Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tolerance?

Via the Boston Globe:

BOSTON --Two gay activists are promising to post on the Internet the names and addresses of anyone who signs a petition that could lead to a statewide ban on gay marriage.

The move by Thomas Lang and Alexander Westerhoff, one of the first gay couples married in the state, came after state Attorney General Thomas Reilly on Wednesday certified a ballot question that bans gay marriage and civil unions.


Now, the question's supporters must collect 65,825 signatures from registered voters, and approval from 25 percent of state lawmakers to get the question on the 2008 ballot.

Lang, 42, said the name, street address, hometown and ZIP code of everyone who signs the petition will be posted on the Web site KnowThyNeighbor.org.

"Everyone's scrambling to know who in their town would sign this," Lang told the Boston Herald. "And this Web site will give gay people the tools to know, to defend themselves and their families, to let them go neighbor-to-neighbor and say, 'I don't appreciate your signing this.'"

"I'm going to be aggressive personally," he said. "I want to know that the people I do business with are not against (gay marriage). This is going to be won by economics."

Let's imagine this done in similar circumstances but with a different issue. Remember the outrage (and rightfully, I might add) when those opposed to abortion listed the home addresses of doctors who performed them?

This is clearly a tactic of intimidation, not dissimilar, if not as violent, as the efforts in the South in the 1960's to keep blacks from exercising their right to vote. Why does this idiot, Lang, think that it is his right to express his political opinions but that such a right does not extend to those with whom he disagrees?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fire Mike Brown

This would be reason enough to fire the Director of FEMA notwithstanding his poor performance in handling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Charles Krauthammer hits the nail right on the head in his column about Katrina:

[Blame] The head of FEMA. Late, slow and in way over his head. On Thursday, Sept. 2, he said on national television that he didn't even know there were people in the convention center, when anybody watching television could see them there, destitute and desperate. Maybe in his vast bureaucracy he can assign three 20-year-olds to watch cable news and give him updates every hour on what in hell is going on.

Prediction: When Bush does fire Brown, or accept, "with regret", his resignation, how many of the "Blame Bush" crowd will accuse Bush of cynically making Brown fall on his sword to protect the President? My guess is all of them.

The Tortured Logic of the Left

California lawmakers voted Thursday to offer illegal immigrants special driver's licenses, a measure Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to veto.

Supporters said the licenses would make the roads safer because illegal immigrants, many of whom already are driving, would be required to pass driving tests to get them.

Can someone tell me what, exactly, the benefit is to the illegal immigrant? The provisions of the law already concede that "many", by which they mean "all who have access to a car", are already driving. They are doing so without the government knowing they are in this country illegally, nor do they have to bother with such inconveniences as obtaining insurance or waiting in line at the D.M.V. So in effect the only "benefit" of this legislation is that the geniuses in Sacramento are attempting to provide yet another incentive, however misguided they may be in their largesse, to illegal immigrants. One would think that free education and health care, among other things, are generous enough. Rumor has it pending legislation calls for illegal immgrants to have a mint placed on their pillow along with turndown service every night.

There was some good news in this story however:

California lawmakers adjourned for the year late Thursday.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Ignominy of Charles Schumer

The senior Senator from New York has managed to go from partisan hack to national disgrace.

WASHINGTON -- A new Democratic effort to whip up indignation about the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina also tried to raise money for Democratic candidates.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued an appeal Thursday urging people to sign an online petition to fire the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency over his handling of the Katrina response.

After an inquiry from the Associated Press, the DSCC quickly pulled down the page and said they would donate to charity any money raised by the anti-FEMA petition. When recipients clicked on a link to the petition, the top center of the screen---above the call to "Fire the FEMA director"--- had asked for a donation to the DSCC.

I applaud the action of the DSCC, but will they call for Schumer to step down? It is obvious the man doesn't have the class or grace to do anything of the sort.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Buck Stops Where?

The reasoning behind Governor Schwarzenegger's position on a law passed legalizing gay marriage is specious and also demonstrates the friction between forms of government:

"In Governor Schwarzenegger's personal life and work in public service, he has considered no undertaking to be more noble than the cause of civil rights. He believes that gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship. He is proud that California provides the most rigorous protections in the nation for domestic partners.

"Five years ago the matter of same-sex marriage was placed before the people of California. The people voted and the issue is now before the courts. The Governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action which would be unconstitutional but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state. We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote. Out of respect for the will of the people, the Governor will veto AB 849."

First off, can somebody please show me where the right of homosexuals to get married is part of Constitutional law? Then show me where it is proscribed. I'm waiting. This is yet another consequence of Roe v. Wade, the idea that a court is ultimately the body that makes laws in effect if not fact. The California Legislature, duly elected by their constituents, has passed a law that does not contravene any Constitutional provision with which I am aware. Therefore the Governor may choose to veto or sign the bill for whatever reasons he chooses to profess, but to say that it is up to the courts, even if a case is pending, is ducking responsibility.

Also problematic is the initiative process, which largely seems to benefit issue advocacy groups and lawyers. California voters passed, by significant majorities, Propositions 187 and 209 which were subsequently eviscerated or nullified by courts. (In yet another example of a legislating judiciary run amok.) Why didn't the voters of California force (and expect, for that matter) their elected representatives to codify similar provisions into law or decline to do so? There seems to be a form of political cognitive dissonance here in California: Either attempt to pass laws through a direct election, or have the courts do it, but, for the love of God, don't let our Legislature do it!

There is so much, too much, ephemera in politics. (The manufactured evidence and outrage over Bush's National Guard record, for example.) And a surfeit of hypocrisy too. (That means you, Tom DeLay.) So why is it on the truly substantive issues of the day we allow the courts to arrogate the power to make momentous decisions?

Predictably, both sides of this issue will respond with outrage or delight depending on their point of view. It will be really interesting to note what happens if the electorate, through another initiative, allows gay marriage. Will the Left then, as it has with 187 and 209, respect a court challenge? Will the Right view the will of the people, as they did with those propositions, as sacrosanct?

(For the record, I support gay marriage for a number of reasons, notably that homosexuals have every right to be as miserable as heterosexuals.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Trials Of Mayor Nagin

Ray Nagin, who apparently had any vestige of shame removed surgically, now has shifted the blame over the response to Hurricane Katrina to Governor Blanco.

If his logic is to be understood, the residents of New Orleans should expect and demand accountability from their federal and state officials, but not their local representatives. To what extent is Mayor Nagin willing to admit responsibility for anything? His order for mandatory evacuations was clearly belated, at best, and the plans to use buses and other high-occupancy vehicles to help those without a form of transportation were never implemented. Upon whom can these failures be affixed? I'm sure Mayor Nagin will find someone.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pop! So Go The Weasels?

The Associated Press, in a crack piece of investigative journalism, has discovered this:

WASHINGTON - The nation's red-hot housing market may finally be nearing its peak, meaning the end of double-digit annual percentage price gains for homeowners and potential trouble for more recent purchasers who stretched to buy.

This news comes as no surprise to those of us in California, as well as residents of Florida, Arizona, Southern Nevada, Boston... Speculation, enabled by questionable financing instruments, have led to 20-40% per year appreciation in many markets in the last few years. No asset in human history has sustained those returns and this isn't a recent revelation. For reasons that surpass understanding many people have ignored the lessons of the Internet speculative bubble and forgotten George Santayana's dictum that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. The only difference this time will be the bubble, if it exists and deflates, will be much worse than the Internet craze due to the illiquidity of real estate versus stocks and bonds.

It will be interesting to observe the manner in which a housing contraction will be covered by the media. President Clinton was given a lion's share of the credit for the growth of the economy in the late 1990's but none of the blame for fostering the conditions that led to the implosion of the NASDAQ and technology related businesses. Both cannot be correct. Therefore, since Bush has gotten virtually no credit for either the economic expansion (Real G.D.P. grew 1.6% in 2002, 2.7% in 2003, and 4.2% in 2004. In Clinton's first three full years real G.D.P. grew 2.6% in 1993, 4.0% in 1994, and 2.5% in 1995. These numbers clearly cannot take into account the attacks of 9/11.) or the wealth effect from appreciation in the housing market, I would imagine that the media will not blame Bush if the housing prices experience a regression to the mean.

Yeah, right.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Questions

Before rational people, as opposed to the news media, for example, start assigning blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina, here are a few questions that need to be answered:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin postponed ordering a mandatory evacuation until August 28th. Why? And why did he require this chiding from the Governor?

Nagin said he may call for the first-ever mandatory evacuation in city history after talking with the head of the National Hurricane Center who said a storm surge of 20-25 feet could be expected with major hurricane Katrina.

Nagin said he would consider ordering evacuations by Sunday morning and may employ buses and trains to help get people out of the city.

In an interview on Eyewitness News, Nagin said his Saturday night dinner was interrupted by an urgent call from Governor Kathleen Blanco who asked Nagin to call the National Hurricane Center.



From the looks of this picture, Nagin did not, in fact, deploy buses to evacuate the city. Why not?



The National Hurricane Center issued this nearly apocalyptic warning a day before Katrina made landfall. To what degree was it heeded and, based upon the warning, why was the initial response so inadequate?

Hurricane Katrina is a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength, rivaling the intensity of hurricane Camille in 1969. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. The majority of industrial buildings will become non-functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage. High rise office buildings will sway dangerously, a few to the point of total collapse. Airborne debris will be widespread and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Power outages will last for weeks. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards. The vast majority of native trees will be snapped or uprooted. Livestock left exposed to the winds will be killed.

As part of on-going operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, up to a quarter of the troops currently stationed in the Southwest Asia are National Guard troops. To what degree did the Pentagon consider how this would impact deployment of Guard troops during a natural disaster?

What qualifications did Mike Brown have to be named head of FEMA? From what I have seen his resume is rather lacking in emergency response experience.

Will the Congress consider making the Director of FEMA a "non-political" appointee, like a Federal Reserve Governor? (By "non-political" I mean not subject to replacement with a new presidential administration.)

The Bush Administration has been accused of cutting funding for levee repairs in Louisiana. Is this true? Was it a executive decision or a legislative one? If it passed through Congress, was the decision part of an omnibus bill?

Louisiana has a rather unfortunate, and deserved, reputation for political corruption; did this in any way have an impact on the funding previous to the disaster and the response subsequent to it?

The devastation on the Gulf Coast was so severe and widespread was a coordinated, multi-agency response even possible?

In light of the fact that the Crescent City is built below sea level, surrounded by water, and subject to the type of storm it just experienced, what will be done to prevent such a disaster from happening again? Will there be flood control provisions tied to the billions of dollars in disaster aid provided by taxpayers through the government?

More questions will undoubtedly arise in the coming days, but this might be a good start.

UPDATE: (Thank you, Drudge)

The Times-Picayune called for every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be fired. In an open letter to President Bush, the paper said: "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame."

But the newspaper published a story on July 24, 2005 stating: City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give a historically blunt message: "In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own." Staff writer Bruce Nolan reported some 7 weeks before Katrina: "In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation."

It is fast approacing the time Mayor Nagin shut his yap and start accepting some responsibility.