Friday, September 30, 2005

Bennett, Levitt, the Numbers




Philosopher-talkmaster Bill Bennett has posed a question that has proven to be too hard to understand for the likes of Alan Colmes and the Lost Kos Krowd:

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

[snip some minor exchanges]

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

The point is entirely one of arithmetic. To illustrate, if a community were made up of four equal and identifiable groups which we can call A, B, C, and D. And their crimes rates, per thousand citizens were: A; 8, B;6, C;4, D;2, the community would have a crime rate of 5 per thousand (20/4=5).

Were the community to forcibly abort all babies in the A group, that group would eventually disappear from the community. Leaving a three group community with crimes rates B;6, C;4, D;2, averaging only 4 crimes per thousand (12/3=4).

Bennett's point, and you don't need a John Bates Clark medal to understand it, being that if you eliminate a high crime rate group (and black Americans have about the highest rate of violent crime) from a community, you must--by the laws of grade school arithmetic--reduce the average crime rate for the community.

Not rocket science.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Good-bye Mrs Miniver's Bomber

The RAF loses another of its World War II heroes:

Dudley Henderson Burnside was born on January 26 1912 at Woodford, Essex. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds. Aged 17, he enlisted in the Territorial Army and served as a private soldier with the 14th London Regiment for six years before joining the RAF in October 1935 to train as a pilot. ....

In November 1942, Burnside was promoted to wing commander and appointed to form and command a new Canadian Wellington squadron, No 427, based in north Yorkshire. He attacked many industrial targets during the so-called Battle of the Ruhr.

On the night of March 5 he was sent to bomb Essen, and his aircraft was hit by flak before reaching the target. The navigator, who was standing beside Burnside, was killed; the wireless operator had a foot blown off. The aircraft controls were damaged and fumes quickly filled the cockpit.

Burnside decided to press on, and he successfully bombed the target despite being illuminated by searchlights. On the return flight, night fighters attacked the Wellington, but Burnside's evasive action and the fire by his gunner shook them off. With limited control, he flew the badly-damaged bomber back to base, where he made an emergency landing at an airfield in Suffolk.

For his outstanding airmanship and courage, he was awarded a Bar to his DFC. Two of his crew also received DFCs, and the wireless operator was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.
Shortly after his squadron converted to the Halifax bomber, Burnside was attacked five times by different aircraft during a raid on M√ľnchen-Gladbach.

On May 24 1943 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adopted No 427 and allowed the names of stars such as Lana Turner, Greer Garson and Joan Crawford to be displayed on the aircraft. In recognition of this association, No 427 adopted the name "Lion Squadron", a title which persists to this day.

....In October 1944 Burnside ... assumed command of No 195 Squadron, flying Lancaster bombers. He led it on many night and daylight bombing raids over Germany in the lead up to VE Day. Returning from Gelsenkirchen, his Lancaster was badly damaged and set on fire, and he was forced to make an emergency landing on three engines at Brussels airport. He was awarded the DSO.

Burnside ... took command in early 1949 of the RAF base at Koggala in Ceylon, where his squadrons flew air-sea rescue and reconnaissance sorties over the Indian Ocean. On the closure of the base a year later, he took command of the Far East Flying Boat Wing at Seletar, in Singapore.

The Wing's Sunderlands flew anti-terrorist patrols around Malaya before providing detachments at Iwakuni in Japan during the Korean War. Burnside commanded the units, which flew anti-shipping and coastal patrols off Korean waters. For his services with the Wing during the conflict, Burnside was appointed OBE.

After completing a familiarisation course on jet aircraft, Burnside assumed command of RAF Hemswell in Lincolnshire, the home of two Canberra bomber squadrons. The filming of The Dam Busters took place during his time there. After two years he took up an appointment at the Headquarters of the Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE) at Fontainebleau. In 1959 he was the Deputy Director of Organisation at the Air Ministry, retiring from the RAF in 1962 with the rank of group captain.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Explode Penguins...Not Lakes?

While we're worrying about global warming and hurricanes, Cameroon has a couple of lakes they'd like to disarm:

Efforts to prevent the release of deadly clouds of toxic gas from two African lakes appear to be failing.

According to George Kling at the University of Michigan, US, unless urgent action is taken there is a real risk of a repeat of the tragic events of the 1980s when the lakes Nyos and Monoun in Cameroon suddenly released huge clouds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, killing 1800 people.

The dissolved gas is created by volcanic activity beneath the lakes and can gradually build up to dangerous levels before suddenly being released. To try to prevent this from happening again, a venting pipe was placed in Lake Nyos in 2001 and another in Lake Monoun in 2003 to allow the gas to be released at safe concentrations.

But having analysed 12 years’ worth of data on the lakes, Kling and colleagues have found that, although gradually reducing the CO2 content of the lakes without running the risk of triggering another massive release, the pipes are not working fast enough.

Did the Earth Move?

Not yet...fortunately, for these love birds:

There's a mating ritual going on in the minefield.

Fortunately the would-be lovers are penguins, too light to detonate the deadly mines laid more than two decades ago during a war on the far-flung Falkland Islands.

Thousands of penguins and other feathered and amphibious friends choose to nest and rest in no-go zones. The British estimate that some 25,000 land mines, mostly sown by Argentine forces in the 1982 war with Britain, remain.

On a recent day, the squawking penguins were busily finding partners, preparing nests and waddling about the mating grounds.

Wildlife numbers in the mined areas appear to be on the rise and conservationists cannot hide their enthusiasm about this unorthodox form of protecting lands previously trampled by people or overgrazed by sheep.

It is the bright spot in a long-term land mine problem -- one that is not likely to go away because de-mining is difficult, if not impossible, in the peaty soils and shifting sands of this South Atlantic archipelago.

Grant Munro, director of Falklands Conservation, says the boost to wildlife is a bit anecdotal since "it has really not been looked into, for obvious reasons."

Mince Alors

Attack of the killer cows:

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in August when Mr [Paul] Harris persuaded his daughter, Melissa, 13, and son Samuel, 14, out for the ride. As the children led the way, the group came across about 10 cows, believed to be a French breed, on the towpath. Mr Harris told his children to give them a wide berth as there were two calves.

"As I got close one of the calves got up and moved towards its mother," said Mr Harris. "I caught the cow's head in my peripheral vision as she hit me from behind and knocked me to the ground.

"I remember the cow trying to gore me, but luckily she had no horns. I shouted for help and shouted at the cow, but it was unrelenting.

"I tried to push the cow's head away, but kept having to move to a foetal position to try to protect myself. The cow then stepped on my ribs. The pain from that stopped me doing anything else to protect myself.

"I lay flat on my front thinking, 'This is it. If the cow continues I am dead. If it thinks I am dead and leaves me alone then I may survive.' "

Fortunately a walker, Leslie Spiro, 46, who was with his wife and two daughters, heard Mr Harris's shouts. He took off his rucksack and used it to force the cows away.

