BLOGGING HAS BEEN LIGHT, because we're over hanging out with my grandmother. My mom's off to Hilton Head for a while, and we're swapping off the grandmother-sitting with my sister. I've been going through some of her old pictures and making digital copies. Here are a couple of her and my grandfather at Daytona in 1938, a year before my mother was born.
Everybody who's old was young once; we know this, of course, but it's surprisingly easy not to really think about it. Lileks could give you a thousand words on that, but all I can give you are the pictures.
WHAT I'M READING: Richard Morgan's latest, Woken Furies: A Takeshi Kovacs Novel. I'm in the bookwriting crunch period, and I had tried to quit reading novels to get more done, but discovered that losing that downtime actually hurt rather than helped.
I like this book so far -- I've liked his earlier Takeshi Kovacs novels, like Altered Carbon and Broken Angels. (Market Forces, on the other hand, left me cold and I didn't finish it -- a book with that title should have a more economically plausible setting.)
posted at 12:12 PM by Glenn Reynolds
ON AVERAGE, THEN, I guess the Bennett Brothers are being treated fairly: "While Robert Bennett is drawing insufficient criticism for blaming Scooter Libby for Judith Miller's stay in prison, his brother Bill Bennett is taking unjustified heat for comments he made on the subject of abortion."
posted at 12:08 PM by Glenn Reynolds
A DEFENSE of Yahoo! et al. in terms of cooperation with the Chinese government.
"Mr. Kurzweil himself, thinking exponentially, imagines a plausible future, not so far away, with extended life-spans (living to 300 will not be unusual). . ."
Do we want that? Can we afford that?
Let us assume that those who will live to 300 will be active and productive, not demented for 200 of those years. Isn't it likely that it will take a rather vigorous application of medical technology to keep them that way? We will simply not have the money, medical resources, or the physical space to accommodate that many more people. We count on disease, physical deterioration, and death to keep the population down, just like a herd of wildebeeste counts on lions to do the same.
If, in the future, we are able to expand lifespans to 300 years, it will necessarily be only for a few select individuals, not for the population as a whole. And it does not take much thought to consider how those few will be selected.
Actually, I don't think that's true. I've written on that very topic here and here. And Kurzweil argues that costs for life-extension technologies will decline just like costs for other technologies. At first, like cellphones, it will be very expensive and basically only for the rich. Not long afterward it will be ubiquitous.
Andrew Roth, meanwhile, has a post on the review that manages to work in Sandra Bullock.
While the most over-reported story (and the most debunked) story in the press this past August was the drafting of and the opposition to the Iraqi constitution, the most under-reported story in September is how ongoing negotiations have moderated large portions of the document’s opposition. In fact, as some of the contentious issues have been negotiated down, and the document has circulated amongst the general population, its approval and acceptance has become more likely. . . . Now, it appears that secular parties are rising to the top, while religious parties are beginning to wilt.
JEEZ, I HATE THESE THINGS: A reader sent me an email asking why I never link to The Belmont Club. Er, I do. But when I responded, I got this:
I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.
To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.
If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.
Click the link below to fill out the request:
I didn't click. Don't send me email if you have this service on your site, unless you've added me first. I don't have time -- or inclination -- to waste my time in order to save yours, and I think the whole thing is rather rude.
On the original topic, I like The Belmont Club and have linked to it often, just not lately, I guess. No special reason. Same with InstaPunk and a long list of other sites. Usually, if I haven't linked a site in a while, it's not because of any special reason or because I'm mad(heck, I still link Junkyard Blog sometimes). It's just, you know, whatever blogging groove I'm in at the moment.
UPDATE: Okay, now I'm really unhappy. Reader Anne Sullivan sent me an email complaining that I hadn't answered some earlier email that I never saw, and when I sent a reply, I got the same damn message above.
I repeat -- DO NOT email me if you are too lazy to have added my name to your whitelist before you do.
Rep. Mark Udall has joined Republican budget hawks on legislation that would give the White House new authority to pare congressional spending bills. . . .
It would authorize the president to pull specific items out of massive appropriations bills and then force Congress to hold up-or-down votes on the proposed cuts. It would apply to fiscal year 2006 spending bills, plus the huge, multiyear transportation plan that critics have said is loaded with wasteful, pork barrel projects.
UPDATE: Much more, including this observation: "But of course, it gets better. Because the UN bends itself into all kinds of twists to justify holding a summit on the Internet in a nation that does not allow open access to it."
posted at 11:44 AM by Glenn Reynolds
JONATHAN RAUCH on New Orleans: "In other words, if a severe hurricane struck, the city's flooding and abandonment was not what would happen if the plan failed. It was the plan."
Accounts from local officials of widespread looting and unspeakable violence -- which now appear to have been significantly overstated -- raised the specter at the time that soldiers might be forced to confront or even kill American citizens. The prospect of such a scenario added political and tactical complications to the job of filling the city with troops and set back relief efforts by days. . . .
Washington's experience in Louisiana has prompted the White House to seek ways to shoulder locals out of the way if another similar disaster crops up in the future. President Bush has asked Congress to consider mechanisms that would allow him to quickly place the Pentagon in charge of such disasters, making it easier to use assets such as the 82nd Airborne Division, highly trained, regular Army soldiers who specialize in moving to an area quickly and securing it. As it was, cumbersome federal regulations generally prevent Mr. Bush from sending regular Army troops to enforce order in American cities unless they are expressly invited by a state's governor.
For the Federal Emergency Management Agency, rumors of lawlessness simply delayed on-the-ground relief efforts and turned even routine errands into a cumbersome exercise. One official, who was posted at the Superdome, said federal rescuers and doctors were required to secure armed escorts even for short trips across the street.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Austin Bay thinks that federalizing, and militarizing, disaster response is probably a mistake.
posted at 08:21 AM by Glenn Reynolds
JOHN FUND thinks that ABC is softening up the electorate for Hillary. I watched a little bit of Commander in Chief and I'm not sure it'll work that way: I wonder if Hillary won't wind up being compared to Geena Davis, which is more likely to harm her than to help her.
