Archive:

September 2005, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



If "Demography Is Destiny", then China has an interesting future.
In a trend fraught with troubling political and social implications, China will soon find itself with a marriage-age population remarkably out of balance, with about 23 million more young men than women available for them to marry in this decade and the next - what demographers term a "marriage squeeze."

This impending surplus of unattached young men could be a driving force behind increased crime, explosive epidemics of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and even international threats to the security of other nations.  Yet the Chinese government has done little to address its demographic destiny.
The imbalance has been caused by the Chinese government's one child policy and the availability of sex-specific abortions.  Whether the imbalance will have those effects is hard to say, but it is a fact that, in nearly every culture, unmarried young men often behave badly.

After wars, many nations have had more young unmarried women than men.  (For examples, see here and here.)   But I don't know of any nation that has had this kind of imbalance, which makes the effects rather hard to predict.  (India may have a similar imbalance soon, for somewhat similar reasons.   I read recently that one Indian province was beginning to reward parents who raised girls, for this very reason.)

(The phrase, "demography is destiny", is usually ascribed to the French thinker, August Comte, who is variously described as a mathematician, a sociologist, or a philosopher.  I think the last is closest, although he is also the founder of sociology.

He seems to have been a most unpleasant person, but he had one practice that I find fascinating.   Here's how my half century old Encyclopedia Britannica describes it:
After he had acquired what he considered to be a sufficient stock of material, and this happened before he had completed the Positive Philosophy, he abstained from reading newspapers, reviews, scientific transactions, and everything else, except for two or three poets (notably Dante) and the Imitatio Christi.
No doubt he would have abstained from the internet, as well, if he were alive today.

Is demography destiny?  Not in my opinion.  But it does set severe limits.)
- 9:16 AM, 16 September 2005   [link]


What Do Four-O'Clock Flowers, Budgerigars, and Mantis Shrimp Have In Common?   According to this Telegraph article, they all emit fluorescent light.
The flowers, found in South America, are also known as four-o'clocks, marvel of Peru and beauty of the night.

The team found that the flowers, which open in the afternoon, rely on fluorescence, so emitting green light rather than just reflecting it, a signalling system recorded before only in budgerigars and the mantis shrimp.

They report in the journal Nature finding that the fluorescence emitted by one pigment, a yellow betaxanthin, is absorbed by another pigment, a violet betacyanin, to create a green fluorescent pattern on the petals.
To attract bees and bats for pollination the team believes.

(Even I can't come up with a political connection for this story.  But it is a neat finding.)
- 4:50 PM, 15 September 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Gerry Daly's post on Justice Souter.  Daly points out that Souter had a generally conservative voting record in his first years on the Supreme Court.  Why did Souter change?  Daly offers this speculation:
Could Souter's swing to the left on the high court be partly attributable to some antipathy that either developed or had always existed between him and Rehnquist?  While we may never know for sure, it seems fair to ask.  The small group dynamics within the court will be markedly different in the coming terms, with two new justices.  Everyone will be looking to see how the newcomers come down on various cases.  I will be looking to see how Justice Souter responds, now that the man who he could not even move himself to deliver a perfunctory gracious post-mortem statement about is gone.
And I will just add that, from everything I have read, Judge Roberts is very, very good at getting along with his colleagues.  I wouldn't expect Souter to shift back to the center because of that, but it is an interesting possibility,
- 1:32 PM, 15 September 2005   [link]


Follow-Up  from Jack Kelly:
In a column last week, I described the relief operation after Katrina as "the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in history."

Everything I have seen in the week subsequent reinforces that view.
You'll want to read the whole thing.  And, if you are like me, you'll be impressed by his correction of several minor errors (one of which I had noted) and his open-minded attitude.   He thinks the former head of FEMA, Michael Brown, should not have held the job, but has a number of sensible things to say about the agency, including this:
I'd give FEMA an incomplete [grade], because we just don't know enough yet about the extent to which FEMA coordination aided, or impeded, or was irrelevant to the activities of the organizations mentioned above.
And we really don't, despite what some seem to believe.
- 1:13 PM, 15 September 2005   [link]


48 Hours Is Better:  Better Than What?  Better than 72 hours for an evacuation plan for New Orleans, or for most other places threatened by hurricanes.  I've made this point before, but I realize that, after the losses from Katrina, it may seem paradoxical, so I am going to expand my argument.

Let me start with three simple points.  First, as long as we do not have large standing armies, ready to move into cities at a moment's notice, evacuations will be almost entirely voluntary, regardless of whether a mayor, or a governor, or even a president says that they are mandatory.   People must be persuaded to leave, rather than commanded.  (A small proportion of the population can be commanded to leave; I'll come back to them later.)

Second, the track and strength of a hurricane are hard to predict three days in advance — and people who live in areas prone to hurricanes mostly know that.