...."Looking back, I got close to the mother cow and she took offence," he said.

....A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said almost 1,000 people were injured in accidents involving cattle each year. "The injuries range from twisted ankles as people run away from charging bulls, to the occasional goring.

....In 1977 seven people were killed in incidents with cattle.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kissin Kousin?

Paul Krugman makes a discovery; politicians reward their friends with jobs in their administrations:

The objective in Find the Brownie is to find an obscure but important government job held by someone whose only apparent qualifications for that job are political loyalty and personal connections. It's inspired by President Bush's praise, four days after Katrina hit, for the hapless Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency: ''Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.'' I guess it depends on the meaning of the word heck.

There are a lot of Brownies. As Time magazine puts it in its latest issue, ''Bush has gone further than most presidents to put political stalwarts in some of the most important government jobs you've never heard of.'' Time offers a couple of fresh examples, such as the former editor of a Wall Street medical-industry newsletter who now holds a crucial position at the Food and Drug Administration.

Further than most presidents? Anyone remember Catherine Cornelius?

.... new facts are emerging about the Travelgate, affair, fueling the perception of cronyism, and fueling the skepticism of the American people.

Exhibit A: A 25-year-old cousin of the President writes a memo last February to Mr. David Watkins, White House Director of Management, urging that the employees of the White House travel office be replaced. The cousin suggests that she should be put in charge of the travel operation. She subsequently gets the job.

Exhibit B: A major campaign contributor to the President, Worldwide Travel of Little Rock, is a former advertising client of Mr. Watkins. Worldwide is given the job of handling White House travel arrangements on a temporary basis, until public outcry forces the White House to nix this business relationship.

Exhibit C: Mr. Harry Thomason, owner of a plane charter company and good friend of the President, complains to White House officials that he and his pals in the charter business were not getting a big enough piece of the travel office action. He urges that travel office employees be given their walking papers.

Exhibit D: The White House claims that an independent audit of the travel office by the Peat Marwick accounting firm exposed gross mismanagement. It turns out that the Peat Marwick employee who conducted the audit was at the same time serving as an unpaid staff member of the Vice President's Government Review Task Force. To my knowledge, the audit has not been publicly released.

And now, Mr. President, we have exhibit E: News reports suggesting that when the media spotlight started focussing too brightly on this apparent patronage scam, the White House looked to the FBI for political cover.

Although the facts are murky at best, it appears that someone within the White House approached the FBI seeking a statement that would verify White House claims of criminal wrongdoing in the travel office.

And within a few short hours of receiving the White House call, the FBI replied dutifully, issuing a press release, on Justice Department stationery, claiming there was `sufficient information for the FBI to determine that additional criminal investigation is warranted.'

Now, Mr. President, I have enormous respect for the FBI, but this latest `guilt by press release' caper would make members of the old Soviet KGB swell with pride.

There was no opportunity for a hearing. No opportunity to review the charges and respond to them. No due process. Just haul the White House travel office suspects before 250 million Americans and smear their good reputations with an attitude of guilty until proven innocent.

If the so-called independent audit had, in fact, uncovered criminal wrongdoing, it should have been referred to the FBI for review and the travel office employees should have been informed of the charges against them and, yes, given an opportunity to respond.

But apparently, when the White House calls these days, the FBI does not ask questions, does not check the facts, does not investigate. It simply jumps, and asks `How high?'

Mr. President, there are more questions than answers raised by this whole tawdry affair. Who originally contacted the FBI? Was it Webster Hubbell, the roving White House ambassador at Justice? Was it the Director of the FBI himself?

Any why did the FBI respond so promptly? To what extent was politics at work? Is it the policy of the FBI to issue press releases announcing guilt, or probable guilt?

The result of all this was a politically motivate prosecution of the former head of that travel office, Billy Dale. Said prosecution being humiliatingly defeated by a jury that only needed two hours to acquite Mr. Dale.

Monday, September 26, 2005

All Thumbs...

Down.

For Aaron Broussard's return engagement on Meet the Press:

Poor Grand Isle, which is the last inhabited barrier island in Louisiana, they got pounded again; four feet of water across the road and in houses. They were already about 50 percent decimated. They get punched again. And then up in Lafitte area, which is where the famous pirate Jean Lafitte, and the Battle of New Orleans--Yul Brynner played that role, if you'll remember....

Which would be about the only truthful thing Broussard said. After Tim Russert showed him the outburst from his previous appearance:

Mr. Russert: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

Mr. Broussard: Sir, they were told, like me, every single day, "The cavalry is coming." On the federal level, "The cavalry is coming. The cavalry's coming. The cavalry's coming." The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard Nursing Home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama. Somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday." "Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday." "Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday." "Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

Mr. Russert: Mr. President...

Mr. Broussard: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

Russert informed him that he now knew that that outburst wasn't at all accurate, and Broussard launched an even more creative explanation, again absolving himself:

Mr. Broussard: Sir, this gentleman's mother died on that Friday before I came on the show. My own staff came up to me and said what had happened. I had no idea his mother was in the nursing home. It was related to me by my own staff, who had tears in their eyes, what had happened. That's what they told me. I went to that man, who I love very much and respect very much, and he had collapsed like a deck of cards. And I took him and put him in my hospital room with my prayer books and told him to sit there and cry out and pray away and give honor to his mother with his tears and his prayers.

Now, everything that was told to me about the preface of that was told to me by my own employees. Do you think I would interrogate a man whose mother just died and said, "Tommy, I want to know everything about why your mother just died"? The staff, his own staff, told me those words. Sir, that woman is the epitome of abandonment. She was left in that nursing home. She died in that nursing home. Tommy will tell you that he tried to rescue her and could not get her rescued. Tommy could tell you that he sent messages there through the EOC and through, I think, the sheriff's department, "Tell Mama everything's going to be OK. Tell Mama we're coming to get her."

Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man's tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding? What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man's mother's death? They just buried Eva last week. I was there at the wake. Are you kidding me? That wasn't a box of Cheerios they buried last week. That was a man's mother whose story, if it is entirely broadcast, will be the epitome of abandonment. It will be the saddest tale you ever heard, a man who was responsible for safekeeping of a half a million people, mother's died in the next parish because she was abandoned there and he can't get to her and he tried to get to her through EOC. He tried to get through the sheriff's office. He tries every way he can to get there. Somebody wants to debate those things? My God, what sick-minded person wants to do that?

Emphases in the above being the FLUBA's, to demonstrate that Broussard is still lying about the time line. The woman died during the flooding on the prior Monday, not two days prior to his appearance on Meet the Press. Tim Russert makes an attempt to clarify that, but then caves:

[Broussard, continued]

What kind of agenda is going on here? Mother Nature doesn't have a political party. Mother Nature can vote a person dead and Mother Nature can vote a community out of existence. But Mother Nature is not playing any political games here. Somebody better wake up. You want to come and live in this community and see the tragedy we're living in? Are you sitting there having your coffee, you're in a place where toilets flush and lights go on and everything's a dream and you pick up your paper and you want to battle ideology and political chess games? Man, get out of my face. Whoever wants to do that, get out of my face.