UPDATE: Hmm. Could the real beneficiary of all this strong-woman TV hype be Condi Rice?
posted at 07:38 AM by Glenn Reynolds
MICHAEL TOTTEN is blogging from Lebanon, where he'll be staying for quite some time.
posted at 07:19 AM by Glenn Reynolds
September 29, 2005
IOWAHAWK SAVAGELY DEFENDS HIS STATE'S PORK against "a shadowy group of agenda-driven internet extremists." As you might expect, though, he lost me at the puppy part.
posted at 11:03 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THANK GOD PEOPLE ARE FINALLY CATCHING ON: Several years ago, my brother and I (as eco-folk band "The Meadowlarks") released a song called "How Many Flowers Must Die," about the senseless slaughter of our petalled friends on Valentine's Day.
Driving home tonight, I heard an NPR story featuring a song by Brad Paisley called "How Many Flowers Have to Die?" addressing the same point in a highly similar fashion. ("Stop the senseless killing . . . Tell me, how many flowers have to die?") Advantage: The Meadowlarks!
The Floral Rights movement is finally picking up steam. . . .
UPDATE: Of course, this effort from the same "we can invent a cheesy fake band and write and release a song in a single six-pack" era is also seeming pretty timely about now. Everything old is new again!
Hey, come to think of it, this effort is timely, too, though it wasn't finished over a six-pack, alas.
posted at 09:56 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE SERENITY reviews rounded up by Daniel Drezner.
By the way, I got an email from the PR guy who handled this, and he was ecstatic about how it's worked out. I'm going to try to follow up on that later and get more details.
posted at 09:48 PM by Glenn Reynolds
JUDITH MILLER IS OUT OF JAIL, and Plame expert Tom Maguire looks at what it may mean.
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus: "You mean she was sitting in jail all because she never bothered to inquire and find out that the waiver that would free her was genuine?"
Orin Kerr: "If you're Bob Bennett, Judith Miller's top-shelf lawyer, wouldn't you try to clear this up before your client spent three months in jail? Something about this seems fishy to me."
I'm ashamed that Lipscomb University, a school I attended for three years, hasn't stepped forward to reject the $3 million federal subsidy it is supposed to get to build a parking garage, so that money can go to hurricane relief. A wealthy private Christian university really ought not to be asking taxpayers to fund its parking garage.
Lipscomb is currently in the middle of one of those alumni giving drives. I received the pledge/donations mailer just the other day. Until Lipscomb returns the $3 million, or donates it to hurricane relief, I won't be donating another dime to the school - and I'll be urging other alumni to take the same stand.
My good friend Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation called me today and asked me why I had not yet blogged about Porkbusters. I told him that without having much to contribute that I didn't want to distract from the effort made by other bloggers. He suggested that I could assist the program by expanding the Not One Dime More effort to Porkbusters ... which I think is an excellent idea.
Not One Dime More targeted the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the failure of GOP leadership to get George Bush's judicial nominees confirmed or even in process. Now we want to target both parties' Congressional election commitees, the NRCC and the DCCC, by withholding funds while the parties act to protect their pork. For those representatives who refuse to pare the pork, we need to cut off their political oxygen until they turn blue and their campaign chests grow cold. Tell your Congressperson that while they protect the pork we discover, while they continue to vote for budgets with these useless and wasteful projects when the funding could defray the hurricane relief efforts, we will send Not One Dime to their efforts to re-elect their incumbents.
Seems like it would be smart for the GOP to get ahead of this issue, while it still can.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Thursday an unprecedented attack on a displaced persons' camp in Sudan's embattled Darfur region reportedly has killed 29 people.
Antonio Guterres, chief of the U.N. agency, cited aid workers' reports of the attack Wednesday at Aro Sharow camp which also left 10 seriously injured. These reports said up to 300 armed Arab men on horses and camels attacked the camp in northwest Darfur and burned about 80 makeshift shelters.
Between 4,000-5,000 Sudanese were believed to be living in the camp and most reportedly fled into surrounding countryside, UNHCR said. The nearby village of Gosmeina was also reportedly attacked and burned.
Why don't we send guns and trainers?
posted at 07:19 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THIS SOMEWHAT UNDERCUTS claims that we're living in some sort of 1984-world:
A federal judge has rejected former Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to block a lawsuit by claiming that the threat of terrorism exempts the government from following peacetime regulations.
The decision allows a lawsuit by two Muslim men who were detained after the Sept. 11 attacks to go forward against Ashcroft and other high-ranking federal officials. The two, who were later deported, are seeking to hold the officials responsible for their confinement and alleged abuse at a federal jail in Brooklyn where Arab and Muslim men were held after the terror attacks.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson's ruling Wednesday also opens the door for depositions of Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other officials, who will be questioned under oath about their personal knowledge of detention policies if they are unable to successfully appeal the decision.
As I recall, though, the detainees were charged with various crimes -- such as immigration law violations, etc. -- not simply with "being Muslim." And, in fact, these guys were apparently guilty: "Elmaghraby and Iqbal were deported to their home countries after serving time for charges unrelated to terrorism -- Elmaghraby for a counterfeiting charge and Iqbal for fraud."
Prosecutors enjoy nearly unlimited discretion on whom to prosecute, and if federal prosecutors chose to prosecute people they feared might have terror connections for unrelated crimes I don't see how that can make out a constitutional violation. Perhaps, though, I misunderstand the claim, as the story isn't very clear.
posted at 07:18 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'LL BE ON CNBC'S Kudlow & Company about 5:40 today, talking about the PorkBusters project.