Third, there are great costs to an evacuation, costs mostly born by individuals and businesses, rather than governments.  Individuals understand this, though the governments may not.

If we put these points together, we see that we want to start our evacuations late enough so that people can be persuaded that the hurricane is likely to hit them, and that the costs they will suffer from the evacuation are worth the decrease in risk.  My guess is that about the earliest that this can be done is 48 hours before a hurricane is predicted to hit.  Those who think this too late are invited to look at Katrina on Friday morning, 72 hours before it hit New Orleans.  At that time, Katrina was a Category 2 storm, hundreds of miles away from New Orleans.

And this is typical of hurricanes; predictions made 72 hours before they strike are not very accurate — and people in hurricane areas know this.

Many of you will already be wondering about this question:  Would 48 hours be enough time to evacuate New Orleans?  As far as I can tell from these statistics on commuters, the answer is yes.  New Orleans Parish has more than 140 thousand workers commuting to work by car, motorcycle, or truck on an average work day.  If we assume that those vehicles could carry an average of 4 people, then they could have evacuated the population of New Orleans (about 450 thousand) in a single trip, with the help, of course, of the "contraflow" system that makes the major roads out of New Orleans one-way.  Even with slower traffic than usual, they could have gotten to safe areas in a few hours, assuming the state police managed the flow well.  (You would want them, for instance, to preposition tow trucks and other emergency vehicles in order to keep the traffic moving.)

Now you would want to do a formal study to prove that I am right, but we should remember that 80 percent, by most estimates, of the population was evacuated.  And, although they got warnings beginning on Friday, Mayor Nagin did not order an evacuation until Sunday morning, 23 hours before the storm hit.

What about the 100 thousand people (again, by most estimates) in New Orleans who do not have cars?   We should start by remembering that many of them have access to cars, even if they don't own them.   For example, a 70-year-old widow, living on social security, may not have a car, but she almost certainly has family or friends with cars that she relies on for rides in more normal times.   (And in my experience with such ladies, the main problem is getting them to ask for rides, not getting rides for them.)  There will be a few people who have neither cars nor rides; those few will need help from churches, voluntary organizations, or the city and state governments.   (In New Orleans, the first two seem like the best bet.)  The number that need this kind of help is hard to estimate, but I would be surprised if there were as many as 50 thousand of them in New Orleans.

Would even later mandatory evacuations, say 24 or 36 hours, be better than a 48 hour evacuation?   Maybe.  It would be a good idea to study the question with simulations.  And it might depend, in the case of New Orleans, on what direction the storm was coming from.

I said that a few people could be commanded to leave.  That would include many of the patients in hospitals and nursing homes.  And I think, because their evacuations are more difficult, that we should plan to evacuate them first, perhaps even 72 hours before the storm is predicted to hit.

But very few of us fall into that category, whether we live in New Orleans or somewhere else that might have to be evacuated.  Since we can not be commanded to evacuate, the government should not ask us to leave until the danger is clear.  For hurricanes, 48 hours is probably about the right amount of time.  There were many errors in New Orleans evacuation plan; allowing too much time for an evacuation may well be one of the biggest — however strange that may seem at first glance.
- 11:56 AM, 15 September 2005   [link]


Payments For Reading The New York Times:  The newspaper is introducing what they call TimesSelect
Subscribers to TimesSelect will have exclusive online access to many of our most influential columnists in Op-Ed, Business, New York/Region and Sports.  In addition to reading the columns, TimesSelect subscribers can also engage with our columnists through video interviews and Web-only postings.
I think the Times has it reversed, at least for some of their columnists.  When I read a column by Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, or Paul Krugman, I almost always end with the feeling that the Times owes me money.  How much?  About 50 dollars for each column by Dowd, and about 75 dollars for each column by Rich or Krugman.  (Much more if Krugman makes a methodological error, as he often does.)

And there are other columnists that I think we should be paid to read; Molly Ivins and Helen Thomas come to mind immediately, and I am sure you can think of more.

(Being serious for a moment, I'll just say that this reminds me of the effort by the Times of London to charge those not in Britain for content.  They tried it for a year or so and then gave it up, presumably because not enough people signed up for it.

The New York Times is also offering access to their archives, which I would like to have — but the same access is available through many libraries, without paying a fee.)
- 5:57 AM, 15 September 2005   [link]


Those Puzzling Levee Breaches:  From the day that they were reported, I have been puzzled about the locations of the levee breaches in New Orleans.  As I understood it, planners were most worried about a storm surge from Lake Ponchartrain north of New Orleans, and so, I assumed, they were most worried about breaches in the levees along the lake.   But those were not the levees that failed.

To follow what I am about to say, you will want to see the map that accompanies this New York Times article.   According to the map key, Katrina caused six breaches in the levees protecting the city.   Going from west to east, we find the first on the 17th Street Canal, where it intersects a levee protecting against Lake Ponchartrain — but about a mile from the lake shore.  Next, there are two breaches on the London Avenue Canal, one about a mile from the lake and another almost two miles from the lake.  Finally, there are three breaches on the Industrial Canal, all more than three miles from the lake.  These last three breaches are all, please note, much closer to the Mississippi than to the lake.

