries that suffered more climatic disasters actually grew faster and were more productive. This seems bizarre: it’s close to the broken-windows fallacy identified by the nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat—the idea that breaking windows is economically useful, because it makes work for glaziers. But Skidmore and Toya argue that disaster-stricken economies don’t simply replace broken windows, as it were; they upgrade infrastructure and technology, and shift investment away from older, less productive industries. (After the Kobe quake, the city’s plastic-shoe factories never returned.) In Horwich’s somewhat ruthless phrase, disasters can function as a form of “accelerated depreciation.” Something similar often happens on the level of the individual consumer: homeowners rebuilding after a disaster take the opportunity to upgrade, a phenomenon known as “the Jacuzzi effect.” In ordinary times, inertia keeps old technologies in place; it may be easier to make dramatic changes when you have to start from scratch.

See also the epistemically-closed Paul Krugman declaring World War II to be the economic “Miracle of the 1940s.”

But note the double-bind argument also at work here as it was among those like Krugman who reflexively urged bigger and bigger FDR-style “stimulus” projects upon President Obama: if you’re as obsessed with global warming as the average leftist, isn’t “the jacuzzi effect,” not to mention the much larger components of this rebuilding effort bad for the environment, since it encourages additional electrical use and increases a homeowners’ carbon footprint?

Let’s ask John Kerry and Thomas Friedman!

(On the other hand, considering some of the worst of the legacy media’s coverage of Japan helps to place the above into context.)

Arguably, Keynes’ most famous bon not these days is that “In the long run we are all dead” — something that Japan knows first-hand considering its demographic woes, and Europe’s economy isn’t far behind, Robert Samuelson writes at Real Clear Politics, advising us to “Pray for Japan, Worry for Europe:”

Europe has arrived at this dismal juncture driven by three forces: (a) large welfare states that were too often financed with debt; (b) the financial crisis that led to recession and has pushed some countries (Ireland, Spain) to aid their banks; (c) the perverse side effects of the single currency, the euro.

The euro’s role is especially ironic. Adopted in 1999 — and now used by 17 nations — the euro was intended to promote prosperity and political unity. Countries could enjoy similarly low interest rates and the convenience of common money. It seemed to work for a while. But low interest rates in Greece, Spain and Ireland encouraged unsustainable booms or housing bubbles that, when burst, aggravated their recessions and budget deficits. Now unity has turned to discord. Countries that back the debt bailout — particularly Germany — resent the possible costs; countries being bailed out resent the harsh austerity that’s imposed as a condition of aid.

There is a fragile debtor-creditor consensus that could crumble, posing yet another danger to economic recovery. Already, unemployment rates in Greece and Ireland hover around 13 percent. How much budget stringency (spending cuts, tax increases) will countries accept before social unrest or national pride cause politicians to say “enough”? Even European countries not facing an immediate debt problem need to reduce budget deficits to retain market confidence. All confront a common dilemma. Too much austerity too quickly could create a recession, widening deficits. Too little austerity too slowly could unnerve investors, raising interest rates and deficits.

It’s understandable that the human suffering, physical destruction and nuclear hazards in Japan compel our attention. But we ought to remember that a greater menace to global stability and prosperity lies halfway around the world.

And caused by a similar conjunction as Japan’s fiscal woes: decades of Keynesian welfare state spending on steroids, ultimately combined with a graying and shrinking population.

The Costanza Administration

March 19th, 2011 - 7:25 am

Profiles from the future of litigation: “The following memo was unearthed as part of the litigation, now entering its 50th year, over the Great Japan Nuclear Incident of 2011. Addressed to General Electric’s then-CEO Jeff Immelt, the memo appears to have been drafted by an executive in the company’s office of strategy:”

None of us at GE needs to be reminded that there is no natural “private” market for nuclear reactors. All our customers are governments, government-owned companies, or nominally private companies regulated by government. In the U.S., demand for reactors depends on the availability of federal loan guarantees and the Price-Anderson nuclear indemnity law (private insurance being unavailable for nuclear reactors).

Politics thus being the mother’s milk of the nuclear business, GE’s Institute of Ecomagination (aka our Washington lobbying shop) highlights a disturbing new correlation: Whenever President Obama endorses an energy option, disaster promptly ensues. His ringing support of expanded offshore drilling came just weeks before the BP oil spill. The Japanese reactor mess followed not long after he lauded nuclear energy as a weapon to fight global warming.

On the site Politico.com, George Mason University political scientist Jeremy Mayer recently opined: “I don’t think Obama’s cursed on energy policy, but this is a string of bad luck.”

We disagree. Though on the advice of PR we’ve stopped referring to it as the “Obama Black Swan Effect,” this powerful yet mysterious indicator is too important to ignore. Accordingly, this office recommends a new corporate strategy: Whatever Mr. Obama says, GE should do the opposite, starting with investing in coal-burning power-plants and health care reprivatization.

This, of course, would represent a 180-degree reversal of current GE strategy, informally known around headquarters as the “jump how high?” strategy. This office nevertheless believes the evidence warrants such a change in direction.

As always, whatever Obama recommends, bet on the opposite. As I wrote in December:

Then: Joe Biden seen as example of Seinfeldian opposite theory, akin to George Costanza in the New York Yankees’ front office, a comparatively plodding backbencher tapped to join a political juggernaut.

NOW: Joe Biden seen as example of Seinfeldian opposite theory, the comparatively grown-up voice of sanity and reason in an otherwise hapless trainwreck of an administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s foreign policy hasn’t exactly been made for this plane of reality, either:

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tells National Review Online that President Obama is dithering on Libya. “Every hour that goes by shows me how [Obama] is not ready for this,” he says. “I am feeling sick to my stomach that we are into something where the president does not know what he is doing.”

Mr. Ambassador — we all have that feeling — for well over two years now.

Quote of the Day

March 18th, 2011 - 3:20 pm

“Dear News Media:”

Remember back in ’50s and early ’60s, when we set off something like 900 atomic bombs in Nevada? And how we just let the fallout blow wherever and it landed all over the eastern US? And how it wiped out life as we know it and all that was left from Colorado to the Atlantic were six-legged rats battling two-headed cockroaches in the glowing ruins?

Yeah. Exactly. So shut up with the panic already.

(Via Small Dead Animals.)

Update: On the other hand, it’s a small but perfectly formed panic: “CNN sends 400 reporters to royal wedding, only 50 sent to Japan.”