What's more, his lead extends across different kinds of respondents. Online polls are iffy, but I think Patrick's gets enough people from the group of activists and serious political junkies to be an indication -- and it's not even close, with Giuliani way ahead of the number-two candidate, George Allen. Giuliani is even ahead among those calling themselves conservative, as well as those calling themselves libertarian. He trails Allen among those who tag themselves as pro-life, but not by much. Overall, he looks pretty strong, and he's certainly a stronger national candidate in the general election than Allen, who is far less well-known. Perhaps most tellingly, he leads in a runaway among fiscal conservatives, outpolling the next three candidates combined.
Could Giuliani be the Perot of this decade? If he wanted to be, I think he could. (Heck, if the two parties continue their spiral of mutual destruction, he might even get elected as an independent.)
posted at 04:12 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MICKEY KAUS: "Here is Harriett Miers' bio ... and here's Michael McConnell's. Assume they're both fine people. If you had to make a snap decision, which one should be on the United States Supreme Court?"
JOHN ROBERTS has been confirmed, by a rather hefty margin.
posted at 12:35 PM by Glenn Reynolds
JOHN TABIN thinks that Tom Delay's departure is a promising development in terms of controlling spending. I think he's right.
UPDATE: Read this post from the GOP stalwarts at AnklebitingPundits:
The GOP ran against lobbyists. Not specific lobbyists but rather the very idea that “K Street fat cats” (as we called them) were drafting legislation and deciding policy for a decrepit Democrat majority. We ran against corruption, such as Rostenkowski and all that. We were then an anti-Washington party, dismissing the “corridors or power” as a giant piggy bank for the highest bidding special interest groups. Hillarycare was just icing on the cake.
And yet somewhere along the line we became what we despised. . . . Clearly the Congressional GOP has lost much of its bearings, and is turning into the 1992-1993 version of the Congressional Democrats. And the question arises, what’s the point of having a majority if that majority doesn’t stand for anything useful?
The GOP is at serious risk of losing a decisive chunk of its voters to a Perot-style movement.
posted at 12:32 PM by Glenn Reynolds
GREG DJEREJIAN: "The 7/7 bombings were all about the Iraq war, right? Ah, but alas the French don't appear to get a pass as a result of their noble non-interventionist policies..."
posted at 12:30 PM by Glenn Reynolds
TOM DELAY UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has a roundup, and so does Joe Gandelman, who observes: "Now, as DeLay becomes the first House leader to go on trial in a century, the GOP is at a perilous crossroads — and so are the Democrats."
The Senate was up to its old tricks Monday evening. It prepared to pass, without debate and under a procedure requiring unanimous consent, a federal infusion of $9 billion into state Medicaid programs under the pretext of Katrina relief. The bill, drafted in secret under bipartisan auspices, was stopped cold when Republican Sen. John Ensign voiced his objection. . . .
Fear has enveloped Republicans who see themselves handing the banner of fiscal integrity to the Democrats. The GOP is losing the rhetoric war, even though Democrats mostly push for higher domestic spending, because Republicans, while standing firm against tax increases, have also declined to cut spending. Fearing the worst in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republican senators who would not be expected to do so are looking to McCain to lead the party back to fiscal responsibility. . . .
President Bush's opposition to the Grassley-Baucus bill was meaningless. Bush could not kill the bill by objecting, but any senator could, and Ensign did. Ensign noted that Congress had appropriated an extra $62 billion in the wake of Katrina.
As we've also noted, nine months before Katrina, three officials of Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness were indicted for obstructing an audit of the use, or misuse, of federal funds for flood-mitigation activities.
Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of indicted officials per capita. Just the past generation has seen a governor, an attorney general, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted of assorted crimes.
Police Superintendent Eddie Compass didn't say why he suddenly resigned. But it comes after his department announced that about 250 New Orleans police officers — 15% of the force — could face punishment for leaving their posts without permission during Katrina.
Before Katrina, New Orleans was a crime-ridden city with a murder rate 10 times the national average. Only one in four murders result in a conviction, largely because retaliation against potential witnesses is common. Yet New Orleans had only three cops per 1,000 residents, a ratio less than half that of Washington, D.C.
It's a serious problem, and another reason why we shouldn't just be throwing money at rebuilding efforts.
posted at 07:51 AM by Glenn Reynolds
September 28, 2005
TENNESSEE REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN is blogging about pork over at RedState, and responding to criticisms from commenters. More here.
posted at 10:37 PM by Glenn Reynolds
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Several folks have heard back from their elected representatives. Here are some posts about the responses they got.
Reader Julie Martin-Korb wrote Paul Sarbanes and reports: "Mr. Sarbanes is proud of his spending initiatives, and he is opposed to tax cuts for the wealthy 'in this time of need,' but the only sentence in his letter that is even remotely responsive to my request is this: 'Simultaneously, Congress must continuously review federal spending in order to ensure that our Nation pursues a responsible economic course while providing needed recovery funds.'"
From Rochester, New York, Evan Dawson of 13 WHAM TV News emails:
I'm a reporter for the ABC News affiliate in Rochester, NY, and the pork-for-relief plan was our lead story on Monday, September 19th. Here are quotes and responses from two representatives:
From Rep. Randy Kuhl (R): "Are there some earmarks in the transportation bill that are key to economic development? In this area, with some of the earmarks that I was able to put in, they are. So I would be very hesitant to have them removed, because I think you have to have economic development in this country if you're going to be able to support hurricane relief." In other words, he's not willing to trade in his pork, as it would undermine the country's capacity to charitably support hurricane recovery efforts.
From Rep. Louise Slaughter (D), when asked about trasnportation bill pork: "A lot of it is frivolous." However, when pressed regarding her own pork (Slaughter secured, among other things, $1.6 million for the Rochester Art Walk -- an outdoor museum), she responded, "Well, we'll look and see. That is indeed, as you point out -- it's in the transportation bill. We'll look and see what can be postponed and what can be put off." But she closed by saying that her first preference is to eliminate "Bush's tax cuts for the extraordinarily wealthy."