Given these locations along the canals, and away from the lake, I am inclined to think that Katrina did not cause the breaches — directly.  Instead, I'm inclined to think that the reports that the breaches were caused by runaway barges are correct.  And there might have been just three barges, because it is possible that a single barge caused both breaches on the London Avenue Canal, and another caused all three on the Industrial Canal.

If this hypothesis is correct, then we would be inclined to blame the designers of the levees along the canals for not forseeing that they needed to be protected from such collisions, and we would be inclined to blame the owners of the barges for not securing them against the storm.  But we might not blame either much, because we have so little experience with storms of that magnitude — fortunately.  (And, of course, this being Louisiana, we can't exclude the possibility of flaws in these levees from fraud in the construction or design.)

(The locations aren't the only puzzles I find in the map.  On the east side, there are six breaches marked with orange circles, which means the authorities don't yet know what caused those breaches.  And then there is the fact that East New Orleans is almost all under water — but the map shows no breaches in any of its levees.

Finally, there is something in the article that needs an explanation, but doesn't get it.  Matthew Wald tells us that St. Bernard Parish, which is almost all flooded, is above sea level.  So, where did the water there come from, and why has it not drained away?  Wald does not explain, though he hints that the water may have come from the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a canal that does not appear on the map.)
- 5:15 PM, 14 September 2005
Maybe Not:  See my second thoughts on the theory that barges caused all the breaches here.
- 9:42 AM, 21 September 2005   [link]


Gallup's Two Dubious Questions:  Many people have been commenting on the racial differences revealed in the answers to these two Gallup questions:
Just your best guess, do you think one reason the federal government was slow in rescuing these people was because many of them were poor, or was that not a reason?

*[Just your best guess,] do you think one reason the federal government was slow in rescuing these people was because many of them were black, or was that not a reason?
But I am not sure we should pay any attention to their findings, because the two questions are dubious.

What's wrong with those questions?  They state as a fact that "the federal government was slow in rescuing these people".  But, in fact, we can be fairly certain that the Coast Guard, which is part of the federal government, was about as quick in rescuing people as physically possible.   Other parts of the federal response are in dispute, but as I have mentioned before, Jack Kelly makes a good case for the proposition that the federal response was faster after Katrina than after earlier hurricanes.   If he is right, then these two questions are completely bogus.  If those who say that the Coast Guard was there as quickly as possible are right, then the two questions are mostly bogus.

(*It's just my best guess, but I am fairly sure that Gallup used that prefatory guess phrase in both questions.  They don't give the whole question when they report the results for the first question, even though they give it on their main site, so I am fairly certain that both questions began with that odd phrase.  What they are trying to do, of course, is reduce the number of don't know answers.  I don't approve of the phrase, because I think many of us really don't know and should not be encouraged to guess.

By the way, I considered using a harsher term than "dubious" to describe the questions.  But I have enough respect for the Gallup organization so that I am willing to believe that they made an honest mistake.

And there was an interesting finding buried near the end: A plurality of whites think that the Republican leaders in Congress, the Democratic leaders in Congress, and the news media are spending "too much time trying to figure out who is responsible for the problems in the areas affected by the hurricane".  Half of the whites in the survey held that view about the Democratic leaders and the news media — as did 29 percent of the blacks in the survey.)
- 1:46 PM, 14 September 2005   [link]


Bush Gets Top Ratings On Katrina:  Bet you haven't heard that on network news.  But it is true, as "H-bomb" of the Ankle Biting Pundits points out.
NOTE: The President's INITIAL response to Katrina was rated higher than ANY of the other options -- Does anyone remember reading this anywhere . . . nuf said?!
Not top absolutely, but top relatively.  In the Gallup poll that he is discussing, Bush got better ratings for his initial response than did residents of New Orleans, state and local officials, and federal bureaucracies, including FEMA.  And Bush's rating for his recent actions is much higher than the rating for his initial actions.  If I had to summarize the poll findings, I would say something like this: The public thought everyone reacted badly in the first few days, but blamed Bush less than others.  The public now thinks that Bush and the rest are doing reasonably well.  Not everyone shares those opinions, but solid majorities do.

And it is probably not a coincidence that Bush's approval rating ROSE in the latest Gallup poll from 40 to 46 percent.  (To give credit where due, Dick Morris predicted this rise.)

(By the way, since I am about to attack Gallup for their wording of another question, I would like to give them credit for including "residents of New Orleans" in their groups that might deserve blame (or credit).  Too much of the Katrina discussion has assumed that only governments could be blamed, and that the only question was which government deserved the most blame.)
- 9:12 AM, 14 September 2005   [link]


Michael Brown Not Completely Out Of It?  I haven't followed the actions of the former FEMA director, but even I knew vaguely that he was being accused of not knowing about problems in New Orleans, even though news organizations were covering them extensively.  Now, along comes Bob Somerby to say that the journalists who are making that accusation are just "making facts up".

Somerby says that Brown learned about the people in the convention center at about the same time as the major news organizations did.  But that didn't stop journalists, or perhaps I should say "journalists", including Ted Koppel, Frank Rich, and Maureen Dowd, from claiming that Brown could have learned about these problems just by watching TV.  And it hasn't stopped many on the left from repeating and amplifying the charge.

I haven't checked Somerby's claims, since I don't have access to Nexis, but the way he checked the timing of the news stories seems reasonable.  And it is unfortunately true that such mistakes are only too common among our journalists.

If Somerby is right, will any of these journalists correct the record?  Will any of them apologize for their false accusation?  Don't hold your breath waiting for either to happen.

(Most of the post covers the hilarious (or maybe dismaying) performances of the Senator Mary Landrieu on the talk shows last Sunday.

Oh, and for those who need to know which team a person belongs to before they can evaluate that person's argument, Somerby calls himself a liberal.)
- 7:50 AM, 14 September 2005   [link]


Nursing Home Operators Charged With Negligent Homicide:  From the start, I have not subscribed to any of the popular "uni-devil" theories about the blame for the losses from hurricane Katrina.  I have always thought that more than one person could be blamed.   But when it comes time to assign amounts of blame, this couple may be near the top.
The husband-and-wife owners of a New Orleans-area nursing home where 34 people died in Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters were charged Tuesday with negligent homicide.
. . .
The Manganos [Salvador A. Mangano and his wife, Mable] had an evacuation plan as required under state law and a contract with an ambulance service to evacuate the patients, but they did not call the company, [Louisiana Attorney General Charles] Foti said.  They also turned down an offer from St. Bernard Parish officials who asked if the nursing home wanted help evacuating, he said.
Assuming, of course, that Louisiana officials have their facts right.  And, if they do, I hope this couple is put away forever.

(Oh, and for those determined to pin all the blame on some level of government: As far as I know, the prime responsibility for regulating such nursing homes belongs to the state of Louisiana.)
- 1:41 PM, 13 September 2005   [link]


Credit The Coast Guard:  That's what the Washington Times does in this editorial.
The Coast Guard faced many of the same challenges as other government agencies in responding swiftly to Hurricane Katrina -- and yet it was able to outperform all of them.  It too was forced to move its aircraft and vessels out of the storm's path.  Its staging station Gulfport, Mississippi, was completely destroyed by the storm.  The Guard was also operating outside of its regular functions, which are to patrol waterways and assist commercial and recreational boaters in trouble -- not launch search and rescue missions in flooded urban areas, with all the attendant hazards and challenges, including fallen telephone and electrical lines.  Yet, the Coast Guard has rescued more than 22,000 people in the areas affected by Katrina.

Coast Guard search-and-rescue missions were deployed in New Orleans and other areas by about midday Monday, while gale force winds were still in force, buffeting helicopters and skiffs.  By Tuesday, Aug. 30, the day after Katrina made landfall, the Guard had already rescued about 1,200 people stranded by high water.
You'll want to read the whole thing.

As we study what happened during Katrina, we'll want to look at where government agencies succeeded, as well as where they failed.  I have already said that a Weather Service forecaster almost certainly saved many lives.  I think we can be certain that the Coast Guard saved many more.
- 1:41 PM, 13 September 2005   [link]


Lance Dickie Versus Jack Kelly:  Last week, an editorial writer for the Seattle Times, Lance Dickie, wrote a column giving the "mainstream" media's conventional wisdom on the response to Katrina.

Before Hurricane Katrina, I looked forward to the congressional campaigns with a perverse political-science curiosity.  With the Iraq war going badly and the public increasingly disenchanted by President Bush and his leadership of the war, how would the Republican Party change the discussion?  Instead of Iraq, would it be the curse of meth, another foreign crisis, or more predictably, a loop back to the culture wars — guns, gays, abortion and religion?

A killer storm changed all that.  A shift in conversation is coming, but not in the direction the White House and GOP-led Congress will like or control.
. . .
The same administration that cannot get bullet-proof vests and armored vehicles to the troops in Iraq cannot get water and emergency rations to the victims of a natural disaster.  The Red Cross and the Salvation Army can do it, but not the federal government under current management.
. . .
The incompetence of the Bush administration violated that civic covenant and failed to provide for public safety.  The license to engage in all kinds of self-serving political acts — including starting a war — comes with an ancient contract to protect the vulnerable.

(Readers of the entire column will note that neither Mayor Nagin nor Governor Blanco even appear.)