Mr. Russert: Mr. Broussard, the people who are questioning your comments are saying that you accused the federal government and the bureaucracy of murder, specifically calling on the secretary of Homeland Security and using this as an example to denounce the federal government. And what they're saying is, in fact, it was the local government that did not evacuate Eva Rodrigue on Friday or on Saturday. And they're making that, in fact...

Mr. Broussard: Sir...

Mr. Russert: Let me just finish. I'll give you a chance to respond.

Mr. Broussard: Yes.

Mr. Russert: And, in fact, the owners of the nursing home, Salvador and Mable Mangano, have been indicted with 34 counts of negligent homicide by the Louisiana state attorney general. So it was the owners of the nursing home and the local government that are responsible for the lack of evacuation and not the federal government. Is that fair?

Mr. Broussard: Sir, with everything I said on Meet the Press, the last punctuation of my statements were the story that I was going to tell in about maybe two sentences. It just got emotional for me, sir. Talk about the context of everything I said. Were we abandoned by the federal government? Absolutely we were. Were there more people that abandoned us? Make the list. The list can go on for miles. That's for history to document. That's what Congress does best, burn witches. Let Congress do their hearings. Let them find the witches. Let them burn them. The media burns witches better than anybody. Let the media go find the witches and burn them. But as I stood on the ground, sir, for day after day after day after day, nobody came here, sir. Nobody came. The federal government didn't come. The Red Cross didn't come. I'll give you a list of people that didn't come here, sir, and I was here.

So anybody that's saying, "Oh, they were all here," you know, they weren't living on my planet, there weren't living in my parish. They did not come. I can't make it any more clearer than that. Did inefficiencies, did bureaucracy commit murder here? Absolutely, it did. And Congress and the media will flush it out and find it out and those people will be held accountable. You've already given an example. These people in the nursing home in St. Bernard, they're getting indicted. Good. They ought to be indicted. They ought to get good old-fashioned Western justice. They ought to be taken out and administered to like they did in the old West.

Yes, there's a lot of people that they're going to find that are going to be villains in this situation, but they're also going to find for the most part that the Peter Principle was squared. The Peter Principle is you promote somebody to the level of incompetency, but when you promote somebody to the level of incompetency in a life or death department, then those people should be ousted. Those people should be strung up. Those people should be burned at the stake. And I'm sure Congress and the press is going to do that.

....When somebody wants to nit-pick these details, I don't know what sick minds creates this black-hearted agenda, but it's sick. I mean, let us recover. Let us rebuild. If somebody wants me to debate them on national TV, hey, buddy, be my guest. Make my day. Put me at a podium when I got a full night's sleep and you will not like matching me against anybody that you want. That person is going to be in trouble. If this station or anybody else or any other station wants to do that, you just give me a full night's sleep, sir. I haven't had one in about 30 days. But you wind me up with a full night's sleep, I'll debate every detail of everything you want, sir.

Mr. Russert: Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, we thank you for coming on and correcting the record and putting it in context. And we wish you well and to all your people in the recovery. And we hope to talk to you again.

Correcting the record?

Friday, September 23, 2005

When Will They Be Toilet Trained?

Brad DeLong, September 19th, 2005, explaining to his peers why he deletes comments from his blog:

I'm trying to run a discussion on my website, not a food-fight. I'm going to keep trying...

Let's check his progress:

I cannot help but wonder to what extent Condoleezza Rice, nominally an African-American, is indeed African in background. Aside from her inherited pigmentation, that is.Still, it is probably not correct to say that melanin expression is only an ancillary issue for slave state Republicans. The visit to Bob Jones University and the whispering campaign against John McCain's adopted child show that while slave state Republicans may accept the principle of legal equality of non-Caucasian peoples, they are nevertheless grossed out by (I'll use the pejorative term here) miscegenation. It is one thing to mouth the rhetoric that all men are created equal, we are all the same under the skin, we are all God's children...et cetera. It seems to be quite another thing to embrace the biological truth of those phrases. Did not Wendy Graham become the target of vicious attacks when her husband was testing the presidential political waters?

Posted by: MTC Sep 21, 2005 11:58:51 PM

....What about gay folks...Does Bush personally hate fags?

Maybe not personally in a Phelps kind of way, but he certainly doesn't see them quite as human and deserving of rights. Their struggle is invisible to him. Gay pride and gay empowerment are threats to his moral order and political power. Supports legislation which disempower, hurts and excludes Gay people and explicitly appeals to the homophobe vote.

Yet when has the Compassionate President uttered the words "I hate fags" in public? Why never, so he can't be a homophobe, right?

With racism, it's the same game. Yes, Bush is a racist. He supports policies which are racist in intent and result. He's a lot like a Holocaust denier--"yeah it happened, but it wasn't as bad as the victim-mongers say, it was a product of the times, and besides they probably had it coming somehow".

He doesn't confront the racism in his own party. The GOP is built on a "cultural supremacy" doctrine that welcomes racists with open arms. It's key that homophobes and racists feel comfortable in the GOP. BushCo makes sure the signals are sent.

Examples:

Explicitly visits Bob Jones University, a racist institution. Mmmm, sensitive.Snubs the NAACP. Hmmm, respectful.What's his stand on the confederate flag again? Winks and nods.Executed how many black people as Governor? Riiiiight.Were James Byrd's murderers executed? Hmmm.

Is he David Duke? No, but his policies are about the same and the neglect is calculated. I guess intentions and PR don't count for much in my book--the results of his actions and inactions, and their results, have said it all. At least David Duke is honest about where he's coming from.
It's amazing how much people still want to believe that Bush has redeeming features. That his faults are just incompetence, not personal malevalence. Nope. Absolutely wrong.

In a different age, Bush would have gone to and enjoyed lynchings...as a cheerleader...with a case of beer. And totally disconnected from how it was a reign of absolute terror for black Americans.

That's the kind of man he is. And isn't.

Posted by: Tim B. Sep 22, 2005 1:31:45 AM

....There is little question that Bush is, in fact, a racist. Midland Texas, where he spent his formative years, was segregated to the extent that blacks could not appear in public in "street clothes", only work clothes. His father ran for the Senate on a vehemently anti-Civil Rights platform---a position that Pappy later renounced, but Junior learned very early on that exploitation of racial animosity was a perfectly acceptable means of attaining power. The Texas Air National Guard was so segregated that it wasn't until 1972 that it enrolled its first black female (keep in mind that the US Armed Forces were integreted in 1948....) And at no point in his early career is there any evidence that suggests that Bush was concerned with the impact of the racism and segregation that surrounded him --- to him, it was the "natural" environment.