As a reporter, I take no position on the pork-for-relief proposal. I just wanted to help alert the public as to where their federal representatives stand.
I hope that lots of local media folks will do the same thing. Meanwhile, Matt Duffy continues his ongoing, though largely fruitless, dialogue with Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, and thinks that Price's office is mostly interested in "slowing down my efforts at getting Price to answer these specific questions." Gee, d'ya think?
Reader Robert Hahn shares this scintillating response from Rep. Donald Payne:
Thank you very much for your email. I always appreciate the chance to hear from constituents. Your issues are of concern to me; please be assured that I will take your views under consideration. If you haven't already, please stop by my website at www.house.gov/payne.
Please feel free to email me again, and thank you very much for your letter.
Hahn adds: "I suppose if I get a non-form letter reponse in the next couple of days, I'll forward that along." We'll be waiting!
Maybe for a while. Reader Jim Uren emails: "I emailed [Rep.] Anna Eshoo D-CA five days ago. No response."
UPDATE: This column on PorkBusters gets it right: "It may be that only 30% of the items on the Porkbusters wishlist will be cut in, say, the first fiscal year after the Porkbusters campaign begins. That does not preclude another 30% or so being cut the next year. And the year after that as well. And so on. Changing the entitlement culture is an incremental process. But eventually, the small gains can add up and we can achieve a budgetary process that is more fiscally responsible than the one we are currently saddled with. Recognizing this fact will go a long way towards fashioning a successful anti-pork political strategy. And it is not like the political facts on the ground don't make it easy to cut pork." Indeed.
Bush may still be popular with the branch of the Republican Party that only cares about abortion, stem-cell research and displaying the Ten Commandments, but the fiscal-conservative small-government don’t-tread-on-me wing of the party has had enough.
He offers some advice on what the GOP needs to do to avoid disaster, which he sees as otherwise inevitable.
I have to admit, I'm surprised more of the fiscally responsible conservatives in the mainstream haven't signed on to this idea. They certainly should. Why haven't they? Where's Robert Novak? Where's George Will? Have you gotten any help from the folks over at the Corner? How about Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol?
How about 'em? My sense is that while complaining about corruption and waste and how they doom our society is considered acceptable punditry, attempting to do anything about the problem is seen as hopelessly naive.
posted at 09:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE SERENITY REVIEWS: Here,here,here ("Where Sith was fast food that left you feeling nothing but gas, Serenity was a seven course meal.")
MORE: Still more blog reviews, here,here ("Much better than anything Lucas has done in the last 10 years. Go see it."), here, and here.
posted at 08:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds
IPOD NANO PROBLEMS: "Apple Computer Inc. , responding to consumer complaints that the screen on its sleek, recently introduced iPod cracks too easily, said on Wednesday it will replace any defective units."
Judge John G. Roberts Jr., nominated to be chief justice of the United States, was not the author of an unsigned memorandum on libel law that was the focus of an article published in The New York Times yesterday. The Times erroneously attributed it to him.
Bruce Fein, a Washington lawyer who was general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission in the Reagan administration, said yesterday that he wrote the memorandum, a caustic critique of New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 Supreme Court decision that revolutionized American libel law, and of the role played by the press in society. . . .
Three people quoted in the article discussed the Fein memorandum, provided to them by a reporter, on the assumption that it had been written by Judge Roberts.
TOM DELAY has been indicted. I'm on travel and haven't had time to read the many emails I've gotten proclaiming his obvious guilt or persecuted innocence, but it's obviously an embarrassment for the G.O.P. On the other hand, maybe his replacement will be better at finding pork . . . .
MICKEY KAUS wonders why the New York Times hates poor people: "TimeSelect--and with it Web access to columnists such as Paul Krugman--is unavailable to those too poor to have credit cards. . . . News of the NYT policy comes at a time when Hurricane Katrina has raised profound issues of race, class, and gender." Heh.
posted at 09:07 AM by Glenn Reynolds
I FORGOT TO LINK THIS YESTERDAY, but Patrick Ruffini's monthly GOP straw poll is up again. Giuliani and Rice are once more in the lead, in the respective "real" and "fantasy" categories.
posted at 08:12 AM by Glenn Reynolds
AS I MENTIONED LAST NIGHT, I liked the Serenity preview. In fact, I liked it enough that I ordered the Firefly DVD set. I figured that for 29 bucks it had to be worth it.
MORE GREEN, LESS RED over at the PorkBusters site, but there's still a long way to go. If you haven't called your Senators and Representative and asked them what locally directed federal spending they'd cut, you may want to go ahead and do so. And if you hear back, email me with the subject line "Pork Response" (and don't use that for anything else, please) and I'll follow up.
Surely this is not the time for the government to write blank checks, for legislators to get greedy about unnecessary canals in their districts, or for federal agencies to launch projects that make future flooding more likely. Surely this is the time to spend money wisely. Right?
Wrong -- and if you thought otherwise, then you, like me, are still learning how deeply corrupt America's legislative branch has become. . . . Despite the fact that Louisiana spent hundreds of millions of dollars on water projects that turned out to be unnecessary, or even damaging, the proposal makes it possible to suspend cost-benefit analyses.
In its scale and sheer disregard for common sense, the Louisiana proposal breaks new ground.
But, as she says, it's just a more-dramatic case of the usual pork. I wonder if we won't see a revival of Balanced-Budget Amendment enthusiasm, and perhaps even a revival of Perot-style third-party enthusiasm (which would be devastating for the Republicans) if things don't come under control.
posted at 07:45 AM by Glenn Reynolds
ORIN KERR: "[Y]ou can bet that Justice Breyer will uphold the basic idea of anticipatory warrants. Shortly before he became a Justice, Breyer approved anticipatory warrants under the Fourth Amendment. . . . Note how Breyer replaces the textual requirement that 'no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause' with a somewhat different inquiry into whether the warrant 'can help assure that the search takes place' when probable cause exists."