Jack Kelly looked at the same events and came to the opposite conclusion.   As I mentioned yesterday, Kelly says that the conventional wisdom is wrong.  Here's some of the evidence that Kelly presented for that unconventional opinion:

Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:

"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented.  The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Florida after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002.  But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

And Kelly has much more evidence, including a sensible discussion of the inescapable difficulties of moving large numbers of men, with their equipment, to a disaster area.

When you compare the columns, you will probably notice the same two things that I did.  First, Kelly provides an array of facts and expert opinions, but Dickie presents only opinions.   Second, Kelly makes a comparative argument, but Dickie makes an absolute argument; Kelly claims that the response to Katrina was better than the response to previous hurricanes, but Dickie says that it was not perfect, a point I would not dispute.  But in judging politicians, the comparative standard is the correct one, for reasons I hope are obvious, even to editorial writers at the Seattle Times.

Who is right?  I am inclined to trust the journalist who went out and dug up the facts over the journalist who merely recycled the conventional wisdom of the newsroom.  But I am willing to change my mind if Dickie can supply facts that refute Kelly.  He could start, for instance, with interviewing Jason van Steenwyk.  And if Dickie comes back to this subject, I hope he will make comparisons, rather absolute judgments, and that he will say something about Democratic officials, definitely including Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Both Dickie and Kelly appear to have made factual errors.  Dickie's error is serious; he says, absolutely, that the Bush administration can not get armor to the troops or food and water to the Katrina refugees.  Kelly's error is less serious; he says that the levees broke on Tuesday.   That's what most first reports said, but authorities now believe that they broke on Monday.

If you have read my previous post, you may wonder whether Lance Dickie is European.  As far as I know, he is not.)
- 9:37 AM, 13 September 2005   [link]

European Journalists Are Even Worse:  The coverage of Katrina by the "mainstream" media here in the United States has been terrible.  But the coverage of Katrina in Europe has been even worse.

How bad has it been?  John O'Sullivan says that European news organizations have given their readers and listeners two narratives on the storm, the first a simple account of the devastation of the storm, with sympathy for the victims, and the second a simple morality play.
Yet the second European narrative was a simple morality play in which all the blame for Katrina fell on Bush, either for his actual policies or for what he allegedly symbolizes -- i.e., an uncaring social philosophy that neglects the poor and minorities.  Almost every aspect of the hurricane and its aftermath were attributed to these two aspects of Bush at such an early stage that, even if the media allegations, hints and inferences had been accidentally true, the evidence for them would simply not have been available.
O'Sullivan goes on the refute the main charges made in this morality play, one by one.

Why have European journalists been even worse than our own?  In some ways that difference isn't surprising; European journalists are much less likely to understand American politics or even our federal system, and of course the news organizations in Europe can't devote the same resources to the story that American news organizations can.   But the greater failure in Europe also stems from two other things, I think.  As far as I can tell, European journalists are even more likely to be left-wing ideologues than American journalists, and they are much less likely to get negative feedback when they botch a story on the United States.

As a result, European stories on the United States are much more likely to be shoehorned into a simple left-wing morality plays.  And the journalist who write these plays are much less likely to hear from people who tell them they are wrong.

What can Europeans who want to be informed about the United States do?  O'Sullivan has a solution.  Here's what Frank Johnson of the Daily Telegraph says:
The only way to follow anything that happens in the United States today is not to rely on what drifts back into the British media from the overwhelmingly liberal American establishment newspapers and national television bulletins: almost the sole source for, say, the BBC.  Instead we must search America's blogs and Web sites.
Blogs, including this one, are not perfect.  But the blogs are doing better than the America's mainstream media on Katrina, and many other subjects.  And they are even farther ahead of the European media.  Europeans who want to understand the United States can learn much by reading them, especially the moderate and conservative blogs..

(For some samples of the disgraceful European coverage of Katrina, see Biased BBC, ¡No-Pasaran, or this column by Val MacQueen.

And you can see the importance of feedback in this BBC article, which admits that they are receiving heavy criticism for their errors and outrageous bias.   Given its monopoly position, the BBC is unlikely to do much to improve its coverage of the United States.  But I think the flood of complaints they have received may make them a little more cautious.  And I appreciate the efforts of our British friends to make the BBC more responsible.)
- 7:53 AM, 13 September 2005   [link]


John Breaux Shows Class:  The former Louisiana senator has the best response to Katrina that I have seen.
Before he was even asked a question Saturday, Breaux was critical of efforts to lay blame for what many say was a slow rescue and recovery effort that is being blamed for widespread suffering and death in the days after Katrina struck the region on Aug. 29.  The Bush administration, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin have all been criticized from various quarters.

"In the passion of the moment of a national disaster of the magnitude that we have seen, this is not the time or the forum to be engaged in the blame game," Breaux said.

"Blaming each other does not save a life, does not feed a single family or compensate them in their loss."

When blame is assessed, Breaux said, he and other current and former members of the state's congressional delegation will deserve some criticism because they failed to get more money for evacuation efforts and levee strengthening.
Good advice there, and I can not help but be impressed by his willingness to take some share of the blame.

(In the 2004 Almanac of American Politics I found this comment on Breaux:
He has encouraged people to think of him as a cynical dealmaker:  "I'd always rather have half of something than 100% of nothing," he likes to say.  But over time it has become apparent that he does have a core of beliefs and has developed strong principles on issues he has worked hard on.
A principled politician who encourages people to think he is cynical.  That's amusing and refreshing at the same time.

For a contrast to the current senior senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, see this post.)
- 2:30 PM, 12 September 2005   [link]


"Disappointment" If Death Toll From Katrina Is Lower Than Predicted?   At the end of a post he calls "rambling", Jay Manifold tells us to watch for disappointment.
Back to New Orleans.  Watch for a noticeable disappointment on the part of some commentators when the Katrina death toll turns out to be much lower than originally feared, and in particular, lower than 9/11.
Is he right about that?  It's a big country and I don't doubt that among our nearly 300 million people there will be a few who are disappointed.  (And I know that our enemies abroad be disappointed.)  But will there be more than a few who are disappointed here?   And will those who are disappointed include Democratic politicians and major media figures?   I don't know, but I fear that Jay may be right in his prediction.  (And if you see examples of this disappointment — or the reverse — I would would appreciate hearing about them.)

(There's much besides this warning in Jay's post.  I'll be coming back to it at least once, and maybe more than once.)
- 8:55 AM, 12 September 2005
An Example Of Disappointment?  James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal thinks that editor James Wolcott is disappointed by the lower death toll, and I have to say that's the impression I get, too.

(Wolcott is supposed to be a great writer.  I haven't read enough by him to have an opinion, but I wasn't impressed by this blog entry.)
- 8:17 AM, 13 September 2005   [link]


Vote Fraud In California:  But of a most unusual kind — I hope.   A powerful California state senator, Carole Migden, improperly voted for a legislator in the California House of Representatives.  In support of her own bill.  Matt Rosenberg has the story here and here.

It is, I should add, not uncommon, in some legislatures, for aides or colleagues to vote for a legislator who is absent.  Sometimes rules explicitly allow it; sometimes electric or electronic voting systems make it so easy that it becomes accepted, even though it is against the rules.  I don't like the practice even when the rules allow it.  And I am old-fashioned enough to think that legislatures should follow their own rules, however awkward that may be at times.
- 6:02 AM, 12 September 2005   [link]


"The Mainstream Media Rioted":  Ben Stein doesn't mince words in his description of the Katrina coverage.
What is the real story of Katrina is (I suggest) not so much that nature wrought fury on land, water, people, property, and animals, not at all anything about racism, not much about federal government incompetence. The real story is that the mainstream media rioted.

They used the storm and its attendant sorrows to continue their endless attack on George W. Bush.   Wildly inflated stories about the number of dead and missing, totally made up old wives' tales of racism, breathless accounts of Bush neglect that are utterly devoid of truth and of historical context -- this is what the mainstream media gave us.  The use of floating corpses, of horror stories of plagues, the sad faces of refugees, the long-faced phony accusations of intentional neglect and racism -- anything is grist for the media's endless attempts to undermine the electorate's choice last November.  It is sad, but true that the media will use even the most heart breaking truths -- and then add total inventions -- to try to weaken and then evict from office a man who has done nothing wrong, but has instead turned himself inside out to help the real victims.
I wouldn't say the "mainstream" media rioted, but I would say that the partisanship and the irresponsibility of their Katrina coverage has been breathtaking.  And as far as I can tell, not a single "mainstream" journalist has any idea just how angry this coverage has made some of us.  But as the facts begin to seep out past the journalists, that anger is likely to grow.

For instance, suppose Jack Kelly is right is this claim:
It is settled wisdom among journalists that the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow.
. . .
But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth.
And Kelly supplies enough numbers to make the claim, at the very least, plausible.  The response after hurricane Katrina from that sluggish beast, the federal bureaucracy, may have been faster than after any previous hurricane.  Have you seen that point from any "mainstream" journalist?  I haven't.  And if our journalists can't get simple comparisons like that one right, why should we trust them on more complex matters?

(I suspect that flub in Stein's first sentence shows just how angry he is, too angry to get the sentence right, though you can understand what he means.

For more, including a long comparison of the "competing narratives", see this Jeff Goldstein post)
- 5:08 AM, 12 September 2005   [link]


The Instapundit Asks a good question.
The press wants to show bodies from Katrina.  It didn't want to show bodies, or jumpers, on 9/11, for fear that doing so would inflame the public.