Posted by: p.lukasiak Sep 22, 2005 8:57:00 AM

....Rich black folks are OK, and poor whites are barely tolerated, but minorities have truly special treatment. Compare the treatment of "white Taliban", John Walker, with Jose Padilla. The first was treated appalingly, but he got a modicum of fair trial. Padilla was basically excluded from human race -- with complicity of equally racist courts. By the way, racism is not entirely consistent, and Arabs are apparently "honorary Blacks", whatever they actual racial affinity may be (like with Jews).

Posted by: piotr Sep 22, 2005 10:56:15 AM

....AFAIK Colin Powell is half-Scottish. He even got a title from the Queen.

Posted by: Oskar Shapley Sep 22, 2005 3:56:43 PM

Am I Blue?

Retired economist Paul Krugman stands Johnny Mercer on his head from his insecure bunker behind the NY Times wall; he decides to accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive, and not mess with Mr. In-between:

Katrina did more than physical damage; it was a blow to our self-image as a nation. ....my guess is that Katrina's shock to our sense of ourselves will persist for years.

America's current state of mind reminds me of the demoralized mood of late 1979, when a confluence of events -- double-digit inflation, gas lines and the Iranian hostage crisis -- led to a national crisis of confidence.

Except for the fact that we don't have gas lines, inflation and a hostage crisis--thanks to Ronald Reagan--you mean something will turn down if you hope hard enough, Paul?

In the early months after 9/11, America's self-confidence actually seemed to have been bolstered by the attack: the Taliban were quickly overthrown, and President Bush looked like an effective leader. The positive perception of what happened after 9/11 has, needless to say, been a mainstay of Mr. Bush's political stature.

But now that more time has elapsed since 9/11 than the whole stretch from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, people are losing faith. Osama, it turns out, could both run and hide. It's obvious from the evening news that Al Qaeda and violent Islamic extremism in general are flourishing.

And the hapless response to Katrina, which should have been easier to deal with than a terrorist attack, has shown that our leaders have done virtually nothing to make us safer.

And here's the important point: these blows to our national self-image are mutually reinforcing. The sense that we're caught in an unwinnable war reinforces the sense that the economy is getting worse, and vice versa. So we're having a crisis of confidence.

It's the kind of crisis that opens the door for dramatic political changes -- possibly, but not necessarily, in a good direction. But who will provide leadership, now that Mr. Bush is damaged goods?

Not any of your Gloomy-Gus friends. That's for sure.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

France says John Roberts was right...

...to say it isn't smart to turn housewifes into lawyers:

THE French government is set to announce a number of incentives to encourage more women to have babies, in particular those who have pursued a career.

Plans to offer payments of up to €1,000 a month to mothers and other benefits are to be discussed at a conference.

The event is to be hosted by the Union Nationale des Associations Familiales (UNAF) who say that working women in particular need to be targeted to ensure population growth in France remains strong.

Baron of All Trades...

Master to none:

The 35th Lord Kingsale ...who died on September 15 aged 64, was Premier Baron of Ireland; his varied career included spells as a kitchen fitter, film extra, silage-pit builder, white hunter, plumber, proprietor of a dating agency in Brisbane and bingo caller in Birmingham before he retired on invalidity benefit to sheltered housing in Somerset.

While many daydream of grandeur and riches, John de Courcy's misfortune was to have sprung from a line of noblemen stretching back to at least the 13th century, yet to spend most of his life scrabbling for change down the back of the sofa.

"My main line of work is odd jobs," he admitted in 1985. "I am prepared to lend my hand to absolutely anything, however dirty or unpleasant." But he genially accepted the disparity between his background and his fortunes. For many years he listed "self-deception" as a recreation in Who's Who, "because I consider myself important and nobody else does".

The de Courcys had been a force in Ireland since Miles de Cogan took a leading part in the Norman invasion of Ireland and was granted (with Robert fitz Stephen) the Kingdom of Cork by Henry II.

....His mother came from a Yorkshire lanolin oil-distilling family, and he was sent to prep school with the intention that he should proceed to Eton. ....

In the event, he was educated at Stowe and the Universities of Paris and Salzburg, before taking a short service commission with the Irish Guards. He would have liked to remain in the Army, but the oil business went bust when he was a lieutenant. "When I joined the Brigade of Guards you needed a substantial private income to keep up with your fellow officers in the mess," he later explained. "I felt compelled to leave."

Aged 25, de Courcy drifted into odd jobs as "the easiest way of making money". He worked as a bingo caller in Birmingham, as a lorry driver, and played an Egyptian peasant in Cleopatra, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's film.

The cold snap of 1965 brought him 17 burst pipes and, with no money to pay for a plumber, he was obliged to learn how to fix them himself. It became a reliable standby, and he also did turns as a digger of silage pits, and as a kitchen fitter. His best gig, he thought, was as a "white hunter" at the Duke of Bedford's safari park. ....

....Securing a spouse and heir was a constant ambition, consistently thwarted....

Kingsale frequently declared his eagerness to wed but, despite being, as he once put it, "the only middle-aged heterosexual bachelor in a 30-mile radius, which has made me a must for any dinner party", matrimony eluded him. He advertised for a wife on several occasions, and got a letter a day from candidates. In 1989, while working as a wine-waiter and butler for hire at £25 a night (including washing up), he became optimistic about a "40-plus, leggy blonde of Hampshire naval stock", but was disappointed again.

....A French genealogist assured him that he held some 18 titles, but it was a continual source of annoyance that, as an Irish peer, he missed out on sitting in the Lords (and the attendance allowance which went with it).

His most successful enterprises included a dating agency in Brisbane called Banaid, which insisted upon an Aids test from those signing up. It did well (though it could not find Kingsale a bride....

Lord Kingsale is succeeded by his cousin, Nevinson Mark de Courcy, born in 1958, whose father was a municipal drains' inspector in New Zealand.

Radical Elegante

Who was that masked hombre (as John Roberts might say):

Subcomandante Marcos, the elusive, balaclava-wearing Mexican revolutionary, has emerged from the jungle to appear as a "sex symbol" on the cover of a celebrity magazine.

The rebel commander, who led an armed uprising of Chiapas Indians in 1994, was photographed for Quien (Who) magazine with his face covered and puffing on his trademark pipe, which he smokes through a hole in the black mask.

The article, headlined The Sub's Secret Love, described the 48-year-old as a "sex symbol of the jungle" and claimed he was in a relationship with a journalist.

It also coincided with his Zapatista National Liberation Army's recent announcement of a new Leftist movement that hopes to influence next year's presidential elections.

....The charismatic guerrilla, has never disclosed his true identity but has been named by the government as a former university instructor, Rafael Sebastian Guillen. Marcos denies this.

He has been hiding in the southern jungles of Mexico since the short-lived 1994 revolt during which his band of rebels took over several cities in the name of Indian rights and socialism.

Often termed Mexico's Che Guevara, Marcos captured the imagination and support of many intellectuals and middle class liberals with the uprising.

"El Sup", as he is known, assumed cult-like status, becoming an icon of the struggle against neo-liberal free market economics and a champion of indigenous rights. His mysterious identity, allegedly swarthy good looks and penchant for poetry was said to make women swoon.

Figures such as Oliver Stone, the Hollywood director, and Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of the late French president, would make pilgrimages to meet him in his jungle home. When he first emerged, the theatrical self-publicist would ride bareback through the hills, proclaiming himself a "voice of the voiceless". He then retreated to the jungle from where he ran a quieter campaign, communicating with the outside world via fax and e-mail.

His profile was such that Benetton, the Italian clothing company, once approached him to pose for an advertising campaign but he turned them down.

Mugabe's Final Solution

Zimbabwe's racist policies continue to drive it to destruction:

We were warned last week that Chipinge would be soon be cleared of white farmers," said Trevor Gifford, the chairman of the Coffee Growers' Association of Zimbabwe. "There are about 80 of us here, the largest group of white farmers left in Zimbabwe and we were informed another eight more will be done before the weekend."

....Doug Taylor-Freeme, the Commercial Farmers' Union president, said: "Developments on the ground where farmers are beaten up and evicted indicate that the threat of a final mop-up of remaining white farmers has begun, even though Zimbabwe desperately needs the foreign currency they earn."

....About 3,500, or 90 per cent, of white commercial farmers have been forced out by Mr Mugabe and his cronies since 2000. Irrigation systems are broken, rich land is fallow, most dairy cattle have been eaten and hundreds of thousands of Africa's most skilled farm workers have fled abroad or are unemployed.

Zimbabwe was a net exporter of food but now depends on imports and the United Nations says up to four million people, or a third of the population, need emergency feeding.

The economy shrank by a third in five years and inflation will reach at least 400 per cent by the year's end, according to government statistics. There has been no hard currency for fuel for the past month.

The government admitted this week that it has no foreign currency to import seed or fertiliser for the summer season, which began on Sept 1, and expects the worst harvests in living memory.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What's the Matter with Kansas

Saturday night fever in Wichita:

The Dynamic Steppers, a local drill team, was practicing routines at McAdams Park near 13th and I-135 on Saturday night when members of another drill team, the White Tigers, showed up and challenged the others to what was described as a "dance-off," police said.

When it became clear the challengers were losing, Easter said, a 28-year-old woman struck a 17-year-old drummer with the Dynamic Steppers in the face with a drum stick. The teen, who had left the White Tigers recently to join the Dynamic Steppers, retaliated by punching her in the face. He then ran toward his Ford Explorer and tried to run over spectators with it, witnesses told police.

The boy's mother, who served as a coach of the Dynamic Steppers, grabbed a box cutter and sliced the other woman's right arm, Easter said. The wound required eight stitches.

An estimated 50 people were involved in the altercation, although only two people were facing charges on Monday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Michael Stastny Is Not Amused...

...by the shenanigans of a certain Berkeley economist:

Brad DeLong Busted

Economist Brad DeLong selectively deleted comments from a recent post that were contrary to his thesis. The comments were not ad hominem or inflamatory, but fact-filled and constructive.


....Such tactics (deleting factual arguments) represents a frustration in an inability to counter an argument. Among people who make their living mainly through words and arguments, it's hard to imagine a more pathetic tactic.

And DeLong responded with a lie:

Brad DeLong (anonymous) meinte am 19. Sep, 17:08:

A Discussion

I'm trying to run a discussion on my website, not a food-fight. I'm going to keep trying...

Monday, September 19, 2005

III FEMA Failure Festival...

...and J Bradford DeLong Reputation Memorial continues with this from the July 9, 1997 Los Angeles Times:

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency backed off their claim Tuesday that Orange County owes the federal agency more than $4 million in disaster relief stemming from severe flood damage in 1995.

FEMA Director James L. Witt said Tuesday in light of his own agency's "numerous mistakes," it is suspending efforts to collect an estimated $4.15 million from Orange County. But Witt warned Orange County to have the sum ready in case a new FEMA investigation discovered the sum is, in fact, owed.

In June, FEMA officials contended Orange County was essentially paid twice for damages to county flood control basins in 1995. Last month, FEMA officials said they sent Orange County two payments for flood damages--one for $4.15 million and another for $5 million.

At that time, county officials responded they only received $4.15 million and had already spent those funds on flood repairs.

On Tuesday, Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar), who sided with the county in the dispute, criticized FEMA.

"Mr. Witt's response to my concerns shows that FEMA does not really know what is going on," said Kim. "Orange County should not have to pay for FEMA's mistakes."

FEMA officials again warned county officials that an estimated $27 million in pending damage claims also from the 1995 disaster will probably not be paid by FEMA, or by any federal or state agency.

Ernie Banks-like, let's play two with this from the July 26, 1997 Spokane Spokesman Review:

FEMA AGENTS' RAID IS PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER
ATTEMPT TO SEIZE RECORDS FOR GRAND JURY CALLED HEAVY-HANDED

"Bizarre" is the way a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman responded to news of last week's raid on a Clearwater County [Idaho] disaster office.

Morrie Goodman, FEMA's communications director, had not heard of the raid until Friday. Nor had he seen a Thursday letter from Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth objecting to the raid and its aftermath.

The letter was directed to James Lee Witt, director of the agency best known for its humanitarian mission of helping disaster victims. Chenoweth reviewed the July 19 confiscation of records, which was carried out by agents wearing bulletproof vests and accompanied by state police.

"I can assure you that kind of thing is very bizarre," Goodman said from his Washington, D.C., office. "I've been here for five years, and it's never happened in my tenure."

People in Orofino have been wondering whether they were the victims of an unusually harsh investigation.

"We've tried to find out if others are treated this way," said County Commissioner Earl Pickett. "I'm sure both sides overreacted on that initial day. They acted in a manner that was totally unacceptable ... And for a backwoods county like we are, it was really surprising to us and very alarming."

A grand jury investigation is under way, apparently into the county's handling of money it received from FEMA after 1996 floods.

It's extremely rare that anyone is charged or convicted with illegally using disaster-relief funds, according to Goodman.

....Copies of Chenoweth's letter sent to the media detailed not only her concern about the heavy-handed nature of the raid, but also the problems caused by the loss of 40 boxes of county records.

Included were documents needed to collect money from FEMA, which Clearwater County needs to pay off a $1.1 million bank loan used to rebuild its roads.

"The loan is due in September, and without the records, the county is at risk of default," Chenoweth wrote.

II FEMA Failure Festival...

...and J Bradford DeLong Reputation Memorial continues with this, from a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times on August 14, 1996:

I was an on-call FEMA disaster assistance staffer for nearly 15 years and participated in many disaster recovery efforts throughout the country. In 1995, I submitted my resignation after seeing political forces take total control of that agency.

The problems you cite are not created by FEMA, but by pressure from members of Congress and the administration to create favorable impressions and to garner support in future elections.

I watched in horror as George Bush tried to buy Florida and Louisiana votes after Hurricane Andrew by passing out funds to those friendly to his campaign. Bill Clinton has done his fair share of the same thing.

Don't shoot the messenger here; put the blame where it really belongs - on politicians willing to exert massive pressure on behalf of friendly constituents at the expense of those who truly need disaster assistance.

-Jim Aguirre Preston

FEMA Failure Festival...

...and J Bradford DeLong Reputation Memorial is now officially underway:

From the September 16, 1995 Los Angeles Times:

Federal officials said Friday they are putting on hold for a few months some crucial decisions on how much money to give to help repair $2 billion in Northridge earthquake damage at County-USC Medical Center, the UCLA Medical Center and nine other hospitals.

The announcement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that it will not act on the funding until the state makes permanent revisions in its building code prompted new expressions of frustration from state and local officials about federal delays.

....One state official said Friday that making the code permanent could be a 120-day process, putting federal decisions off until early 1996, two years after the earthquake. But the director of the state Office of Emergency Services, Richard Andrews, said he hopes the process can be completed by Nov. 29.

Andrews characterized FEMA officials' decision not to immediately accept emergency code revisions as "bureaucratic pedantry," although he conceded that technically FEMA is within the law.
*
In Washington, chief FEMA spokesman Morrie Goodman responded: "If we could come in with an open bank and blank checks, we would. But anyone who thinks this is bureaucratic red tape thinks we can operate without laws."

....At the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration, Sandra Davis, chief deputy to County Administrative Officer Sally Reed, expressed disappointment with the new delay.

"This process is taking a lot longer than it should," Davis said. "We've had commitments from FEMA that they would take care of the damaged facilities, and we want to be sure our requests are taken seriously and handled expeditiously."

In three County-USC hospital aid requests previously ruled on by FEMA, the county asked for $273.6 million, and FEMA granted only $23.3 million. The county is appealing those decisions.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Even Seattle's Mayor Can Be Embarrassed

If the economic irrationality gets too big to be ignored, apparently:

In another blow to Seattle's monorail project, a once-supportive Mayor Greg Nickels on Friday withdrew the city's support for the proposal, saying he was no longer convinced it was financially viable.

That would be the project that had an $11-1/2 billion finance plan over 50 years. The mayor wasn't impressed with the monorail board's latest gimmicks which purported to only cost $7 billion:

Nickels said he was canceling the agreement that allows the monorail to build its system in the streets.

Monorail board members on Wednesday decided to let acting Director John Haley continue work on a new finance plan and seek cost cuts and possible federal funding on a schedule that could have extended into December.

Nickels' latest move rejects that strategy and steps up pressure on monorail board members to come up with a ballot measure. He asked board members to come up with such a measure by their meeting Wednesday, or "the city will do it for them." It was the latest in a series of back-and-forth maneuvers unfolding since the mayor made his demand for a plan on Aug. 10.

Wednesday night the monorail board "called his bluff," said monorail critic Geof Logan. Friday, "the mayor called them right back."

....City Councilman Richard Conlin, also a monorail critic, said the move from Nickels, a monorail supporter in the past, is "huge. That's a very significant big step for him."

Conlin said the finance plan is flawed in expecting Seattleites to buy more and bigger luxury cars to support mass transit, and that Nickels' decision probably means the project is dead.

Union Unfair Say Workers

Even the teachers' union must confront the fact that money doesn't grow on trees:

About 50 members of the Washington Education Association's Staff Organization — that is, the people who make the union run, from secretaries to lobbyists — picketed outside the union's Federal Way [WA] headquarters for the second straight day yesterday as the WEA's board of directors met inside.

The informational picket was in protest of the WEA's latest contract offer, which workers said would take away training funds and eliminate protections against forced transfers while providing a meager 1 percent pay raise.

"We're gravely disappointed," Staff Organization President Lucinda Young said. "They have very regressive proposals on the table. We work very hard to get cost-of-living adjustments and fair contracts for our teachers. We're just trying to get the same thing for ourselves."

....The sides were unable to reach agreement, and a federal mediator is scheduled to begin working with them Sept. 26 — the second consecutive year a federal mediator has been called in. The Staff Organization has been on strike twice previously, most recently in 1983, said Rich Wood, who picketed yesterday and whose day job is WEA spokesman.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Stupidest Berkeley Economist Pounds Head on Wall Until...

Someone comes along and puts him out of his misery:

There is no magic "market dust" that the market sprinkles on organizations to make them efficient. Managers *make* organizations efficient. Managers of organizations embedded in markets have strong incentives--the fear of losing your job and the desire for more commodious living--to work hard at making their organizations more efficient. But there are other possible motivators as well: the pleasant feeling of a job well done, the pleasant feeling of having helped someone, the shame of public humiliation when you have messed up, loyalty to the person who put you in the job, and so forth.

I think we would all agree that these alternative motivating factors were not sufficient to induce appropriate performance and effort on the part of George W. Bush, Michael Chertoff, and Michael Brown. But this is at least as much a statement about who they are as a statement about whether FEMA could have been expected to do a reasonable job in New Orleans.

Posted by: Brad DeLong Sep 15, 2005 5:42:01 PM

The FLUBA Committee on the Need for Economists to Understand Some Economics notes that it's always a delight to see someone who is really, really asking for it, getting it...on his own comments section (not yet deleted!):

Brad, you seem to have missed the point of the Intelligent Design analogy. Walmart wasn't just created and managed, it also *evolved* into what it is now, in a competitive marketplace. Sure, the managers tried to make it successful, but the reason Walmart is big is that the strategies those managers came up with *worked*. It might have been good sense or it might have been sheer blind luck that led to the structure Walmart now has, but in a competitive marketplace companies that are well-adapted for their market niche grow and those that aren't shrink. So we have reason to believe, simply due to the fact that Walmart is big, that it is relatively efficient. We have no similar reason to believe the same of FEMA.

In short, the market *does* sprinkle "magic market dust" on organizations to make them more efficient. Just like evolution sprinkles magic evolution dust on species to make them more efficient. It's a weeding-out process and a growth dynamic that can't possibly apply to government programs unless government programs are regularly allowed to fail, go broke, and be dismantled.

Posted by:
Glen Raphael Sep 15, 2005 6:43:42 PM

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Would you like $70 or $80 worth of Fries With That?

Conspicuous Hot Dog Consumption in Sweden:

Stockholm, Sweden - A small blue kiosk in central Stockholm is giving customers an offer that most can easily refuse: buy a hot dog for 999 kronor [$130].

Billed as the world's most expensive hot dogs, the pricey wieners are meant to highlight the plight of those living in poverty in third-world countries, said Swedish Development Aid Minister Carin Jamtin, who opened the kiosk on Thursday together with the Swedish branch of the United Nations Development Programme.

....A lot of people on earth cannot afford a hot dog," said Jamtin, dressed in an all-white vendor's robe and a matching white hat with a blue ribbon. "That is what this hot dog sale wants to bring attention to. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing bigger."

Jamtin remained in the kiosk for one hour, selling two hot dogs, her spokesperson John Zanchi said. Later in the day, two more franks were sold "to a lady with an expensive purse", he said.

Another Scapegoat from Katrina

Michael Brown might want to offer as evidence for his claims to the NY Times:

Mr. Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he told the officials in Washington that the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and her staff were proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort and that his field officers in the city were reporting an "out of control" situation.

.... "I was beginning to realize things were going to hell in a handbasket" in Louisiana. A day later, Mr. Brown said, he asked the White House to take over the response effort.

....He focused much of his criticism on Governor Blanco, contrasting what he described as her confused response with far more agile mobilizations in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in Florida during last year's hurricanes.

The case of:

Merlene Maten undoubtedly stands out in the prison where she has been held since Hurricane Katrina. The 73-year-old church deaconess, never before in trouble with the law, now sleeps among hardened criminals. Her bail is a stiff $50,000.

....Police say the grandmother from New Orleans took $63.50 in goods from a looted deli the day after Katrina struck.

Family and eyewitnesses have a different story. They say Maten is an innocent woman who had gone to her car to get some sausage to eat but was wrongly handcuffed by tired, frustrated officers who couldn't catch younger looters at a nearby store.

Not even the deli owner wants her charged.

"There were people looting, but she wasn't one of them. Instead of chasing after people who were running, they grabbed the old lady who was walking," said Elois Short, Maten's daughter, who works in traffic enforcement for neighboring New Orleans police.

....Maten has been moved from a parish jail to a state prison an hour away. And the judge who set $50,000 bail by phone - 100 times the maximum $500 fine under state law for minor thefts - has not returned a week's worth of calls, her lawyer said.

....family members and witnesses said police snared Maten, a diabetic, in the parking lot of a hotel where she had fled the floodwaters that swamped her New Orleans home. She had paid for her room with a credit card and dutifully followed authorities' instructions to pack extra food, they said.

She was retrieving a piece of sausage from the cooler in her car and planned to grill it so she and her frail 80-year-old husband, Alfred, could eat, according to her defenders. The parking lot was almost a block from the looted store, they said.

....Maten's husband was left abandoned at the hotel, until family members picked him up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Bum, But Not a Bummer
















University of Washington graduate uses his economics degree to add to GDP:

...consider the two players. Companies looking to advertise make up the buyers. For a moment, let's consider that sign holding bums are in fact owners and operators of their own miniature advertising agencies. Their primary revenue source, and formerly only revenue source, came from soliciting donations from passersby. Consider these signers not as “employees” but rather as sellers of advertisements. Everytime they agree to tack a Bumvertising™ sign onto their own sign, they are accepting an amount of money for a service that they agree to provide.

The theory of Bumvertising™ relies on the fact that both the buyer and the seller benefit from its existence. Both parties are better off. Companies obtain exposure at a lower price and in a new medium, and sign holders increase their revenue. The greatest complexity of this theory is the factor by which a signer's donation revenue is altered. So far, in Bumvertising™'s short existence, the overwhelming opinion by the signers, is that having a professionally made sign on the bottom of their own, does indeed increase donation revenue. This is the most exciting part. Essentially, a bum's status in the world rises due to Bumvertising™. Holding a Bumvertising™ sign transforms a man or woman from a rogue derelict, to a beggar who is capable of negotiating a deal to improve his own welfare. In essence, a bum is able to prove to the world that he is not quite so irresponsible, and perhaps deserves more frequent and larger donations than the bum across the street who has not shown the initiative to obtain a Bumvertising™ contract for that day. In sum, Bumvertising™ leads to the advancement of urban credibility.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In Berkeley, Free Markets An Alien Concept

Too bad we can't think of any local economists who could help explain the basics to these guys:

Shortly after John Moriarty opened his Elmwood District jewelry shop nearly three decades ago, the two-block shopping district on College Avenue had a cobbler, pharmacy, gun store and the most restrictive business regulations in Berkeley.

Those shops have all since closed, and now Moriarty, head of the Elmwood Merchants Association, is at the forefront of a neighborhood-merchant alliance working to undo the quota system designed to protect neighbors from losing shops they rely on and merchants from rising rents.

“It just didn’t work,” Moriarty said. “The city has never enforced the quotas, several of the neighborhood serving shops have closed and rents have gone up.” Moriarty pays $3,500 a month for the storefront he rented for $400 in 1978.

The Elmwood Business District Advisory Committee, comprised of merchants and leaders from surrounding neighborhood associations, has proposed scaling back the quota system from nine business categories to two: food service and beauty salons. The group also recommends barring businesses from expanding into neighboring shops as the clothing store Jeremy’s did earlier this year.

“We believe in the free market,” said Kimberly Tinawi, owner of the Elmwood Market and the co-president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA).

....The most vocal opponent is Tad Laird, who recently bought the struggling Bolfing’s Elmwood Hardware Store. “Eliminating the quota system will force my business out,” Laird said.

He predicted that open competition would lead to higher rents that would make a neighborhood-serving hardware store on College Avenue unfeasible. Laird, who owns the building housing his shop, also called for easing zoning restrictions so he could build condos above the store to help him underwrite the hardware business.

....Jason Wayman, owner of Elements, an Elmwood District clothing store, said he refused to participate in crafting a new quota system out of frustration with the city. “In reality, there has never been a quota system because the city refused to enforce it, he said. “This is like closing the door after the cow done left.”

Last year Wayman was one of several merchants who fought unsuccessfully to keep Jeremy’s from expanding its Elmwood clothing store into neighboring storefronts. Even though the quota for clothing stores had been filled, the city allowed the expansion, which Wayman said has cut into his bottom line.

“If Jeremy’s is going to expand to five units, then the quotas don’t matter,” said Desiree Alexander, owner of the Elmwood clothing store Dish.

Dave Fogarty of the city’s Office of Economic Development acknowledged that “the city has misadministered quota system permits.” He said that by simplifying the system, city officials would be better able to enforce the rules.

All in the name of 'free markets'. Berkeley style.

Find a Need, and Kill It

Make big money getting Con Edison to pay you to get your clients to stop consuming electricity during heatwaves [from Peter Gordon]:

New York's Consolidated Edison buys expensive energy from peak-usage power plants, sending the wholesale spot price of a kilowatt-hour of energy--3 cents on a cool day--to $1 or higher.

New Yorkers never notice the difference because the price they pay hardly varies even on the hottest day of the year.

The discombobulated pricing is a senseless waste--and it might make Michael Gordon rich. His $12.5 million (sales) New York energy services shop, Consumer Powerline, is New York's largest "aggregator" of electricity-savings contracts.

Twice a year Gordon signs up huge office tenants (Morgan Stanley and property manager CB Richard Ellis are two big clients) to volunteer in advance to shut off nonessential lighting or turn down a building's chillers a bit on heavy usage days.

When the New York State power grid is under stress, Con Ed calls in the favor with Gordon to ease demand--and pays 50 cents a kilowatt hour for the energy he saves. That's half the price of juice on the spot market. In addition, Con Ed writes Gordon and his clients a check based on the avoided cost of building more peak-usage power plants.

When summer heat and lightning storms threatened power lines near New York on July 27, Con Ed called, and Gordon's clients cut back 22 megawatts. Morgan Stanley got entirely off the power grid by shutting off its ticker in Times Square and drawing the energy it needed to run its office buildings and trading desks from banks of small gas-powered generators in its basement.

Self Awareness Deficit Alert

Pace Dorothy Parker, we could take all the self-awareness found at Semi-Daily Journal (including that of the commenters) fit it into a flea's navel, and have room left over for several caraway seeds.

J Bradford DeLong criticizes Amity Shlaes for recognizing that someone had to have done something to save tens of thousands of lives in New Orleans:

One of the Financial Times's great advantages to me is that I kinow I can count on it not to print things by people who are deliberately lying to me. Or, rather, one of the Financial Times's great advantages was that I thought I could count on it not to print things by people who are deliberately lying to me.

That's from the same guy who last week lied seriatim to the FT's readers. Deliberately doctoring a quote from the Red Cross's website to make it seem that they blamed FEMA for keeping emergency supplies from being delivered into New Orleans, when it was clear they blamed local and state authorities for the fiasco.

No 'If' About Them

Dedicated...Not...to Ray Nagin, Governor Blanco, Senators Landrieu and Vitter:

Rudyard Kipling

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Sense...in, out of...rain

Lost everything in a flood? Do what comes naturally if you're from the Big Easy:

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Raymond Brown strips off $20 from a wad of bills and feeds it into the slot machine at the Argosy Casino, a riverboat that promises ''casino fun for everyone."

Never mind that his New Orleans house is flooded, and his family is living on mattresses at his brother-in-law's home nearby. But by morning, Brown -- a 60-year-old man who has lost everything -- is gambling.

....In at least a dozen interviews, New Orleans residents coping with the costliest hurricane in US history said they are hitting the casinos here. Some are hoping that with a roll of the dice, they will recover a bit of what they lost. Others just want to pass the time out of the heat, relieve stress, or escape the shelters where they are living.

But as much as they hope to win, some are losing what little they have left.

''Tuesday I went, and I lost $279," said June Williams, who has been at a Baton Rouge shelter after evacuating her flooded home near New Orleans. ''I went Wednesday and lost $300. I might go today."

....Many evacuees said they went primarily for the free booze at the Argosy Casino. Wayne Allen, who is missing a leg and uses a wheelchair, said he gambled $30 so he could get free beers. He said other bars were too far away for him to go, and the shelter bans alcohol.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Michael Brown Wins the Lottery

The way Tessie did in the Shirley Jackson short story. Or, perhaps it's more like Sargeant Howie in the Wicker Man who found out the true meaning of sacrifice; the righteous sacrifice the virgins in the strange rituals of Washington DC.

It looks as though Time Magazine misreported Brown's resume:

"It's horrible," said Mary Ann Karns, an Oklahoma lawyer who once worked with Brown in the Edmond, Okla., city government. "He does not deserve this as a human being."

....Brown was born in 1954 in Guymon, an Oklahoma panhandle city. At Central State College in Edmond, he studied public administration and political science. He earned a law degree from Oklahoma City University in 1981.

While studying to become a lawyer, he worked in the administration of the small but fast-growing city of Edmond.

Years later, Brown's official White House biography would list the position as "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." Karns said his actual title was more modest: assistant to the city manager.

In its online editions Friday, Time magazine pointed out that and other alleged discrepancies, accusing Brown of "padding" his resume and emergency services credentials when he was nominated for a job at FEMA.

City spokeswoman Claudia Deakins told Time that Brown's job gave him no authority over other employees and that the assistant position "is more like an intern." She declined to comment Friday, but issued a clarification by e-mail saying she did not work for the city when Brown was there and that she could only speak about the city's current organization.

Despite Brown's lower-level position, Karns said he did help the city improve its emergency communications system following a disastrous flood in 1977.

"I know Mike was involved in putting together preparedness and response after that," she said.

As was predicted here even Brown's former employment at the Arabian Horse Association and its conclusion were misrepresented:

Brown moved to Colorado in the early 1990s to join the International Arabian Horse Association. As its commissioner, he enforced strict rules governing the association's lucrative horse show circuit. His decisions often resulted in investigations and contentious lawsuits by people protesting sanctions against them.

....One high-profile case involved charges that a prominent trainer used cosmetic surgery to give a horse an edge. The trainer fought back with a lawsuit. Although the association eventually prevailed, the costly litigation reportedly caused friction between Brown and board members, according to an account in Arabian Horse World magazine.

.... In a written statement, current officials described Brown's departure as amicable, saying Brown turned over his legal defense fund to the organization when he left and that he was temporarily retained as a consultant.

"Mr. Brown had a long and successful career with IAHA and was regarded as upholding the highest standards of integrity and demanding excellence in all areas under his jurisdiction," said Barbara Burck, executive vice president and chief administrator.

And, we'll later probably find out that FEMA performed admirably during Katrina too--after all the death toll is only about 1% of what was predicted from the simulated hurricane 'Pam". As a friend is quoted in the Rocky Mountain News put it:

[He] has become a scapegoat because people are emotional over nature's fury. "You can't lay blame on the hurricane - so let's find a person,"

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rapid Response to Katrina; the Medics

Michael Brown's FEMA appears to have set a record providing emergency medical care for Katrina's victims:

The medical evacuation effort for Hurricane Katrina represents the largest deployment of public health officials in U.S. history.

According to Dr. Chris Trevino, the 800-bed medical facility at LSU is the largest acute-care field hospital ever created in U.S. history. Approximately 6,000 patients affected by Hurricane Katrina have been cared for in Pete Maravich Assembly Center in the last week.

The most sophisticated vessel in the US Navy was working alongside the USS Bataan immediately after Katrina hit:

...four MH-53 Sea Stallion and two HH-60 Seahawk helicopters from USS Bataan were flying medical-evacuation and search-and-rescue missions in Louisiana, and Bataan's hospital was preparing for possible use for medical support. Bataan, based out of Naval Station Ingleside, Texas, is in the waters off the Louisiana coast. High Speed Vessel Swift, also based at Ingleside, sailed to the waters off Louisiana to provide support, as well.

If that fool Michael Brown could get it deployed so quickly, what kind of fool is Paul Krugman for claiming the federal governement wasn't mobilizing its assets for disaster relief?