The Bozeman City Commission voted unanimously Monday night to keep $4 million in federal appropriations for a downtown parking garage -- despite pleas to redirect the funds to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
SO, AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, I went to see the blogger-screening of Serenity. I liked it. There were quite a few people from the law school and the local blogging community there, and my sense is that most people agreed.
The trailer was quite reflective of the film. I thought the acting was good, and the whole film had a human touch that many science-fiction action flicks lack. The cinematography was more TV-like than movie-like, but I actually liked that effect. And the sound, often boomy and annoying in films of this type, was excellent.
One of my colleagues attended (not a blogger, but a serious geek -- yes, the stillsuit one -- who has watched all the Firefly episodes and who is a huge Joss Whedon fan) and she liked it a lot, and noted the presence of the trademark Whedon humor.
How much do U.S. taxpayers owe Louisiana? Surely not the whole $250 billion that the state now wants. Congress needs to stand up for fiscal sanity.
Call us cheap or churlish, but our sympathy for the Pelican State's political leaders is starting to fade. Louisiana has been ravaged by two hurricanes, much of its largest city is in ruins and huge numbers of its people are without homes. All true.
But if America's spirit of compassion has no limits, its public purse does. The federal government is rightly helping Louisiana clean up, rebuild and guard against future catastrophes.
But it's not obliged to hand over hundreds of billions in aid with no questions asked. . . .
Congress already has approved $62.3 billion in Katrina aid for the Gulf Coast and will no doubt have to allocate several billion more to cover damage from Hurricane Rita. So even by the standards of post-Katrina politics, Louisiana is starting to look a tad greedy.
Very few will come forward to make such an observation at this point. But more should, and Congress needs to muster up the courage, for once, to fulfill its obligations to American taxpayers.
Actually, a lot of people seem willing to make that observation, which is a testament to the extent of the Louisiana pols' overreaching. Indeed, I think we'll see a real -- and much-needed -- debate on whether to fund the rebuilding of New Orleans, beyond the port, at all.
INDEED: "So we now have two major reports -- one on the New Orleans Times Picayune website and the other in the L.A. Times -- about the way in which the major media spread all sorts of hysteria about the conditions inside flooded New Orleans. How will this jibe with all the talk about how the media threw off its self-imposed shackles after 9/11 and found their critical and passionate voice yet again?"
Republican leaders are taking pains to demonstrate a growing commitment to fiscal restraint one week after a contentious standoff with House conservatives over federal offsets to pay for recovery efforts in the hurricane-beleaguered Gulf Coast region. . . .
Unlike most years, GOP House and Senate leaders will offer a continuing resolution that temporarily funds the government at the lowest of three possible levels: the current fiscal 2005 level, or the level passed in either the House or the Senate appropriations bills this year, according to knowledgeable GOP aides.
Like the space elevator experiment below, it's a baby step, but it's a step.
A private group has taken one small step toward the prospect of building a futuristic space elevator.
LiftPort Group Inc., of Bremerton, Wash., has successfully tested a robot climber — a novel piece of hardware that reeled itself up and down a lengthy ribbon dangling from a high-altitude balloon.
The test run, conducted earlier this week, is seen as a precursor experiment intended to flight validate equipment and methods to construct a space elevator. This visionary concept would make use of an ultra-strong carbon nanotube composite ribbon stretching up to 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) from Earth into space.
It's a baby step. But it's a step.
posted at 12:17 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE PROTEST FACT-CHECKING. It's amazing what you can find out on the Internet these days.
To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side.
There's some interesting stuff in the comments about K-12 education, too. The Insta-Daughter reports that male teachers in her school (who are few) aren't much respected by other teachers, or by students, though she very much liked the man who taught her last year -- and then left.
The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.
Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. . . . The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans was flooded not because the Army Corps of Engineers had insufficient money to build flood protections, but because its money was allocated by a system of political patronage.
PORK RESPONSE UPDATE: Saxby Chambliss responds to Matt Duffy, and Matt Duffy blogs it: "Candice from Senator Saxby Chambliss' office called today. Unfortunately, she could offer me no specifics . . . . I've gotten the distinct impression from both Candice and from Tom Price's chief of staff that these aides don't appreciate my intrusions. They can't seem to understand why I'm bothering them or why I expect more of a response than a form letter assuring me that they share my concerns about the budget."
Yeah, it's not like we have representative government or anything.
And don't forget the Lawblogger's carnival, Blawg Review. Plus for those interested in fiscal responsibility at the personal level, there's the Carnival of Debt Reduction. Neither a borrower nor a lender be! Not that our elected officials feel that way . . . .
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: David Hogberg has heard back from Sen. George Allen and asks: "If Nancy Pelosi can come up with specifics, why is it taking Senator Allen this much time to get 'far enough along in the process'?"
posted at 02:49 PM by Glenn Reynolds
LSU POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR JEFF SADOW is deeply critical of the Louisiana politicos' demand for money:
Making matters worse is the pork-laden nature of the request. . . .
And who would control the disbursement of this money? It seems the nine-person panel would have a Louisiana majority.
So, let’s get this straight. Louisiana, from some of her federal officials through some state officials all they way down to city and other local governments, countenanced negligence from benign to irresponsible in ensuring proper flood protection and in dealing with hurricanes. And now these same people have formulated a plan wanting the country to pay an incredible sum of money to the state controlled by people from the state to deal with the aftereffects and, apparently, Louisiana’s past inability to utilize our resources efficiently in other areas?
The rest of the country is going to look at this and think we’re still stuck on stupid.