I can only conclude that this time around, the press thinks it's a good thing to inflame the public.  What could the difference be?
And for those who want to view the 9/11 photos that the press hid, Michelle Malkin has a fine collection.
- 6:24 PM, 11 September 2005   [link]


Pictures Of The American Past:  The New Deal hired photographers, as well as everybody else, and many of their photographs have been preserved.  From this New York Times article I learned that you can access photographs taken for the Farm Security Adminstration and the Office of War Information at this site.
The images in the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are among the most famous documentary photographs ever produced.  Created by a group of U.S. government photographers, the images show Americans in every part of the nation.  In the early years, the project emphasized rural life and the negative impact of the Great Depression, farm mechanization, and the Dust Bowl.  In later years, the photographers turned their attention to the mobilization effort for World War II.  The core of the collection consists of about 164,000 black-and-white photographs.  This release provides access to over 160,000 of these images; future additions will expand the black-and-white offering.  The FSA-OWI photographers also produced about 1600 color photographs during the latter days of the project.
Here's a sample from the first period, showing a 4th of July celebration on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.



And here's a picture from the second period, showing the odd M3 tank.



And here's a link to a third picture.   My first thought on seeing it was that it was a painting by Norman Rockwell.

I found it hard to stop looking through the pictures at the site, both because of what they show about our history, and because many of them are fine photographs, though not always in good condition.

(I made both pictures lighter with a photo editor.  If you would like to see the originals, you can find them here and here.   The pictures are not copyrighted, but you should credit the Library of Congress, just to be polite.  The Library provides the pictures in three sizes, a little GIF file suitable for tabs, a larger JPEG file, which you see above, and a TIFF file for those who want the whole thing.

The M3 tank may require an explanation.  Before World War II began, the United States used a 37mm gun in its tanks.  Experience in Europe showed that a larger gun was needed, so as a temporary expedient, a 75mm gun was added in a side sponson in the M3.  The M3 was used with some success by the British army in North Africa, but was soon replaced by the M4 Sherman tank, which had the 75mm gun in the turret, where it belonged.  Just to confuse matters, the British called the standard version of the M3 the "General Lee", but called a modified version with a different turret, the "General Grant".)
- 5:35 PM, 10 September 2005
Update:  The links to the individual pictures worked when I tested them after posting, but have not worked for me since.  Not sure what is going on, but you can find the 4th of July picture by searching the color photographs on the photographers's last name, "Wolcott", and you can find the M3 picture by searching them on "tank".  The "Norman Rockwell" picture that I was trying to link to is also in the "Wolcott" group, though they are not sure she took that picture,  It is titled "Georgia?".
- 7:36 AM, 12 September 2005   [link]


Remember That Apocalyptic Warning  about Katrina from the Weather Service?  That warning probably saved many lives.  The stark wording, the specific threats, such as their predictions that power would be out for weeks and that water shortages would "MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS" must have motivated many to evacuate who would not have otherwise.

I don't know who composed that warning, but he or she deserves our thanks.
- 4:18 PM, 10 September 2005
And The 1953 Dutch Experience shows what happens when citizens don't get timely warnings.
Many Dutchmen, shocked by the devastation caused in the U.S. by Hurricane Katrina, were reminded of what happened to our own country more than 50 years ago.  On Feb. 1, 1953, the southwestern part of the Netherlands was struck by a flood of biblical proportions.  The Dutch levee system collapsed in 500 places.  There was nowhere to hide.  More than 1,800 people drowned, together with tens of thousands of cattle and other animals.  Some 4,000 houses were destroyed, and 40,000 were severely damaged.  About 100,000 people had to evacuate, out of a population of around 12 million.
. . .
Two Dutch researchers, Uri Rosenthal and Geesje Saeijs, concluded in a 2003 study that the failure of the alarm system was the biggest fault of 1953.  The Dutch meteorological service actually predicted the storm.  There was a warning system, but only three of the more than 1,000 Dutch water boards, which for centuries used to take care of the dikes, had a subscription to it.

The Netherlands was still rather religious in those days, and not much public activity was permitted on the seventh day of Creation.  So the radio simply stopped broadcasting at midnight on Saturday, just before the storm gained strength.  The population and local authorities were, therefore, utterly unprepared for what hit them on Sunday morning.
Though there was this great difference between that storm and Katrina, there are enough similarities so that we should study the Dutch experience carefully as we think about what should be done with New Orleans.
- 2:15 PM, 11 September 2005   [link]


Maureen Dowd begins today's column with this:
I understand that politicians are wont to put cronies and cupcakes on the payroll.
Which she finds objectionable, at least for important positions.

I know exactly how she feels.  Would Gail Collins, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, and Maureen Dowd have their important positions at the New York Times if merit were the criterion?  No serious person would come to that conclusion.

