September 03, 2005


UPDATE: TigerHawk notes a D.U. flavor to the obits.

MORE ON THOSE UNUSED BUSES, with high-resolution photos, from Junkyard Blog.

UPDATE: Gov. Blanco ordered schoolbuses used for evacuation as of September 1. A bit late, I'd say.

FREEDOM VS. LIBERTY: Jonathan Rauch says the Republican Party is splitting. "Rick Santorum has served notice. The bold new challenge to the Goldwater-Reagan tradition in American politics comes not from the Left, but from the Right."

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH: France has two last chances.

RAND SIMBERG: Three Cheers for "Price Gougers."

AT THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE, Greyhawk thinks I'm being much too easy on the New Orleans authorities. Well, as the news coverage indicates, everybody's an expert on what should have been done after the fact, but only a few people were even talking before the fact.

I'm going to try to put together a "lessons learned" post later, but it's still too early for that.

MORE WAYS TO HELP hurricane victims.


I haven't had much chance to watch TV or read the papers, because even here in central Mississippi, there is just too doggone much to do, trying to cope with refugees and track down missing family on the Coast and wait in line for gasoline, etc., etc. But the little I have seen, especially on national TV, is weird and bizarre, with all the fingerpointing and self-righteous pontificating going on from the talking heads.

These guys and gals need to get a clue. Today's story is not: "What went wrong and who can we blame?" -- that story can wait for tomorrow. Today the story is: "What are the obstacles preventing help from arriving and what can we do to solve them?" Some of these people are reporting like they've never been through a natural disaster, like they have no idea of the logistical nightmares that occur when power, water, communications systems and transportation systems literally disappear overnight. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who are disgusted with much of the national TV coverage. For God's sake, please tell them to save the finger-pointing and blame game for when the immediate disaster is over.


UPDATE: Quite a lot of readers think that The Weather Channel is doing a much better job than the cable news folks, which isn't surprising. Meanwhile Mickey Kaus has the commentators' angle figured out:

I'm not saying Bush and the Feds don't clearly deserve major grief for not getting today's National Guard aid convoy into downtown New Orleans a couple of days earlier. Some people are probably dead as a result. But the commentators on Washington Week in Review seemed a little too happy when proclaiming this a "debacle" that will damage Bush politically for a long, long time. And I don't think they were happy just because Bush has suffered a blow. I think it's because the hurricane and its New Orleans aftermath at least seemed to solve a big problem for anti-Bush commentators and politicians. Previously, they couldn't grouse about the Iraq War without seeming defeatist (and anti-liberationist and maybe even selfishly isolationist). Even the Clintons never figured a way out of that trap. But nature has succeded where they failed; it has opened up a way out, at least temporarily. Now Bush opponents can argue, in some cases quite accurately, that without the Iraq deployment aid would have gotten to New Orleans faster. And 'if we can [tk] in Iraq, why can't we [tk] in our own South?' They aren't being selfish. They are just asserting priorities! In short, Katrina gives them a way to talk about Iraq without talking about Iraq. No wonder Gwen Ifill smiles the "inner smile."

Yes, I think he's got that exactly right.

I'M ONE OF THREE GUEST-BLOGGERS on Michael Silence's Knoxville News-Sentinel blog.

TULANE UNIVERSITY HAS CANCELLED CLASSES for the fall semester, but will grant credit to students who take classes at accredited institutions elsewhere.

HURRICANEHOUSING.ORG is a very worthy project of putting together people who need housing with people offering it.

ENVIRONMENTAL REPUBLICAN thinks that the Big Media beat the blogosphere this week.


FreeWillBlog has further thoughts, including a surprising revelation about who finally instigated the evacuation: President Bush.

SNOPES HAS THE BACKGROUND on the "looting" vs. "finding" photo caption business, which seemed rather peripheral to me but which had some people exercised.


Remember the Carter-era Synfuels Corp. debacle? It was a response to the '70s energy shortages, closed down in 1985 after accomplishing essentially nothing at great expense, which is pretty much a description of what usually happens when the government tries to take over something that the private sector can do better. Private actors are, after all, spending their own money.

Since 1981, Shell researchers at the company's division of "unconventional resources" have been spending their own money trying to figure out how to get usable energy out of oil shale. Judging by the presentation the Rocky Mountain News heard this week, they think they've got it.

Let's hope they're right. It's supposed to be economical at $30 per barrel.


September 02, 2005

MICKEY KAUS quotes a reader email:

the authors of the [2002] times-picayune series, the designers of the government desktop exercise, and all the other authors of studies on the danger facing N.O. are now as a group getting a big thumbs up for prescience from the CW. But hey, which one of them saw what was developing for 72 hours over Miami and the Gulf and sent up a timely flare last week, warning, "Hey, the levee is going to fail and N.O. will be over 50% inundated!" If somebody said it, I did not hear it. That would have been prescient.

Well, none of them may have, but hurricane-blogger Brendan Loy wrote this on August 26: "Residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas need to realize now just how serious the threat from Hurricane Katrina really is. . . . That's not to say a Florida landfall isn't still possible -- it certainly is -- but people need to be making preparations RIGHT NOW all along the northern Gulf coast, especially New Orleans." (And I didn't say that, but I did link to it.)

The next day -- long before the mandatory evacuation -- Loy had this to say: "I can't emphasize enough what a bad decision I think it is for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to delay the mandatory evacuation order until tomorrow morning." (My comment: "If I lived in New Orleans I'd be gone by now.")

Loy had this called way before most people, and was warning about New Orleans when most media were still predicting a second Florida strike. And looking at his archives now makes me wish more people had been paying attention then.

UPDATE: More prescience here. Advantage: Blogosphere! (Thanks to reader Amy Lopez for the link).

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader notes that Brendan Loy actually sounded the warning Thursday night. Meanwhile meteorologist reader Robert Fovell emails that the Kaus reader's 72 hour expectation is unrealistic:

Hurricane track forecast skill has improved markedly in recent years, but it simply isn't that good yet, and the forecasters will be the first to admit it.

But 48 hours out, the NHC forecast was spot on. And it took some amount of faith to put stock in it, for they were calling for a northward turn in the track that had not yet materialized. At that time, Katrina was still moving west (indeed, slightly south of west). The problem is [that] many -- too many -- people in New Orleans ignored the hurricane warnings when they came because they dismissed them as "hype" and recalled previous forecasts that were didn't pan out. Was 48 hours notice enough to evacuate a large area? No amount of time is enough if warnings are not heeded when they come.

But the warnings won't be heeded if they are made too rashly, and if the uncertainties they come packaged with are excised in the media hype.

(Emphasis added). Yes, I've suggested before that the news media -- and particularly the cable channels' -- hyping of hurricanes has had a "cry wolf" effect that makes real warnings get less attention.

MORE: Sadly, this post seems to have been prescient, too:

I have to say, though, that from what I've seen New Orleans hasn't been on the ball. The evacuation was too late, there don't seem to have been many efforts to get people out of the city or to shelter, and whenever I see city officials on TV I get an unpleasant vibe, like in the first half-hour of a disaster flick.

I wish it had been wrong. More prescience here: I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more attention.

MORE: A reader writes:

Beyond the 'cry wolf effect' encouraging people to stay-- what do you think of CNN broadcasting Anderson Cooper standing bravely through hurricane after hurricane?

The night Katrina hit, we watched Anderson bravely commenting on the swinging of a crane near a bridge. In previous hurricanes, we've watched him report more of the same. Once the skies clear, we are treated to an episode of 360 'best of' moments, where we see how he almost got hit by a palm frond! Had to squint in the rain! Chained himself to a planter!

And it isn't just him. Reporters braving the wind and rain fills our news channels during every single hurricane.

I think people may watch reporters standing outside and surviving hurricanes and think, "If Anderson Cooper can stand in a parking lot, how bad can it really be? I'll be ok in my house."

Good point. Another reader writes:

With their choppers, boats, vehicles, etc. how many people have the news media rescued in New Orleans? How much food & water have they brought to the people. They always seem to be able to get to them to interview and film them but how much have they helped them? Are they not interested in the well-being of their fellow Americans? Are they racist? Why hasn't the mayor of New Orleans and the Gov. of Louisiana commandeered the media's various modes of transportation for the relief/rescue effort?

I think if I ran a media organization, I'd make everyone who went in carry some relief supplies on the way in, and some people on the way out. Realistically, it would be a drop in the bucket, but it would help to offset charges of vulturism.

STILL MORE: E.U. Rota notes that The New York Times was less prescient than the blogosphere, though you'd never know it from reading its editorials today.

An aerial view of flooded school buses in a lot, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in New Orleans, LA. The flood is a result of Hurricane Katrina that passed through the area last Monday.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)JUDGING FROM THIS PHOTOGRAPH, the New Orleans authorities had plenty of unused buses had they chosen to take people out of the city rather than coop them up in the Superdome or the Convention Center. Now, of course, they're flooded and useless for the purpose. I don't know why they didn't make use of them on Saturday and Sunday. Not enough drivers?

UPDATE: Brendan Loy -- who was calling for mandatory evacuation on Saturday -- thinks this was a tragic missed opportunity.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And it's not just school buses: "Before Katrina hit, the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority operated at least 364 buses, probably more. . . . Why weren't NORTA's 364 buses used to ferry poor people out of New Orleans before Katrina hit?"

We'll no doubt hear more about this in the coming days, but I think that constructive action should be the priority now.

KATRINA RELIEF UPDATE: Michael Barone emails:

A source at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tells me (5:15pm) that they're in touch with corporations who have pledged $100 million in aid to hurricane victims and communities. Wal-Mart and General
Electric have each pledged $15 million.

I'm also forwarding to you an email from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. It includes several offers of specific kinds of help relayed via CBC members and has absolutely none of the political blame-game stuff we have seen too much of. I think the CBCF deserves
credit for this kind of constructive response.

Indeed. Here's the release -- click "read more" to read it.

Read More ?

THERE ARE CERTAIN SECTIONS OF NEW ORLEANS, la'Hom, that I would not advise you to invade: "Meanwhile, it is reported that Klingons have seized control of the French Quarter."

UPDATE: "la'Hom" is not evidence of my execrable French (though my French is execrable) -- it's the Klingon rank equivalent of Major, since I was echoing Humphrey Bogart's line from Casablanca: "Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

Yes, I am a geek. But you knew that.


A convoy of military vehicles plowed through the flooded streets of New Orleans on Friday bringing food, water and medicine to the thousands of people trapped at a downtown convention center.

The relief effort came as President Bush toured the Gulf Coast to survey damage from Hurricane Katrina and shortly after the mayor of New Orleans said the city was "holding on by a thread."

More aid is arriving elsewhere, though this email explains some of the problems:

I run a trade association of tank truck carriers trying to assist in the relief efforts by transporting food and potable water. I'm in regular contact with many of the companies, and here are some "on the ground" facts:
1) Large trucks (80,000 lbs. gross weight) almost always have to use the Interstates. For trucks attempting to come in from outside the area, most of those roads (approaching the disaster area) are either closed or have bridges out. The so-called secondary roads may be somewhat passable, but their bridges (over rivers and streams) are not built to sustain such loads. Simply stated, you can't get there from here.

2) Trucks domicled in those areas (because that's where the companies traditionally serve customers) are still underwater, thus the equipment is not accessible;

3) Nobody in their right mind is going to take loads of gasoline and fuel oil into a city controlled by unfriendly folks carrying automatic weapons. A tank truck loaded with 8,000 gallons of gasoline can produce a very impressive fire;

4) Those local trucking companies can't contact their drivers. There's no power, thus (even) cellular is unavailable, and many of the drivers homes (in places like Kenner, Slidel, Metarie, etc) have been destroyed and families dispersed. I have one member with about 120 drivers and mechanics in that immediate area. To date, management has been able to contact 12. Those in the National Guard have been mobilized and are not available to drive.