Only some of you, Jeff.
posted at 01:59 PM by Glenn Reynolds
PORK RESPONSE UPDATE: Reader Neema Salimi wrote Rep. Tom Lantos and reports: "Congressman Lantos sent me a form letter in response to my request that he cut pork to pay for Katrina spending. He doesn't even address it."
Salimi's right, as he forwarded the response. Click "read more" to read it.
UPDATE: Reader Mary Wlodarski sends a response she got: "I have been a regular reader of your blog for years and really love it! I sent both my senators, Durbin and Obama a letter asking them to review the budget in light of the need of our southern states, foregoing our projects to help out the gulf states. I only got response from Obama. He must have thought I was concerned about the pets in the budget, not the pork!"
Maybe he thought it was a pet pig? (I've put the letter she forwarded below, after the Lantos letter).
As the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf coast, many of our neighbors lost loved ones, homes and jobs. We all have been touched by this overwhelming destruction.
At first, I was shocked and amazed seeing the human misery and devastation along the Gulf Coast. Now, I am outraged and angry that because of an utterly ineffective response, tens of thousands of people in New Orleans and other victims failed to get the food, water, medicine, and evacuation assistance they so desperately needed. These victims need assistance and the American people deserve answers.
While Congress has acted to provide funding, current programs simply will not be enough to rebuild communities, revive economies, and restore lives. Congress should provide the needed legislation to help local communities rebuild homes and hospitals, schools and stores, industries and infrastructure. Furthermore, we need an independent, blue ribbon, bipartisan Katrina Response Commission modeled on the highly successful 9/11 Commission to get answers to the many questions raised by this disaster.
The outpouring of public support has been tremendous and reassuring yet the road to recovery will be long and difficult. I will continue to work to do all I can and I know I can count on your support.
Member of Congress
"The American people deserve answers" -- just not from him!
MORE: Here's the Obama letter:
Thank you for contacting me regarding Hurricane Katrina and rescue operations for the pets of evacuees. I appreciate hearing from you.
Among the many difficult and heartwrenching aspects of this tragedy has been the lack of resources to rescue and care for those pets left behind by evacuees who were unable to take them on evacuation transports. Fortunately, as news spread about the plight of these animals, several groups volunteered to travel into that dangerous environment to help rescue them.
As soon as the resources were available, the United States Navy and National Guard began searching for and rescuing these pets in New Orleans and elsewhere in the Gulf Coast. The U.S.S. Tortuga moored near New Orleans, and the Tortuga's repair division began a search and rescue mission for abandoned pets. The crew members set up "Camp Milo and Otis," a makeshift kennel where medical care and shelter was provided for dogs, cats and other displaced animals from the city. The Department of Homeland Security also assisted by deploying Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams to provide medical care to pets and livestock, as well as provide any needed veterinary medical care for dogs involved in the rescue effort. And only days after the storm, SPCAs, Humane Societies and other pet welfare organizations from across the country joined the United States Navy and National Guard in attempting to rescue stray animals. Several thousand pets were rescued and sheltered around the state by late last week.
Individual citizens have helped with this effort as well. I was particularly heartened by stories like one in Grand Rapids Michigan, where an anonymous donor helped relocate 175 displaced dogs and cats. While it is tragic that so many pets remain left behind, that is yet another example of how humanity can shine through any disaster.
As you know, the lack of government planning for this disaster has drawn the ire of many Americans, and a substantial review process must take place to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated. Planning for the rescue and care of pets should certainly be part of that discussion.
Thank you again for writing.
United States Senator
P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/
Some people do have pet pigs. But still . . . .
Actually, what's most disturbing is that he has a form letter just for people who wrote their Senator about lost pets in Katrina. How many people do that? Enough to merit a form letter of their very own, I guess.
APPARENTLY, THE PRESS'S PERFORMANCE DURING KATRINA wasn't any better than the governments involved. At least, this Times-Picayune report says that the reports of death and destruction were wildly exaggerated. This is significant, not least because false reports of mayhem may have slowed rescue efforts over concerns with security. In addition, portrayal of New Orleans as lawless and debauched is likely to feed reluctance to rebuild.
UPDATE: More thoughts on the press's overrated performance. Though most of the positive commentary I've seen on press performance has come in the form of self-congratulation.
Can you depend on the media to tell you what is really happening? No. Especially when they are stuck in one place, and can only look around their location and for whatever reason end up spreading rumors. . . .
And why was everyone so quick to believe (and report) that a mostly black group of mostly poor gathered together would turn to such violence? Even early reports on cannibalism? These are people like you and me, not some sub human race. When I watched the news reports I wasn't fully buying into the wildest stories, but of course the wildest stories made the news. And they made the news often, without being questioned or fact checked.
I thought the reporting from the area was awful, and I'd even go so far to say racist.
MORE BLOGGERS PROFILED over at the Pajamas Media site, including Varifrank, John Cole, and Laurence Simon.
posted at 12:42 PM by Glenn Reynolds
LOTS OF GUESTBLOGGERS AT RIGHTWINGNEWS, including Frank J., who emails: "John Hawkins asked for Frank J. to guest blog, so he got Frank J." You gotta watch out for that . . ..
posted at 12:39 PM by Glenn Reynolds
SPEAKING OF GOOD ADVICE FROM BERKELEY: "In fact, the biggest problem that the 'anti-war' movement has right now is the illusion that somehow the war they protested starting in 2003 is the same war that they're protesting today."
posted at 11:07 AM by Glenn Reynolds
I TRIED TO PERSUADE blogosphere celebrity Rachael Klein, who wrote a famed sex column for the Berkeley paper, to write a book. I failed. But I've just noticed that her opposite number at Yale, Natalie Krinsky, did just that, publishing a novel called Chloe Does Yale. Booklist liked it, the Amazon reader reviews are mixed.
I agree that an essential point has achieved consensus in this debate: The current political dialogue on political spending is one that requires a clear declaration of principles from House Republicans. We will continue to display an earnest devotion to the ideals of a smaller, more efficient, better-prioritized government. Flaunting rhetoric on the issue of fiscal discipline will not be enough. The conservative ideals of fiscal discipline and leaner, smarter government require a legislative agenda that can be put into action and enacted into law.
That action begins with the House Republican commitment to breaking the government bureaucracy's logjam of inefficient programs and wasteful spending. This goal will be accomplished by advancing a budget initiative that pulls up from the roots billions of dollars of wasteful spending programs that have taken hold in the federal budget for far too long.
Now that he's started to look, I guess he's found some fat!
UPDATE: John Podhoretz: "The debate in this country over the size of government has taken a fortunate turn in the past week as consciousness about wasteful spending seems to have broken through to the public. . . . maybe we're on the brink of a change in political atmosphere." He suggests, though, that calls to delay or eliminate the prescription drug benefit dilute the anti-pork message. I'm not sure whether I agree with that.
posted at 10:11 AM by Glenn Reynolds
LT SMASH: "The Arab-Israeli conflict has arrived in San Diego."
The push by President Bush for the federal government to spend $200 billion to recover from Hurricane Katrina has sparked a firestorm of criticism from bloggers on the left and right.
Indeed it has.
UPDATE: Indeed: "Our instant readiness to spend seemingly any amount of money naturally activated people to do what they can to get the money to flow in their direction. It's not unlike the the way the flood itself set off looting."
Louisiana's congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane.
Louisiana Sens. David Vitter (R) and Mary Landrieu (D) tucked the request into their $250 billion Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act, the state's opening salvo in the scramble for federal dollars.
The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful "Pelican Commission" controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a "working group" dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests.
This needs to be a non-starter. It is, to me, an open and under-debated question whether the federal government should fund the rebuilding of New Orleans -- I'm inclined to agree with the polls that say it shouldn't -- but this is a naked grab for money by the very political establishment whose corruption and ineptitude led to the problems in the first place. It should be slapped down fast and hard.
UPDATE: Reader Ric Locke emails:
I dunno, Glenn. Maybe you're too hasty.
The rule in Louisiana has generally been that twenty percent goes to the relevant officials. In the case of a big project, that means that after the Congressional delegation, the State people, and all the city/parish locals, what's left is 0.8 * 0.8 * 0.8 = a little over half for the actual work.
Contractors then take over, and you have, e.g., four loads of fill dirt delivered but pay for five.
Let's give them most or even all of it, but with a proviso that they have to put up a Web site on which /every penny/ is accounted for, down to front-and-back scans of every invoice paid. There's bound to be one or two public-spirited anal retentives detail-minded folk willing to go over it. The result would either be enough indictments to clean-sweep the whole bunch, or a New New Orleans twenty meters above sea level, made entirely of gold-plated titanium, and covered with a dome for full-city air conditioning. Either one would be fun to have, no?
Despite assurances from President Bush, "the government is fighting this war [on waste] with Civil War weapons, and we're just overwhelmed," Joshua Schwartz, co-director of the George Washington University Law School's procurement law program, told Knight Ridder. Democrats are already scoring political points. Rep. David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, is lamenting the lack of accountability in the aid package. He is calling for "the beginning of some new thinking" on how to handle disaster relief.
Put bluntly, the local political cultures don't engender confidence that aid won't be diverted from the people who truly need and deserve it. While the feds can try to ride herd on the money, here's hoping folks in the region take the opportunity to finally demand their own political housecleaning. Change is past due. Last year, Lou Riegel, the agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans office, described Louisiana's public corruption as "epidemic, endemic, and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt."
Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of elected officials per capita convicted of crimes (Mississippi takes top prize). In just the past generation, the Pelican State has had a governor, an attorney general, three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted. Last year, three top officials at Louisiana's Office of Emergency Preparedness were indicted on charges they obstructed a probe into how federal money bought out flood-prone homes. Last March the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered Louisiana to repay $30 million in flood-control grants it had awarded to 23 parishes.
Read the whole thing. And maybe (expanding on Locke's suggestion) the aid relief should have a provision allowing private qui tam suits for fraud -- and allowing them to be brought by lawyers admitted to practice in any jurisdiction in the United States. Those guys won't be able to turn around without somebody taking notes. Put the trial lawyers to work cleaning up Louisiana!
Okay, maybe not. But we need to do something -- and Louisiana officials shouldn't expect a blank check. Or an excessively large one.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: "There is nothing at all sensible about rebuilding New Orleans. It will be on, or under, the Gulf of Mexico by 2050."
posted at 07:49 AM by Glenn Reynolds
September 25, 2005
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here's an NPR story on PorkBusters and the Bozeman, Montana move to reject pork in favor of Katrina relief.
MARK STEYN: "American politics seems to have dwindled down to a choice between a big government party and a big permanently-out-of-government party. . . . Big-time Republicans tell me Bush's profligacy is doing a great job of neutralizing the Dem advantage in the spending-is-caring stakes. This may have been true initially -- in the same sense as undercover cops neutralize a massive heroin-smuggling operation by infiltrating it. But, if they're still running the heroin operation five years later, it looks less like neutralization and more like a change of management."
In 1969, the giant multistage rocket, discarded piecemeal after a single mission, was the only way of doing the job. That the job should be done was a political decision, made by a handful of men. (I have only recently learnt that Wernher von Braun used my The Exploration of Space (1952) to convince President Kennedy that it was possible to go to the Moon.) As William Sims Bainbridge pointed out, space travel is a technological mutation that should not really have arrived until the 21st century. But thanks to the ambition and genius of von Braun and Sergei Korolev, and their influence upon individuals as disparate as Kennedy and Khrushchev, the Moon — like the South Pole — was reached half a century ahead of time.
If Nasa resumes lunar missions by 2018, that timing would be just about right: it will be only a year short of the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step”. But banking on solid rocket boosters to escape from Earth, as being planned, will not represent a big technological advance over the Apollo missions. Even if the spacecraft are reusable, it will still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch every kilogram into space. I think the rocket has as much future in space as dog sleds in serious Antarctic exploration. Of course, it is the only thing we have at the moment, so we must make the best use of it.
But I would urge Nasa to keep investing at least a small proportion of its substantial budget in supporting the research and development of alternatives to rockets. There is at least one idea that may ultimately make space transport cheap and affordable to ordinary people: the space elevator. . . .
As its most enthusiastic promoter, I am often asked when I think the first space elevator might be built. My answer has always been: about 50 years after everyone has stopped laughing. Maybe I should now revise it to 25 years.
Well, the laughter has pretty much stopped . . . .
posted at 02:52 PM by Glenn Reynolds
ED MCNAMARA is doing more photoblogging from the pro-troops counterprotest in Washington today.
MORE: David Adesnik -- who was, unlike me, actually there -- offers a comparison of styles between protesters and counterprotesters, though it comes out about the same in the end. I don't understand, though, why calling members of the Workers' World Party "communists" counts as pejorative, rather than descriptive.
However, he also makes this observation:
The Democratic Party, both in terms of official organizations and major politicians, stayed away from yesterday's protests like the plague.
Combine that with the DailyKos criticism of the antiwar protesters, and I might almost conclude that there's hope for the Democratic Party yet.
posted at 02:43 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE offers an illustrated response to the Daily Kos's list of protest do's and don'ts.
135 women are graduating from college for every 100 men. The U.S. Department of Education projects that the gap will grow in coming years. Some sobering facts: The unemployment rate for men between the ages of 20 and 24 is 10.1%, or twice the national average. There are almost as many men in jail, on probation, and on parole (5,000,000) as there are men in college (7,300,000). Men with college educations earn an average of $47,000 per year; those whose education ended at the high school diploma earn an average of $30,000. What's happening to young men's prospects in this country is devastating. . . .
The question of why there are so few women in the hard sciences draws impassioned debate, urgent calls for equity, and lots and lots of money. But the question of why young men are disappearing from campus is not even being widely asked.
I notice, walking around campus, that there are almost always many more women in view than men.
UPDATE: Great minds think alike. While I was posting the above, the Insta-Wife (who has finally reactivated her long-dormant blog) was posting this.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Some readers think we need congressional hearings, in which university presidents are called upon to explain the shortage of male students. Okay, but give Larry Summers a pass -- he's suffered enough!
Here are some more thoughts on why men are in short supply in college. Meanwhile, N.Z. Bear is going all Heisenberg on me.
If so, others have my pheromonal powers, because reader Tracie Hampton emails:
I just read your entry mentioning 135 female college graduates to every 100 male grads to my husband Earl. He replied, "Is that all?" Recently retired from the USMC, my husband is currently attending East Carolina University in Greenville, NC where he is majoring in math and physics. He reports that his math and science classes are 90% male. In a class of ten students, one or two are female. In his general education classes, it's the exact opposite. His U.S. History class has 65 students, 60 of them female. He estimates that while walking around campus between classes, the ratio of female and male students seems to run about 80/20.
It's not that bad at UT, but maybe the Force is just stronger in Earl. He's a Marine, after all . . . .
Only days after Al-Qaida announced the completion of its latest campaign of violence aimed at avenging alleged "massacres" of Sunni Muslims in Tel Afar by the U.S. and Iraqi government, there are growing indications that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida acolytes may be facing the most serious political and operational challenges they have encountered since they first joined the anti-coalition insurgency in mid-2003. The deadly glut of suicide bombings that began on September 8 has undoubtedly caused destruction and chaos--but militants were neither able to undermine the anti-insurgent operation in Tel Afar nor deter Iraqi government efforts to formulate a constitution.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is facing questions from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission about his sale of stock in his family's hospital company one month before its price fell sharply.
I doubt Frist is so stupid as to do what some allege. But I see nothing wrong with the appropriate agencies investigating Frist's blind-trust stock sale. If anybody sees a good argument why it shouldn't be investigated, I'd be curious to take a look. But as far as I'm concerned, it sounds like the right thing to do in a fairly no-brainer way. If he did something wrong the investigation is obviously warranted. If he didn't, the investigation should clear him. Exoneration is as important a function as conviction.
Ed Morrissey thinks Frist should step down until it's settled, but Tigerhawk has stock price charts and says the charges against Frist are wrong.
Professor Bainbridge, meanwhile -- who specializes in this area of law -- has a lengthy and useful post on what's going on.
Regardless of what happens with this case, it's the second term of an Administration, so we'll probably see a lot more of this sort of thing, real or bogus. That's not all bad: I think that the coming years will be good ones for this book!
posted at 09:00 AM by Glenn Reynolds
WARREN BEATTY AT A NURSES' CONVENTION -- and all he rips is Gov. Schwarzenegger? Boy, I guess people do change . . . .
UPDATE: Reader Aaron Pastula emails: "And is it me, or are the anti-antiwar protests getting larger? A perfunctory scan of the photo roundups seems to suggest it..."
I don't know. There were some very large rallies in 2003, but not so many since. There seems to be a new wave of interest, though.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Some protest photoblogging from San Francisco here and here.
And Big Media blogger Jay Fitzgerald writes that he's embarrassed by the poor quality of the protest coverage he's seen from the MSM.
MORE: An interesting discussion of numbers in GayPatriot's comments, but I don't think there's any credible argument that they match prewar numbers. It's also worth noting that no mainstream Democrats are associating with these protests. If there were really broad grassroots support for this stuff, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, etc. would all be out front. Instead, they're keeping their (very substantial) distance.