(Some cruel people have suggested that Ms. Dowd is no longer a "cupcake".  But I try to be a gentleman and so I would never even suggest such a thing.)
- 4:04 PM, 10 September 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Linda Seebach's description of an attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College.
Robert KC Johnson is a tenured professor of history at Brooklyn College - and how that came to be is a story in its own right - but his current dispute is with the School of Education there.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which gets to stamp its imprimatur on certification programs that conform to its views on pedagogy, in 2002 moved further into politics by making student "dispositions" a part of its accreditation process.  To earn accreditation, teacher-preparation programs were evaluated on how well their graduates demonstrate a disposition toward social justice.
In other words, if you don't agree with left-wing social programs, you shouldn't be a teacher.   Professor Johnson made the obvious criticism and got this response, which would amuse George Orwell mightily.
Instead, the School of Education went into full "How dare you say that!" mode. On official letterhead, signed by 34 faculty and administrators and sent to just about everybody important they could think of who might have some say over Johnson's position at Brooklyn College, they expressed their "contempt" for what they describe as his "attacks on a colleague" and decried his "woeful ignorance" of "what educators across the country are trying to accomplish."

They admit he has the right to make whatever claims he wishes, but conclude "we must insist you stop such attacks."

That is, he has the right to express opinions with which they disagree, but they insist he not exercise it.
More and more I think that we could improve education in the United States by shutting down our education schools.  And this incident provides a little more evidence for that radical view.  A person who would made that bizarre argument against Professor Johnson is not qualified to be a professor in any field.  But here is an entire school of education dominated by such people.  It is hard to believe that the school is doing even an adequate job of preparing teachers, with such professors.

(One reason I usually say "leftist", where most others would say liberal, is that our modern liberals, unlike those of my youth, do not support academic freedom or freedom of speech.  The replacement of liberals (in the older sense) by leftists in our colleges and universities has caused them to become, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick said, "islands of repression in a sea of freedom".  Yes, she exaggerated, but anyone familiar with our colleges and universities knows that there is much truth in her stinging phrase.)
- 3:43 PM, 10 September 2005   [link]


Will There Be A Cover-Up?  There will be, says John Tierney, if Congress investigates itself.
At last there is a light in the darkness.  Washington was slow to respond to Katrina's victims, but now Congress has finally sprung into action.  It has bravely promised to investigate the situation.

Unfortunately, the members haven't figured out exactly how, because Democrats want it to be done by outsiders.  They say the Republicans will turn it into a cover-up.  But why does that bother the Democrats so much?  Shouldn't members of both parties want to cover this up?
Especially the senior senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu.
This week Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat, lambasted Mr. Bush on the Senate floor.   "Everybody anticipated the breach of the levees, Mr. President," she said.  But she and others from the Louisiana delegation have been shortchanging the levees themselves.  As Michael Grunwald reported in The Washington Post, they've diverted large sums to dubious Corps projects aimed at increasing barge traffic, not preventing floods.  Ms. Landrieu forced the Corps to redo its calculations when a project to deepen a port flunked its cost-benefit analysis.

Would Congressional investigators focus on these pork-barrel projects?  I would guess not.   My daring prediction is they would make two discoveries.  First, that mistakes were made by many people outside Congress.  Second, that more money must be spent on flood protection throughout America.
  Both predictions seem reasonable to me.  And I also think it reasonable to predict that the New York Times will not investigate its own long opposition to flood control projects that might have saved lives in New Orleans.

(Would an independent commission be different from a congressional investigation?  If the congressional Democrats have their way, it would be partly chosen by them.  So, there still would be little official criticism of the policy choices made by Congress.  There would be, most likely, a little more criticism of the Bush administration.  Still a cover-up, but the emphasis would be a bit different.)
- 10:36 AM, 10 September 2005   [link]


Sneaky:  As all good bureaucrats know, a big disaster is an excellent time to do things that won't bear public scrutiny.  No doubt that is why Democrats in the California legislature thought that the aftermath of Katrina would be a great time to pass gay marriage.  They hoped, I suppose, to minimize the political cost by doing it when nobody was watching.

They will pay some political cost when Governor Schwarzenegger vetoes it dramatically, as he has promised to do.  But, as Debra Saunders explains, there is another objection to this sneaky bill:  It's illegal.
In passing a law to legalize same-sex marriages, Democrats in the state Legislature sent a clear message to California voters: You don't count.  And I say that as someone who was in the minority in 2000.  I voted against Proposition 22, an initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage, but 61 percent of state voters supported the measure.

On the one hand, it was courageous for Democrats -- only Dems, but not all Dems, voted for the same-sex marriage bill introduced by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco -- to ignore the will of the voters and vote their conscience.  But the vote also was arrogant, because it flouted California law.

Bob Stern, an expert on the initiative process with the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, noted that "California is the only state in the country that says a statutory initiative cannot be either amended or repealed by the Legislature without a vote of the people."
As I have said before, I am genuinely undecided about gay marriage.  But I am completely opposed to these sneaky efforts to enact it when no one is watching, and even more opposed to efforts by unelected judges to impose it on the electorate.
- 7:22 AM, 9 September 2005   [link]