5) Pumps -- needed to load the vehicles -- don't work because there's no power.

I suspect that things will improve throughout the weekend.

UPDATE: Reader Ian Jay emails:

I wanted to thank you for cross-posting the email from the National Review, from the trade association representative. It raised a lot of very valid explanations for the problems that have been experienced so far with getting aid to those in New Orleans. Reports of those sorts of infrastructure and safety issues go a long way in alleviating my concerns about the actual response to the disaster, and I think most people are doing as much as they can.

But, I think it's important to bear this in mind, as well: I've been reading, watching, and listening to the news for about 12 hours a day since the beginning of the week. Yet if I hadn't read your updates this afternoon, I wouldn't have known about those problems. Obviously, they're logical problems to have in the wake of such a disaster, and it certainly makes sense when I think about it. But if I didn't know about it, then we can all be damned sure that the people holed up in the Superdome, the Convention Center, and on rooftops across New Orleans had absolutely no idea that logistical problems were to blame.

I haven't been watching that much TV, but it does seem that there's far more reporting on the problems from the disaster sites than on the process of responding.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, the coverage isn't quite this bad. But then, bear in mind that I haven't been watching that much of it . . . .

MORE: Reader C.J. Burch, who's been watching more TV, emails:

Oh yeah, it is just that bad. If anything Jeff understates the case. One begins to wonder if the founding fathers got that freedom of the press thing right, after all.

Okay, it's not that bad, but it has been pretty shameful. When all is said and done the press will be stunned to discover that the only people they have impressed are themselves.

Well, that's usually how it works out. I thought they were doing a pretty good job earlier in the week, actually, but I haven't watched much TV since Wednesday.

MORE: Roger Simon is watching CNN from Japan and is unimpressed:

We hear a litany of criticism of the administration and everybody else involved in the rescue program, but barely one single concrete suggestion about how things could be done better. It's like attending a Conclave of the Fatuous.

I watched a bit of Headline news earlier, and Soledad O'Brien did seem a bit overwrought.


More than 4,000 people have been rescued from rooftops, flooded neighborhoods and hospitals throughout the Gulf Coast region since rescue operations began Monday, and joint-agency rescue operations are continuing day and night.

The Coast Guard is placing a priority of evacuating patients from hospitals and is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver food and water to stranded survivors. More than 23,000 pounds of water have been delivered thus far.

The bad news is that so many people have needed rescuing.

HURRICAID.COM is a blog dedicated to hurricane relief.

TECHCENTRALSTATION has produced a special Katrina coverage page.

HUGH HEWITT HAS THOUGHTS on what needs to be done as part of disaster recovery planning.

RAY KURZWEIL: The InstaPundit Interview

I've written before about Ray Kurzweil's new book, The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology, and I thought it might be interesting to get him to expand on his thoughts for InstaPundit readers. Following is an email interview I did with him this past weekend.

GHR: Your book is called "The Singularity is Near" and -- as an amusing photo makes clear -- you're spoofing those "The End is Near" characters from the New Yorker cartoons.

For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the topic, or who may have heard other definitions, what is your definition of "The Singularity?" And is it the end? Or a beginning?

RK: In chapter 1 of the book, I define the Singularity this way: “a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes one’s view of life in general and one’s own particular life. I regard someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life as a ‘singularitarian.’”

The Singularity is a transition, but to appreciate its importance, one needs to understand the nature of exponential growth. On the one hand, exponential growth is smooth with no discontinuities, and values remains finite. On the other hand, it is explosive once we reach the “knee of the curve.” The difference between what I refer to as the “intuitive linear” view and the historically correct exponential view is crucial, and I discuss my “law of accelerating returns” in detail in the first two chapters. It is remarkable to me how many otherwise thoughtful observers fail to understand that progress is exponential, not linear. This failure underlies the common “criticism from incredulity” that I discuss at the beginning of the “Response to Critics” chapter.

To describe these changes further, within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated in our bodies, our brains, and our environment, overcoming pollution and poverty, providing vastly extended longevity, full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses, “experience beaming,” and vastly enhanced human intelligence. The result will be an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the technological evolutionary process it spawned. But all of this is just the precursor to the Singularity. Nonbiological intelligence will have access to its own design and will be able to improve itself in an increasingly rapid redesign cycle. We’ll get to a point where technical progress will be so fast that unenhanced human intelligence will be unable to follow it. That will mark the Singularity.

GHR: Over what timeframe do you see these things happening? And what signposts might we look for that would indicate we're approaching the Singularity?

RK: I’ve consistently set 2029 as the date that we will create Turing test-capable machines. We can break this projection down into hardware and software requirements. In the book, I show how we need about 10 quadrillion (1016) calculations per second (cps) to provide a functional equivalent to all the regions of the brain. Some estimates are lower than this by a factor of 100. Supercomputers are already at 100 trillion (1014) cps, and will hit 1016 cps around the end of this decade. Two Japanese efforts targeting 10 quadrillion cps around the end of the decade are already on the drawing board. By 2020, 10 quadrillion cps will be available for around $1,000. Achieving the hardware requirement was controversial when my last book on this topic, The Age of Spiritual Machines, came out in 1999, but is now pretty much of a mainstream view among informed observers. Now the controversy is focused on the algorithms.

To understand the principles of human intelligence, that is to achieve the software designs, we need to reverse-engineer the human brain. Here, progress is far greater than most people realize. The spatial and temporal (time) resolution of brain scanning is also progressing at an exponential rate, roughly doubling each year, like most everything else having to do with information. Just recently, scanning tools can see individual interneuronal connections, and watch them fire in real time. Already, we have mathematical models and simulations of a couple dozen regions of the brain, including the cerebellum, which comprises more than half the neurons in the brain. IBM is now creating a simulation of about 10,000 cortical neurons, including tens of millions of connections. The first version will simulate the electrical activity, and a future version will also simulate the relevant chemical activity. By the mid 2020s, it’s conservative to conclude that we will have effective models for all of the brain.

So at this point, we’ll have a full understanding of the methods of the human brain, which will expand the toolkit of techniques we can apply to create artificial intelligence. We will then be able to create nonbiological systems that match human intelligence in the ways that humans are now superior, for example, our pattern- recognition abilities. These superintelligent computers will also be able to do things we are not able to do, such as share knowledge and skills at electronic speeds.

By 2030, a thousand dollars of computation will be about a thousand times more powerful than a human brain. Keep in mind also that computers will not be organized as discrete objects as they are today. There will be a web of computing deeply integrated into the environment, our bodies and brains.

Achieving Turing test-capable nonbiological intelligence will be an important milestone, but this is not the Singularity. This is just creating more human-level intelligence. We already have billions of examples of human-level intelligence. Of course, there will be enormous benefits of machine intelligence with human level capabilities in that machines will be able to combine the now complimentary strengths of human and machine intelligence. Our biological thinking takes place at chemical gradient speeds of a few hundred feet per second, millions of times slower than electronics. And our communication speeds are at the speed of human language, again millions of times slower than what machines are capable of. Of course, our language ability has been very important – other animal species don’t have species-wide knowledge bases at all, let alone exponentially expanding ones, and the ability to share them.

In terms of signposts, credible reports of computer passing the full Turing test will be a very important one, and that signpost will be preceded by non-credible reports of successful Turing tests.

A key insight here is that the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will expand exponentially whereas our biological thinking is effectively fixed. When we get the mid 2040s, according to my models the nonbiological portion of our civilization’s thinking ability will be billions of times greater than the biological portion. Now that represents a profound change.

The term “Singularity” in my book and by the Singularity aware community is comparable to the use of this term by the physics community. Just as we find it hard to see beyond the event horizon of a black hole, we also find it difficult to see beyond the event horizon of the historical Singularity. How can we, with our limited biological brains, imagine what our future civilization, with its intelligence multiplied billions and ultimately trillions of trillions fold, be capable of thinking and doing? Nevertheless, just as we can draw conclusions about the nature of black holes through our conceptual thinking, despite never having actually been inside one, our thinking today is powerful enough to have meaningful insights into the implications of the Singularity. That’s what I’ve tried to do in this book.

GHR: You look at three main areas of technology, what's usually called GNR for Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics. But it's my impression that you regard Artificial Intelligence -- strong AI -- as the most important aspect. I've often wondered about that. I'm reminded of James Branch Cabell's Jurgen, who worked his way up the theological food chain past God to Koschei The Deathless, the real ruler of the Universe, only to discover that Koschei wasn't very bright, really. Jurgen, who prided himself on being a "monstrous clever fellow," learned that "Cleverness was not on top, and never had been." Cleverness isn't power in the world we live in now -- it helps to be clever, but many clever people aren't powerful, and you don't have to look far to see that many powerful people aren't clever. Why should artificial intelligence change that? In the calculus of tools-to-power, is it clear that a ten-times-smarter-than-human AI is worth more than a ten megaton warhead?

RK: This is a clever – and important – question, which has different aspects to it. One aspect is what is the relationship between intelligence and power? Does power result from intelligence? It would seem that there are many counterexamples.

But to piece this apart, we first need to distinguish between cleverness and true intelligence. Some people are clever or skillful in certain ways but have judgement lapses that undermine their own effectiveness. So their overall intelligence is muted.

We also need to clarify the concept of power as there are different ways to be powerful. The poet laureate may not have much impact on interest rates (although conceivably a suitably pointed poem might affect public opinion), but s/he does have influence in the world of poetry. The kids who hung out on Bronx street corners some decades back also had limited impact on geopolitical issues, but they did play an influential role in the creation of the hip hop cultural movement with their invention of break dancing. Can you name the German patent clerk who wrote down his day dreams (mental experiments) on the nature of time and space? How powerful did he turn out to be in the world of ideas, as well as on the world of geopolitics? On the other hand, can you name the wealthiest person at that time? Or the U.S. Secretary of State in 1905? Or even the President of the U.S.?

Another important point is that it is possible to put power in the bank, so to speak. Of course, we can literally put money in the bank, and money is power. It generally takes intelligence to create power in the first place – again keeping in mind that there are different types of power. So one can use one’s intelligence to make money and then put it in the bank. Or one can use one’s intelligence to become a famous poet or a famous rap artist, and then people will listen to your next creation based on your past laurels.

Such stored power can be maintained by organizations as well as individuals – the power of a company or a nation, for example. It takes intelligence to create the power – any kind of power – in the first place, but it can then be stored. But a lack of intelligence will cause that power to dissipate, not instantly, but over time it will act like a slow leak. An organization may have as its nominal leader someone who may not be especially intelligent, but there may nonetheless be intelligence around that person. But if the organization truly lacks intelligence, and acts foolishly, it will lose its store of power over time.

A study of history will show that the technologically more sophisticated (and we can certainly consider technology to be a manifestation of intelligence) civilization prevails. The rise of India and China in recent history is certainly a manifestation of the intelligence and education of their citizens (more on that later). Israel has little land and no significant natural resources, yet its gross national product is now several times that of Saudi Arabia due to the education and technological sophistication of its citizens.

In short, it is my view that ultimately intelligence prevails, even though the ability to save and store it acts as a “low pass filter,” to use an engineering term.

The other interesting aspect of your question has to do with the whole promise versus peril question. The promise side of the equation is the opportunity for these accelerating technologies to advance complexity, where complexity is meaningful knowledge including all of the arts and sciences, as well as human skills. To take an extreme example of what you refer to as power without intelligence, gray goo certainly represents power – destructive power – and if such an existential threat were to prevail, it would represent a catastrophic loss of complexity. It would be a triumph of raw power over intelligence. A ten megaton warhead is similar. Note that in such scenarios, the power that might succeed over intelligence is invariably a destructive power.

Now I have been accused of being an optimist on these questions, and I think that accusation has merit. On the other hand, I was also the person that alerted Bill Joy to the dangers of technology, which started with our discussion in a Lake Tahoe bar room in September of 1998. And it would not at all be accurate to say that I am sanguine or dismissive about these dangers. I address them in some detail in chapter 8 of Singularity is Near as you know.

We have an existential threat now in the form of the possibility of a bioengineered malevolent biological virus. With all the talk of bioterrorism, the possibility of a bioengineered bioterrorism agent gets little and inadequate attention. The tools and knowledge to create a bioengineered pathogen are more widespread than the tools and knowledge to create an atomic weapon, yet it could be far more destructive. I’m on the Army Science Advisory Group (a board of five people who advise the Army on science and technology), and the Army is the institution responsible for the nation’s bioterrorism protection. Without revealing anything confidential, I can say that there is acute awareness of these dangers, but there is neither the funding nor national priority to address them in an adequate way.

The answer is not relinquishment of these advanced technologies as I argue in the chapter because in addition to depriving humankind of the profound benefits (such as effective treatments for cancer, heart disease and other diseases), it would actually make the dangers worse by driving these technologies underground where responsible practitioners would not have easy access to the tools to develop the defenses. The real answer is to put more stones on the defensive side of the scale. Along these lines, I’ve testified to Congress ( on my proposal for a “Manhattan” style project to quickly develop a quick response system for new biological viruses, whether human-made or natural. For example, we could put in place a system which would quickly sequence a new virus, create an RNAi (RNA interference) medication for it (RNAi has shown to be effective to combat a specific biological virus because almost all biological viruses use messenger RNA which RNAi blocks), and then rapidly build up production. In this testimony I also address similar issues for nanotechnology, which are still a couple of decades away.

The response of some other observers, such as Richard Smalley, is to just deny that such dangers as self-replicating nanotechnology are feasible. As I point out in the book, he has made this motivation explicit. And although the existential nanotechnology danger is not yet at hand, denial is not the appropriate strategy.

So, yes, it is possible for the destructive (complexity destroying) powers represented by one of the existential threats I discuss in chapter 8 to prevail. I’m optimistic that they won’t, but less optimistic that we can avoid all painful events. Technology accelerated smoothly through the twentieth (and all prior) centuries, but we certainly didn’t avoid painful episodes.

GHR: It seems to me that one of the characteristics of the Singularity is the development of what might be seen as weakly godlike powers on the part of individuals. Will society be able to handle that sort of thing? The Greek gods had superhuman powers (pretty piddling ones, in many ways, compared to what we're talking about) but an at-least-human degree of egocentrism, greed, jealousy, etc. Will post-Singularity humanity do better?

RK: Arguably we already have powers comparable to the Greek gods, albeit, as you point out, piddling ones compared to what is to come. For example, you are able to write ideas in your blog and instantly communicate them to just those people who are interested. We have many ways of communicating our thoughts to precisely those persons around the world with whom we wish to share ideas. If you want to acquire an antique plate with a certain inscription, you have a good chance of quickly finding the person who has it. We have increasingly rapid access to our exponentially growing human knowledge base.

Human egocentrism, greed, jealousy, and other emotions that emerged from our evolution in much smaller clans has nonetheless not prevented the smooth, exponential growth of knowledge and technology through the centuries. So I don’t see these emotional limitations halting the ongoing progression of technology.

Adaptation to new technologies does not occur by old technologies suddenly disappearing. The old paradigms persist while new ones take root quickly. A great deal of economic commerce, for example, now transcends national boundaries, but the boundaries are still there, even if now less significant.

But there is reason for believing we will be in a position to do better than in times past. One important upcoming development will be the reverse-engineering of the human brain. In addition to giving us the principles of operation of human intelligence that will expand our AI tool kit, it will also give us unprecedented insight into ourselves. As we merge with our technology, and as the nonbiological portion of our intelligence begins to predominate in the 2030s, we will have the opportunity to apply our intelligence to improving on – redesigning – these primitive aspects of it.

GHR: The term "Singularity" -- as applied to technological/social change -- was coined by Vernor Vinge, who is both a professor of computer science and a science fiction writer. Since then, the idea has appeared in all sorts of science fiction by Vinge and others. I recently read Charles Stross's Accelerando, where it's predicted that once the entire mass of the Solar System has been devoted to computation, it will be taken over by automated sentient legal documents and the equivalent of 419 scams and spambots. I suspect that Stross was trying a bit hard to be clever, but what science-fictional treatments do you find compelling, if any? What do they get right and wrong?

RK: If the computational substrate that manifests our intelligence later in this century becomes taken over by scans and spambots, that would represent an existential failure, comparable to the triumph of a bioengineered biological virus or gray goo. We already have a complex ecology in the substrate represented today by our computers and the Internet. But we don’t see self-replicating software entities dominating and crowding out useful complexity.

With regard to science fiction, it should be pointed out that the science fiction/futurism movies of the most recent decade often represent the written science fiction of a couple of decades earlier. Most science futurism movies make the mistake of taking one future change and applying that to today’s world as if nothing else will change. For example, the movie AI depicts near human-level cyborgs, but everything else from the coffee maker to the cars are essentially unchanged. The Matrix movies, although dystopian as is common among science futurism films, do provide a somewhat more comprehensive view of the future nature of virtual reality.

It is difficult for the science fiction genre to deal effectively with the many diverse changes that a realistic depiction of the future would entail. It would require explaining a panoply of changes. It is easier for a writer to concentrate on the literary challenges of one type of change while being able to lean on an otherwise familiar landscape to create the needed human drama.

One science fiction writer who has made effective attempts at depicting the many profound changes that lie ahead is Cory Doctorow. His novel usr/bin/god (which I discuss on pages 271-272) depicts a genetic algorithm that evolves a Turing test-capable AI. The evaluation function is to send each AI program out to interact in chat rooms and determine how long each system can last without being challenged by one of the human participants with a statement like, “what are you, a bot, or something?” This is an interesting idea and may be a good way of finishing the strong AI project once we get close.

GHR: If an ordinary person were trying to prepare for the Singularity now, what should he or she do? Is there any way to prepare? And, for that matter, how should societies prepare, and can they?

RK: In essence, The Singularity will be an explosion of human knowledge made possible by the amplification of our intelligence through its merger with its exponentially growing variant. Creating knowledge requires passion, so one piece of advice would be to follow your passion.

That having been said, we need to keep in mind that the cutting edge of the GNR revolutions is science and technology. So individuals need to be science and computer literate. And societies need to emphasize science and engineering education and training. Along these lines, there is reason for concern in the U.S. I’ve attached seven charts I’ve put together (that you’re welcome to use) that show some disturbing trends. Bachelor degrees in engineering in the U.S. were 70,000 per year in 1985, but have dwindled to around 53,000 in 2000. In China, the numbers were comparable in 1985 but have soared to 220,000 in 2000, and have continued to rise since then. We see the same trend comparison in all other technological fields including computer science and the natural sciences. We see the same trends in other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and India (India is not shown in these graphs). We also see the same trends on the doctoral level as well.

One counterpoint one could make is that the U.S. leads in the application of technology. Our musicians and artists, for example, are very sophisticated in the use of computers. If you go to the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention, it looks and reads like a computer conference. I spoke recently to the American Library Association, and the presentations were all about data bases and search tools. Essentially every conference I speak at, although diverse in topic, look and read like computer conferences.

But there is an urgent need in our country to attract more young people to science and engineering. We need to make these topics cool and compelling.


PATTERICO: "The Los Angeles Times Once Again Edits the Truth Out of a Wire Story."

THE FEDERAL RESERVE on Katrina. (Via NewsAlert).


I'm in the Jackson area in central Mississippi and got my power restored on Wednesday afternoon -- about 48 hours after it went out. I'm one of the lucky ones, because a big part of central Mississippi is still as dark as the coast,but of course not anywhere close to as devastated. Some folks here had damage to their houses from wind and falling trees, but no loss of life this far north that I know about. We are 150 miles north of the coast, and I sure never expected to get a hurricane up here, but I think it was only a Category 1 by the time we got it.

Anyway, I wanted to ask you if you would send out a thank you from Mississippi to all the out-of-state power company workers who have been working around the clock in 90+ heat to help us get power back up. Our own folks have been magnificent as well, but I just wanted to let the out-of-staters know that their kindness and generosity will not be forgotten. They literally poured into the state to pitch in, before the storm was even over. Most of us can't even offer them a glass of iced tea, but they have been on the front line in helping us begin to get back to normal. Many, many, many (did I say MANY) power lines are down, even in this part of the state, and the Coast just looks like it's been bombed. Lots of live power lines and leaking gas lines down there, and these folks are literally risking their own safety to help us. There are a LOT of heroes in this story, but I just wanted to make sure that the linemen and other power workers are not forgotten. Like a lot of the first responders, we don't pay them nearly what they are worth, but they are brave and wonderful and inspiring. Please tell them thanks.

I've always admired power workers, and their sense of mission after disasters.

UPDATE: Reader Lee Lowrey emails:

Just to reinforce the post from Elizabeth King in Central Mississippi: As I drove back to Northeast Georgia from Richmond, Virginia this past Tuesday afternoon, August 30th, I was absolutely amazed by the almost-non-stop line of power company convoys heading south on I-85. Not just the shear numbers (I must have passed over 100 trucks), but their origins – I saw power companies from Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. It was truly an awesome, emotional sight…

We'll start to see rapid progress by next week, I imagine, though it'll be months before things are set right, given the scale of the devastation.

STEPPING UP: I mentioned earlier that Amazon has a donation link on its page, and Yahoo. So does Google, and reader Michael Pierce emails: "Apple iTunes store is accepting donations for the American Red Cross - and not taking any cut from the transaction."


HUGH HEWITT is trying something new for disaster relief.


The United States has an oil reserve at least three times that of Saudi Arabia locked in oil-shale deposits beneath federal land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, according to a study released yesterday. . . .

For years, the industry and the government considered oil shale — a rock that produces petroleum when heated — too expensive to be a feasible source of oil.

However, oil prices, which spiked above $70 a barrel this week, combined with advances in technology could soon make it possible to tap the estimated 500 billion to 1.1 trillion recoverable barrels, the report found.

I think this means that we'll have plenty of oil, if somewhat more expensively, to last until we switch to something better. That's why, as I've said before, the "Peak Oil" analysis is, at most, "Peak Cheap Oil." And it may well be that, once started, the cost of extracting this stuff will fall significantly. (Via NewsAlert).

READER ROGER ARANGO says that we shouldn't be criticizing the efforts of New Orleans or the federal authorities:

Katrina tells us that nature is more powerful than any of us mere mortals can comprehend. But still, mere mortals do the best they can—as an emergency management type in a small rural Washington state county, I don’t see any thing else that could have been done. In short, the local officials did a brilliant job in evacuating a major city within 30 hours. They established a location people could go to so they wouldn’t die in flood waters. And the response thus far has been magnificent—is there looting: yes; are there other infirmaties of human nature? Of course—but let no one doubt, the response to this major natural disaster has been superb. And small nitpicking critics will cavil and snipe—but consider what might have been.

Well, it could have been worse, certainly. I do think that a firmer hand with looters early on, in line with "broken windows" theory, might have forestalled the more egregious lawlessness we're seeing now. But this is a natural disaster without parallel in American history -- like the Chicago Fire if it had spread across three states -- and disaster relief isn't like calling Domino's. Nor does the fact that we're Americans somehow offer supernatural protection from the consequences of a calamity like this.

Bridges are out, roads are blocked, boats are sunk, and all sorts of other infrastructure is down. Aid can't get through in quantity until that's fixed, at least somewhat. In a situation like this, the first week you get a trickle, the second week you get enough, and the third week you get pretty much all you want. We're still in week one. That, as I've noted elsewhere, is why the standard disaster-preparation advice is to have enough food and water to get you through a week on your own.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to see Bill Clinton slamming CNN for second-guessing and nitpicking.

My own take: Some of the nitpicking and complaining may well be justified, even beyond the inevitable dropped balls in something like this. But there will be plenty of time for that later. Right now, people should be focusing on constructive action, not point-scoring.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Free Will Blog, which was defending Nagin the other day, has turned critic, noting that the breakdown in law and order is a major holdup for rescue efforts.

INTERESTING that they're releasing this information on the Friday before Labor Day:

Pentagon officials said Thursday they have found three more people who recall an intelligence chart that identified Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta as a terrorist one year before the attacks on New York and Washington.

I've been counting on Tom Maguire and Ed Morrissey to keep me up on this whole Able Danger thing. I expect that they'll have more to say on it as the weekend continues.

September 01, 2005

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has a collection of hurricane exploitation quotes.

FLOOD AID UPDATE: Here are some places you can donate to hurricane Katrina relief: (Bumped to top -- scroll down for the latest posts, which continue to be added below this one.) [LATER: First blogburst installment is up -- scroll down to see the links.] [LATER STILL: There's lots more, now.]

LATER: Don't forget to log your contribution over at N.Z. Bear's. Sorry -- I missed that earlier or I would have noted it sooner.

By the way, people want to know where I gave. I donated $500 to the Salvation Army, whose work I've respected. I'm also going to donate some money to help some folks who have wound up here, as soon as I figure out where to send the money. Oh, and the Mercy Corps ad is a freebie, via something Henry Copeland is doing.

American Red Cross

Catholic Charities is involved, and probably has lots of resources to draw on in the heavily Catholic New Orleans area.

Austin Bay is recommending Episcopal Relief and Development.

Liz at Rightalk suggests that animal lovers donate to the Humane Society.

Here's a link to Mennonite Disaster Services. The Sanity Inspector says they're highly efficient.

Reader Peter Viditto recommends The Mercy Corps

Here's the link for Methodist Relief.

Lisa Larkin recommends Operation Blessing.

The Salvation Army does good work. (WalMart just gave them a million dollars, but that's just the barest beginning of what's needed.)

Hugh Hewitt recommends Samaritan's Purse

Scott Ott recommends Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Numerous readers recommend United Jewish Charities.

Here's a link to LDS Humanitarian Services.

Soldiers' Angels has a special relief fund to benefit returning servicepeople in the disaster area.

Blog-based charity Strengthen The Good is setting up a donation matching program.

I'll keep updating this as I get new suggestions.

Jay Allen has a further suggestion:

I would suggest people donate through their companies whenever possible. Most major corporations offer matching funds to the dollar for charitable donations. Find who's collecting money for relief efforts, then file for a match through your employer instead of sending to the agency directly.

Not bad -- if your employer is supporting this.

Chuck Simmins is tracking corporate donations.

Here's the link for N.Z. Bear's Katrina relief aggregator page.

Here's FEMA's list of recommended charities.

More charitable links at Little Green Footballs.

Walmart has set up a Community Crisis System that lets people post messages to, and read messages from loved ones. (Actual page is here.) Mike Krempasky says that

Basically - you can go into any store in the country, log onto any
walmart website - or even call a hotline 800 number and either post a
message to loved ones, or search for messages *from* loved ones.
Employees and customers, everyone can use it.

(This is available in any Wal-Mart Store, SAM'S CLUB, Neighborhood
Market, or Distribution Center via the hiring center kiosks,
connection center kiosks, gift registry, and all Wal-Mart websites.)


Lefty blogger Skippy has donated, and is issuing a challenge to bloggers left and right. "this is not about red states v. blue states...this is not about left v. right...this is not about liberal v. conservative... the people in louisiana, mississippi and alabama are americans. this is about america. and americans have historically always rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help out their fellow countrymen in need."

Amen. Even the capitals-impaired ones!

Craigslist New Orleans has offers of housing for Katrina refugees.

UPDATE: The plan for tomorrow's flood-aid blogburst: I'd like each blogger participating to put up a post recommending a charity, or other action to help, and linking back to this post where I'll keep a comprehensive list of both bloggers and charities. Basically, a Carnival of Hurricane Relief. That way readers of any blog will have ready access to recommendations on all the blogs. If anyone has a better idea, let me know.

Be sure to send me a link to your post, so that I can link it here. Put "Katrina Flood Aid" in the subject line.

LATER: Please don't send any more links! I woke up this morning (Thursday) and my mailbox is jammed. I don't know how I'll post all of these, but I'll figure something out, I guess.

LATER STILL: Bring 'em on! My morning and afternoon appointments are cancelled, yesterday's migraine is pretty much gone, and John Tabin has volunteered to help, so send your links.


Okay it's not tomorrow yet -- except in China, as GZExpat reminded me -- but this stuff is pouring in and I think I'd better get a head start so that I'll have time to teach my classes and such on Thursday. Here's the first batch of links, with more to follow:

Ah, Shoot! suggests Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Disaster Response.

American Geek suggests UMC Disaster Relief.

Anklebiting Pundits recommend The Mercy Corps.

Arabie suggests the Red Cross. There's also information on how to get aid from them if you need it.

La Shawn Barber recommends the Salvation Army.

Michael Barone picks the Salvation Army.

Below the Beltway suggests Catholic Charities.

Domenico Bettinelli has multiple suggestions.

California Conservative recommends the American Red Cross.

Eric Cowperthwaite suggests the Red Cross and the United Way.

Mark DeForrest has multiple recommendations.

The Eclectic Econoclast recommends the Canadian Red Cross to Canadians wanting to give.

The Gospel Messenger recommends Church World Service.

GZ Expat suggests Lutheran World Relief and Catholic Charities.

Hugh Hewitt is donating to the Canal Street Presbyterian Church in New Orleans.

Greg Hlatky recommends the American Kennel Club's Canine Relief Fund for lost or abandoned dogs.

Kenny, Karina & Jacob's Adventures in Deutschland recommends Samaritan's Purse.

Life of Rubin suggests Chabad of Louisiana.

Mark LaRoi suggests Feed the Children.

Left Brain Female recommends Operation Blessing.

Rick Lippincott recommends the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, MS, which took a beating.

Lump on a Blog recommends Second Harvest.

Mr. Spkr recommends Feed the Children.

The New Editor has multiple suggestions.

No Government Cheese suggests the Atlanta Red Cross.

Bill Quick recommends the Salvation Army.

The Ringleader has multiple suggestions.

Tim Russo recommends multiple charities.

Ruthie in the Sky says give to any approved charity.

Soapbox Politics suggests multiple charities.

Mark Steyn is endorsing the Mercy Corps -- and pledging revenues from book sales via his site, too. "Don't worry, it's not one of these dodgy deals involving an unstated 'portion of profits.' You get the book, Mercy Corps get the full US$19.95."

Taxable Talk recommends the Salvation Army and United Jewish Charities.

Traffic Circles suggests Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.

Uzzman recommends the Mercy Corps.

Sissy Willis recommends the AHA/Animal Rescue League effort.

SECOND INSTALLMENT: Okay, I'm totally overwhelmed with "Katrina Flood Aid" emails -- there are hundreds and hundreds. I'm going to keep posting as the day goes on, but no fancy alphabetical order or clever comments. And I'm not repeatedly linking to the same charities; I'll just mention 'em. There are just too many!

Kathy Kinsley has taken up Skppy's challenge and donated to the Salvation Army.

Laughing Wolf and Babalu Blog are offering gifts to people who donate.

Bloggledygook has a wide range of charities, some not listed above.

Baseball Musings is giving to the Salvation Army, the Mennonite Disaster Relief folks, and the Humane Society.

Betsy Newmark is endorsing the Red Cross and Feed the Children.

SgtStryker.Com recommends Lutheran World Relief and the Salvation Army.

Michele Catalano has a lot of links, and emails: "Side note: I'm also trying to find anyone with contacts in the shipping industry who can help me get a truck/transport donated - I'm going to start a local drive for school supplies to be sent to both the Astrodome and Baton Rouge for displaced kids who will be transferring to schools near their shelters." Let her know if you can help.

Dodgeblog is supporting the American Red Cross.

Damian Penny recommends the Canadian Red Cross, and has another post with charities accepting donations from Canadians.

William Teach is supporting the American Red Cross.

Ed Morrissey is supporting Catholic Charities and has some other thoughts.

PowerPundit recommends the Salvation Army.

Brendan Loy is going with the Salvation Army.

David Gerstman recommends the Orthodox Union Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

Baldilocks recommends Soldiers' Angels.

Teak Talks is giving to the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, which helps craftspeople in trouble.

DLMSY recommends Americares.

Annika recommends Catholic Charities.

HiWired's corporate blog has joined the fund and recommends several charities.

Free Money Finance,/a> is matching reader donations.

Five Cent Nickel lists numerous charities.

Back Seat Drivers recommends Chabad New Orleans.

Jeff Quinton recommends the Salvation Army, and notes that Wizbang has its own effort underway.

Ed Cone is endorsing the Red Cross.

Pejman Yousefzadeh is endorsing United Jewish Communities.

Blonde Sagacity recommends the Red Cross. She's got pictures, too.

Juan Paxety supports the Salvation Army, and challenges musicians and music lovers. " Just as New York and Chicago were great melting pots for America, so was New Orleans. It melted together the musical traditions of France, England, Africa, and Spain and created a uniquely American music - the first world music."

Scrappleface is recommending Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

John Tabin recommends the Union for Reform Judaism's Hurricane Relief Fund.

Rachel at TinkertyTonk recommends the Salvation Army.

WorldViews has numerous links, for now and for the aftermath.

Samantha Pierce has multiple recommendations, and suggests ministrywatch as a tool for checking out religious charities.

The Fat Guy is supporting the Salvation Army, and is offering free RV hookups at his park in Texas.

More via John Tabin -- thanks, John!

Alan at Petrified Truth recommends Houston Food Bank.

Jim Dunn at Southern Appeal recommends The Best Friends Animal Society.

Posse Incitatus recommends Catholic Charities and notes that "a few Hail Marys can't hurt, either."

Aliens in This World endorse Catholic Charities.

Brian Warbiany will match up to $100 for a reputable charity to be chosen by the first reader to respond.

Witch of the Dogs supports The Humane Society of Northwest Louisiana.

Jack Garber, Director of Member Services for Christian Service Charities, emails to note the relief efforts of several CSC member charitiess.

Elephant in Exile has several recommendations.

Michelle Malkin likes Mercy Corps.

Along the Tracks recommends Lutheran Services in America and notes that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will match member donations.

Jeremy Dibbell has a couple of recommendations.

Ed Brenegar supports Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Area417 has multiple recommendations.

The American Princess has many suggestions.

Pajamasphere suggests contacting your alumni association or other membership group, as personal assistance to an old friend can often go beyond what a charity does.

Matthew Eppinette recommends the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund.

Jason Clarke points to a blogger in New Orleans collecting for herself and others.

The Dummocrats choose the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation.

CaribPundit endorses LCMS World Relief.

Ipsissima Verba recommends Catholic Charities.

Cadmusings likes International Disaster Emergency Service.

Still more, via John Tabin's fiance, Sara DelVillano. Thanks Sara!

Sundries recommends several charities.

My Side of the Puddle supports The Red Cross.

GM's Corner. recommends Operation USA.

Tim Sisk suggests The United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The Blog from the Core recommends Catholic Charities.

The Disgruntled Chemist supports Network for Good.

PoliBlog; suggests Habitat for Humanity.

The Musings of Kev supports several charities.

Ella M. links to many charities.

Hyscience; supports many worthy charities.

The Fast Squirrel recommends Samaritan's Purse.

FullosseousFlap; recommends Catholic Charities.

USS Neverdock supports The Red Cross.

Matthew Maynard supports Feed The Children.

Nancy at My Garden Spot recommends The Harris County Citizen Corps.

Brent Colbert links to the Canadian Red Cross.

Eric McErlain supports the American Red Cross.

The Pryhills suggests Noah's Wish.

Mystery Pollster supports the Red Cross.

Lent & Beyond links to many charities.

Getting Nothing But Static... suggests the Red Cross and others.

Ang recommends the Red Cross.

The Raving Athiest is offering refrigerator magnets and a personalized limerick to anyone who contributes $10 or more to Catholic Charities.

A List of Things Thrown... suggests Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Angry in the Great White North supports the United Negro College Fund.

TigerSmack will be liveblogging from Baton Rouge.

Over at Crooked Timber, Ted Barlow is offering a premium for donations. And so is his co-blogger Eszter. You can decide which one appeals to you more!

The Counterterrorism Blog has multiple links.

Virginia Postrel recommends the North Texas Food Bank and comments: "What refugees are going to need is help getting settled in new places to live: first and last month's rent, furniture, etc. (Right now, I wish someone would find a fund to pay for hotel rooms. I'd donate.)"

Bloggers' Blog recommends the Red Cross.

Forward Biased recommends Bill Hennessy's home-sharing arrangement.

SportsBizBlog recommends United Jewish Charities.

The Razor has multiple recommendations.

Joanne Norton doesn't have a blog, but sends this page of places to help.

Holy Fool supports Catholic Charities.

SkyePuppy recommends the International Disaster Emergency Service.

Queer Conservative has multiple links and notes a Morgan Freeman fundraising effort.

Kim's Notebook has multiple links.

CalTechGirl recommends UMCOR.

Joe Gandelman has multiple recommendations.

ToneCluster is supporting the American Red Cross via CDBaby.

Still more, again via John Tabin. Thanks again, John!

Jay at Solo Dialogue has two suggestions.

The Other Club likes the Red Cross.

Vik Rubenfeld has several suggestions.

Ryne McClaren likes the Red Cross and , plus the AKC.

Amy Helfman endorses the Red Cross, which helped her friend BL Ochman's after 9/11.

Sun Comprehending Glass suggests Samaritan's Purse to help the two-legged and the Humane Society to help the four-legged.

Infinite Improbability recommends the Presbyterian Church in America Mission To North America's Hurricane Relief Fund.

Lissa Kay supports the Red Cross and also notes the Foundation Hurricane Fund, which is affiliated with several animal rescue groups.

Everyman recommends Mercy Corps.

Keith of In Which Our Hero likes Habitat for Humanity.

Duane of The Forest For The Trees notes that recovery efforts need accurate mapping, and GIS experts who can volunteer their time have an important role to play.

Matt Jones endorses World Vision.

Justin Hein has several suggestions.

Blogging for Bryant recommends Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Ho John Lee is a Red Cross fan.

Kevin Ecker is another Red Cross fan.

Baseball Crank notes the Baseball Think Factory effort to get affected kids back in cleats.

Stephen Carlson points to the McCormick Tribune Foundation, who will kick in 50 cents for each of the first million dollars they collect.

Captoe recommends Catholic Charities.

Looking Around recommends Direct Relief International.

McGee's Musings recommends the Red Cross.

Red Guy in a Blue State recommends the Knights of Columbus.

Six Meat Buffet is pushing the Salvation Army.

"Tattoo Couture" site is raising money to help a New Orleans tattooist who's been left destitute.

Buzz Brockway recommends Samaritan's Purse.

Leigh Black, better known as the Jager Bitch, is supporting the Red Cross.

Kowabunga recommends multiple charities.

Allison Ashwell has lots of links and information.

My Name is Kate is pushing the Red Cross and warns people to beware of email Phishing scams.

Eduwonk says mail the money and save the credit card fees, and publishes the American Red Cross's address.

The Right Place endorses Catholic Charities.

XMLGRRL recommends Punditeria's hyperlocal resources, and the Red Cross.

BareKnucklePolitics endorses the Red Cross.

Nicholas Schweitzer recommends the Red Cross, too.

Combs Spouts Off endorses the Salvation Army.

Book Kitten wants help for the Louisiana Library Association disaster relief fund.

The Well-Timed Period recommends the Red Cross and the CDC Foundation.

Lucky Dawg recommends America's Second Harvest.

Common Folk Using Common Sense recommends the Salvation Army.

NanoDot says give to any qualified charity.

Tobias Buckell recommends Modest Needs.

David M recommends the Red Cross and United Jewish Communities.

Business of Life recommends the Red Cross.

Stingray recommends the Southern Baptist Relief Fund and Catholic Charities.

Blogging Tories recommends the American or Canadian Red Cross.

So does Stephen Taylor.

Wheat and Weeds recommends Catholic Charities.

King Banaian recommends the ELCA International and Domestic Disaster Response.

Diario Hoy recommends the United Way.

The Troglodyte has multiple recommendations.

Sharon GR recommends Habitat for Humanity.

John Hinderaker backs Lutheran Social Services.

Brendan Loy recommends the Salvation Army.

Doranwen recommends Adventist Development and Relief.

Dizzy Girl recommends the American Red Cross.

Oddybobo recommends the Salvation Army.

Lady Jane recommends Catholic Charities.

Tom Grey recommends Caritas International.

Technorati Tags: ,

I'm copying FEMA's disclaimer here, too, even though I think it's overkill. I can't vouch for these organizations personally, of course, and it's up to you to be sure that you're donating to the right place:

Please check with your tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information regarding the tax deductibility of your donation.
The listing of or omission of an institution or organization on this Web site does not refer to programmatic capability nor does it confer any official status, approval, or endorsement of the institution or organization itself. This listing does not purport to be a listing of all organizations that are providing relief in the affected area. Additionally, there may be organizations providing relief in the affected area that are not accepting donations at this time. It is not the purpose of this Web site to make, or enable to be made, any representation to the public concerning the organizations listed. This listing is for informational purposes only. Any contributions you choose to make from links on this Web site are at your sole discretion.


READER DUNCAN FRISSELL sends this Verizon EVDO coverage map for Knoxville. Looks like coverage is quite broad.

CONTRARY TO LILEKS, below, the French are wanting to help:

French humanitarian aid officials met on Thursday to examine ways of providing support for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said. France is considering ways of mobilizing relief teams from the French Antilles in the Caribbean, ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said at a news conference.

Don't call 'em stingy yet!

AN IDEA THAT'S SO SIMPLE, LIKE THE JITTERBUG, THAT IT'S PLUMB EVADED US: Donald Sensing wonders why we're not dropping leaflets with instructions to people in the disaster zone:

Within short order, hundreds of millions of leaflets could be printed to be dropped over afflicted areas. The leaflets could explain what aid is on the way, where aid can be found, how to move out of dangerous areas, how to signal critical needs to overflying aircraft, how to sterilize water, basic trauma first aid, where medical help can be attained – the list is endless.

One of the best things leafleting would do is psychologically reconnect the cut off victims to their governments and restore their morale and will.

Read the whole thing. Sounds sensible to me.

HERE'S AN EMAIL from a physician who's setting up a temporary hospital at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans.

AUSTIN BAY WRITES on an American refugee crisis:

We’ve a million people dispossessed and they are suffering. Critics grouse that the response to Katrina’s devestation has been abysmally slow. Compared to what? Slow compared to our expectations is the correct answer. Compared to every other nation on the planet, we’re moving at warp speed to address a natural disaster of extraordinary magnitude.

Watch what happens over the next week, as American aid organizations, religious groups, and willing individuals act. America’s great wealth is matched by its generosity. America is responding decisively to Katrina’s tragedy.

But it will still be rough. I have some related thoughts over at

MY DEAN INFORMS ME that the University of Tennessee Law College will be accepting 50 refugee law students from Tulane and Loyola. More info here.

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS is accepting students from damaged areas for the duration.

EUGENE VOLOKH to the ACLU-haters: Bring it on!

TED FRANK on shooting looters:

I fully acknowledge that shooting looters is an inappropriately disproportionate response if one views looting as mere larceny. But one doesn't shoot looters to protect property, one does so to protect order. Somebody is going to suffer unjustly when society breaks down. I don't understand why Muller thinks it preferable for the law-abiding citizens to be the cost-bearers. History has shown repeatedly that the way to stop an anarchic riot is an early display of substantial force.

Normally, you don't shoot people for stealing because we value life over property. But when people are, as Frank notes, looting hospitals for drugs at gunpoint and the like, things are out of hand and life-threatening violence looms.

When I was on Grand Cayman last month, several people told me that looting became a problem after Hurricane Ivan, but quickly stopped when the police shot several looters. That's because looters usually value life over property too.

As I've said before, I don't think that people helping themselves to emergency supplies are to be blamed, but that's not what we're talking about here. Those who don't get this are either sadly uninformed or deliberately obtuse.

A BLEAK REPORT FROM NEW ORLEANS: A colleague sends this email. (Click "read more" to read it).

Read More ?

JAMES LILEKS: "Last time I checked the French weren’t helping much, either – odd. The one place in the country where their guys could read the signs, and they don’t bother to pitch in."

HELICOPTER VIDEO of Gulf Coast damage, from WLBT. Three different segments on their website.

MICHAEL SILENCE reports on the Katrina Flood Aid effort in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. And here's his roundup of posts from Tennessee blogs.

NICE STORY ON MICHAEL YON in the Boston Herald.

NEW YORK TIMES: Owners Take Up Arms as Looters Press Their Advantage.

If you've got a week's supplies, and a gun, you'll usually do okay after a disaster. If you don't, you're in much bigger trouble, because it generally takes that long for some sort of order to be restored. We saw that after Andrew, and we're seeing it again.

REGISTERING TO VOTE: New American citizen Jigsha Desai videoblogs the whole thing.


You don't know me - just another faithful reader here. But I trust your judgment so I thought I'd ask: Beyond donations, is there good to be achieved by driving down to New Orleans (I live in Kansas City) with a car stuffed full of bottled water, vitamins, antibiotics and stuff? I'm not trained in anything useful (just a public relations guy here), but it seems like a healthy person armed with a car could get some good done. Armed with a car and hip waders? Maybe even more good.

Your thoughts? Many thanks in advance for your perspective.

I'm no expert. My guess is that the authorities don't want people coming on their own like that -- but that if you show up, they'll find something for you to do. If you go, though, be sure to be self-sufficient for at least a week, so you're not a drain on rescue resources.

And be sure you've had your shots.

UPDATE: FEMA says do not self-dispatch.

GOOD IDEA: Eric Muller has set up blogs for the Tulane Law School and Loyola New Orleans Law School communities.

August 31, 2005

A BAD REVIEW for New Orleans' Mayor Nagin:

During the last interview with the Mayor - I did not hear one word of ANY plan for the people who can not drive to get out of New Orleans. I assume there are some on the ground plans, but they certainly are not being adequately communicated to the press,

And just now a WDSU reporter is reporting seeing kids, as young as six and seven year old - on their own - with all their belongings in a plastic bag - begging drivers to take them out of the city. And when his news team left on the one bridge still open, there saw a line of the very old and the very young - people in wheel chairs - even more incredible - people being pushed on hospital gurneys - fleeing for their lives over the last bridge out of New Orleans.

The same reporter also gave an account of the gangs roaming and terrorizing the city.

We should all be asking - after all this time - why have buses and trucks not been commandeered to get the poor out of the city?

Why are the residents of New Orleans not being told HOW to get out of the city instead of just being told that they must get out of the city?

I've been wondering about this myself. The City's response has seemed too-late and too-weak from the beginning.

UPDATE: FreeWillBlog: "I'm not ready to jump on Nagin just yet."

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE offers a caution about donations to charity. And remember that you can -- and should -- check out any unknown charities at the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving site,

MOXIE READS THE HUFFINGTON POST on Katrina, so you don't have to! Thanks, Moxie!

UPDATE: Related post here. I want one of those flying cars. And they'd have been handy for people trying to escape the flooding, too . . . .

GAS PANIC IN ATLANTA: We're seeing some of that here, too. Remember -- even when supply isn't under pressure, if everyone rushes to top off their tanks it'll exhaust the supplies at stations.

UPDATE: Here's a report that bogus rumors led to gas lines in Columbus, Georgia.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This, on the other hand, is not a rumor:

The price of regular-grade gasoline soared as much as 50 cents a gallon overnight as Hurricane Katrina forced suppliers to ration the fuel sent to filling stations and convenience stores. . . . ``I would hope that all consumers recognize the really catastrophic event that occurred with Hurricane Katrina,'' said Dan Gilligan, president of the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, in an interview yesterday. The Arlington, Virginia-based group represents about 8,000 marketers across the U.S.

``If consumers want to help, they need to find a way to conserve if they can,'' he said. ``Find a way to carpool for the next couple of weeks. If everyone would just decide to conserve a little bit, I think the industry can cope. If people are going way for Labor Day, maybe try to cut back the travel by 100 miles.''

Dartblog notes that high prices will encourage that. And reader Gerald Dearing reports from Atlanta:

Just returned from a short drive around the neighborhood (Norcross). EVERY gas station has lines out into the street, even the stations on the back roads. Except the Chevron (Peachtree Industrial & Medlock Bridge), which has shut it's pumps down. Out, most likely. But I didn't ask. Wasn't anything like this at lunchtime when I stopped in for a fishwrapper.

WSB-am is devoting it's programming to the crisis, mostly rumor control. Trying to calm the panic.

Governor Sunny has declared a "Gas Emergency", whatever the hell that is. Radio said "State of Emergency", radio reporters aren't good at subtle distinctions.

Me? I think the panic is silly. But then I don't need gas today. Or even diesel. I'm in for time off, and doing as little driving as possible.

Who knows what set off the rumors? But they spread quickly. Oh, well.

Things should settle down by next week, but gas will be expensive for a while. Glad I didn't buy that SUV!


JAMES JOYNER is publishing at his backup site because of the same sort of problems that InstaPundit has been having.

FROM SUPERDOME TO ASTRODOME? I guess that's an improvement, but only a temporary one. People need to be spread out to real housing, not concentrated in temporary quarters.


But mainstream Web sites that had jumped to pull in money for the tsunami victims showed no evidence of repeating it here in the U.S. for Katrina's., which raised more than $14 million for the American Red Cross in January via a donation link on its home page, didn't have one as of mid-day Monday. Nor did Google, Yahoo, MSN, or eBay, all of which hustled earlier in the year to put up donation links on their portals. (Google slapped up an "Information about Hurricane Katrina" link on its Spartan home page, but that led to news sources and stories.)

An Amazon spokesperson said that the online retailer had no plans to post a donation link on its site. "Each case is different," she said. "The Red Cross has essentially given over its entire site to donations. The tsunami came out of the blue, so it was an 'all hands on deck' situation, but the Red Cross has been getting ready for this and getting its message out there for several days."

Maybe they'll change their minds.

UPDATE: Yahoo now has an aid link on its page.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Some readers are emailing them. That's fine, but be polite. This is a bad decision that they can make right easily. Encourage them to do so, but also give them the chance to do the right thing. Name-calling, in my experience, seldom encourages people to do the right thing.

MORE: From Hugh Hewitt: "At 2:45 Pacific, we heard from Amazon that the company has changed its mind. Some one must have gotten around to asking Jeff Bezos."


JAMES GLASSMAN looks at people who are exploiting Katrina for political purposes.

They're also scientific illiterates. More here.

UPDATE: Steven St. Onge isn't so sure that Glassman has the numbers right, though (see the link above) experts do seem to share Glassman's view. Mark Kleiman also sends a link to this letter in Nature, though it seems to be a bit speculative, and conflicts with the New York Times article quoted earlier. On the other hand, it's not like a NYT article is the last word.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Nick Gillespie is siding with Glassman and offers more links in support.

USING THE MILITARY in cases of civil disturbance and looting. Donald Sensing has an interesting post.

I'VE BEEN THE VICTIM OF A MASS DE-LINKING because I said that "demonizing the ACLU is a bit silly." So much for suggesting that the critics lack perspective. That'll show me!

Here, by the way, is the brief I worked on with them last. Related background here.

UPDATE: As in New Orleans, it doesn't take long for the vultures to appear! Is this "link-looting?" Heh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Heh. And this is funny, too.

BEYOND CHARITY: Wizbang has some suggestions for bloggers.

MICHELLE MALKIN HAS A ROUNDUP ON LOOTING: I agree with Jonah Goldberg that it's one thing for desperate people to help themselves to bottled water, food, or diapers from abandoned stores, and another to just sack those places for valuables. People doing the latter should be shot.

IT'S LIKE A BIG RX-8: The Ford Iosis Concept Car. (Via Autoblog). Hey, Ford could do worse -- and has!

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE has a massive roundup on the military response to Katrina, which is quite extensive.


RON BAILEY ON BIOTECHNOLOGY: "How Europe starves the world's poor."

GAS RATIONING AT THE WHOLESALE LEVEL, due to Katrina-related shortages.

LEGAL AFFAIRS has a number of interesting items on national security law.

DISASTER KITS: Reader Brian Cook emails: "Prof. Reynolds, you mentioned that everyone should have a battery-operated radio in his emergency kit. I submit that one of these is an even better idea."

Actually, I have one. So does reader Andrew Centofani, who writes: "For emergencies I like the Grundig FR200. I just bought one a couple of months ago and thankfully haven't had to use it for anything emergency wise, but it works great -- about an hour with two minutes of cranking -- and has an emergency light built in. If I could add anything to it I would have some sort of DC out plug as so I could power/charge other small electronics and add Weather / Emergency frequencies." I agree.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian King emails:

have that same Grundig dynamo-powered radio, and I love it.

My wife has this one in her car: it's got a "mobile phone charger" outlet. Her phone cord doesn't fit the jack, but it is a DC out.

The Grundig FR-300 has a similar mobile phone charging jack.


LEGAL PROBLEMS WITH SPACE ELEVATORS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

UPDATE: In the comments to that piece, reader J.T. Wenting observes:

Message: Space elevators most likely will be built from space down towards earth rather than from the surface up.

Would they still be an extension of the country they're anchored to or would they be space structures reaching the surface?

I'd say the latter, similar to a ship mooring in a harbour not being real estate of the country that harbour is located in, as technically the space elevator would be moored to the ground rather than being built on it.

Interesting argument.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rand Simberg has more thoughts:

The problems associated with anchoring such a beast in an unstable and/or corrupt equatorial country has caused many of those planning such things to put them instead on floating ocean platforms, in international waters. This raises some new issues, because now, instead of (as Glenn notes) the structure simply being a very high tower, it would now be a tall ship that would put to shame all of the previous false claimants to that designation, with their puny little sticks for masts.


August 30, 2005

FEDERAL RELIEF EFFORTS, including a Naval flotilla and 125,000 National Guardsmen, are on the way to afflicted areas, reports CNN.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

What most of these poor folks need right now is information on where they can go to seek shelter. I'm in Tuscaloosa right now and you wouldn't believe the overflow of people seeking hotel rooms. Maybe the blogosphere can help get the word out to the relief agencies they need to get the word out to the victims. The University recreation center is offering shelter for now, but what happens when that overflows? How are these people going to continue to pay for hotel rooms weeks after this disaster?

I don't know how to handle this problem, but I hope that somebody does. Ideas?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kathy Childre emails:

I was thinking that there should be a way to set up a fund just for that. An hotel fund. I know in Baton Rouge some apartment managers are offering month to month leases for displaced persons and trying to find free furnture for them. Donating used furniture for the apartments would be nice to. If there were some way to set up a fund to pay for those leases as well it would be great. I'm just not sure of the logistics of it.

It's a thought.

KAYE TRAMMELL has an open comment thread for people looking for news and information about survivors.

Also, here's the Hurricane Katrina help Wiki.

Craigslist is running a lost and found list for friends and relatives. It also includes posts from people who want to help.

I'm not sure why, exactly, but more than anything else, reading the entries brought tears to my eyes.

Read this, too.

UPDATE: Here's another Katrina missing persons board.

THE SLIDELL HURRICANE BLOG is gathering information about conditions in and around Slidell.


VARIOUS PEOPLE ARE CLAIMING THAT GLOBAL WARMING CAUSED KATRINA: EU Rota looks at the historical record and finds this argument wanting.

Here's more from The New York Times:

Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught "is very much natural," said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950's and 60's.

It's sad to see such lame political opportunism at a time like this.

UPDATE: Another response to lame, opportunistic, politically motivated claims.


New Orleans resembled a war zone more than a modern American metropolis on Tuesday, as Gulf Coast communities struggled to deal with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Deteriorating conditions in New Orleans will force authorities to evacuate the tens of thousands of people at city shelters, including the Superdome, where a policeman told CNN unrest was escalating.

The officer expressed concern that the situation could worsen overnight after three shootings, looting and a number of attempted carjackings during the afternoon.

They need to get these people out of the city as soon as possible.


IAN SCHWARTZ has video from Biloxi, and it doesn't look good.

SLATE WRITES ON DELL'S PROBLEMS, and Jeff Jarvis is mentioned.

My experiences with Dell, I note, have been good.

HERE'S A COAST GUARD BLOGGER, Tidewater Musings, who's reporting on the Coast Guard's rescue and recovery efforts.


This is from the Baton Rouge Advocate about a good thing done in Houston for the refugees from AL, LA, and MS. I am going to contact other area restaurants and suggest they follow suit:

"Yesterday, we went to the IKEA in Houston. There were signs all over telling Louisiana residents that they could eat for free in the restaurant because of the hurricane. We enjoyed dessert and coffee, but we could have had a full meal for all of us if we'd chosen to. This morning, the local paper has a list of things to do in the city for people from LA, MS, and AL. Everything is free. All museums and the zoo are letting residents of those states in for free, and many of them will do so until the end of October. I guess that's because they know that people may be stuck here for quite some time.

Sadly, yes.

IN PRAISE OF OLD MEDIA: I've watched the TV coverage today, and I think they've done a very good job; a story like this tends to bring out their best.

And you've got to admire the grit and determination of the Times Picayune, which isn't letting the destruction of its city stop it from publishing:

The Times-Picayune was forced to evacuate our Howard Avenue newsroom Tuesday. We are setting up bureaus in Houma and in Baton Rouge to continue to provide coverage of this disaster. We will continue to publish the newspaper each day without interruption. We will make it available in PDF form on each morning around midnight.

Their web publication has also been excellent, and I suspect that quite a few newspapers will find themselves publishing this way, even without a hurricane, in the not-too-distant future. Likewise WWL TV which is still reporting (blog here, and streaming live video.

UPDATE: Reader Andrew Lee emails:

You should mention the radio broadcasters in the area too - I know the staff at WWL-AM (and their sister stations) have been trapped inside their building next to the Superdome for since Sunday night, and truly heroic measures were taken to get them back on the air after Katrina took them out. Imagine working on a 50,000 watt tower in chest deep water - dangerous! Right now they're the only source of information for a lot of people in the area without power, television, or internet, and they really are performing like heroes.

What's going to be interesting in the coming days is the cooperation between rivals in the radio business, as they combine their resources and available technologies to provide information - I predict they'll be simulcasting on a lot of frequencies, owned by different companies soon.

Radio often gets overlooked, but it's as vital and pervasive today as it has ever been... and there are still aspects of it that the satellite radio providers will never be able to compete with, despite all the hype.

Yes, and everyone should have a battery-powered radio in their disaster kit.

AUSTIN BAY on disaster relief, recovery, and development.

COUNTERPROGRAMMING: Michele Catalano has decided to focus on good news out of the hurricane area, letting everyone else report the bad. Good choice.

CHRIS NOLAN on Nick Lemann.


If you live there you can go home next Monday, but only with photo identification, and only for a short time to collect clothes and other essentials. After that, you've got to leave again.

For a month.

There's no way to spin this. That's just horrible, horrible news. It's so bad there, Parish officials have asked the public to donate boats to help with the rescue and clean-up efforts.

More reasons to think about hardening systems against disaster, though in truth I don't know how much you could do about this. I hope, though, that people will be thinking about it.

HUGH HEWITT is suggesting a day of concerted blogging for hurricane relief efforts. It's a good idea. How about Thursday, to give people a chance to organize? I'll link blog posts -- and in the meantime, send me suggestions for aid organizations worth mentioning. Put "flood aid" in the subject line.

UPDATE: Reader Loren Rueter emails: "Any foreign governments offering aid?"

None that I've heard of. Should we call 'em stingy?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Less snarkily, The Anchoress emails:

Glenn, remember how Amazon put together the Honor System for donations after the Tsunami? Couldn't something like that be done?

It certainly could. Will it? I guess somebody should ask Jeff Bezos!

WELL, THIS SUCKS: A broken levee means that New Orleans is flooding. Slower and without the fatalities we'd have seen if it had happened during the storm surge, but with similar effects on property and infrastructure. Are the pumps just too big to have backup power?


IN THE MAIL: Jason Hartley's Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq. It looks very interesting and well-written.

THERE'S A NEW FAMILY LAW BLOG as part of Paul Caron's ever-expanding blog empire.

MICHAEL YOUNG looks at the Harriri investigation and asks what if Syria is found guilty?

Meanwhile, here's a report of Baathist henchmen being arrested in Lebanon.

IRAQI CONSTITUTION UPDATE: Interesting translation from the Iraqi newspaper Alhayat, reporting widespread support for taking the proposed Iraqi Constitution to a vote.



President Klaus spoke last Monday, warning for the new “substitute ideologies of socialism” such as “Europeanism” and “NGOism.” These “isms” are currently threatening Europe. “In the first decade of the 21st century we should not concentrate exclusively on socialism,” he said. . . .

As substitutes of socialism, Vбclav Klaus cited “environmentalism (with its Earth First, not Freedom First principle), radical humanrightism (based – as de Jasay precisely argues – on not distinguishing rights and rightism), the ideology of ‘civic society’ (or communitarism), which is nothing less than one version of post-Marxist collectivism which wants privileges for organized groups, and in consequence, a refeudalization of society […], multiculturalism, feminism, apolitical technocratism (based on the resentment against politics and politicians), internationalism (and especially its European variant called Europeanism) and a rapidly growing phenomenon I call NGOism.”. . .

He also opposed “excessive government regulation” and “huge subsidies to privileged or protected industries and firms.” He warned that Europe’s social system “must not be wrecked by all imaginable kinds of disincentives, by more than generous welfare payments, by large scale redistribution, by many forms of government paternalism.” Instead, Europe has to “be based on freedom, personal responsibility, individualism, natural caring for others and genuine moral conduct of life.”

Read the whole thing.


While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are "scientifically savvy and alert," he said in an interview. Most of the rest "don't have a clue." At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people's inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process. . . .

Dr. Miller's data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

What do they teach them in schools these days?

AGGREGATED CARBON NANORODS: A new substance that's harder than diamonds. Get used to stuff like this.


August 29, 2005


From your website:
regarding the ACLU -- "I've worked with them in the past, on the New Orleans rave case for example, and will probably do so again."

Well, You lost another reader. Just now disappeared from my Bookmarks.

That's okay -- there are plenty of blogs out there, and this guy would clearly be happier somewhere else. Eric Scheie, on the other hand, takes a somewhat more nuanced approach. As, for that matter, does Allen Thorpe.

MEGHAN O'ROURKE criticizes censorious bloggers.

DANIEL DREZNER WRITES ON "HURRICANE PORN:" I think that complaints about that are misplaced with regard to Katrina, which was quite a dreadful storm, and which -- on the strength of a last minute shift -- just barely escaped being much worse. But the phenomenon in general is quite real and as I mentioned over at yesterday it may also make it harder to get people to evacuate when a storm is really bad.

BILL QUICK ON JUDITH MILLER: "I expect the NYT is quite puzzled as to why there is no groundswell for the 'plight' of one of their reporters. Probably the notion that half the country thinks their entire staff should be in jail hasn't quite sunk in yet."

That kind of reminds me of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Tim Rutten.

BRENDAN LOY IS ON HUGH HEWITT right now. He's also got an impressive collection of photos from New Orleans on his site.

HURRICANE-PHOTOBLOGGING, using a laptop on battery power and a free AOL CD for dialup to bypass dead DSL. (Via Josh Britton).

Rex Hammock has thoughts and links on local emergency blogging. And it's worth something -- I've had folks evacuated from the Mississippi Gulf Coast begging me for links to blogs in their area because they can't get enough news from the regular media. (Via Kaye Trammell).

THE MIAMI HERALD says that the New Orleans city government was slow to learn from Hurricane Andrew.

UPDATE: Michele Catalano says the media folks haven't learned much, either.

ANOTHER UPDATE: N.Z. Bear notes previous problems in New Orleans. Let's iron out all the kinks before next time, okay?

KATRINA UPDATE: Calder Lorenz emails: is providing a public service for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. We have set up a website that lets people send in photographs of those who go missing during the storm. We are asking others to contribute by posting a link to tool on their sites. Your assistance in this effort is greatly appreciated.

Here's the link.


So is this week's Carnival of Cordite.

UPDATE: Here's an especially long and detailed Carnival of the Revolutions, with links to posts on pro-democracy activity in all sorts of countries.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Don't miss The Blawg Review, a carnival of lawbloggers!

YES, BLOGGING WAS LIGHT: Classes have started here, and I was also having trouble reaching the server until the Hosting Matters folks worked their magic.

DAVID CORN: "Clinton Lied...and Hundreds of Thousands Died."

No protests to speak of, though.

ANDREW MARCUS, the blog-documentarian I've mentioned before, has been in Crawford, Texas and has posted reports, photos, and video of what he saw.

UPDATE: Here's another report.


NOLA.COM'S HURRICANE BLOGGER has a picture of the Superdome with the roof peeling off.

There's another picture here, along with a report that there are 10,000 people (not the 40,000 other outlets are reporting) inside.

UPDATE: Here's a photo from Biloxi, via Flickr. Note roof damage. Still, it seems that things haven't turned out as badly as they might have.

BOOKS LIKE THIS ONE ON THE ACLU, which I just got in the mail, are probably no worse than the myriad of hatchet jobs done in the past on, say, the NRA or (more recently) the Federalist Society. But I think that demonizing the ACLU is a bit silly. I do feel that they've become overly partisan in recent years, but they still do good work (I've worked with them in the past, on the New Orleans rave case for example, and will probably do so again.)

HERE'S A WEBCAM ON THE L.S.U. CAMPUS. (Via Baton Rouge local-blogger Josh Britton).

GLORIA SALT has a new URL. Make note of it.

SUPERDOME ROOF DAMAGE: The WDSU Hurricane Blog reports:

A 3-by-5-foot chunk is missing, and people are being ushered off the field of the stadium. Although the roof has been breached, those inside are remaining calm. A heavy mist is reported inside, and some are now wearing raincoats.

I'm really glad not to be there. I guess this headline will have to change . . . .

SUSAN DUDLEY offers some depressing news:

Before leaving town earlier this month, Congress approved nearly $300 billion in increased spending. But spending, supported through taxes, is not the only way the federal government diverts resources from the private sector to accomplish its goals. The other is through regulation and, in recent years, that too has increased at an impressive rate. . . .

The FY 2006 Budget requests that Congress allocate $41.4 billion for regulatory activities, up from $39.5 billion in 2005. This reflects a 4.8 percent increase in outlays directed at writing, administering, and enforcing federal regulations. The regulators' budget is growing at a faster rate than other nondiscretionary spending, which the President's budget held to only 2.1 percent in 2006. Since 2000, the regulators' budget has grown an amazing 46 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

Jeez. My expectations that Bush would shrink the government were modest enough, given the realities of American politics. But it's fair to say that, modest as they were, they've still been disappointed.

TERRY TEACHOUT has updated his list of hurricane-bloggers.

THE IRAQI PARLIAMENT has accepted the constitution over Sunni objections. Mohammed at Iraq the Model has a number of thoughts, including the suggestion that Shiite clergy have overplayed their hand.

MICKEY KAUS and Arnold Kling are unimpressed with Malcolm Gladwell's latest on health insurance. I found the opening unpersuasive -- is Gladwell suggesting that we should aspire to British standards of dentistry?

KATRINA has weakened a bit to Category 4. It seems to have veered eastward a bit, too. Let's hope that will make a difference.

OLD MEDIA VS. NEW MEDIA: An interesting transcript of an interview between Hugh Hewitt and Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times.

August 28, 2005

HERE'S A NEW ORLEANS WEBCAM -- at the corner of St. Charles & Napoleon -- that's still working.

UPDATE: Some unpleasant thoughts about quality of life in the Superdome.

If the worst happens -and at this point it seems implausible that it won't- the bottom 2 stories will fill with water. Dirty nasty foul water full of chemicals and raw sewerage. Further the bathroom facilities are only expected to function for the first day.

So in rough terms, 40,000+ people will be trapped in a building with no plumbing, little light and no air conditioning. The temps after the storm rolls thru will probably be in the low 90s. Considerably hotter in the building.

Let's just hope that people are in a position to worry about that. Heck, let's hope that the "implausible" happens and New Orleans doesn't flood.

UPDATE: As of 6:16 Eastern time, the webcam is still working.

LOCAL NEWS reports that Knoxville hotels are filling with refugees from the Gulf coast.


If your hand is trembling over your third coffee of the morning, do not despair. You could be getting more healthy antioxidants from your liquid fix than are from the fruit or vegetables you eat, according to a study of US diets. . . .

Helping to rid the body of free radicals, destructive molecules that damage cells and DNA, antioxidants have been linked to a number of benefits, including protection against heart disease and cancer.

The research is the latest in a number of studies to suggest coffee could be beneficial, with consumption linked to a reduced risk of liver and colon cancer, type two diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.

"Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source - nothing else comes close," said Joe Vinson from Scranton University in Pennsylvania, who led the research.

You should still eat fruits and vegetables, though.


STREAMING VIDEO from WWL-TV in New Orleans. (Via Jordan Golson).

There's lots of news at Storm Digest, too, and at the breaking news blog. And Terry Teachout has updated the post I mentioned earlier with a big list of hurricane bloggers.

Michele Catalano, meanwhile, is pretty unimpressed with the people who decided to stay in New Orleans and party through the hurricane. And Rob A. notes that Katrina is a Cat 5 while Andrew was only a 4: "Since I work in insurance, I can assure you that Andrew still scares the crap out of the entire industry." [LATER: Several readers email to note that subsequent analysis led to Andrew being upgraded to a Cat 5.]

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground is worried. (Via SciGuy).

UPDATE: Reader C.J. Burch emails: "Michele is on the money. Evil Knevil wouldn't stay in New Orleans right now. Everyone that prays should offer one for the gulf coast right now."

Except for James Wolcott, I guess, who presumably is praying to Gaia as usual for an increase in wind speeds and storm surge. Me, I'm not as big a fan of "Mother Nature's fist of fury." Either as reality, or as really cheesy writing . . ..

MORE: Evacuations in coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

STILL MORE: A million left homeless? Gaia-worshippers will be ecstatic.

More here, from Bill Hennessy.

Huge Katrina link roundup over at Pundit Guy.

MORE STILL: Wolcott has pulled the roooting for hurricanes / fist of fury post, and is receiving praise from some quarters: "Some bloggers will no doubt criticize Wolcott for pulling the post, but it was the right move, and a classy one. It's easy to make a bad joke. It's a lot harder to admit it was bad."

LATER: Hmm. Wolcott says he pulled the post, but it's still there.

FRITZ HOLLINGS CONNECTS IRAQ TO 9/11 -- Ed Morrissey notices something interesting.

A COUNTER-PROTEST at Walter Reed. More here.

DAVE KOPEL says that the press isn't treating Cindy Sheehan's actual views with respect.

JIM LINDGREN HAS THOUGHTS on law schools' diversity problems.

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge has much more.

KATRINA HAS AN IMPACT and it hasn't even made landfall yet:

U.S. crude oil futures surged more than $4 in opening trade on Monday, hitting a new record high above $70 a barrel after Hurricane Katrina forced Gulf of Mexico producers to shut in more than a third of their output. Katrina, which strengthened into a rare, maximum power Category 5 hurricane as it spun through key oil and gas fields toward New Orleans, shut in a total 633,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to company figures on Sunday. It also forced the closure of seven refineries and a major U.S. crude import terminal.

The refinery damage may be the bigger issue, if the storm performs as feared.

UPDATE: Here's more on economic damage, including a map of refineries in Louisiana.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Comic relief via Shepard Smith. Crooks & Liars has the video.

MORE: TigerHawk has more on the economic impact of Katrina.

How do you know it's time to evacuate? When The Weather Channel reporter bugs out.

BREAKING NEWS: It's all Bush's fault.

HERE'S A REPORT that Calorie Restriction won't do much to make people live longer. Not that I was planning on trying it. . . .

SOME IMPORTANT PROGRESS in regenerative medicine. Even better, it's likely to work for humans.

THE BBC is running reader reports on Katrina.

More blogging here and here.

Watching the TV footage of backed-up traffic trying to escape New Orleans, I'm surprised that they haven't switched the inbound lanes over to outbound as well. And listening to interviews of people stuck in New Orleans I'm struck by how many people don't understand that if you wait for orders to evacuate, by then everyone else will be trying to evacuate too and it will be much harder. I suspect, however, that part of people's slowness to respond stems from the overhyping of previous hurricanes.

UPDATE: Reader Clifford Grout emails:

The inbound lanes of ALL major roads out of New Orleans have been switched to outbound. Called "contraflow", it's been going on for about 18 hours now. Working much better this time than the cock-up we had during Ivan.

I am in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and we are battening down the hatches here, too. My parents and in-laws, both living in New Orleans, left yesterday for parts north and west. As a child, I survived both Betsy and Camille, many more since then. This one scares me.

That's not what I'm seeing on the TV feeds, but perhaps they're not representative. There's been so much hurricane hype in the past that I'm reluctant to make too much of this, but I certainly would have gotten out already.

Joe Gandelman has a roundup.

MORE: Reader Mark Hessey emails regarding the contraflow:

I did see a couple of clips where they had done it, but it appears to be piecemeal rather than universal policy. Yet the media keeps reporting that it's been done, even as they show that it hasn't on screen.

I hope the New Jersey OEM people are watching for future reference -- they do have plans in place for taking that action in a number of shore communities, but if it's not implemented in a timely fashion it does no good.

I've just posted an image from the WDSU webcam showing outbound lanes packed and inbound lanes empty. Doesn't look like contraflow there. Listening to the reports on cable, it doesn't sound as if the city of New Orleans has done a very good job of responding so far. The evacuation should have been ordered earlier, efforts to get people out of the city seem to have been inadequate, and the huge lines at the Superdome while people are searched for alcohol and weapons seem like a bad idea to me. I hope that it all works out.

Terry Teachout is rounding up links to webcams, etc.

And here's an article that makes for sobering reading.

Also Brendan Loy is back.

STILL MORE: Reader Tom Nally emails:

In the New Orleans region, the state and the munipalities did activate plans for flowing people out of the city in both the inbound and outbound lanes of the interstates.

This is formally known as "Contraflow".

My family escaped by taking I-55 north, and we are now in Memphis. On I-55, both the northbound and southbound lanes were used for northbound traffic, not only in the parishes immediately bordering Orleans Parish, but also going a good 60 miles or so into Mississippi. In fact, I-55 did not revert to its normal traffic flow until we were 62 miles south of Jackson, MS. I was stunned by this demonstration of interstate cooperation.

The problems evacuating New Orleans are due to the fact that too many evacuees have chose to evacuate to the west, going to Houston and points westward. Had they chosen to evacuate north, they would have had few problems. We had zero problems.

Interesting; I don't know what accounts for these pictures. Enjoy Memphis!

Hog on Ice, meanwhile, has unfortunate information about the likely impact of Katrina on the petroleum industry. And here's the NWS storm advisory, which doesn't mince words.

MORE STILL: Stormtrack has a lot of useful links, too.

EVEN MORE: Mel Park emails from Memphis with a positive take on the evacuation:

Friends of ours from New Orleans made it safely to our home in Memphis. Who knows how long they will be here, however. As they said getting out of their car, they may be homeless in a few hours.

As your readers are pointing out, the evacuation planning that has occured since Hurricane Ivan has turned an impossible situation into a bearable one. During Hurricane Ivan our friends had tried to evacuate up I-55 to Memphis but that was impossible. Gridlock forced them west on secondary highways westward and they ended up weathering the storm in Lafayette, LA. This time they tried to repeat the shorter treck to Layfayette but this time gridlock forced them north. They left New Orleans at 6:00am this morning. One lane of I-10 leaving the city was designated for westbound traffic and it was not moving at all. Thousands of drivers were adding to the gridlock by speeding past on the right and cutting off drivers in that one lane. By the time they gave up and switched into the lanes designated for I-55, that is, for Mississippi and Memphis, traffic was surging. They had lost the advantage of their early start but traffic still moved at a reliable 40-50 mph. Traffic control was everywhere. For example, the I-12, I-55 intersection had been a practically unnegotiable choke point last summer during Ivan. Today it has been a well-controlled flow where the authorities are directing traffic along parallel routes in order to distribute the entry of merging traffic onto 1-55 over several intersections.

Besides the contraflow system lasting well into Mississippi, as a reader pointed out, forethought was evident by the signs already out at off ramps designating those where public shelters were being set up. This means that evacuees with not planned destination will be able to find shelter. Good planning.

Sounds like we'll probably need it. I have to say, though, that from what I've seen New Orleans hasn't been on the ball. The evacuation was too late, there don't seem to have been many efforts to get people out of the city or to shelter, and whenever I see city officials on TV I get an unpleasant vibe, like in the first half-hour of a disaster flick. I hope that I'm wrong about this, and that everything goes as well as possible, which I'm afraid will still mean "not that well, really."

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS about the Rolling Stones, from John Leo.

Brian Jones was the real talent in that band anyway; they've just been coasting since he died.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE notes that the Associated Press is spinning the Southern Illinois phony-Iraq-war story.


Coastal residents jammed freeways and gas stations as they rushed to get out of the way of Hurricane Katrina, which grew into a dangerous Category 4 storm early Sunday as it headed for New Orleans and the Louisiana coast.

``Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a test. This is the real deal,'' New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said at a news conference. ``Board up your homes, make sure you have enough medicine, make sure the car has enough gas. Do all things you normally do for a hurricane but treat this one differently because it is pointed towards New Orleans.''

Let's hope for a last-minute veer. Meanwhile here's the TTLB Katrina aggregator page for links to lots of other blog posts. And this guy says he's staying put, which strikes me as deeply unwise if true.

UPDATE: Via Terry Teachout, here's a transcript of a report on how a major hurricane could affect New Orleans.

MICHAEL BARONE thinks that the age of polarization is coming to an end, and cites, among other things, the strong support for Giuliani in Patrick Ruffini's straw poll.

THE BRITBLOG ROUNDUP -- now renamed the Carnival of the Britblog Roundup -- is up.


The rural town of Sebeka, population 710, is not exactly Silicon Valley. It's hardly the place computer programmer Dave La Reau expected to find employment.

La Reau, who had been job hunting for years, answered a help wanted ad from CrossUSA — one of a half dozen companies actively recruiting workers to small towns in at least eight states. . . .

The workers are part of a growing backlash against the thousands of white-collar jobs sent offshore to places such as India. High-speed computer lines now make it possible for farm country to compete with foreign countries.

Comment from Slashdot: " I think the idea of moving to a larger house that costs less in a town with no traffic is a much better option than flying to Bangalore to train your replacement."

Add to this the new ruralism created by boomers cashing out their urban/suburban homes (via NewsAlert) and you may have the beginnings of a rural renaissance. At least if someone can do something about the mountain lions. That's been a problem before. And I can't recommend David Baron's book, The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America highly enough. And in light of the above, predator control might even turn out to have an important impact on rural economic development. Nobody's going to want to settle in a place where they're worried about kids being eaten.

UPDATE: Michael Totten was on top of the rural gentrification phenomenon months ago.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Frank Martin (better known as Varifrank) emails:

The phenomenon you are talking about is called "homesourcing", the migration of workers from expensive centralized coastal cities to a distribution of small towns and cities throughout the US Homeland. Silicon valley companies have been going through this phenomenon for several years now, as a direct result of the effort to outsource work to India since 2000.

One thing that is not often discussed is how this movement of workers is a huge benefit to the employee. As a result of "Homesourcing", Employees are often allowed to take their existing salaries and home equity to other parts of the country where they can have a far greater quality of life at no increase in cost to the company, this is the ultimate win-win for employer and employee. The employer gets a happy employee, and the employee gets a huge increase in real income by moving to a place where their money has more value at no cost to the employer except for the implementation of a VPN system.

The lesson to all small towns across America in regards to the internet is as clear as it was to small towns in the last century in regards to trains and highways, if you want people to come to your town, you need to have high speed internet. If you have it, you are part of the world, if not, your days are numbered.

The cable modem is the most liberating device to humanity since the automobile and its impact will be just as large. Once company management teams understand that they don't have to be physically with their workers to determine their output, this phenomenon will grow.

One other benefit which is important is that there is no better gas saving device than the cable modem. Workers who are homesourced need very little gas on which to get to work, and as a result, their personal "cost of working" also goes down dramatically.

( full disclosure - I've been doing it for 5 years. On the cul-de-sac where I live, there's only 2 out of 8 people actually drive to work, the rest of us work from our home offices for most of the day to day work. People ask us about how much gas costs and we just laugh.)

Yes, encouraging this sort of thing might well save more gas than an increase in CAFE standards.

UPDATE: Eric Scheie writes: "Not only are we going to reintroduce predators, but there's a new movement: people belong in zoos."

Read the whole thing. A few people write that fear of predators is overstated. That's probably true -- but the scenario in the story linked above is eerily similar to the one in Baron's book, where people were eaten shortly thereafter. The bottom line is that predators used to avoid people because the alternative was being shot. Now that they're protected, their behavior is different.

MORE: More perspective here:

Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota biologist who conducted the Tanzanian research, said attacks in North America are rare now, but that wasn't always the case. "Our ancestors dealt with this problem in the 1800's," killing off large carnivores en masse, he said. Today, "we just aren't used to it," he added.

In Tanzania, by contrast, because of all the attacks on people, lions outside of the national parks are barely tolerated any more.

"A lot of people, especially the more dewy-eyed conservationists, think predators are cute and cuddly," Mr. Packer said. "They're not."

"They're territorial animals, and can breed rather quickly," he added. The ultimate goal of his study is to reduce lion attacks on people, which would have the benefit of reducing the number of retaliatory killings of the animals.

In North America, with mountain lions roaming subdivisions all over the West, and black bears scaring suburbanites in New Jersey, Mr. Packer said, "You're going to see a lot more hard-nosed attitudes about what to do with these animals."

Here, Mr. Packer said, "the problem will probably be solved by the property owner, with a gun."