2005 September 30 Friday
Iraq Down To One Independently Operating Battalion

Vietnamization is failing. Er, sorry, I meant Iraqization. Speaking before the US Senate Armed Services Committee Donald Rumsfeld and Generals Richard Myers, John Abizaid, and George Casey defended how things are going in Iraq. General Abizaid admitted that only one Iraqi battalion can operate on its own.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: General Abizaid, there was a report sent over, I think last June, that three of the hundred Iraqi battalions were fully trained and equipped, capable of operating independently. What is that number now?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: The number now is, if you're talking about level-one trained --

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yeah.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: It's one.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: At one battalion?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Right.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The previous report was you had three battalions. Now we're down to one battalion.

One is the loneliest number.

An Iraqi battalion has 500 to 600 soldiers. We started into this Iraq debacle back in March 2003. Now one Iraqi battalion is ready go to out there and shake their booty. Is that batallion Kurdish by chance?

I wonder if the downgraded batallions became downgraded because of infiltration by insurgents. Or did the best fighters in the batallions leave to join the insurgency?

Donald Rumsfeld thinks people are chasing the wrong rabbit.

"There are an awful lot of people chasing the wrong rabbit here, it seems to me," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, when asked about the number of Iraqi battalions that can operate independently.

"The important fact is ... that every day, every week, every month the Iraqi security forces are larger, they're better equipped, they're better trained and they're more experienced. And that is the central fact," Rumsfeld said.

Maybe we should be chasing caterpillars instead of rabbits? After all, caterpillars eventually turn into beautiful buttterflies. Do we need to build cocoons in Iraq? We should go ask Alice. I think she'll know.

Susan Collins worries that the public loses confidence when the news is bad.

"That contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of Casey's remarks. "It doesn't feel like progress when we hear today that there is only one Iraqi battalion fully capable."

Note to Susan: I lost confidence a long time ago. But I know what you mean.

General Abizaid says we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: In the long run, there's nothing to be afraid of. We can win the fight. It's difficult. It's costly. But the implications of allowing the region to become dominated by the ideology of al-Qaida are the same as the implication in the years previous to World War II of allowing fascism to become the ideology of Germany. It will lead to a big war that none of us can stand. We have to fight. We have to win.

Gotta prevent Al Qaeda from replacing a fairly secular dictator. We need to make Iraqi safe for Shia theocracy against the dark forces of Sunni theocracy. This is the cross (er, crescent?) we have taken on.

Abizaid says the battle for Iraq is a battle with Al Qaeda.

"Their objectives are very clear," Gen. Abizaid said. "They believe in a jihad, a jihad, first and foremost, to overthrow the legitimate regimes in the region. But in order to do that, they have to first drive us from the region. This is what they believe. They believe, ultimately, that the greatest prize of all is Saudi Arabia and the holy shrines there."

If the US pulled out of Iraq would Al Qaeda take over? Or would the Shias rise up and put down the Sunnis? Or would they all make a big complicated inter-tribal power sharing deal? Or would another secular strongman come to power? Hey, an unemployed dictator is available for hire. I bet he'd make a deal to keep Al Qaeda out of Iraq.

General George W. Casey Jr, in charge of US forces in Iraq, says we'll be all ready to leave Iraq whenever conditions improve there.

"I can tell you, Congressman, it's all going to be conditions-based," Casey said in answering Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), who had sought a "reasonable time frame" for Iraqi troops to take over security duties. "It's not going to be like throwing a switch where all of a sudden, one day, the Iraqis are in charge."

Any predictions for what comes next?

By Randall Parker 2005 September 30 02:22 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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2005 September 29 Thursday
Charles Murray On Growing Underclass Criminality

Charles Murray argues that a great increase in incarceration rates has kept down the amount of crime committed while obscuring an increased willingness of America's underclass to commit crime.

The underclass has been growing. The crime rate has been dropping for 13 years. But the proportion of young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes, has not.

A rough operational measure of criminality is the percentage of the population under correctional supervision. This is less sensitive to changes in correctional fashion than imprisonment rates, since people convicted of a crime get some sort of correctional supervision regardless of the political climate. When Ronald Reagan took office, 0.9% of the population was under correctional supervision. That figure has continued to rise. When crime began to fall in 1992, it stood at 1.9%. In 2003 it was 2.4%. Crime has dropped, but criminality has continued to rise.

This doesn't matter to the middle and upper classes, because we figured out how to deal with it. Partly we created enclaves where criminals have a harder time getting at us, and instead must be content with preying on their own neighbors. But mainly we locked 'em up, a radical change from the 1960s and 1970s. Consider this statistic: The ratio of prisoners to crimes that prevailed when Ronald Reagan took office, applied to the number of crimes reported in 2003, corresponds to a prison population of 490,000. The actual prison population in 2003 was 2,086,000, a difference of 1.6 million. If you doubt that criminality has increased, imagine the crime rate tomorrow if today we released 1.6 million people from our jails and prisons.

America is the incarceration nation. But what choice do we have? The crime rate would skyrocket if we weren't locking up so many young black men. We should at least stop adding to the problem by allowing the importation of an additional underclass from Mexico.

Murray points to a large decrease in young black male labor market participation rates even after adjusting for the increase in incarceration rate for black males.

Criminality is the most extreme manifestation of the unsocialized young male. Another is the proportion of young males who choose not to work. Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9%. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20% during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30% in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job. The dropout rate among young white males is lower, but has been increasing faster than among blacks.

That is a staggeringly high rate of drop-out from the labor market. Some of that dropping out is caused by immigration driving down wages at the bottom. Black males see easier money in crime and parasitism off of girlfriends. But some of the change is due to the breakdown of black families. Illegitimacy reduces the forces of socialization on black male boys and adolescents.

Murray makes a point you've heard here: The social program proposals in response to the looting and lawlessness in New Orleans are all ideas that have been tried before and failed.

The government hasn't a clue. Versions of every program being proposed in the aftermath of Katrina have been tried before and evaluated. We already know that the programs are mismatched with the characteristics of the underclass. Job training? Unemployment in the underclass is not caused by lack of jobs or of job skills, but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. A homesteading act? The lack of home ownership is not caused by the inability to save money from meager earnings, but because the concept of thrift is alien. You name it, we've tried it. It doesn't work with the underclass.

He makes several other important points. It was hard to choose what to excerpt. Read the whole thing.

America is growing its underclass through immigration. But this gets little attention. Our liberal press and educational bureaucracy try to deceive us into believing that ways to close the inter-racial test score gaps exist. America's elites are lying about race. We live inside an elaborate mythology which needs constant defending to prevent us from publically uttering that which we see with our lying eyes. The need to lie about race ends up requiring lies about other subjects such as a recent lie about the effect of Christian religious beliefs on crime rates.

I see the news coverage of New Orleans as akin to that of workers on a Dutch dike running around patching leaks. Rather than plug up leaks in a physical wall reporters try to patch leaks in a mythology that walls us off from discussing taboo truths. The mythology patching has to ignore Indian response to Bombay/Mumbai flooding and somehow explain away the total absence of Japanese looting after the Kobe earthquake killed several thousand in 1995. An essential strategy for mythology leak patching is use of strawmen to build up and then knock down (no black crime problem to see here folks, just wild exaggerations).

Another essential element of mythology patching is to proclaim that something can be done about some problem with the underclass because, hey, it is all due to environment. Hence Bush's reaction to New Orleans turns into a mini-Great Society proposal for the Gulf Coast. The press's reaction includes underreporting, misleading reporting, and false proclamations that if we just pay attention to poverty and "feel their pain" we can solve it. The mythology dike can hold up even if some small media outlets and a very small minority of blogs point out the leaks. As long as most minds do not hear the discordant messages they will not try to flow through the holes and publically proclaim their loss of faith in the mythology. The latest flurry of patching is enough to ensure that the racial mythology dike can hold.

The mythology hole repair team faces two big problems in the medium to long run though. First of all, the underclass is growing mostly due to immigration but also because of the high rate of illegitimacy in the underclass. So many costs for management of the problems caused by the underclass are going to keep rising. The problems of the underclass could be managed more effectively with the truth. Therefore the costs of ignoring the truth are also rising. Secondly, science is not on the side of the defenders of the faith. DNA testing costs continue to fall and the evidence for substantial and differential rates of evolution of genes for cognition is becoming harder to ignore.

Update: Steve Sailer points out that lack of early employment opportunities for poor blacks sets up a vicious cycle.

Obviously, there's a chicken or egg issue involving the relationship between black fecklessness and illegal immigration. The more illegal immigrants pour in, the fewer people willing to hire poor blacks, so poor blacks don't get the discipline of holding a job, so they get even more feckless and unemployable.

Think about the numbers above folks. We have a huge problem that our elites are intent to either ignore or to spend money on in counterproductive ways in order to morally posture as caring.

Update II: Why is the volume of media lies about race currently running far above average? New Orleans created a huge need for mythological dike repair. All the "You Can't Talk About That" subjects intruded into the nation's collective consciousness as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The collective mind needs reminders both of what the official lies are and that the media, academic, and political elites stand ready to marginalize anyone who tries to deviate from the enforced mythology. This marginalization is an essential step in mythological dike repair. Plug those leaks in the collective public consciousness. Force forbidden thoughts back into the privacy of individual isolated minds rarely to be uttered out loud.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 29 03:40 PM  Human Nature
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2005 September 28 Wednesday
Since 1980 Hispanics Almost Three Quarters Of Poverty Increase

Robert Samuelson takes on myths about poverty and notes that trends in poverty would be much more favorable without Hispanic immigration.

Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution reports that the share of never-married mothers working rose from 46 percent to 66 percent from 1994 to 2002. The number of families receiving traditional welfare dropped from 5 million in 1994 to 2 million in 2003.

Given these trends, the overall poverty rate should be drifting down. It isn't. The main reason, as I've written before, is immigration. We have uncontrolled entry of poor, unskilled workers across our southern border. Although many succeed, many don't, and many poor Latino immigrants have children, who are also poor. In 2004, 25 percent of the poverty population was Hispanic, up from 12 percent in 1980. Over this period, Hispanics represented almost three-quarters of the increase in the poverty population.

Aside: I'd like to know how many previously on the traditional welfare rolls have gotten themselves reclassified as disabled so that they get Social Security disability benefits instead. I've read the number is sizable but haven't seen it quantified. Anyone know a source of data on this? In the Netherlands the shift of people into the ranks of the disabled makes their welfare rolls look smaller too. Same game, different country.

Why let in lots of people who are going to expand the size of the dysfunctional lower class? Not all Hispanics wind up that way. But skills requirements on Hispanic immigrants could drastically cut down the number who do.

The big Hispanic influx has kept up black and white poverty rates as well by driving down wages and benefits for jobs which require less skills and less intellectual ability. George W. Bush has made it easy for illegals to come into Louisiana and take jobs reconstruction the devastated areas. But as we've been reminded of late, there's no shortage of poor natives in southern Louisiana available to do the work if immigration laws were enforced.

If the Democratic Party was not as morally and intellectually corrupt as the Republican Party then Democratic Party leaders would be fighting to keep the illegals out of Louisiana in order to give construction jobs and other jobs to the poor natives of Louisiana. Liberals in politics talk a good game on race and compassion. But that's all moral posturing. They do not mean it. They just want to make it clear that they are morally superior to conservatives.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 28 05:37 PM  Immigration Economics
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Financial Soundness And Disaster Preparedness

One of the underlooked aspects of the damage and loss of life from Hurricane Katrina is just how avoidable most of it was. Shortcomings in federal, state, and local agencies charged with disaster response have attracted the most attention from a press fixated upon the visual images of people on rooftops and bodies floating in waters. But in highly industrialized countries most extreme natural phenomena become disasters for human populations only because of decisions made well ahead of time by private individuals and businesses, and also by government agencies that are not in the disaster relief business.

Government policies have done much to reduce the incentives for prudent decision-making by individuals and businesses. Also, governments have made very imprudent decisions in siting and designing structures near flood zones and other areas at risk of damage from natural disasters. We need to look at how governments at all levels can change policies to reduce the amount of damage, disruption and loss of life from hurricanes and other extreme natural phenomena.

Federal Government Should Lead By Example

The federal government should start by looking at its own siting and building practices. Hurricane wind and flood damage are notable for their avoidability. Want to avoid serious damage and loss of life from hurricanes? Do not build structures near sea level in regions at risk from hurricane. When building near sea level use structure designs and fabrication techniques which can withstand high winds and even floods. Elevate structures and design the buildings for ease of covering up windows and entrances before storms. The federal government has post offices, FBI field offices, and many other structures all over the country. The federal government should design and site all new buildings to make them able to withstand natural disasters.

Only federal government functions essential to an area should get sited in higher risk zones. For example, the federal National Finance Center until recently employed over 1400 in New Orleans and processed paychecks for a half million federal workers all over the country. That center should get permanently relocated to an area which is at very low risk for national disasters. Post Offices, FBI field offices, and some other functions must go where the people live. But even many functions which must go near large populations could get sited at least a few miles inland and on lots raised by dirt fill.

Also, when responding to disasters the federal government rushes in and builds some replacement housing. Well, that housing should not go right on existing unmodified plots where houses were wiped out by storm flood surges. In some cases houses should be rebuilt on trucked in mounds of dirt (quite common in Florida) or on stilts. Better yet, where the storm surges were high and all housing was wiped out for miles inland the new housing should go further inland than the storm surge reached. If people want to rebuild near the ocean then the federal government should not pay for it.

Federal Government Aid Should Incentivize Prudent Behavior

Federal reconstruction aid to hard hit local governments should come in the form of loans rather than outright grants. Local taxpayers should shoulder the costs that come from living along ocean fronts where hurricane strike and in other riskier regions. People who live in dangerous areas should pay for that danger in the form of higher property tax levels, insurance prices, and other market signals.

FEMA should not make big promises of forms of aid to expect in emergencies. State and local governments took a much more lackadaisical approach to emergency preparedness in part because FEMA overpromised how much help it could deliver and how rapidly it could deliver that help.

State Governments Should Impose Tough Standards

Building codes for private homes and commercial buildings should get toughened to reduce building losses from disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. The state of Mississippi should take note that it will lose casino tax revenue for a much longer period of time because casinos were not better built. Had the casinos been built to stay in place and suffer little damage the financial losses to the government coffers would have been far less.

Hurricane Katrina provides a general financial lesson to state and local governments: destruction of structures cuts off tax revenue flows. While governments should impose tough standards just for reasons of public safety governments should also reflect on their own insatiable desire for tax money. The threat of tax revenue interruptions when businesses get washed away should give them an even stronger motivation to require construction of more robust strucures.

State governments should enact legislation and regulations that impose even tougher building codes on all levels of government in each state. For example, the state of Mississippi should require that all state, county, and city government buildings sited along the Gulf coast be located and constructed to withstand the wind and flood waters of a category 5 hurricane. This will both reduce financial losses from disasters and also allow local government buildings to operate as shelters. Also the survival of government buildings will help speed relief and security operations after a hurricane or other disaster.

That means city halls, schools, fire department buildings, police stations, prisons, and other government buildings should be build on raised dirt mounds or sufficiently far inland that to avoid destruction from a flood surge. Also, building materials and construction methods should be chosen to enable the buildings to withstand high winds. For buidings absolutely needed in flood zones the building materials should be able to withstand flooding. So, for example, cinderblock should be used in place of wood.

Financial Soundness Requirements For Local Governments

Each state should require counties and cities in high risk areas to financially prepare for disasters as well. Local units of government should either buy high levels of disaster insurance coverage or build up large reserves of cash deposits. Requirements should be set based on potential losses of tax revenue when buildings get destroyed by hurricanes. The level of reserves required should depend on independent or perhaps state-level assessments of the vulnerability of structures in each jurisdiction to destruction.

Think of these fiscal soundness requirements on local governments against disasters as analogous to requirements on pension funds, insurance companies, and banks. Pension funds, for example, have fiduciary responsibilities to be able to handle expected liabilities and potential investment losses. States should require localities to audit and publish their financial risks from natural disasters and how they have arranged to meet financial demands resulting from disasters.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 28 02:59 PM  Politics Money
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2005 September 27 Tuesday
Fake Educational Miracle In Wake County North Carolina

Alan Finder of the New York Times claims that Wake County North Carolina has supposedly found a way to close the race gap in educational achievement.

Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.

The "integrate the schools economically" is New York Times Orwellian liberal-speak for forced busing. The Times story is selling a liberal policy prescription that has not produced miracles in decades of trying. But this time is different. Forget all the accumulated evidence of history. Have liberal faith.

In Wake County, only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight scored at grade level on state tests a decade ago. Last spring, 80 percent did. Hispanic students have made similar strides. Overall, 91 percent of students in those grades scored at grade level in the spring, up from 79 percent 10 years ago.

Note the use of "scored at grade level" as the bogey. This type of measure and on a test where such a high percentage of all races do well does not allow useful inter-racial comparisons. To do useful comparisons we'd at least need to know the average score for each race and also the test would have to be tough enough that all the scores were not bunched up.

When I saw this story my initial reaction was "Okay, so how did they cook the books?". One can make tests easier. That's my most likely guess for what happened. One can train students on questions extremely similar to the test questions. Test givers can fix test results or tell students the right answers. School administrators can manage to get poorer performing kids sent home sick on test days. Or a big demographic change in an area with rapid economic growth can change the types of students atttending some schools.

The Daily Howler adds in some important missing context for Wake County North Carolina.

Wow! Times readers felt a familiar glow; 80 percent of Wake County black kids scored at grade level on last spring’s tests! But here’s what Finder didn’t tell you—across the state of North Carolina, 77 percent of all black kids scored at grade level on those same tests! That’s right; the Times devoted this front-page story to a three-point difference in passing rates—a three-point difference in passing rates on tests almost everyone passes!

So you can grasp the grinding illiteracy found among New York Times ed writers, let’s make sure you understand how these numbers work. For example, how well did Wake County black fifth-graders do on last spring’s reading test? According to the state’s official results, 88 percent of Wake’s black students tested “proficient” on the state test. But then, 83 of black fifth graders tested “proficient” on this same test statewide! In short, the large majority of fifth-graders—black, white and brown—tested “proficient” all over the state! But you never learn that in Finder’s piece. Instead, you get a warm, fuzzy feeling about Wake’s score gains—score gains which Finder attributes to a particular aspect of Wake’s educational program.

Have Wake’s black passing rates doubled in the past decade? Almost—but then, the same thing has happened all over the state! (Data below. Any chance that the current tests are just easier?) Did 80 percent of Wake’s black kids pass last year? Yes—but so did black kids all over the state! In short, Finder is the latest illiterate making a joke of our educational discourse. If we actually care about school kids, he and his editor won’t be allowed within a hundred miles of this topic again.

The Daily Howler claims Finder didn't even get right the facts he did report:

By the way, Finder seems to be wrong when he says: “In Wake County, only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight scored at grade level on state tests a decade ago.” In 1994-95, 52 percent of Wake’s black students passed the state test in reading. That same year, 50 percent of Wake’s black kids passed the test in math. But then, you can check that out for yourselves. Thanks to North Carolina’s excellent site, the data are there for the taking.

The Daily Howler says this latest story fits into a genre:

The bottom line in these stories is always this—there’s a simple solution to the prevailing disasters of low-income minority education. This claim makes pseudo-liberals feel good. And they get to pretend that red-state rubes are standing in the way of progress. “If only they were as enlightened as we, the problem would be over,” they get to say. “If only they’d adopt the enlightened plan that has worked such wonders in Raleigh!”

This genre has a basic story line: "we finally found the magic bullet for bringing up black and Hispanic academic performance up near white performance". People who like to read this genre are like women who are addicted to Harlequin romance novels. The girl has to meet her forever love again and again. Magically in each story we find ourselves back at the beginning where we can move once again toward the happy ending. This can happen in novels because a different fictional woman can find true love each time. But in real life it is pretty ridiculous when liberal reporters report this sort of story again and again and again.

This reminds of a post Michael Vassar wrote on just how far ahead the better students are from the poorer performers.

Here are the actual numbers. To some degree they speak for themselves, but here are the highlights. The top 10% of 4th grade students equal or outperform the bottom 25% (really over 45% after accounting for children excluded from the test and children who dropped out of high school) of 12th grade students, and the top 25% of students outperform the bottom 10% (really over 30% for reasons given above)! For your reference, roughly 25% of the US population gets a college degree, so the average person who will get a college degree has better math ability and reading comprehension in 4th grade than the bottom 4th of the population will have after 8 more years of schooling supposedly teaches them these subjects!

Aside: Those kids who are capable of learning so rapidly should get books and video lectures of college level subjects that would allow them to do far more intellectual development in their grade school and high school years. That those top students can be so far ahead suggests that conventional schools are holding them back.

The right measure of educational progress is not whether each kid has achieved some arbitrarily chosen proficiency standard for each grade. A far more accurate method of measuring achievement would be to give kids tests which allow the amount of knowledge in kids to be comparable across many grades. If 10 year old Johnny already knows enough to pass high school graduation proficiency tests then tests given to Johnny ought to be able to detect that. Tests given to 9 year old Jill ought to be able to detect that she already knows enough English but not enough math to qualify for high school graduation. The point here is that tests ought to measure each kid's levels of knowledge and intellectual skills on much longer scales of knowledge.

Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom have noted that NAEP scores allow cross-grade comparisons and the results do not bode well.

Blacks nearing the end of their high school education perform a little worse than white eighth-graders in both reading and U.S. history, and a lot worse in math and geography. In math and geography, indeed, they know no more than whites in the seventh grade. Hispanics do only a little better than African-Americans. In reading and U.S. history, their NAEP scores in their senior year of high school are a few points above those of whites in eighth grade. In math and geography, they are a few points lower.

If Wake County could show their black and Hispanic students have closed most of the NAEP gap with the white national average then I'd be impressed. But I think it exceedingly unlikely that they have done that.

Update: Over at Number 2 Pencil Kimberly Swygert covers this story with a link to Paul Peterson of the New York Sun who found that Wake County has little to brag about.

Intrigued by the story's claim that the percentage of Raleigh's students achieving proficiency had risen dramatically over the past several years, my research assistant, Mark Linnen, took it upon himself to check out the data available on the North Carolina Web site. Over the past 10 years, the percentage proficient or better in grades 3-8 in Raleigh (Wade County) had in fact risen by 13% in math and 12% in reading between 1995 and 2005. That seemed to confirm the bragging of local officials - until it was discovered that, statewide, proficiency rates were up by 21% in math and 19% in reading - gains that outstripped those in Raleigh by over 50%. Nor did the proficiency rates of Raleigh's black and Hispanic students climb any faster than the statewide average for these groups. In fact, the gains were somewhat smaller.

Not that proficiency rates in North Carolina mean much. The state has some of the worst state standards in the country. Last spring, my Education Next co-editor, Rick Hess and I gave North Carolina's proficiency standards one of the worst marks in the country - a D minus. (By comparison, South Carolina got an A.) So low were the standards that 85% of all North Carolina eighth graders was said to be proficient in reading, despite the fact that only 29% of the state's eighth graders was found proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation's report card.

North Carolina's proficiency test is dumbed down. How predictable. Many educational bureaucracies are very deceptive. Do not trust their emotional pleas about how they care about children.

Kimberly Swygert also points to a New York Times article on poor black and Hispanic performance in Princeton's high school. That result exactly contradicts the argument that the New York Times tried to make about Wake County North Carolina. In Princeton New Jersey putting back and Hispanic kids in the same school as very smart upper class white kids doesn't help raise black and Hispanic scores. Integration does not help. This is not new news.

Nobody knows how to raise black and Hispanic scholastic performance to white levels, let alone to Korean or Ashkenazi Jewish levels. The whole mainstream national debate about education is deeply dishonest because only environmental causes of the performance gap are politically acceptable. Genetic causes are taboo. The claim that only environment causes performance gaps between races is the great liberal bright shining lie of our era.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 27 02:40 AM  Education
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2005 September 25 Sunday
South Africa Begins Seizure Of White Farms

And so it begins...

South Africa's government says it wants to hand over about a third of white-owned farm land by 2014.

The commission on Thursday said an expropriation notice would be served on Hannes Visser, the owner of a cattle and crop farm in North West province.

Visser said the government offered to buy it at a price well below market. But as the expropriations accelerate the market prices will fall as some whites see the writing on the wall.

Zimbabwe the model:

But Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says the pace of reform should be speeded up - as in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where most white-owned land has been seized by the state. "There needs to be a bit of oomph. That's why we may need the skills of Zimbabwe to help us," she said.

Expect a decline in South African food production in the next 10 years. Only about 60,000 whites operate farms in Africa. So most South African whites will not lose their jobs or possessions as a result of this policy. The bigger cost will come as declining food production. This will hit blacks harder than whites since whites, earning higher incomes on average, will have the money to pay higher food prices.

A couple of months ago I saw a TV show about American farmers who have moved to Brazil because Brazil has more sunshine, cheaper labor, and in some areas it has excellent soil. With sufficient capital and skills the Brazilian farms can out-compete American farms. The American farmers interviewed on the TV show looked and sounded like they were making a lot of money. They did not sound like hard scrabble dummies who went abroad because couldn't compete at home. They sounded like sharp capitalists. Brazil's agricultural exports are booming in part due to growing East Asian demand. The Brazilians could further expand their production and exports by giving long term work visas to the white farmers in South Africa.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 25 09:37 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2005 September 24 Saturday
Income Inequality Continues Few Decade Rise

Writing for Forbes Dan Seligman reports that inequality in the United States has been rising steadly for almost 30 years and during every US presidency regardless of party in power.

The standard measure of inequality is the Gini coefficient, signifying the extent to which a society deviates from absolute equality. If everybody has the same income, the coefficient is 0; if the entire GDP belongs to one person, the coefficient is 1. In the U.S. the latest reported coefficient is 0.466. In case you are wondering, it rose more under Clinton--from 0.433 to 0.462--than under any of those other chaps. It rose by only 0.004 during George W. Bush's first four years. In case you are also wondering how many times Times editorialists complained about Clinton's inequality record, the answer is zero. The Washington Post has been equally tendentious, and at one point (Sept. 25, 1998) it ran a front-page story on the 1997 income report in which it stated firmly that the census data showed "income inequality did not increase," even though the data clearly pointed to a substantial one-year increase of 0.004. There was no correction.

Compare the total rise in income inequality of 0.004 during five and a half years of George W. Bush's presidency to the 0.029 rise under Clinton. Under Clinton inequality rose about 5 or 6 times faster, and as Seligman notes, yet the New York Times and Washington Post found nothing to complain about as long as a Democrat was in the Oval Office. There's a simple lesson here for rich people: support Democrats as Presidents since the liberal press will not complain regardless of how much richer you become.

But perhaps matters are not so simple. A Republican president is more likely to cut taxes. So while the press will complain during a Republican presidency the upper income will get to keep more of what they make (at least until the financial burdens of an aging population create big pressures for tax increases).

The slower rise in the Gini coefficient under Bush is probably a reflection of two macroeconomic changes. First the burst of the dot com stock bubble obviously hit stockholders most of all and higher income people owned more stocks. Also, the replacement of the stock bubble with the real estate bubble increased the wealth of a much larger portion of the populace than the stock bubble which preceded it.

The Gini coefficient rose under a succession of tax regimes and through many social policy changes. Seligman argues the best explanation for the sustained rise of the Gini coefficient over such a long period of time comes from Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's book The Bell Curve. The economic value of greater smarts keeps rising. Hence the smarter people make more relative to the rest. This makes sense. Advances in technology enable smart people to do more things. Smart people can coordinate and orchestra more complex arrangements of capital and labor. They can, just working on their own or with other like minds design and develop software, and create building designs, mechanical designs, and electrical designs. They can create complex contracts and negotiate agreements incomprehensible to lesser minds. They can navigate through complex government regulatory systems and find legal ways to circumvent governments.

The computer revolution has reduced the extent to which smarter people rely on the labor of lower IQ workers. For example, where in an earlier era higher IQ engineers also needed lots of moderately high IQ draftsmen to translate their designs into drawings today engineers increasingly can interact with design and engineering software and lay out their own designs in many cases more rapidly than it would take them to explain the designs to draftsmen. Or look at the white colllar workers who used to rely on typists who now type their own reports and documents. It is quicker to type up a report as one thinks of it than to write the report with pen and paper and then have someone else type up drafts. Successive drafts are easier to make if thinkers interact with computers directly.

Another factor at work that relates to IQ and inequality comes from increasing international trade. The liberal enforcement of taboos against discussions of IQ causes one glaring fact about rising trade to be missed: As a larger portion of the world's population gets drawn into a larger international economy the IQ of the average worker whose work gets traded has dropped. Why? Because most countries in the world have populaces with lower average IQs than the averages in the most industrialized countries. So upper class cognitive elite people in the United States and other already industrialized countries do not face as much competition from abroad due to international trade as the lower classes in those same countries.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 24 09:40 PM  Economics Demographic
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2005 September 22 Thursday
Why Don't Police Control Entry Onto Evacuation Freeways?

Watching the TV cameras on cable channels of Houston freeways an obvious question strikes me: Why not have the police control and shut down freeway on-ramps? Then evacuation traffic would not get so heavy that the speeds go down to a crawl. What has been the average speed of the cars on the highways out of Houston? 1 mph.

As traffic levels rises total vehicle miles driven per hour rises. But at some point total vehicle miles driven actually drops. Put more cars on the roads and total vehicle miles declines. It becomes counterproductive to put more cars onto highways. If car entry onto roads is restricted then the existing cars would get out of the way more quickly by driving to where they are headed more rapidly.

The Texas police made a big mistake by not closing down a lot of on-ramps as soon as traffic started to slow.

Another point: If the police would have asserted control over on-ramps they could have given preference to vehicles that have more passengers. This would have provided incentive for people to evacuate neighbors without cars, people from old folks homes, and others.

Also, once the inbound lanes were shifted to outbound directions entry onto the switched direction lanes could have been reserved for buses and cars that carry many people.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 22 11:14 PM  Solutions Practical
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Mad Max In New Orleans And Human Nature

Bobby Bellew, until recently a resident of New Orleans, describes the criminality and cruelty of the Thunderdome people of New Orleans.

I can say that the looters were much more organized than the police or relief efforts. The day of the hurricane, while the winds were still in the 60-70 mph range, there were already groups of people in the back of trucks and stolen U-Hauls roaming areas where police cars could not get through.

...

The attitude of these people came right out Mad Max. They were reveling in this, happy and exultant in their ability to destroy and hurt and terrorize. They were, by definition, terrorists, and they were having the time of their lives. I know because I had to fight two of them just to leave the city with the few possessions I was able to carry.

I tried to get to the Superdome but the water was nearly waist deep and a family walking away from there told me someone had tried to set a fire in the stadium that morning. So I walked to the alternate pick-up at the convention center. The amount of people there was staggering. In less than fifteen minutes, I witnessed more crime than I had in the entire time I lived in New Orleans.

I saw three guns in the first 15 minutes I was there. I saw people break into the Riverwalk Mall and bring back piles of stuff. Not much of it was clothing or anything that could help you in an emergency. People were posing for news cameras with their newly stolen loot.

The families that pray together loot together. Does this fall under the rubric of Bush's faith-based initiatives?

In a corner of the parking lot, I watched a large prayer circle gather. The people were holding hands, praying for their safety and the safety of their families. There was no mention of other people in the prayer. When the circle broke up, most of those who'd been praying marched across the street and broke into a small grocery store, leaving with alcohol and cigarettes.

Racial taboos in America prevent an honest discussion in the mainstream media of why New Orleans so rapidly decayed into something resembling Haiti or Somalia. Our destructive mainstream media elites have already decided to go with the conventional wisdom (folly) that black lawlessness is the result of white racism. George W. Bush, a foolish and vacuous man, has decided to embrace this folly and has chosen to pursue a mini-Great Society redux of social spending in complete denial that social spending does not improve the academic performance or job performance or law-abidingness of blacks.

Steve Sailer discusses the implications of what is known about racial average differences in criminality and IQ as applied to what happened in New Orleans:

The black imprisonment rate is a striking 33 times higher than the Asian imprisonment rate—a figure I've never seen quantified before (although I don't think anybody could be too surprised by it).

These incarceration statistics, the report shows, are very much in line with the racial patterns also seen in both arrest rates and in the FBI's Annual Survey Of Crime Victims.

So unfairness in the justice system plays little or no role in these disparities.

High crime rates in black neighborhoods are a terrible burden on local entrepreneurs, thus holding back the economic of the race. But it is largely taboo to discuss racial disparities in criminality in the media, even though most of the data Taylor assembles is currently available on scattered government websites. For example, the federal Department of Justice's page on homicide statistics by race states, "Blacks were 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide in 2002."

In the full text of his article Steve also draws on information about racial differences in criminality from the New Century Foundation's new The Color Of Crime report:

• Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving blacks and whites, blacks commit 85 percent and whites commit 15 percent.

• Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against blacks. Forty-five percent of their victims are white, 43 percent are black, and 10 percent are Hispanic. When whites commit violent crime, only three percent of their victims are black.

• Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.

• Blacks are 2.25 times more likely to commit officially-designated hate crimes against whites than vice versa.

That is not a picture of inter-racial harmony.

These facts need to be combined with one other observation to fully explain the recent events in New Orleans: the smarter and more law abiding of all races left New Orleans in far greater number and the average IQ within the city plummeted. Zach at the Our Way Of Life blog draws attention to an IQ and behavior chart that illustrates the predictive power of IQ (same chart here). It is much easier to make sense of the world if we step outside of the taboo-constrained dialog of mainstream discourse. A great deal of evidence needed to understand human behavior is available to anyone willing to study it.

Heather Mac Donald examines a recent New York Times story that falsely claims a new US Department of Justice report supports the charge that police unfairly profile based on race.

The Times, for instance, does not reveal that blacks and Hispanics were far more likely to be arrested following a stop: Blacks were 11 percent of all stopped drivers, but 24 percent of all arrested drivers; Hispanics, 9.5 percent of all stopped drivers, but 18.4 percent of all arrested drivers; and whites, 76.5 percent of all stopped drivers, but 58 percent of arrested drivers. The higher black and Hispanic arrest rates undoubtedly result from their higher crime rates. The national black murder rate, for example, is seven times higher than that of all other races combined, and the black robbery rate eight times higher. Though the FBI does not keep national crime data on Hispanics, local police statistics usually put the Hispanic crime rate between the black and white crime rates. These differential crime rates mean that when the police run a computer search on black and Hispanic drivers following a stop, they are far more likely to turn up outstanding arrest warrants than for white drivers.

Heather points out that false charges of racism translate into less effective policing which means criminals get to commit more crimes and more people suffer as victims. Law-abiding blacks and Hispanics therefore get victimized more by criminals and poor areas become that much less livable.

The notion that the police target blacks and Hispanics because of their skin color has damaged urban life. Thanks to racial-data-collection mandates, every officer knows that if he has “too many” interactions with minority citizens - including responding to crime calls or preventing a mugging - he could face a bias charge. Some officers will decide that it’s wiser for their careers not to fight crime aggressively, leaving law-abiding inner-city residents at the mercy of thugs. The drumbeat against the cops increases the hostility against them, poisoning the trust needed for the most effective police work. The New York Times’s endless crusade against phantom police racism ensures that the poorest neighborhoods will continue to be held back by fear and violence.

The great liberal bright shining lies about racial differences do not reduce suffering. The lies increase crime and increase victimization of innocents in all races. The lies do not make inter-racial relations more amicable. Look at the figures above about black-on-white crime rates. These lies have not caused blacks to hold more friendly feelings toward whites.

The white liberal lies about race are moral posturing for their own benefit. They want to proclaim their moral superiority toward non-liberal whites. So they tell lies about how racism by non-liberal whites is to blame for black poverty and pathologies and crime in black neighborhoods. Their selfish lies continue to do lots of real damage to American society. Their defense of taboos about human nature prevent more rational policy discussions and provide rationales that lead to harmful policies such as racial preferences and obstacles to effective policing.

Also see my previous posts "New Orleans Police Go AWOL" and "Blacks Turn On Whites In New Orleans Superdome". On the first of those two posts note the part about how after the earthquake in Kobe Japan in 1995 killed thousands of people the sole report of looting in Kobe was by Iranians. No Japanese looted. The incarceration rate difference between Asians and blacks in the United States is unsurprising given crime rates in the nations of origin and selective effects of smarter people coming from Asia to the United States to study and work in engineering and science.

Update: New Orleans resident Steve Goodson describes to a Birmingham Alabama reporter the events in New Orleans as he saw them.

Goodson continues: "We soon realized these weren't soldiers rescuing people, they were engineers clearing debris and they owned the only vehicle large enough to reach our home. They were wearing body armor and the men in back were manning machine guns, because people had been shooting at them for days as they tried to clear debris from the roads."

Traveling to the St. Charles Avenue military processing area, Goodson began to witness first-hand

the extent of looting throughout the city. "I can't describe it other than widespread mayhem, just unbelievable. Having now seen the media coverage, I can tell you that no one is telling the American public how rampant this problem is, for whatever reason."

The press censors when the subject affects public views of racial differences. The public is not trusted with the truth. One has to read smaller regional papers and foreign papers to get accounts of what really happened in New Orleans.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 22 02:30 PM  Human Nature
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2005 September 19 Monday
Surprise Deal On North Korean Nuclear Weapons Development

North Korea has agreed to nuclear disarmament.

BEIJING, Sept. 19 - North Korea agreed to end its nuclear weapons program this morning in return for security, economic and energy benefits, potentially easing tensions with the United States after a three-year standoff over the country's efforts to build atomic bombs.

North Korea claims they will allow verification of the disassembly of their nuclear weapons.

The key passage confirmed Pyongyang's commitment to disassemble its nuclear weapons program—and the weapons themselves—in a "verifiable" way. It also expressed North Korea's willingness to return to the international agreements it pulled out of in 2002 when it acknowledged its nuclear program, specifically the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and safeguards outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In exchange, The United States offered energy aid and the possibility of diplomatic relations, confirmed that it does not intend to invade North Korea, and agreed to a step-by-step approach to disarmament. Previously, the U.S. had insisted that Pyongyang surrender it's nukes completely before the country received any aid.

China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and the United States are all parties to this agreeement. After failure to reach agreement in the previous three rounds of the six party talks I find the agreement reached in the fourth round as quite surprising. However, a looming famine in North Korea might have helped clinch the deal.

The deal comes in wake of a statement by the World Food Program, which has said North Korea is headed toward the worst humanitarian food crisis since the mid-1990s when an estimated 1 million North Koreans died. WFP now predicts 6.5 million North Koreans desperately need food aid.

While there was cause for some celebration when the six-party statement was made public, observers say the follow-up talks in November could prove difficult. Details have always been a stumbling block when it comes to negotiations with North Korea. Kim Jong-il has a tendency to up the ante, depending on the situation, though North Korea's desire to get out of the world's doghouse in light of its impending food shortage should be incentive for the isolated state to build the joint statement into a more concrete pact.

Will the North Koreans backslide on the agreement once they have lots of food and fuel courtesy of the other parties to the agreement? Or will the deal assure a big enough on-going bribe to keep the Kim Jong Il satisfied?

The effect on possible nuclear proliferation in other countries is important to consider.

South Korea reaffirms it will not deploy nuclear weapons and that it has no such arms.

Think about that. If North Korea doesn't continue to possess nuclear weapons then the incentive for South Korea or Japan to go nuclear becomes much less. That helps the position of China. It also weakens the position of Taiwan. In my view Taiwan's best hope for maintaining independence is to develop a nuclear weapons capability. As China's total economy surpasses the US economy and as China's military becomes much stronger Taiwan's security position will become impossible for Taiwan to defend. China will have too many economic strings to pull and clear military superiority.

Taiwan would have a much easier time going nuclear if East Asia went into a general regional nuclear arms race. If Japan went nuclear then China would have much more reason to hesitate over whether to attack Taiwan or whether to seize islands that both Japan and China claim. If Japan went nuclear and North Korea continued to build up a nuclear capability then other countries would be far less likely to economically retaliate against Taiwan for going nuclear. So this deal, if it sticks, is bad news for Taiwan.

South Korea cites their electricity bribe offer as a key element in making the deal happen.

South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young cited his nation’s offer of two million kilowatts of electric power to the North, first made in July, along with Washington’s pledge to normalize relations with Pyongyang as key to the outcome.

Washington’s flexibility in moving “to normalize North Korea-U.S. relations can be viewed as an achievement of the Bush administration,” Chung said in Seoul, according to the state Yonhap news agency.

Well bless their bribing and appeasing hearts.

George W. Bush says that we still have to see if the North Koreans will really follow through on the deal.

"They have said, in principle, that they will abandon their weapons programs. And what we have said is, 'Great. That's a wonderful step forward. But now we've got to verify whether or not that happens'," Bush said to reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

"The question is, over time, will all parties adhere to the agreement?"

That's the most important question. Can bribery and appeasement buy off the Hermit Kingdom? A modest proposal for the South Koreans: Offer Kim Jong Il a supply of very attractive hookers if he will adhere to the deal.

Update: The need for the hookers offer quickly becomes apparent. North Korea is already demanding a light water reactor before it will disarm.

``We will return to the NPT and sign the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and comply with it immediately upon the U.S. provision of LWRs, a basis of confidence-building to us,'' the North's Foreign Ministry said in the statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

``The U.S. should not even dream of the issue of (North Korea's) dismantlement of its nuclear deterrent before providing LWRs,'' the North said.

The South Koreans are passing this off as a typical North Korean negotiating tactic.

South Korea, which has been lobbying hard on North Korea's behalf, sought to downplay the North's latest demand. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung, portrayed it as an attempt by Pyongyang to enhance its bargaining leverage when the talks resume in November.

"We assume that North Korea tries to demand at the maximum level," he said. " We believe the issue shall be discussed specifically at the forthcoming round of six-party talks."

But Mr. Lee also says Seoul's willingness to support peaceful nuclear energy use by North Korea depends on Pyongyang first rejoining the Non-Proliferation Treaty and bringing U.N. inspectors back.

Any bets on whether this agreement will fall through?

By Randall Parker 2005 September 19 10:42 AM  Korea
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2005 September 16 Friday
Bush Continues Drunken Spender Bender With Gulf Coast Great Society

George W. Bush has a song he's singing to the Democrats: "Anything you can spend I can spend bigger, I can spend anything bigger than you".

Although Bush cited no price tag, he committed the nation to a plan that officials and lawmakers believe could top $200 billion, roughly the cost of the Iraq war and reconstruction, and which promises to reorient government for the balance of the Bush presidency. It will create much larger deficits in the short term, siphon off money that would have been spent on other programs and dramatically shift the focus of the White House, Congress and many state governments for the indefinite future.

Even as he embraced a spending program the scale of which few Democratic presidents ever advanced, Bush signaled that he would shape its contours with policy ideas long sought by conservative thinkers. He proposed creation of a "Gulf Opportunity Zone" that would grant new and existing businesses tax breaks, loans and loan guarantees through 2007. And in documents released before the speech, Bush called for displaced families that send children to private schools, including religious ones, to be eligible for federal money.

Why give people tax breaks to resettle an area that Mother Nature rather forcefully just demonstrated isn't appropriate for large scale human habitation? People should be discouraged from returning and rebuilding in areas wiped out by storm surges. Governments should impose tough building codes and governments should construct their own buildings on high ground and out of extremely tough materials.

Most of those evacuated from New Orleans have more sense than the President and do not want to return.

HOUSTON, Sept. 15 -- Fewer than half of all New Orleans evacuees living in emergency shelters here said they will move back home, while two-thirds of those who want to relocate planned to settle permanently in the Houston area, according to a survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

...

Forty-three percent of these evacuees planned to return to New Orleans, the survey found. But just as many -- 44 percent -- said they will settle somewhere else, while the remainder were unsure. Many of those who were planning to return said they will be looking to buy or rent somewhere other than where they lived. Overall, only one in four said they plan to move back into their old homes, the poll found.

Also, isn't it not just unwise but also cruel to help people of such meager means and meager abilities to return to a place which is in harm's way?

According to the poll, six in 10 evacuees had family incomes of less than $20,000 last year. Half have children younger than 18. One in eight was unemployed when the storm hit. Seven in 10 said they have no insurance to cover their losses. Fully half have no health insurance. Four in 10 suffer from heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or are physically disabled.

When illness or injury strike, they were twice as likely to say they had sought care from hospitals such as the New Orleans Charity Hospital than from either a family doctor or health clinic -- needs for costly services that now will be transferred to hospitals in the Houston area or wherever these evacuees eventually settle.

Some fiscal conservatives still exist in Congress.

One fiscal conservative, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said Thursday, "I don't believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana."

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, called for restoring "sanity" to federal participation in the recovery, which is at $62 billion and rising fast. The House and Senate approved tax relief Thursday at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion on top of $3.5 billion in housing vouchers approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

"We know we need to help, but throwing more and more money without accountability at this is not going to solve the problem," Mr. DeMint said.

Their comments were in marked contrast to the administration approach thus far and a call by Senate Republican leaders for a rebuilding effort similar to the Marshall Plan after World War II. Congressional Democrats advocated their own comprehensive recovery program Thursday, promoting a combination of rebuilding programs coupled with housing, health care, agriculture and education initiatives.

Their comments are in marked contrast to the administration because Bush is a faux conservative.

What we need is an "Endangered Fiscal Conservative Species Act".

The federal government plans to build temporary communities of prefabricated housing.

The settlements would range from 2,000 to 25,000 units _ mostly prefabricated houses and mobile homes _ arranged in loose street grids. They will ideally be placed within a short drive of pre- existing shopping centers, grocery stores and gas stations to make life easier for evacuees.

Note that the middle and upper classes will mostly make their own housing arrangements and will avoid these temporary cities like the plague. Each community that gets one of these temporary cities will need a lot more police to handle a high crime population. But with effective policing and aggressive prosecution the crime rate of New Orleans refugees could be lowered well below the rate at which they committed crimes in poorly policed New Orleans.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 16 12:21 PM  Politics Money
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2005 September 13 Tuesday
Economists Argue Against Rebuilding New Orleans

The Wall Street Journal relays arguments by economists against rebuilding New Orleans.

"We have an obligation to people, not to places," says Edward Glaeser, a Harvard professor who specializes in urban economics. "Given just how much, on a per capita basis, it would take to rebuild New Orleans to its former glory, lots of residents would be much [better off] with $10,000 and a bus ticket to Houston."

New Orleans was already a dying city before the hurricane.

According to Census Bureau estimates, New Orleans's population declined by 4%, or 21,000, between 2000 and 2004, to 462,000. Among the cities with the largest populations in the nation, the only one with a larger decline during that stretch was Detroit. Some 24% of New Orleans families lived below the poverty line, according to the Census Bureau, compared to 9% nationally.

New Orleans might have a brighter future if none of the low lying housing of the poor people was rebuilt. Give some cash to the poor people to settle somewhere else and then let the middle and upper classes come back to the places which are at higher elevations. The resulting city would have far less crime, a less corrupt government, a more effective police force, and better financials.

Many fled to the suburbs in search of better public schools. Some of those big investors have been fleeing as well. ExxonMobil, Shell and ChevronTexaco, for instance, have eliminated or moved hundreds of jobs to Houston in the past few years, continuing a two-decade exodus from the city. The result: Even though the energy sector is booming, New Orleans hasn't felt much of it. In 2004, private sector employment levels in the city were still below their levels of 1997.

As for the supposed essential New Orleans ports: I was watching a discussion on a cable news channel where Douglas Brinkley and another New Orleans native commented on how New Orleans is losing lots of port business to Galveston Texas and Mobile Alabama. But the ports do not need the city in order to function anyway. Ports are highly automated and a pretty small commuter population could run them.

Building towns and cities in a delta and surrounding them with levees causes the ground to dry out and subside more rapidly than it does naturally. It also cuts off the supply of silt needed to build up the sinking ground. Trying to turn the Mississippi delta into another Holland was a foolish undertaking. There's no economic justification for this. The US government should stop subsidizing the creation of non-sustainable communities in the Mississippi delta.

Also see my previous posts Should New Orleans Get Rebuilt And Who Should Pay For It? and Hurricane Katrina Costs To Run Into Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars and Algiers Exempted From New Orleans Evacuation Order and Federal Disaster Relief Money Encourages Irresponsible Behavior.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 13 10:17 AM  Politics Money
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Fuel Efficiency Of Hybrid Vehicles Overstated by EPA Tests

Consumer Reports claims that in their own testing they found that US Environmental Protection Agency measures of car fuel efficiency overestimate efficiency for most cars and especially for hybrids.

Automakers conduct the government fuel-economy tests on a laboratory dynamometer. They can use hand-built prototype vehicles, within the EPA rules, to maximize miles per gallon in simulated city and highway driving. “Anybody taking a test, you’re going to figure out what the rules are and figure how to optimize your chances of passing that test,” says Reg Modlin, director of environmental affairs for Daimler-Chrysler. “So in that sense, yes, everyone attempts to put their best face on for the test.”

By contrast, Consumer Reports testers check fuel economy on roads and on our test track. We buy models anonymously from dealers, as consumers do.

We gauge overall fuel economy from our city, highway, and mixed-driving tests. Overall, the gas-powered vehicles we studied delivered 9 percent fewer mpg on average than their EPA stickers claimed; diesels and hybrids, 18 percent fewer mpg than claimed. The numbers ranged from 21 percent better than the EPA sticker to 28 percent worse.

The discrepancy between our numbers and the EPA’s is increasing. For gas-powered vehicles, the shortfall was 6 percent for 2000-model-year cars that we tested, but about 12 percent for 2005- and 2006-model-year cars.

Big differences between claimed and actual city mpg were the main reason for the discrepancy in overall mpg. Our city mpg figures ranged from 13 percent better than the EPA sticker to 50 percent worse. On average, our highway mpg more closely reflected the EPA rating.

Ironically, six fuel-thrifty hybrids we tested had some of the largest discrepancies, mostly on city mpg, where real fuel economy ranged from 11 to 25 mpg below EPA ratings. City traffic is supposed to be the hybrids’ strong suit, but their shortfall amounted to a 40 percent deficit, on average. Still, hybrids won three of the best five spots in our tests for overall mpg, along with the diesel Volkswagen Golf and the all-gas Toyota Echo.

The Honda Civic hybrid has an EPA city rating of 48 miles per gallon but Consumer Reports found it achieved only 26 mpg on their tests. People who think they are going to save money overall by buying a hybrid are probably wrong even with today's gasoline prices.

Check out the Consumer Reports top 10 most fuel efficient cars tested. Also see their most and least fuel efficient cars by category. Note that the Volkwagen Passat GLS TDI (i.e. turbo diesel) beats the Honda Accord Hybrid. Also see their discussion on why their test results differ from EPA results.

Update: These results also make federal tax subsidies for hybrid purchases look more questionable. For the same number of dollars of federal expenditures I bet a far better way to spend money to reduce energy usage would be to make buildings better insulated.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 13 12:04 AM  Economics Energy
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2005 September 11 Sunday
A Litany Of Mistakes In Hurricane Katrina Disaster Handling

The New York Times has a long excellent article reviewing many different things that went wrong in disaster response for Hurricane Katrina. It includes pathetic quotes from politicians at different levels of government who are busy playing a game of hot potato so that they do not get the blame. The Louisiana National Guard was as dumb with its vehicles as the New Orleans government with their 255 flooded buses.

The Louisiana National Guard, already stretched by the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to Iraq, was hampered when its New Orleans barracks flooded. It lost 20 vehicles that could have carried soldiers through the watery streets and had to abandon much of its most advanced communications equipment, guard officials said.

The article also relays how the local governments around the state wouldn't send buses to evacuate New Orleans because the bus drivers were afraid of criminals. Couldn't the state government have offered the bus drivers the ability to pick up only old folks and children? Or brought the people out of the city and let the bus drivers pick up the people after the people had been brought out to a safer location by a smaller number of vehicles?

Putting FEMA between volunteers and the disaster areas was a huge mistake.

The heart-rending pictures broadcast from the Gulf Coast drew offers of every possible kind of help. But FEMA found itself accused repeatedly of putting bureaucratic niceties ahead of getting aid to those who desperately needed it.

Hundreds of firefighters, who responded to a nationwide call for help in the disaster, were held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent on to the devastated area. The delay, some volunteers complained, meant lives were being lost in New Orleans.

"On the news every night you hear, 'How come everybody forgot us?' " said Joseph Manning, a firefighter from Washington, Pa., told The Dallas Morning News. "We didn't forget. We're stuck in Atlanta drinking beer."

William D. Vines, a former mayor of Fort Smith, Ark., helped deliver food and water to areas hit by the hurricane. But he said FEMA halted two trailer trucks carrying thousands of bottles of water to Camp Beauregard, near Alexandria, La., a staging area for the distribution of supplies.

"FEMA would not let the trucks unload," Mr. Vines said in an interview. "The drivers were stuck for several days on the side of the road about 10 miles from Camp Beauregard. FEMA said we had to have a 'tasker number.' What in the world is a tasker number? I have no idea. It's just paperwork, and it's ridiculous."

Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, who interceded on behalf of Mr. Vines, said, "All our Congressional offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA. Governors' offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA." When the state of Arkansas repeatedly offered to send buses and planes to evacuate people displaced by flooding, she said, "they were told they could not go. I don't really know why."

There is a lot to be said for not requiring or even allowing top-down control of volunteers who want to help in disaster responses. Let people in the field spontaneously agree with each other on how to form up teams. Let them cooperate in whatever ways they decide make the most sense given the situations they see arising in front of them. FEMA should not have the power to make firemen go through training before entering a disaster area. Firemen know what to do. Let them do it.

Even if someone competent was running FEMA I still do not think it should have power over volunteers. Informal society should not go under government control in a disaster.

Update: But it bears repeating that the big mistakes were made by elected politicians from Louisiana before the hurricane hit.

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

You can bet that the Louisiana Congressional delegation does not want the public to take a hard look at how they allocated their pork barrel spending in Louisiana.

Update: To put that $1.9 billion a year chunk of money Louisiana got each year for Army Corps of Engineers spending in perspective: Al Naomi, senior project manager for the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers says that the category 5 levee protection system for New Orleans would have cost $2.5 billion. The elected officials of Louisiana steered that $1.9 billion away from projects rated more urgent and important by the Corps. They have done this for decades running.

Update II: On MSNBC Joe Scarborough interviewed a city official from Jefferson Parish south of New Orleans who told him FEMA people seized his fuel that his government had purchased in advance to run Parish electric generators. He sent his own sheriffs to escort his fuel into his hands. FEMA people also replaced his aerial for communications on a tower of his government and replaced it with their own. I didn't realize we are ruled by an imperial government. But FEMA apparently thinks we are.

Scarborough also interviewed Julia Reed of Vogue magazine and a New Orleans resident who described how Amtrak offered to carry out a large number of people before the hurricane hit and the city government just ignored the offer.

Also, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has spent almost a week now in Texas visiting his family. He's not real big on the work ethic when he's most needed. Nagin said everyone has made mistakes. Asked if he has made mistakes he claimed his mistake was that he didn't yell more loudly. So then was ignoring the Amtrak offer not a mistake? Or leaving the 255 school buses to get flooded rather than evacuate people not a mistake? How about not putting more food and fuel for electric generators in the Superdome? Was that not a mistake? How about not putting police on overtime the weekend before Katrina hit in order to round up criminals and otherwise get ready for the hurricane? Was that not a mistake?

An incredible amount of incompetence has been on display.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 11 01:23 AM  Human Nature
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2005 September 10 Saturday
Federal Disaster Relief Money Encourages Irresponsible Behavior

Climate researcher Roy Spencer says a repeat of the Miami hurricane of 1926 would cost $110 billion.

Adjusted to 2004 dollars, Hurricane Andrew of 1992 was the costliest hurricane on record, at about $44 billion. It remains to be seen whether the Katrina event will exceed this record. If it does, it will be more attributable to the desire of so many people to live and build in coastal areas than to the inherent strength of the hurricane itself. Indeed, if we ask the question, "which land falling hurricane in U.S. history would be the most expensive if it happened today?" the clear front-runner would be the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. It is estimated that, if that hurricane occurred today, the costs would reach about $110 billion.

The US government and state governments in the American southeast should adopt policies aimed at shifting more of the costs of hurricane strikes onto the people who choose to live in areas where hurricane damage can rack up huge costs.

For example, how about regional taxes in ocean front counties that would pay for disaster relief and repair of public infrastructure? Also, tougher building codes could reduce damages. Florida has probably gone furthest on this score with a succession of increasingly tougher building codes that require elevation of houses to reduce the risk of flooding damage and that also require better anchoring of roofs against high winds.

Who pays when hundreds of thousands of people become refugees from predictable disasters? We do. But these people shouldn't be living in flood zones in the first place.

Update: Henry Petroski says raise New Orleans above sea level.

Durham, N.C. -- When civil engineers start planning for rebuilding New Orleans, there are few historical examples to guide them. Duke University engineering professor Henry Petroski says the closest example he can think of is the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane which, like Katrina, left a city partially underwater.

To protect Galveston from a recurrence, engineers found a bold and challenging solution that Petroski said may be necessary to save New Orleans: they raised the entire city.

“There have been massive floods before, but few have covered such an extensive urban area as 21st- century New Orleans,” said Petroski, an author of several books on engineering and society. “Galveston was devastated. What the engineers basically did was to raise it. Every low point of the city was higher than before, and some places were quite a bit higher, so if there was another flood the houses would be above it. In addition, they built a sea wall, but then they had backed this up so that the houses were higher if water did get through.”

Petroski, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ History and Heritage Committee, said he doesn’t know if engineers would consider something similar for New Orleans. “The challenges would be enormous. The city is so much larger than Galveston was in 1900. But, on the other hand, they have many more resources and tools that the Galveston engineers didn’t have.”

Petroski provides no cost estimate for this undertaking. Abandonment of the lower lying areas would probably be cheaper. My basic questions:

  • What was the market value per acre of land in the flooded areas?
  • What is the cost per acre to raise each acre above sea level? Keep in mind that dirt costs are just part of the costs. New roads would need to get paved at the higher level. Houses would need to get rebuilt or lifted to higher levels.

If the cost of raising the land up exceeds the market value of the land the exercise would be wealth destroying and dumb. How much does an acre-foot of dirt go for? Anyone know what the cost is in your area delivered by truck?

Also, Petroski does not address the problem of continued subsidence. A place that does flood subsidies faster than a place that does flood. Many areas of NO that are below water level did not used to be. To make this worthwhile the level would need to be raised high enough to account for 50 or 100 or some other number of years of future subsidence.

Also, there's still the additional cost of preventing the delta from eroding all the way up to NO.

If New Orleans is worth saving by lifting it up with dirt then property taxes on the property of New Orleans should pay for the lifting. If the property there is not worth enough to pay for the lifting then raising up New Orleans is not cost justifiable.

Update II: Writing for the Wall Street Journal Sharon Begley reports that disaster experts see Hurricane Katrina as an unnatural disaster created by human folly.

As Theodore Steinberg argues, God is getting a bum rap. "This is an unnatural disaster if ever there was one, not an act of God," says Prof. Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. "If the potential for mass death and destruction from extreme weather existed anywhere in the U.S., it existed in New Orleans."

Yes, building a city in a delta and putting levees around it while it gradually sinks from natural subsidence is a pretty stupid thing to do. But in America the big move to build on hurricane coasts is far from the only foolishness humans are doing on mass scale. The construction of mobile home parks in tornado alley is taking its toll as well.

It isn't only hurricanes whose destructiveness has been increased by human actions. Tornadoes turn mobile homes into matchsticks (one of Prof. Steinberg's first jobs was at a New York brokerage firm, where he followed the trailer-home industry). From 1981 to 1997, he found, more than one-third of all deaths from tornadoes occurred among people living in mobile homes; federal regulations didn't require them to withstand high winds, and a 1974 statute actually pre-empted stricter state standards with more lax federal ones.

The New York Times reports that the overreaction of federal disaster relief spending has created conditions for big wasteful federal contracts.

Some experts warn that the crisis atmosphere and the open federal purse are a bonanza for lobbyists and private companies and are likely to lead to the contract abuses, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have uncovered in post-war Iraq.

"They are throwing money out, they are shoveling it out the door," said James Albertine, a Washington lobbyist and past president of the American League of Lobbyists. "I'm sure every lobbyist's phone in Washington is ringing off the hook from his clients. Sixty-two billion dollars is a lot of money - and it's only a down payment."

John Tierney of the New York Times points out that the Army Corps of Engineers was not lacking for funds but Congress critters had earmarked the money for their pet projects rather than for the biggest threats.

Or suppose the investigators try to find out why the Army Corps of Engineers didn't protect New Orleans from the flood. Democrats have blamed the Iraq war for diverting money and attention from domestic needs. But that hasn't meant less money for the Corps during the past five years. Overall spending hasn't declined since the Clinton years, and there has been a fairly sharp increase in money for flood-control construction projects in New Orleans.

The problem is that the bulk of the Corps's budget goes for projects far less important than preventing floods in New Orleans. And if the investigators want to find who's responsible, they don't have to leave Capitol Hill.

Most of the Corps's budget consists of what are lovingly known on appropriations committees as earmarks: money allocated specifically for members' pet projects. Many of these projects flunk the Corps's own cost-benefit analysis or haven't been analyzed at all. Many are jobs that Corps officials don't even consider part of their mission, like building sewage plants, purifying drinking water or maintaining lakeside picnic tables.

But local governments ought to protect their own jurisdictions against flooding anyway.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 10 01:12 PM  Politics Money
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2005 September 09 Friday
Algiers Exempted From New Orleans Evacuation Order

The more affluent of Algiers do not have to leave as yet.

Mayor Ray Nagin instructed all public safety officers "to compel the evacuation of all persons ... regardless of whether such persons are on private property or do not desire to leave," according to a written statement from his office.

The order did not apply to people in Algiers on the West Bank side of Orleans Parish.

The Algiers Point area sits on higher ground and probably could get restored to livable conditions a lot faster than most of New Orleans.

A realist might think that the much more law abiding middle and upper class in Algiers are being allowed to stay to defend their property against looters. Could the decision be made on such practical grounds? Or does Nagin's decision reflect the power of the upper class?

The people deliberating about evacuations ought to pause and think hard before ordering the evacuations of the middle and upper classes. If poor folks get sent to another state then that removes liabilities from the state's balance sheet. But if middle and upper classes are told to uproot they might leave the state and take their future tax paying revenue streams with them.

Kennedy said state tax revenues likely would take a hit from the storm. About $40 billion of the state’s $125 billion in total personal income tax revenue comes from the metropolitan New Orleans area, and the state will also lose tax revenue on lost income and spending.

A small slice (about $2.5 billion) of that $40 billion a year of income tax revenue from the New Orleans area could easily have built levees that would have prevented the flood of New Orleans.

Think of the middle and upper class refugees headed out of state as lost revenue sources. Think of lower classes headed out of state as lost liabilities and avoided future crimes. If the more affluent living on higher grounds are allowed to stay then the city and state will benefit in the long run. Perhaps a lower population New Orleans will have a higher average per capita income and lower crime rate a year from now as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 09 03:50 PM  Politics Money
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2005 September 08 Thursday
Why Gasoline Prices Can Rise Very Rapidly

John Maudlin explains why lines can form and gasoline prices can rise very rapidly in event of consumer worries.

On this note, let me quote from Stratfor.com about gasoline supplies, "The United States currently has commercial stockpiles of 194.4 million barrels of gasoline -- enough to substitute for the loss of Gulf Coast refineries for weeks even in the worst-case scenario. There will be supply disruptions in affected regions that are used to being net gasoline suppliers, not consumers, since adjusting will require a reversal of normal supply routes."

But as Dennis Gartman noted this week, there are 220,000,000 cars in the US. If everyone tops off their tank, and assuming that is an extra 10 gallons on average, that would be 2.2 billion gallons. Coupled with supply problems, this is a big hit. Of course, this sorts itself out in the medium run, but for a week or so it is a problem.

As long as gasoline prices are allowed to rise long lines at the pumps won't last.

Maudlin thinks high home heating prices will generate the votes in Congress to open up more of the continental shelf for natural gas and oil drilling.

As an aside, I hope President Bush's critics who roasted him for filling up the SPR will now admit he was right. It is in just such an unanticipated emergency that the need becomes apparent. Can you imagine what they would say now if he had not? I hope this also pushes Congress to act to open up the US oceans and coastlines and Alaska to drilling for oil and especially natural gas. There is enough gas in US waters and land to supply us for 20 years (400 trillion cubic feet of gas!). There will be the votes for it when it costs $500-$700 a month to heat the average home. And while they are at it, can they please make sure we have several pipelines and oil and gas ports on both coasts so one disaster like this does not threaten the bulk of American energy sources? The NIMBY forces (Not In My Back Yard) have got to be put under control for the sake of the country at large.

I suspect the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will end up paying back its cost since its oil will some day be sold at high prices after the world oil production peak has been reached. Though perhaps the government will hang on to the SPR until the economy has already mostly transitioned away from oil toward nuclear and solar power and oil prices have declined due to lack of demand.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 08 01:54 PM  Economics Energy
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Baghdad Prepared US Soldiers For New Orleans

Battle hardened veterans from battles in Iraq see parallels between Iraq and New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 5 -- Spec. Frank Atkinson, wearing his tan desert fatigues from his recent deployment in Iraq, alternately drove a Humvee through downtown New Orleans streets littered with debris and putrid garbage and held suspected looters at gunpoint with his M-4 rifle.

"It's just so much like Iraq, it's not funny," said Atkinson, of Woodlawn, Ark., "except for all the water, and they speak English."

For a year ending this spring, Atkinson's infantry company of the Arkansas National Guard patrolled Baghdad's deadly Haifa Street, and scores of its members were awarded Purple Heart medals after fighting insurgents. Those war-zone images and instincts came flooding back Friday when Atkinson and 300 other Arkansas guardsmen, wearing helmets and full body armor, rolled into the chaos of central New Orleans.

"It's like Baghdad on a bad day," said Spec. Brian McKay, 19, of Mount Ida, Ark.

The whole article is worth reading.

Gun battles in New Orleans.

"We're having some pretty intense gun battles breaking out around the city," said Capt. Jeff Winn of the New Orleans police SWAT team. "Armed gangs of from eight to 15 young men are riding around in pickup trucks, looting and raping," he said. Residents fearful of looters often shout to passing Humvees to alert the soldiers to crimes in progress.

Some government officials were claiming that order had been restored to New Orleans two or three days ago. You don't suppose they were lying do you? I figure quite a few criminals will need to get captured or killed before that happens. But eventually New Orleans will be so deserted that it will be safer than it has been for centuries. That is what we call progress.

These soldiers are still better off than the soldiers in Baghdad. The looters will break a lot faster than Iraq's mujahedeen.

There's an obvious parallel between Iraq and Baghdad that has been missed: Democracy failed in New Orleans just as it failed in Baghdad. New Orleans is part of a nation with a population literally 600 times bigger than New Orleans and that nation imposes some amount of order on New Orleans. So the democracy failure is less apparent to those who want to avert their gaze from unpleasantness. But New Orleans has been part of the United States since the Louisiana Purchase. Though it almost was lost to the British in 1815 and was part of the Confederacy during the US Civil War. Still, it has been part of the United States for a long time and yet it is corrupt and dysfunctional as recent events have underscored. Democracy did not produce good government in New Orleans.

The failure of New Orleans government is predictable for those who have studied the accumulated body of evidence accumulated from psychometric research (PDF format).

Update: My sympathy goes out to all the towns and cities that are getting New Orleans refugees.

A Hurricane Katrina evacuee staying with a Plano family was arrested Tuesday and accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, police said.

Freddie Murray, 48, of New Orleans was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. Mr. Murray is a distant relative of the girl, police said. Police didn't know the exact relationship.

The difference here with Iraq is that in Iraq sex with relatives is done within the confines of marriage.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 08 09:49 AM  Human Nature
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Police Were Underfunded Along With Levees In New Orleans

Mac Johnson says New Orleans was barely under control in the best of times and the city did not spend enough money on police.

Many people believe that Washington, D.C., is the “murder capital of America.” And indeed it often is, but that is only because such rankings are limited to “major cities” –those with a population of 500,000 or more, and New Orleans has (or had) a population of 485,000. Were it not for this actuarial accident, Washington, D.C.. wouldn’t even have a shot at the murder title. The per capita murder rate in New Orleans is 16% higher than in “Murder Capital” Washington, D.C.; and nearly 10 times the national average. To have a murder rate equal to that of New York City, New Orleans would need to reduce its murders by 86%. No, that’s not a typo.

At a time when crime is plummeting in most of America, it has been steadily increasing in New Orleans. And one cause is simple: The New Orleans City Government has run its law enforcement apparatus into the ground. On a per capita basis, New Orleans has less than half as many cops as Washington, D.C.: just 3.1 police officers per 1,000 citizens. Turnover has become a huge issue, as young cops leave at the first opportunity. A report conducted for the city two years ago said that New Orleans was “bleeding police officers.”

The taxpayers of New Orleans did not want to vote for property taxes high enough to pay for either a levee strong enough to protect the city from a natural disaster or for a police force strong enough to protect it from a human disaster. They made very short-sighted choices at great costs.

Why should the taxpayers of the whole United States pay to rebuild the parts of New Orleans that are below water level? If the city is not a financially viable concern it should shrink just as other declining cities have shrunk. The federal government should not reward imprudence, irresponsibility, and corruption with continued subsidy. To do so just encourages more of the same.

I have an even more fundamental objection to using federal tax money to rebuild New Orleans: The city seems destined to sink under water. By keeping its soil dry and preventing floods that build up the surface level the levees that keep out the water seem to doom New Orleans to continued subsidence. If anyone can point to expert commentary on why that is not the case please post in the comments or email to me. What I've come across so far (and thanks to Robert Schwartz for this link) argues that New Orleans is going to keep sinking.

First, all river deltas tend to subside as fresh sediment (supplied during floods) compacts and is transformed into rock. The Mississippi River delta is no exception. In the early to mid-20th century, the Army Corps of Engineers was charged with protecting New Orleans from recurring natural floods. At the same time, the Corps kept the river (and some related canals) along defined pathways. These well-intended defensive measures prevented the natural transport of fresh sediments into the geologically subsiding areas. The protected land and the growing city sank, some of it to the point that it is now 10 feet below sea level.

An argument can be made for projects to restore controlled flooding into some parts of the delta in order to prevent further delta erosion. But such projects should be approached in the spirit of efforts underway in the Everglades to restore some of the natural waterflow there. Maintenance of a navigable river channel and port facilities do not also require maintenance of large urban and suburban living areas. Highly automated ports do not require a large nearby urban population as a source of workers. Therefore the expense of large levees around New Orleans can not find justification in economic arguments about trade.

If New Orleans is to be restored then it should not get a large population in its lower lying areas until stronger levees are built. Otherwise we could spend a lot of money and then witness a repeat hurricane strike causing large scale death and destruction. But if levees get built that will take years and by then most of the former residents of New Orleans will have developed their lives and found work in other communities. So what is the point of restoring the lower lying areas of New Orleans to be able to hold hundreds of thousands of people?

Also see my previous post "Should New Orleans Get Rebuilt And Who Should Pay For It?"

By Randall Parker 2005 September 08 01:17 AM  Politics Money
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2005 September 07 Wednesday
Hurricane Katrina Costs To Run Into Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars

The New York Times reports federal government costs for Hurricane Katrina might rise to $100 billion.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - The federal government's costs related to Hurricane Katrina could easily approach $100 billion, many times as much as for any other natural disaster or the $21 billion allocated for New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"There is no question but that the costs of this are going to exceed the costs of New York City after 9/11 by a significant multiple," predicted Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Administration officials said today that rescue and relief operations in Louisiana and Alabama are costing well over $500 million a day and are continuing to rise.

Less than four days after Congress approved $10.5 billion in emergency assistance, White House officials said they would be asking for an even bigger amount in the next day or two.

I haven't seen cost estimates for the local and state governments.

The next appropriation might add $40 billion to the $10 billion already appropriated.

President Bush intends to seek as much as $40 billion to cover the next phase of relief and recovery from Hurricane Katrina, congressional officials said Tuesday as leading lawmakers and the White House pledged to investigate an initial federal response widely condemned as woefully inadequate.

One week after the hurricane inflicted devastation of biblical proportions on the Gulf Coast, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the total tab for the federal government may top $150 billion. At the same time, senators in both parties said they suspect price gouging by oil companies in the storm's aftermath.

Federal government costs could go as high as $200 billion.

The federal government could spend as much as $150 billion to $200 billion caring for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding from its devastation, according to early congressional estimates -- a total bill that would far surpass the initial costs of recovering from the 9/11 terror attacks and could put Katrina on track to become the most expensive natural disaster in American history, the (paid-restricted) Wall Street Journal reports in Wednesday editions.

Note that a lot of those costs come from what are basically welfare payments. How long will all the people who lost housing in New Orleans get to live in the federal dole? That will determine how high the pay-outs will rise. Unfortunately the drunken sailor spenders in Washington DC and the pundit elite fools around them want to resurrect the big urban welfare spending programs of the past in response to black lawlessness. Hey, welfare didn't work last time. The welfare state contributed to the decline of families and neighborhoods in urban areas. Are we doomed to repeat this mistake?

Bush's agenda looks to be in tatters. The disaster made him even more unpopular and simultaneously added huge costs to the federal budget. Bush and the Republicans in Congress want to repeal the estate tax which would reduce federal revenue by $70 billion per year. That just got politically much harder to do. The need to appoint a second Supreme Court justice and deal with the expensive aftermath of Hurricane Katrina lower the odds of enacting many Bush policy initiatives.

About $100 billion in property sits in the flooded areas.

At least 150,000 properties have been flooded in New Orleans this week, surpassing the previous U.S. record from flooding and levee failures on the Lower Mississippi river in 1927, which inundated 137,000 properties, RMS said.

The value of physical property in the flooded areas is approximately $100 billion, RMS estimated.

A property tax on that $100 billion in flooded properties could have been used to pay for a much better levee system. But is that valuation on just New Orleans area property or does that include flooded Mississippi property as well?

Will the economy have a smaller loss than the government?

Paul Getman, chief executive officer of Economy.com, estimates the economic loss from the hurricane that devastated New Orleans and a swath of communities along the Gulf Coast will total around $175 billion.

Most of that _ $100 billion _ is damage to homes, businesses, roads, bridges, levees, telecommunications, water and sewer systems and other public infrastructure, he said. Another $25 billion is the cost of disrupted economic activity. Larger energy bills faced by consumers and businesses make up the other $50 billion.

Insured losses might add up to only $25 billion.

"This is far and away off the charts in terms of other natural disasters," Global Insight spokesperson Jim Dorsey said.

Global Insight projects insured losses from Katrina will top $25bn.

"But a lot of folks down there are uninsured so it's conceivable that the real loss figure could double or triple to upwards of $75bn," Dorsey said.

New Orleans was a dumb place to locate a federal government center that generates paychecks for half a million federal employees.

The Agriculture Department, which had 1,427 employees at its National Finance Center in New Orleans, also has not heard from all staffers, said Ed Loyd , the department's press secretary. "We are anxious to know they are safe," he said.

The National Finance Center handles a large part of the federal payroll, sending out checks and making electronic bank deposits for about 500,000 government employees. The center, aware that Katrina could swamp New Orleans, worked through a weekend to get checks out to employees before the hurricane hit Aug. 29.

The United States government should systematically move work centers out of coastal cities that are at risk of getting hit by hurricanes. No purpose (aside, perhaps, from handing out pork to Congressional districts) is served by locating most US agencies in high risk areas. Some functions such as FBI offices and US attorney offices have to get located around the country in highly populated areas because those populations need those federal workers. But for many other functions locations which have high natural disaster risks should be avoided.

We are entering a long term cyclical upswing in hurricane activity that will span the next few decades. At the same time a large migration to coastal regions is building up more structures to get wrecked when hurricanes hit coasts. So we face more such expensive hurricane disasters in the coming years.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 07 02:19 AM  Politics Money
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2005 September 06 Tuesday
Ottawa Visitor's Guide Gets Wrongly Suspected Terrorist Tortured

Oops.

The map was of huge interest to U.S. border guards, who grilled Canadian truck driver Ahmad El Maati for hours about it. So, too, did interrogators in Syria and Egypt, where Mr. El Maati says he was tortured and repeatedly asked about the map's provenance.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the map -- scrawled numbers and all -- was in fact produced and distributed by the Canadian federal government. It is simply a site map, given out to help visitors to Tunney's Pasture, a sprawling complex of government buildings in Ottawa, find their way around.

"All my problems started with that map," says Mr. El Maati, who was interrogated about the document while held in filthy prisons in Syria and Egypt, where he says he was tortured to extract information for Canadian authorities.

Next time you read about evidence for a supposed terrorist plot keep in mind the threshold of evidence can be pretty low.

Yet in the past four years, the "terrorist map" has taken on almost mythic qualities. It has figured in various leaked accounts describing thwarted al-Qaeda plots to blow up targets in Ottawa, including the Parliament Buildings and the U.S. embassy.

Read the whole thing. This would be Keystone Kops funny if it didn't get a guy tortured and held for a couple of years.

Update: Jody Neel paints a more complicated picture of El Maati. Also see here for more. Not sure what to make of this story.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 06 02:21 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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2005 September 05 Monday
Things That Could Have Been Done Before Hurricane Katrina Hit

Some ideas are coming to me that would have been helpful to implement in advance of Katrina coming on shore. They are worth bearing in mind next time high crime rate city with a large lower class is about to get walloped by a foreseeable natural catastrophe.

  • Use the in-bound stretches of the final couple of days commercial flights to a city in the path of disaster to bring in military police, electric generators, water distillery machines, food, weapons, ammo, and some other stuff. There are places in New Orleans that could be expected to survive even a Cat 5 hurricane. So the MPs could come in with enough supplies to support themselves for a week and survive the passage of the hurricane. To make this work MPs would need to be mobilizable in that short period of time before the catastrophe is known to be about to happen.
  • Bring in armored personnel carriers with lots of supplies in their guts. I figure APCs can ride out a cat 5 hurricane, especially if parked next to a structure that can survive a cat 5 hurricane.
  • When a city is known to lack the cognitive resources in its government to organize something so basic as the driving of a couple hundred school buses to evacuate the lowest classes then plans must be made to compensate for this. Have people chosen in advance from surrounding and more civilized areas to serve as volunteers to come in and drive the buses. Get police or MPs to ride shotgun on the evacuations to maintain order on the buses.
  • The military should have helicopter-liftable electric generators to put onto the roofs of hospitals to take over when the power fails. Apparently this is too much to expect to be done by the administrators of hospitals, especially in decayed cities.
  • Doctors and nurses in areas with high crime rates and big lower classes should be issued pistols (or encouraged to buy their own and get training) in advance of a hurricane or other natural disaster so that they can defend their institutions.
  • Send in special forces - especially Navy SEALs who are trained to operate in water environments - in advance of a hurricane and immediately after a hurricance with orders to hunt down and kill or capture (with large amounts of discretion to decide which choice is feasible) the most dangerous armed gangs.
  • Pull all the weapons and ammo out of stores (e.g. Wal-Mart) and carry the weapons out of the target area before the stores get closed.
  • Build storage structures near major cities that can survive hurricanes and even nearby nuclear blasts and stock those structures with electric generators, fuel, and other supplies a military force could draw on so that a military force can move in more quickly after a disaster.
  • When a state governor is too slow to ask for National Guard from other states then the national government (assuming it is competent - not always the case and not the case now) needs to step in and order lots of regular military in quickly.
  • Pass laws to allow authorities to round up all who have felony conviction records to put them in preventive detention.
  • During evacuations separate the likely predators from the likely prey. For example, don't put young black males into the same refugee facilities as children or old folks.
  • The federal government should have hundreds of satellite phones with embedded GPS waiting to be distributed in case of emergency. Hospitals and other key locations should have reliable communications during and after the disaster.
  • Methods to set up temporary cellular towers with perhaps microwave relay towers should be developed so that at least in some limited number of areas some cellular service could be restored rapidly.
  • Airports should have something akin to bomb shelters where airport recovery workers and air traffic controllers and crucial equipment could ride out the hurricance or other disaster. Then an airport could get back on line more rapidly starting immedately after the storm passes.

One major theme here is that the civil society problem is one key problem that must be addressed. In segments of populations which have little in the way of a civil society (e.g. much of the black lower class) other more together populations nearby need to know to step in and bring their more civilizing influences and basic skills to see that basic things get done. But in order to do that well we have to become a more honest nation and admit to the nature of the threats we face from some segments of our population. If we can't be that honest then lots of rape, murder and mayhem await the next perfect storm to hit an urban area which has a big dangerous lower class.

Another major theme is hardware and structures. We need to address how equipment could get prepositioned and protected to better restore various functions after disasters. We also need better ways to bring stuff in rapidly.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 05 03:05 PM  Solutions Practical
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2005 September 04 Sunday
New Orleans Police Go AWOL

AWOL is a US military term meaning Absence Without Official Leave. Much of the New Orleans police force has gone AWOL. Some reports put police desertions around the 20% mark.

Earlier, police officers told CNN that some of their fellow officers had simply stopped showing up for duty, cutting manpower by 20 percent or more in some precincts.

Joseph Treaster of the New York Times reports that out of a police force of 1500 at least 200 police quit. (same article here)

NEW ORLEANS — Reeling from the chaos of this overwhelmed city, at least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs, and two have committed suicide, police officials said yesterday.

Some officers told superiors that they were leaving, police officials said. Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up. Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.

But a Pentagon National Guard official says two thirds of the New Orleans police force has abandoned their jobs.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau, said two-thirds of the police in New Orleans have abandoned the force amid horrific conditions.

Can you picture two thirds of the NYPD going AWOL in a crisis? Not going to happen.

Federal authorities did not expect the local police to collapse.

"The real issue, particularly in New Orleans, is that no one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans," Blum told reporters here.

"Once that assessment was made ... then the requirement became obvious," he said. "And that's when we started flowing military police into the theater."

Some police claimed they did this because the hours were so long. But those cops could have just chosen to work fewer hours. Did cops resign in large numbers when they were most needed in the week after the 9/11 attack? Or in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew or Hurricane Ivan? Did they do this in Biloxi or Gulfport Mississippi? Not to my knowledge.

Also, some police said they quit because it was too dangerous trying to stop the looters. But the cops could have restricted themselves to smaller areas and defended areas where they could bring large concentrations of their own numbers together. So I'm not buying that as an excuse either.

So why did the New Orleans cops go AWOL in such large numbers when they are most needed? Was this an unforeseeable result? If one was not blinded by the false beliefs of politically correct left-liberal ideology could one have foreseen the collapse of the New Orleans police force and the lawlessness? I think so.

In his essay "Racial Reality And The New Orleans Nightmare" Steve Sailer examines why the disaster in New Orleans was accompanied by the collapse of civil society and the collapse of the police.

For instance, after blacks took control of New Orleans, they required new police recruits to live in the city itself as a way to exclude white cops. Dean M. Shapiro writes for Court TV's "Crime Library":

"The department was being depleted of experienced officers and the numbers within the ranks were decreasing as crime stats were rising at an alarming rate… In order to beef up the rapidly dwindling numbers of NOPD, the department was forced to lower its acceptance standards. Recruits with criminal records, DWIs, unfavorable employment records and dishonorable discharges from the Armed Forces were allowed to enter the Police Academy, whereas they had previously been excluded… Their records were expunged and, on completion of their training, they were issued badges, guns and patrol cars and turned loose on the street… These new officers were expected to suddenly straighten up and begin enforcing the laws they had not-so-long-ago been breaking. They were expected to arrest those suspected of crimes, even if those accused had once been their street buddies. But this was an unrealistic expectation."

The foxes were recruited to guard the hen house. That happened in an American city. I've read elsewhere (and now can not find the link) that current Mayor Nagin ended the practice of recruiting criminals to the police force. Anyone know if that is true? Nagin has the reputation of an anti-corruption reformer.

Note that the New Orleans population is 28% white and 67% black. It has more households with children that have only mothers present than it has of households with both parents present.

The New Orleans population from which their police get recruited have an economic profile that should give one pause.

Despite having a majority, African-Americans account for only around 14 percent of business owners in the city, according minority development groups. Median family income for African Americans in New Orleans is $21,461 compared with $40,049 for white families. Per capita income for black families is even more out of step, $11,332 compared with $31,971 for white families.

The number of African-Americans with college degrees also lags, at 9 percent of the population compared with 24 percent for Caucasians, according to 2000 census figures.

These are the people from whom the New Orleans police force recruits. Those who did not evacuate were even poorer than the figures for the blacks reported above.

You can see a picture of black cops taking DVDs out of a looted store where "The police got all the best stuff". (PDF format)

lot, looters pushed carts and loaded trucks and vans alongside officers. One man said police directed him to Wal-Mart from Robert's Grocery, where a similar scene was taking place.

A crowd in the electronics section said one officer broke the glass DVD case so people wouldn't cut themselves.

"The police got all the best stuff. They're crookeder than us," one man said.

Why is looting rare after disasters? Politically correct sociologists (see the previous link) profess to be mystified. Why did cops in New Orleans but not in most disaster areas go on a looting spree in Wal Mart? (video at that link)

Racial preferences and political correctness helped make the New Orleans Police ineffective and even dangerous in many instances.

Meanwhile, cops, when they can get away with it, have been living out of town. It is far too scary for them and their families. New Orleans Police officers are required to live in the city but many ignore this residency requirement, according to the Times-Picayune. The paper discovered that many top-ranking New Orleans cops lived in the suburbs and that most cops, both black and white, wanted the residency requirement rescinded.

For reasons of political correctness -- critics of law enforcement say lifting the residency requirement will mean more white cops eager to brutalize residents of the inner city and fewer black cops understanding of them -- the residency requirement remains, though cops breaking the rule told the Times-Picayune that it seriously hurts recruitment. It also -- this is particularly evident in Los Angeles where cops involved in the Ramparts scandal turned out to be ex-criminals -- distorts recruitment.

Steve Sailer says the lies about race that are part of the political correctness speech code in America do great harm when they form the basis for public policies.

There's this general assumption that political correctness can't really hurt us because everybody privately knows the facts about racial differences in behavior and acts upon them. For example, I'm sure Mike Brown made sure not to buy his family a home in an all black neighborhood precisely because he knows they have bad crime rates.

But the reality is much scarier. Although everybody knows the facts when it comes to their own private decision-making, an awful lot of people like Mike Brown have internalized the rhetoric they know they have to spout to keep their jobs and then they mindlessly apply it when it comes to public decision-making. I'm constantly struck by how people, even anonymous commenters in online discussions who have nothing to lose, make assertions about the facts affecting public policies that are completely at odds with what they'd tell me over a beer if we were discussing where to buy real estate. But they've brainwashed themselves so badly that it never occurs to them that the harsh facts of private life have any bearing on the glossy world of public policy.

George W. