"To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?" -- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rail Rescue: An argument in the New York Times today for a third way (in addition to autos and air) out of cities during emergency evacuations--rail:

If local and federal authorities had worked with Amtrak to make better use of its trains in New Orleans, thousands could have been evacuated before the worst of Katrina hit. And if Houston had gone ahead with earlier proposals to develop high-speed rail links, the same might have been true there (my link added).

Actually, even if Houston chooses to join the high-speed rail world, it could be two decades before that service becomes available. Having lived in Texas my entire life, I'm well aware of Texas' history of opposition to most advances is mass transit. A shame that's become a tragedy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hitch Again: It's hard to link to Christopher Hitchens in moderation--so why try? Yesterday he lashed out at the MSM's coverage of last weekend's anti-war rally in D.C.:

To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side.

On a tangent, how many people do you know who supported all of Clinton's military actions, but who have opposed Bush's like they're acts of deviltry? Partisanship vs. consistency: One of the more meaningful ways to measure a man.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Leahy, Kohl And Feingold: The Washington Post comes to the defense today of Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats who voted for John Roberts:

The three senators who voted yes are taking a beating from liberal groups for it. Ralph G. Neas of People for the American Way issued a vicious statement about Mr. Leahy, declaring him "complicit" in any votes Judge Roberts might cast that "retreat from our constitutional rights and liberties." He is dead wrong. The decisions Judge Roberts will write are his own responsibility, not Mr. Leahy's; life tenure for federal judges, in fact, exists precisely so that judges will be insulated from politicians and so that politicians are not responsible for judging.

The liberal groups have made clear that they will oppose any nominee from this administration, regardless of qualifications, temperament or testimony.

As usual, the Post champions a brand of pragmatic liberalism unencumbered by the knee-jerk emotion and intellectual dishonesty of the Michael Moore Left.

Meanwhile, Striding Lion uncovers a 1993 quote from Joe Biden concerning Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court nomination:

...The public is best served by questions that initiate a dialog with the nominee, not about how she will decide any specific case that may come before her, but about the spirit and the method she will bring to the task of judging. There is a real difference … between questions that focus on specific results or outcomes, the answers to which would risk compromising a nominee’s independence and impartiality, and questions on judicial methods and philosophy. The former can undermine the dispassionate and unprejudiced judgment we expect the nominee to exercise as a Justice. But the latter are essential and contribute critically to our public dialog.

... You not only have a right to choose what you will answer and not answer, but in my view, you should not answer.

And of course Republicans will comfortably take on roles as salivating hypocrites the next time a Democratic president nominates a Supreme Court justice. And of course there will be plenty of Bizarro conservative counterparts to Ralph Neas, issuing short-sighted, self-serving press releases.

But some of us will continue resisting the temptations of the Partisan Tempest.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Worth Noting: The FCC estimates that, even today, 36 radio stations remain off the air in areas hit by Katrina. An estimated 100 stations were originally knocked off the air by the storm.

I was able to listen to New Orleans' 870 WWL the Sunday night of Katrina's final approach. WWL is one of the clearest remote signals one can hear from Dallas, Tx. Its signal rivals Dallas' weaker local stations at night.

I remember the relative optimism in the voice of WWL's evening talk show host; and I remember him fielding calls from as far away as Chicago (yes, WWL can be heard there, too, at night). Katrina blew WWL off the air later that night.

I've heard the Eagles' Don Henley compare the medium of radio to tribal drum signals heard up and down ancient rivers. As I listened to WWL that night, I can vouch for the heightened primordial senses it brought to the surface.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Focus On The Levees: Two articles yesterday--one in The New York Times, and the other in The Washington Post--raise new questions about the New Orleans levee system. The understanding has been that these levees were designed to withstand a category 3 storm, but that Katrina overwhelmed them. But with the strongest portion of Katrina having passed to the east of New Orleans, maybe the city's levees were never exposed to more than category 3 storm strength. If true--and we don't know for sure at this point--that would point to fundamental problems in the levees' construction. A contractor could be on the hot seat. But there's a lot of conjecture in both articles, and scientific conclusions aren't yet being offered.

I do notice a consensus that earthen levees should be chosen over levees made of concrete. In New Orleans, the concrete levees were the origins of the breaches. In fact, as I look at the variables engineers have to contend with when building concrete levees, I have to wonder why you'd bother. If your city is below sea level, it seems there should be a commitment to a 100 percent earthen levee system.

New Orleans councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrel puts it best in the Times article:

"Do you realize that if those walls had held, we'd have just had a little cleaning job?" said Ms. Hedge-Morrell, whose district between downtown and the lakefront was covered with 10 feet of water from the breaks of flood walls. "We would not have this massive loss of life and destruction."

Again, as we look at the big picture in New Orleans, we keep coming back to the things we should be doing before hurricane's hit. If you build strong levees and evacuate the population before these storms make landfall, even substandard, pre-Katrina government clean-up operations will be sufficient. And you save the most lives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hitch On Palestine & Iraq: In his Monday post at Slate.com, Christopher Hitchens compares Palestine to Iraq, and separates heart-breaking facts from case altering ones:

[W]hen one considers how many lives have been pointlessly lost in the last decade of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, and how many billions upon billions of international donations have been poured down a rathole and used for the greasing of the nastiest palms, a certain feeling of depression is inevitable. But have I heard anybody say that the whole thing's obviously a waste of time and resources, and the Palestinians should therefore be abandoned to their own devices? No.

And continuing with his analogy:

Suppose someone were to come to me, after reading the papers last week, and say—Look: No sooner did Israeli troops leave Gaza than mobs began to loot and destroy even the greenhouses that had been left there as part of their agricultural infrastructure. The police of the Palestinian Authority, who had ample warning of the deadline, managed to post a total of 70 policemen at these valuable sites, who could do no more than stand by as people scavenged and stole. The synagogues left behind by the settlers, which the Israelis were too squeamish to destroy, could perhaps have been preserved for a day or so until a decision was made about what to do with them (a museum, perhaps, or even a school—religious buildings have no special sacredness for me), but they were simply and viciously torched. Gangs of ruffians and blackmailers roam Gaza unchecked, and even tolerated, and prey upon their fellows. Clerical extremist parties flourish their banners and mouth fearsome oaths and slogans. The promise to respect the border with Egypt is void, and smugglers and mobsters laugh at the authorities. So, now how do you like your Palestinian state?

Well, this point has been made before: If an oppressed faction in Saddam's Iraq, say the Kurds, had been hijacking airplanes and bombing civilians for years (and thus garnering international headlines for its cause), then the same political groups who rightly support the existence of a Palestinian state would be completely on board with fixing Iraq. But political expediency seems to be a higher cause for these folks. To them, Bush=Bad. Bush is trying to "fix" Iraq, so they will oppose him. Keep in mind, John Kerry campaigned for staying the course in Iraq. Today, if Kerry were president, his policies in Iraq might not be too different from Bush's. And would these political factions be riding Kerry right now? Nope.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Preliminary Agreement With North Korea: The Washington Post is heralding a "triumph for China" this morning. And why not? The lead sentence:

China announced Monday that negotiators from six nations have reached agreement under which North Korea pledged to dismantle its nuclear arms program in return for recognition and aid from the United States and its Asian allies.

My first thought is: We'll see. Not that I'm saying this agreement won't end up on paper with signatures. But North Korea's nuclear deceptions during the Clinton Administration should serve as a warning--and I'm sure they will--to the international community. We'll need some efficient "sunshine" clauses in the final agreement.

My second thought: Remember the debate on this issue between Bush and Kerry? Kerry wanted one-on-one negotiations; Bush supported a group effort by North Korea's neighbors (and the U.S.). Well, Bush's strategy appears to have worked. But I think Kerry's could have, too. At the time, it seemed like a manufactured point of contention, and I'll continue to see it that way. There are many ways to get things done internationally--not one.

My third thought: In the run-up to the war in Iraq, anti-war critics spent quite a bit of time claiming that the U.S. couldn't fight a war in Iraq and deal with North Korea at the same time. Another manufactured issue; and crow is now being served. Not only has the U.S. managed to do both, it has made real progress on the North Korean front while things have been quite problematic in Iraq.

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