September 25, 2005
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here’s an NPR story on PorkBusters and the Bozeman, Montana move to reject pork in favor of Katrina relief.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here’s an NPR story on PorkBusters and the Bozeman, Montana move to reject pork in favor of Katrina relief.
I’LL BE ON PUNDIT REVIEW RADIO shortly.
THE NEW YORK TIMES’ REPORTING on New Orleans gun confiscation apparently conflicts with sworn testimony by city officials, which raises some questions.
IT’S TIME FOR The Carnival of the Cats!
THE MAIN QUAD is a site that rounds up academic bloggers, both faculty and student.
NOW THAT’S PORKBUSTING: Over at Chicagoboyz, a revised federal budget that yields a $347.47 billion surplus.
MARK STEYN: “American politics seems to have dwindled down to a choice between a big government party and a big permanently-out-of-government party. . . . Big-time Republicans tell me Bush’s profligacy is doing a great job of neutralizing the Dem advantage in the spending-is-caring stakes. This may have been true initially — in the same sense as undercover cops neutralize a massive heroin-smuggling operation by infiltrating it. But, if they’re still running the heroin operation five years later, it looks less like neutralization and more like a change of management.”
SPACE ELEVATOR UPDATE: Arthur C. Clarke weighs in, in an oped in The Times:
In 1969, the giant multistage rocket, discarded piecemeal after a single mission, was the only way of doing the job. That the job should be done was a political decision, made by a handful of men. (I have only recently learnt that Wernher von Braun used my The Exploration of Space (1952) to convince President Kennedy that it was possible to go to the Moon.) As William Sims Bainbridge pointed out, space travel is a technological mutation that should not really have arrived until the 21st century. But thanks to the ambition and genius of von Braun and Sergei Korolev, and their influence upon individuals as disparate as Kennedy and Khrushchev, the Moon — like the South Pole — was reached half a century ahead of time.
If Nasa resumes lunar missions by 2018, that timing would be just about right: it will be only a year short of the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step”. But banking on solid rocket boosters to escape from Earth, as being planned, will not represent a big technological advance over the Apollo missions. Even if the spacecraft are reusable, it will still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch every kilogram into space. I think the rocket has as much future in space as dog sleds in serious Antarctic exploration. Of course, it is the only thing we have at the moment, so we must make the best use of it.
But I would urge Nasa to keep investing at least a small proportion of its substantial budget in supporting the research and development of alternatives to rockets. There is at least one idea that may ultimately make space transport cheap and affordable to ordinary people: the space elevator. . . .
As its most enthusiastic promoter, I am often asked when I think the first space elevator might be built. My answer has always been: about 50 years after everyone has stopped laughing. Maybe I should now revise it to 25 years.
Well, the laughter has pretty much stopped . . . .
ED MCNAMARA is doing more photoblogging from the pro-troops counterprotest in Washington today.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more photoblogging here.
MORE: David Adesnik — who was, unlike me, actually there — offers a comparison of styles between protesters and counterprotesters, though it comes out about the same in the end. I don’t understand, though, why calling members of the Workers’ World Party “communists” counts as pejorative, rather than descriptive.
However, he also makes this observation:
The Democratic Party, both in terms of official organizations and major politicians, stayed away from yesterday’s protests like the plague.
Combine that with the DailyKos criticism of the antiwar protesters, and I might almost conclude that there’s hope for the Democratic Party yet.
THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE offers an illustrated response to the Daily Kos’s list of protest do’s and don’ts.
MEN IN HIGHER EDUCATION: Missing in action?
135 women are graduating from college for every 100 men. The U.S. Department of Education projects that the gap will grow in coming years. Some sobering facts: The unemployment rate for men between the ages of 20 and 24 is 10.1%, or twice the national average. There are almost as many men in jail, on probation, and on parole (5,000,000) as there are men in college (7,300,000). Men with college educations earn an average of $47,000 per year; those whose education ended at the high school diploma earn an average of $30,000. What’s happening to young men’s prospects in this country is devastating. . . .
The question of why there are so few women in the hard sciences draws impassioned debate, urgent calls for equity, and lots and lots of money. But the question of why young men are disappearing from campus is not even being widely asked.
I notice, walking around campus, that there are almost always many more women in view than men.
UPDATE: Great minds think alike. While I was posting the above, the Insta-Wife (who has finally reactivated her long-dormant blog) was posting this.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Some readers think we need congressional hearings, in which university presidents are called upon to explain the shortage of male students. Okay, but give Larry Summers a pass — he’s suffered enough!
If so, others have my pheromonal powers, because reader Tracie Hampton emails:
I just read your entry mentioning 135 female college graduates to every 100 male grads to my husband Earl. He replied, “Is that all?” Recently retired from the USMC, my husband is currently attending East Carolina University in Greenville, NC where he is majoring in math and physics. He reports that his math and science classes are 90% male. In a class of ten students, one or two are female. In his general education classes, it’s the exact opposite. His U.S. History class has 65 students, 60 of them female. He estimates that while walking around campus between classes, the ratio of female and male students seems to run about 80/20.
It’s not that bad at UT, but maybe the Force is just stronger in Earl. He’s a Marine, after all . . . .
And my alleged powers apparently don’t apply to blood donations.
ALGERIA: Radical Islamists have been largely shut down, but now Berber activists are getting more active.
THE COUNTER-TERROR BLOG REPORTS:
Only days after Al-Qaida announced the completion of its latest campaign of violence aimed at avenging alleged “massacres” of Sunni Muslims in Tel Afar by the U.S. and Iraqi government, there are growing indications that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida acolytes may be facing the most serious political and operational challenges they have encountered since they first joined the anti-coalition insurgency in mid-2003. The deadly glut of suicide bombings that began on September 8 has undoubtedly caused destruction and chaos–but militants were neither able to undermine the anti-insurgent operation in Tel Afar nor deter Iraqi government efforts to formulate a constitution.
Read the whole thing, and note the Saudi angle.
A FRIST FINANCIAL SCANDAL?
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is facing questions from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission about his sale of stock in his family’s hospital company one month before its price fell sharply.
How much does this mean? Beats me. Jonah Goldberg isn’t sure either:
I doubt Frist is so stupid as to do what some allege. But I see nothing wrong with the appropriate agencies investigating Frist’s blind-trust stock sale. If anybody sees a good argument why it shouldn’t be investigated, I’d be curious to take a look. But as far as I’m concerned, it sounds like the right thing to do in a fairly no-brainer way. If he did something wrong the investigation is obviously warranted. If he didn’t, the investigation should clear him. Exoneration is as important a function as conviction.
Professor Bainbridge, meanwhile — who specializes in this area of law — has a lengthy and useful post on what’s going on.
Regardless of what happens with this case, it’s the second term of an Administration, so we’ll probably see a lot more of this sort of thing, real or bogus. That’s not all bad: I think that the coming years will be good ones for this book!
WARREN BEATTY AT A NURSES’ CONVENTION — and all he rips is Gov. Schwarzenegger? Boy, I guess people do change . . . .
UPDATE: Reader Aaron Pastula emails: “And is it me, or are the anti-antiwar protests getting larger? A perfunctory scan of the photo roundups seems to suggest it…”
I don’t know. There were some very large rallies in 2003, but not so many since. There seems to be a new wave of interest, though.
And Big Media blogger Jay Fitzgerald writes that he’s embarrassed by the poor quality of the protest coverage he’s seen from the MSM.
MORE: An interesting discussion of numbers in GayPatriot’s comments, but I don’t think there’s any credible argument that they match prewar numbers. It’s also worth noting that no mainstream Democrats are associating with these protests. If there were really broad grassroots support for this stuff, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, etc. would all be out front. Instead, they’re keeping their (very substantial) distance.
COULD RITA RETURN TO THE GULF? Jeez, I hope not.
G.M. ROPER looks at reportage from Iraq, with an assist from Chris Muir.
UPDATE: More criticism of the BBC’s reporting, too. Plus an illustration of what you can learn via Google. As Ken Layne famously wrote some years ago, “It’s 2001, and we can Fact Check your ass. And you, like many in the Hate America movement, are no longer able to dress your wretched ‘reporting’ in fiction. We have computers. It is not difficult to Find You Out, dig?”
Harvard University researchers have found that molecular markers indicating the presence of cancer in the body are readily detected in blood scanned by special arrays of silicon nanowires — even when these cancer markers constitute only one hundred-billionth of the protein present in a drop of blood. In addition to this exceptional accuracy and sensitivity, the minuscule devices also promise to pinpoint the exact type of cancer present with a speed not currently available to clinicians.
A paper describing the work will appear in October in the journal Nature Biotechnology and is now posted on the journal’s web site.
Bring it on.
FIND THE PORK: A Flash game by Sean Gleeson. What’s realistic is that, just like real legislation, the ultimate enemy is boredom — I got 18 in a row, then gave up.
JEFF GOLDSTEIN DECONSTRUCTS a story on the anti-war protests by Jennifer Kerr of the AP. “Perhaps it’s too much to ask that our media simply report on the story without taking sides.”
UPDATE: Read the comments, which note some changes in the article, perhaps in response to criticism.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More criticism for Kerr here, with the suggestion that she save her prose stylings for an opinion piece, rather than reporting. Though the difference gets harder to discern . . . .
MORE: More Kerr-analysis here.
MORE STILL: Read this, from a Marine in Iraq, though it’s not specifically about Kerr.
And there’s this. Heh.
FORTUNE REPORTS on Alberta’s oil sands.
BUSINESS AT THE PRICE OF FREEDOM: An article on technology companies collaborating with the Chinese government:
All the major search engines have given in to Chinese demands to throttle liberty in exchange for access to the Chinese market. Google has removed news listing from its popular news search to publications critical of Chinese policy such as Epoch Times, Voice of America and a dozen other publications. Microsoft has blocked users of its MSN site from using the terms “freedom,” “democracy” and other concepts China has designated as “dangerous.”
THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE has a Medal of Honor story that’s worth reading.
GATEWAY PUNDIT HAS A ROUNDUP ON THE ANTIWAR PROTESTS (“I thought this was going to be an Anti-Iraq War Rally but it’s just a hodgepodge of extreme leftist groups taking turns at a microphone.”), while reader Brandon Marx emails:
I dont think that the anti-war rally is following the Daily Kos’ Do’s and Dont’s of protests. In 10 minutes I have heard that 1) the war is racist 2) Bush left the black and poor behind in New Orleans and 3) Bush is funding the horrible occupation of the Palestinian people. Also, 100,000? On C-Span I’m seeing a couple thousand tops.
When your advice on moderation comes from Daily Kos, you’re in trouble. Especially when you don’t follow it . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: More firsthand photoblogging, from Michelle Malkin, with graphic evidence that people aren’t following the Kos advice! (And go here, or just scroll down, for lots more photoblogging links).
MORE STILL: Bad reviews even at DailyKos: “Watching clips of the Answer Anti-War Rally, all I see are things that I want nothing to do with. . . . I watch this rally and see people basically supporting the Hamas, etc., and the suicide killings of innocent Israelis in cafes, on buses, etc.”
Which speaks well for you, but that’s who holds these rallies. As I said before, if there were an authentic grassroots anti-war movement, then the rallies wouldn’t be dominated by fringers. Reading the comments is interesting, because a lot of people are saying the kind of stuff about A.N.S.W.E.R. that I’ve been saying for years. That sounds like good news, to me. I support the war, but I’m not afraid of an intellectually and morally serious antiwar movement. We just haven’t had one of those.
STILL MORE: More photoblogging here.
American casualty rates for September are less than what they were the last few months. Attacks on infrastructure (including oil facilities) and civilians are down as well. Combat operations along the Syrian border, and throughout the Sunni Towns of central Iraq have made it much more difficult for terrorist groups to operate. There is still much support for terrorists among the Sunni Arab population, and many Sunni Arabs believe that, if the Coalition troops can be forced to leave, the Sunni Arab tribes can somehow subdue the Kurds and Shia Arabs, and regain control of the country. But the best opportunity for this was lost when the Sunni Arab dominated army and civil service was disbanded after the 2003 invasion. The army and civil service are now thoroughly Kurdish and Shia Arab, and this annoys the Sunni Arabs a great deal. But the Sunni Arabs have been in charge for so long (centuries, even under three centuries of Turkish domination), that they see it as their right to rule. Many other Sunni Arabs in the region, and many Europeans as well, agree.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: The Belmont Club: “But perhaps the strategic rationale for choosing Iraq versus Saudi Arabia consisted in that Iraq lay along a major fault line in the Muslim world, not simply with respect to religion, but in the case of the Kurds, ethnicity as well. It was the one place where America was guaranteed to find local allies whichever way it turned; it was the last place where the population could easily put aside their differences to oppose the United States. And if the objective were to set the region on its ears, here was the pillar in temple of Dagon around which everything could be sent crashing down. . . . However it began, OIF has unlocked forces that are rocking the foundations of the entire region. Saudi Arabia, for example, cannot but remember how the forces of an Iraqi state stopped just a few hours’ drive away from its gleaming cities in 1990, with nothing but the 82nd Airborne Division between the Republican Guard and the Royal Palaces. Now they are torn, truly torn, between their sympathies for the Sunni insurgency and the cold knowledge of its probable consequences. The one thing Arab capitals may fear more than a continuing American presence in Iraq is the possibility of an American withdrawal.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brad Bettin emails:
SP says disbanding the Sunni-dominated Iraqi army resulted in the new army being heavily Kurdish & Shia … making it less likely to support a Sunni effort to regain control of Iraq.
Perhaps disbanding the army – widely criticized as a mistake by anti-Bush forces – wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
JOHN LITTLE REPORTS that Houston dodged a bullet:
We got some pretty good winds in Midtown but it doesn’t look like damage is a problem. Flooding hasn’t been a problem either. I’ve lost satellite but I didn’t lose power.
He praises anti-looting efforts, which seem to have been quite successful, and notes that he has some spare beanie-weenies and bottled water. He also observes: “There’s no gas in the city, no shops open, and millions of people that might be rushing back. If you’re out of town and you can wait a day or two to return please do.”
UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has a hurricane news roundup: “The bottom line so far seems to be this: all three levels of government were better prepared for this storm, as they anticipated the worst and made preparations.”
ANN ALTHOUSE ON THE BBC: “Unbelievably smug.” Indeed.
UPDATE: “Relentless, clueless, and anti-American.” Indeed, again.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ted Nolan points out that even the NPR ombudsman has noticed:
The BBC also seems to portray aspects of Southern culture in a less than flattering light, especially in its interviews with local religious leaders who see Katrina as divine retribution for New Orleans’ “sinfulness.”
I am sure that the BBC is not inventing these interviews. But the effect is that it sounds less like reporting than like caricature. Public radio listeners likely understand what is going on — that BBC cultural assumptions about the United States remain mired in a reflex European opposition to American foreign policy. But what comes through the radio sounds mean-spirited and not particularly helpful; it probably evokes knowing glances and smirks among editors and producers back in London.
It’s producing knowing glances and smirks elsewhere, too — just of a different sort!
MORE: One of Ann’s commenters writes:
It’s very sad to see the severe degradation of the Atlantic relationships in recent years, but what can you do when the bridge is being burned from the other end?
ED MCNAMARA is photoblogging the pro-war protests in Washington.
Meanwhile, David Adesnik out-reports the Washington Post by noting what A.N.S.W.E.R. really stands for.
MORE: More photoblogging here — just keep scrolling.
MORE STILL: More photoblogging at BitchGirls, showing more Kos rules-violations.
HERE’S A ROUNDUP OF GULF COAST NEWS SOURCES. And, commenting on the TV coverage, reader Carlos Myers emails:
I’m starting to get bored with reporters giving us a “front row” seat when a hurricane makes landfall. It was impressive the first couple of times they did it, but it is now old hat and all I can say when I look at the sheer silliness of the melodrama is, “Do we really need this kind of reporting and is their play-by-play reporting really newsworthy?”
No, and no, in my opinion.
MORE PROTEST-SPINNING is noted.
THOUGHTS ON TEXAS AND RITA, from a military perspective.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A rather lame response from Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. The promise to get Michael Brown fired is pretty funny.
EUGENE VOLOKH HAS questions for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
JON HENKE has thoughts on polarization and the blogosphere.
ARMED CITIZENS are fending off looters in Houston. John Little has photos.
In addition, the Houston Police seem to be taking a harder line than the NOPD did:
Ready said officers would be very visible as long as weather conditions allow.
“We have put out the message that we are not going to tolerate looting and we have increased out presence and visibility,” Ready said.
Good. (Via Shawn Wasson).
A CIVIL LIBERTIES VICTORY:
The United States District Court for the Eastern District in Louisiana today sided with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and issued a restraining order to bar further gun confiscations from peaceable and law-abiding victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
MATT RUSTLER has taken up my suggestion to Google anti-war protesters mentioned in press accounts and has found, to his shock, that they’re not always the starry-eyed naifs that the news reports suggest.
“‘Novice’ protestor? Not hardly.”
Along, it seems, with its enablers in the press.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Matt Duffy continues to blog his ongoing efforts to get a straight answer on pork from Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and Rep. Tom Price.
Stay tuned. And if you’re in Georgia, why not give ‘em a call yourself (he provides the contact information) — maybe you’ll do better.
UPDATE: Reader David McCune emails:
I don’t think Republicans realize what they are dealing with here. There is now a margin-of-victory-sized block of voters that is up for grabs. I never thought I would say it, but if Nancy Pelosi is the only congressional leader who can dial back government, then maybe I need to re-think my party allegiance. At this point, I believe many small-government conservative are wondering whether the budget might not grow less with a Republican minority trying to slow down a Democrat majority, rather than our current majority trying to outspend the Democrat minority.
Yes, I think that they’re behind the curve on this, and it’s very risky for them. All the Democrats need is a candidate who’s not John Kerry, and they’ve got a shot.
MORE: Reader Rob Beile emails:
I just sent this to my congressman, John Shimkus…
When then Gov. Clinton lied to the country about smoking pot by saying “…I didn’t inhale”, I wasn’t angry that he lied to me. I was angry about the way he insulted my intelligence.
By the same token, when Mr. Delay says there’s no pork to cut….
AUSTIN BAY reports on what’s going on within Texas Emergency Management circles.
RON SILVER’S NEW DOCUMENTARY ON THE U.N. IS OUT:
“Broken Promises” has at its root the betrayed vision of an idealistic youth from the Lower East Side. Silver grew up in a modest Jewish neighborhood, and his way to escape his parochial world, where everyone was defined by ethnicity and race, he says, was to go to the U.N. and just wander around. . . .
There are interviews with peacekeepers on the failures of peacekeeping, including Canadian Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who wrote the famously ignored “genocide memo” months before nearly 1 million Rwandans were killed, in which he begged for reinforcements. Rwandan survivor Eugenie Mukeshimana appears 10 years later with the daughter she gave birth to in a container while hiding from machete-wielding Hutu killers. Former U.N. translator Hasan Nuhanovic describes how U.N. officers in Srebrenica ordered him to tell his family himself that they must leave the U.N. haven to face death by the Serbs.
One of the most stirring comments comes from Kenneth Cain, a civilian peacekeeper who co-wrote a book titled “Emergency Sex” about what Cain views as U.N. betrayals. It is liberals like him who should be most aggrieved, he says, because it is their ideals that have been most harshly sundered.
SIGH. New Orleans re-floods.
JEFF GOLDSTEIN HAS FURTHER THOUGHTS on intentionalism and interpretation.
THE 2006 AALS MEETING, previously scheduled for New Orleans, has been moved to Washington, DC. It will center on the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.
HUGH HEWITT IS OFFERING ADVICE to DSCC staffers.
HOG WILD: MICHELLE MALKIN launches a salvo at Alaska Republican porkmeister Don Young.
Meanwhile, John Tabin observes:
For the first time in a long time, fiscal restraint is both good policy and good politics. To turn his approval rating numbers around, Bush needs to shore up restless conservatives, and get behind — or better yet, in front of — calls for spending cuts to offset hurricane reconstruction. . . .
Bush has made some rhetorical glances toward spending cuts; last Friday, when he ruled out a tax increase to pay for post-hurricane reconstruction, he spoke of “cutting unnecessary spending.” But if he and his party are going to get credit for turning toward fiscal discipline, he needs to be more visible on this issue.
Yes, he does. Jonah Goldberg is less optimistic, though: “The porkbusters fight is fun now, but not since early cave men tried to train grizzly bears to give them tongue-baths has a project seemed more obviously doomed to end in disappointment. Expecting Congress — of either party — to give back pork which has already been approved and passed into law is like expecting crack whores to give refunds days after services have been rendered.”
UPDATE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Wooten signs on to PorkBusters: “Folks are invited to identify pork projects in our own backyards that could be delayed or scrapped altogether to help fund Katrina costs. The Web site is: truthlaidbear.com/porkbusters.php. It’s a sacrifice to a handful of Georgians, I know, but I’m offering up the commuter rail line to Lovejoy. That’ll free up $106 million for the Gulf Coast.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner starts out pessimistic, but ends on a more optimistic note. I’m certainly OK on pushing back (or abolishing) the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and while I’d normally favor moon colonies I’m not at all convinced that NASA’s plan will give us what we need.
THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE casts a critical eye on press coverage of this weekend’s protests. And here are some well-thought-out dos and don’ts for protesters from the Daily Kos. Best one: “Don’t use the slogan ‘No Blood For Oil!’: Face it. The bromide is tired, used.”
UPDATE: Read this, too.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reader David Nadle emails:
I’m watching CNBC “Squawk Box” this morning, and they are doing segments called “Pork Busters” with accompanying graphics. They’re showing video & stills of particular instances of pork, naming the state and it’s representatives, and inviting them on the show to “defend their pork.” The latest spot was about a vintage Packard museum in Ohio.
I think this is the briefest interval yet for good ideas from the blogosphere to hit the MSM.
Cool. Let’s hope for more of that. I mentioned the Packard museum in an NPR interview yesterday; it seems particularly hard to defend.
SPINNING THE PROTESTS: I recommend that readers google the names of people mentioned in the press accounts of this weekend’s antiwar protests. I looked up Brian Becker, who’s mentioned in this Washington Post story by Petula Dvorak. To be fair, Dvorak at least mentions the ANSWER connection, but a quick Google search of Becker’s name finds that he’s been praising the “Iraqi resistance” and denigrating U.S. troops since the beginning. It would appear that he’s not so much “antiwar” as just on the other side.
It would be nice if Dvorak’s article, and others, made that clearer, instead of offering the sanitized treatment of ANSWER that it does. The Post, however, has a history of whitewashing these folks.
For those who have forgotten, here’s some background on A.N.S.W.E.R. and its related groups by David Corn. Here’s some more, and here’s Michael Lerner’s piece on antisemitism in the antiwar movement, written after he was banned from an antiwar rally at A.N.S.W.E.R.’s behest.
If there were an authentic antiwar movement in this country, it wouldn’t have to rely on the services of fringe groups like A.N.S.W.E.R. to provide organization and cadre.
UPDATE: Here’s more on Becker from INDCJournal, including a photo from an earlier protest.
Meanwhile PostWatch asks:
Is the Washington Post simply incapable of accurately describing ANSWER, one of the chief organizers of this Saturday’s protest? . . .
Dvorak writes of “many causes” that antiwar protesters have marched for, but leaves out the really interesting ones.
Why can’t Dvorak do a little digging on the connection between ANSWER and the Stalinist Workers World Party (WWP)? . . .
If some bloggers can find this in an old Michael Kelly column, why can’t the combined staff of the Washington Post?
Why, indeed? Read the whole thing. And read this related post, too.
And there’s more criticism of the Dvorak article over at Newsbusters.
LOTS MORE HURRICANE NEWS at the WSJ’s Stormtracker page, which is free to nonsubscribers.
RITA’S LITTLEST VICTIM: Soon to be a very special episode of Oprah, no doubt.
NOT ENOUGH GAS: Evacuees are running out, though National Guard fuel trucks are on their way. Some people left without enough fuel in their tanks, but mostly it just seems that people burned it up while stuck in traffic. Notes for the future: Obviously, the “contraflow” needs to start earlier, and prepositioning gas trucks along the route is probably a good idea.
The amount of traffic seems worse than expected, with more than twice as many people on the road as were anticipated. Houston blogger Bill Dyer blames local media: “Katrina + news media hysteria = lots of folks in non-flood-prone areas of Houston, who otherwise would have hunkered down altogether or at least waited until tomorrow to evac, instead hitting the road yesterday afternoon, last night, and today = avoidable degree of gridlock. IMHO, local media have done a very bad job of distinguishing between ‘mandatory evacuation’ areas (truly coastal counties, storm-surge areas) and elsewhere. . . . And ordinary folks are hyper-receptive to the hype because of Katrina. . . . And thus, when amplified by the media megaphones and imprecision in the media’s reporting, Mayor White saying anything at all about evacuation by anyone comes across to most people like ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!’”
Nobody wants to be accused of downplaying this one, of course.
Meanwhile, delays at the Houston airport resulted from TSA employees abandoning their posts. (“White, a Democrat, blamed the ‘failure to show up at work by (110) essential personnel of the federal TSA.’”) So much for the notion that federalizing airport security would professionalize it, I guess.
UPDATE: Reader Melissa Dorman emails:
As someone who recently evacuated from Houston, I can tell you the hysteria and overwhelming rush to get out was too much for the transportation infrastructure. My family lives in Clear Lake, which is southeast of the city of Houston, just North of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. We’re considered a high flood risk, being East of I-45 and South of the Sam Houston Beltway (we’re 5-10 minutes from Galveston Bay). As such, we faced a mandatory evacuation for a Cat 4 or 5. Having filled up the wife’s Suburban with gas days before, and gotten the house ready as can be, we headed off with 2 kids, 2 dogs and 3 fish that the 2 kids would not leave behind. When we left at 4:20 a.m. yesterday morning we knew things would be bad as far as traffic. Rather than joining the parking lot on I-45, which took 8 hours to drive from our location to before the North beltway on 45 (still in Houston!), we decided to use my new Microsoft GPS software and hardware and hit the back roads. Almost exactly 12 hours later, we arrived at my sister’s house in Dallas, where I’m e-mailing you from.
A few points of observation:
1. The evacuation routes and highways are incapable of moving the number of people necessary from the Texas coast, and in particular a large storm. Yes, it was stupid not to order the contra-flow to open for one day, but my guess is it took a while to make sure the southbound lanes were clear and all entrance ramps closed. Coordinating this many gov’t workers isn’t easy on a good day. As far as roads, we simply need more. To hell with the environmentalists that say concrete doesn’t solve anything, simple physics will show that more roads allows more cars to move. There is insufficient road capability on a good traffic day in Houston (an oxymoron, I know), and I’ll be willing to pay for new places to drive. Most of the roads currently in place were built during the 80s for traffic from the 70s, and can’t keep up with the population growth of the region.
2. I’m sure the Republican governor will quickly be blamed, while the Democratic Mayor of Houston will be seen as a hero fighting against the state. Now I must be the first to give Mayor White his kudos in handling the Katrina refugees–he and County Judge Eckels did a fantastic job in opening the city and Astrodome (the County’s baby). Then Mayor White’s liberal tendencies took over and he proposed paying private Houstonians a per diem to keep New Orleans refugees. This asinine proposal met a quick death at city council, given that our city purportedly can’t pay its bills now. Even though we housed a couple we’d never met from New Orleans right after Katrina hit (they were friends of our neighbors who had too many people), I wouldn’t have thought to ask for money–it was the right (dare I say Christian) thing to do. Oh, and their race didn’t matter to this evil Republican.
3. For people who were ordered to get out of Galveston and Southeast Houston, we had no choice, and the media-whipped scarefest (helps those ratings!) only exacerbated the traffic nightmares. That said, you noted that nobody wants to be at the end of the media’s pointed finger (“you should have warned people…you didn’t do enough”), from a practical point of view, it makes things worse for everyone. Back to my Microsoft program, this allowed me to route a plan on back roads, thus relieving pressure on I-10 and I-45. We headed Northeast on the Beltway, hit I-10 toward Beaumont. By 10:30 a.m., we had not even gotten 1/2 way there (an hour drive on a regular day), so I decided to take the first open exit and head North. EVERY gas station on I-10 was out yesterday morning by 9:00 a.m., but miraculously, the stations 15 miles off the freeway had gas–must be something about supply and demand. We headed North & East–away from the mass of Houston/Galveston evacuees–for some time, until we hit a Texas Dept. of Public Safety roadblock on a Northbound road. The DPS officer simply said the “road is closed” without explanation, and told us to head BACK to Beaumont and join the parking lot/freeway. I asked him why the road was closed (locals could still use it) and that it made no sense to head back and add to the problem (I was 30 miles North of I-10) at this point, but he said he was just “told” the clear road due north was closed. I explained that he was in essence risking my family’s life, since stuck on the road with a 20+ foot flood surge, would be suicide. He didn’t care and when I said it was idiotic to shut down good roads to force people onto a jammed evacuation routes, he said what was idiotic was to have to talk with people like me. I can count the number of people I’ve hated in my life on 1 hand and he’s one–stupid, inflexible and unwilling to do SOMETHING (call, just move aside to let people go, etc.) to help take people to safety. My wife tried to keep me calm, and I decided to use the GPS to find an alternate route. We went east 1.5 miles, headed northwest on a dirt road (luckily on the GPS program!) and then hit the “closed” road with no problems about 1 mile north of the idiot DPS officer. No breaking the law, no roadblock at that point, and I was on my way North again.
The sad thing is that the back roads North were almost entirely deserted. Only when we hit the “official” evacuation route would we hit miles-long gridlock, which we quickly used the GPS program to get off and go through the small towns of East Texas. We found gas, food and incredibly nice people in all these small towns, and made it to Dallas (eventually coming in I-20 from the East) yesterday afternoon. When we arrived my wife said the program paid for itself and then some. I am no Bill Gates fan but I must say it was a life saver and stress reliever.
Sorry for the disjointed e-mail since from Sun-Weds. I only got 5 hours sleep.
It’s very hard to move that many people at once, and our infrastructure isn’t designed for it. I think, though, that we should take these considerations more into account in the future.
Q.: Does the NYT have the subscriber totals for the triumphant first days of TimesSelect, its new pay-for-columnists feature?
A: Of course it does.
Q.: If those numbers were any good, wouldn’t the NYT be telling us about them?
A: Of course it would!
Q: Have you seen them telling us about any numbers?
A.: Not yet.
A former candidate for the U.S. House is asking Bozeman to give up $4 million in federal funding for a parking garage so it can instead be used to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In an e-mail sent to the Bozeman City Commission, Tracy Velázquez of Bozeman said that given the scale of the disaster, she doesn’t think the city can in good conscious keep the money when it is desperately needed elsewhere. “I think every city in America should look at what they can postpone or do without for now,” she said in an interview Friday.
Good for her.
UPDATE: The Washington Times editorializes:
If fiscal business-as-usual was dangerous before Katrina, then in a post-Katrina world it is undeniably disastrous. Yet, no less than House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was initially in denial. In the wake of the $62.3 billion in emergency appropriations for Katrina, Mr. DeLay said that the Republican-controlled Congress had already removed the fat from the federal budget. “My answer to those who want to offset [Katrina] spending is, ‘Sure, bring me the offsets,’ ” he said. “I will be glad to do it, but no one is able come up with any yet.”
To its credit, the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) accepted Mr. DeLay’s challenge. This week the RSC released a detailed 23-page report identifying and explaining a menu of more than 100 specific budget offsets that total nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, including $102 billion for 2006 and nearly $400 billion over the first five years. . . . Back to you, Mr. Delay.
Indeed. And, of course, we’ll soon be seeing Rita relief, too. The evacuation seems to be better-handled this time around, but the property damage will nonethless be enormous.
MICHAEL YON has posted another dispatch from Mosul.
N.Z. BEAR is looking for a volunteer to help clean up the porkbusters pages. If you’re interested, let me know.
AIRBUS ISSUES? “The problems with JetBlue Flight 292 marked the seventh time that the front landing gear of an Airbus jet has locked at a 90-degree angle, forcing pilots to land commercial airliners under emergency conditions, according to FAA records. . . . The locking of the nose gear on Airbus jets is one of several recurring problems with the planes’ nose landing gear.”
TOM BEVAN: “There’s nothing quite like getting your enemy’s propaganda served up unfiltered in a major American daily newspaper.”
We’re used to it by now.
UPDATE: “The groups that will gather in Washington DC for a major anti-war protest this weekend have financial ties to major leftist fundraisers like George Soros and Theresa Heinz Kerry, and beyond them to communist organizations and radical left-wing groups, the Washington Times reports today. The conduits for the rallies appear to be the ubiquitous front groups International ANSWER and the UPJ.”
But the press reports will say that the marchers are ordinary Americans, not MoveOn and A.N.S.W.E.R. astroturf. But then, they said that about Cindy Sheehan, too.
UH OH: “As the death toll rises from an outbreak in Indonesia of avian flu, health officials and business executives are warning firms across Asia to start preparing for a possible pandemic of the disease.”
INDEED: “Can’t be fun being a spokesman for the New Orleans police department these days.” Especially in the face of the looting-and-robbing accusations.
UPDATE: Investor’s Business Daily:
People worry: How do we repair hurricane damage, fund a war and expand domestic programs all at the same time? The answer: prioritize. Take a machete to the unnecessary stuff — which Congress should have done long ago.
We’ve come up with our own list (left), borrowing from various sources. All are programs or projects that could be deleted with little economic disruption but with maximum fiscal impact.
The typical family now spends $22,000 a year on federal government and has serious doubts about where it all goes. Seventy-one percent of Americans, according to budget analyst Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, “are more bothered by how their taxes are spent than by the amount of taxes they pay.” . . .
Some in Congress are already starting to look more closely for savings in the $2.6 trillion budget for 2006. Other voices — including those of the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste and a fast-growing blogger group called Porkbusters — have weighed in with many suggestions.
Don’t let Tom DeLay and other discombobulated politicians fool you. It can be done. If we can get out $200 billion without breaking a sweat, imagine what Congress can do if it rolls up its sleeves and really gets down to work.
ANOTHER UPDATE: “What happens here is important, not just for recovery efforts in the Gulf, but for the future of conservatism and the relationship of fiscal conservatives with the GOP. If the Republican majority can’t prioritize spending now, there is no reason to believe it ever will.”
BRENDAN LOY: “I don’t know if they can read blogs in heaven… but I’ll miss you, Sarah. We all will.”
Of course they can read blogs in heaven. And write them. Otherwise, how could it be heaven?
JEFF JARVIS: Do not build it. Not here.
Yes. I’ll be on pins and needles waiting to watch a tv series about a woman President written by Eleanor Clift, Gwen Ifill, and Helen Freaking Thomas.
How about a series about a President who actually has brains and leadership qualities, written by Jonah Goldberg, Roger Simon and, well, me?
I’d watch that.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES: Rand Simberg thinks that Katrina and Rita offer an opportunity for a controlled social experiment.
PERSONNEL PROBLEMS for Al Qaeda.
POLITICAL BLOGGERS DEMAND SPEECH FREEDOMS: You’d think the First Amendment would take care of this, but, you know, “eternal vigilance” and all that.
My advice: Tar and feathers futures — buy!
SCHUMER’S COLSON? Well, some people are calling him “the new Nixon!”
PAVEMENT MARKINGS as an alternative to red-light cameras:
New research sponsored by Florida’s Department of Transportation suggests a number of effective engineering alternatives can reduce red light running. Using an advanced driving simulator to monitor the reactions of ordinary drivers, University of Central Florida researchers concluded that improving street markings near intersections reduced red light running by 74 percent without increasing the likelihood of rear end collisions.
“The pavement marking countermeasure is a low-technology and inexpensive solution to reduce the number of motorists that run red lights,” the study concluded.
On the other hand, it’s not a source of revenue.
UPDATE: By comparison, traffic cameras increase accidents according to this Virginia study. But they also increase revenue!
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: An email from Senator Coburn. “I can only assume that the good Senator from Oklahoma and his staff have been paying attention to the porkbuster efforts in the blogosphere, and that’s how my name ended up on an email list. I find this very encouraging. Keep it up!”
JEFF JACOBY offers a very nice valedictory to Arthur Chrenkoff:
The success of the series, Chrenkoff told me, took him by surprise. ‘‘I couldn’t believe that no one had done it before,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m usually not a pioneer. … But there was obviously a niche there that needed filling.’’
That ‘‘niche’’ — a widespread interest in the things going right in Iraq — was obvious. So why didn’t Big Media fill it?
Why, indeed? Here’s more from StrategyPage:
Other bloggers, like Michael Yon, have been providing coverage not seen in the media. Some of the military commands are also reaching out to the blogosphere as well, bypassing the legacy media.
The silent majority these days not only is willing to speak out, it is gaining the means to do so via talk radio and the internet. And the vocal minority – particularly the legacy media – is finding out that their volume is not drowning out things that were ignored in past wars.
MORE ON PORK: A reader sends this from today’s CongressDaily PM:
Seeking to assuage their political base, White House officials met with House Republican conservatives today to discuss ideas for offsetting the spiraling cost of hurricane relief and reconstruction. According to sources familiar with the meeting, OMB Director Bolten met with Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the Republican Study Committee chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who heads up the group’s budget task force, and Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona. On Wednesday, the group unveiled spending cut options dubbed “Operation Offset,” that were quickly praised by conservative spending watchdog groups. But House Republican leaders were generally lukewarm to the plan, and administration officials did not comment. The White House meeting demonstrates the Bush administration’s concern with eroding support among conservatives because of the explosion in federal spending on its watch.
They should be concerned. I’d advise them to get in front of this issue before it’s too late.
MARK TAPSCOTT: “Hurricane Katrina was America’s worst natural disaster, and it may also generate the biggest federal boondoggle ever — unless President Bush moves now to apply the FOIA to every tax dollar spent rebuilding.”
Transparency is key.
HERE’S MORE on the Iraqi oil trust idea.
IN THE MAIL: James Patterson’s Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore.
SOME VERMONT PORK identified in the Rutland Herald. The PorkBusters campaign is mentioned.
UPDATE: Bill Hobbs notes some Tennessee pork: “As politicians look for federal spending to cut in order to pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Lipscomb University – where I was enrolled for three-plus years back in the mid-1980s – ought to step up and give back the $3 million it is getting from the government to build a parking garage.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: More Tennessee pork.
MOVIE SEEKS BLOG REVIEWERS: The PR folks for the forthcoming Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, etc.) science fiction movie Serenity are inviting bloggers to advance screenings. (List of cities here via an Excel document that didn’t quite format right, but it’s legible). It’s free, and all they ask is that you blog something, good or bad, about it.
If you’re interested, email ‘em at firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll put you on the list. I’ll be going to a screening in Knoxville.
UPDATE: They’re full now (Friday p.m.) so if you haven’t emailed ‘em you’ve missed your chance. Apparently the blog-response was phenomenal.
PORK UPDATE: “Senate OKs Coburn Measure to Shine Light on Pork; Now House, Bush Approvals Needed to Become Law.” Sounds like the ball is in the Bush/Delay court.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’S ONLINE STORM TRACKER is now free.
Western Colorado’s chunk of the $284 billion highway bill that Congress passed this year is necessary for the region’s development, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., said Wednesday. . . .
“I’m not willing to cut any of the projects,” said Salazar, also a member of the Democratic Blue Dog caucus, which opposes Congressional spending on credit and justification for pet projects.
Obviously a Tom Delay fan. Meanwhile, a challenge to Republicans:
But the real debate isn’t happening in Congress as a whole – it is unfolding within the Republican Party. The debate will shape the future of the GOP. If Republicans – the one-time party of small government and fiscal restraint — cannot support spending cuts now, then they will officially signal their abandonment of fiscal conservatism, a once valued part of the Republican platform. . . .
Bloggers, too have latched onto this theme. A coalition of bloggers have launched a website called “porkbusters.” The site lists every member of the House and Senate by the name and has a column next to the name for “committed cuts,” or sacrifices. Currently, the only member of Congress listed with a “committed cut” is House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Many Republican members of Congress must be asking themselves, “Is Nancy Pelosi the best fiscal conservative this Congress has to offer?”
RITA UPDATE: “4:00am Update – Roads still packed, lines still long, Rita still a bitch.”
Some forecasts have the storm sliding up toward Louisiana. There’s also this: “I am about 60 miles inland and they’re predicting 120 mph winds here. Building codes only require the homes be built for 75 mph winds.”
That seems inadequate for, well, anywhere.
CHESTER LOOKS AT new horizons in war reporting. I don’t know why we’re not seeing this caliber of reporting and analysis from Big Media.
Darfur rebels claim that soldiers and pro-government tribal militia are increasing their raids on villages, killing, raping and stealing as they do. At least 30 villagers have been killed in these raids in the last week. The government denies any responsibility. The UN and AU observers confirm that there has been an increase in violence in Darfur in the last month, but has a hard time confirming specific claims by the rebels. The government blames all the violence on rebels or bandits. There are bandits operating in the region, but pro-government militias, and soldiers, have been spotted attacking non-Arab civilians as well.
I still think we should send the rebels guns and trainers.
MICKEY KAUS: “It’s as if Gary Hart and Bill Clinton (and Theodore Lowi) had never existed, as if ‘constituency liberals’ like Mondale and Harkin had been routinely winning the presidency while Carter/Clinton ‘policy liberals’ were the rare Democrats who’d lost, as opposed to the only Democrats who’d won.”
PORKBUSTERS ON CNN: Ian Schwartz has the video.
RAY KURZWEIL’S BOOK comes out tomorrow. Here’s a post on Kurzweil by Tyler Cowen (“It is no longer intellectually acceptable not to know his major arguments.”). And here’s a review from Kirkus. And here’s my interview of Kurzweil.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More blogosphere buzz here: “The book might alternatively be titled ‘The Modern Futurist Consensus: a Review’ . . . My own two cents thrown into the ring say that the class of future portrayed in TSiN is something of a foregone conclusion. It’s quite likely that we’ll all be wildly, humorously wrong about the details of implementation, culture and usage, but – barring existential catastrophe or disaster – the technological capabilities discussed in TSiN will come to pass.” There’s much more.
NO ACTUAL SPECIFICS in response to her porkbuster questions, but Sissy Willis grades her elected representatives (Sens. Kennedy & Kerry, Rep. Capuano) on form. Grades are mixed.
Minnesota reader Monte Myer emails:
I just got off the phone with Senator Coleman’s office (Minnesota). We have 9 Million in pork going to bike trails. The only thing they said was that it was virtually impossible to rescind something like this (it takes 2/3rds vote). He didn’t sound that interested, but said he would pass on my message to the Senator.
Not much of a response. I was hoping for better.
Indeed. More of these as they come in — please put “Pork Response” in your subject line, and please don’t use that subject for anything but reports of what your Senators / Congressperson said on this.
Meanwhile, N.Z. Bear posts some thoughts on what we’re trying to do: “a fiscal ‘Broken Windows’ policy.”
If you’ve come to this late, the background is here.
UPDATE: Reader Pat Clancy emails:
I called my Senators (Coleman / Dayton) and Congressman (Oberstar)earlier today. Not one had any position on the isssue of “re-evaluating spending in light of the recent hurricane” but would pass on my comments to the respective represenative. My feeling in speaking with each office was one of ambivalance.
I can imagine.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.
JOHN LITTLE is hurricane-blogging from Houston, and plans to keep it up as long as he’s able.
THE HANDBOOK FOR BLOGGERS AND CYBER-DISSIDENTS IS OUT!
TANGLED BANK, the science blog carnival, is up.
TRAFFIC CAMERAS IN KNOXVILLE: I think this is a terrible idea.
UPDATE: Maybe I shouldn’t say that!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s how it worked in Hawaii:
Everybody didn’t like something about traffic cameras.
Invasion of privacy. Zero tolerance. Pay-per-ticket. A presumption of guilt. No police involvement. Rising insurance rates. Speed traps. Bureaucratic bungling. Poor public relations. Political posturing. City and state bickering. Thousands and thousands of tickets that didn’t pass legal muster.
What went wrong?
Take your pick.
In the end it was a combination of all those people and things that doomed the van cams.
Gov. Ben Cayetano ordered an end to the program last week amid increasing signs that the courts and state Legislature were about to pull the plug anyway.
The program, which was launched in early December, had noble aims: use advances in technology to slow traffic, reduce accidents and save lives, and free police officers for other duties.
In just more than four months, however, it became possibly the most hated public policy initiative in Hawai’i history, almost uniformly disliked, even by those who thought it actually worked.
I’ll have to send a copy to the Knoxville City Council.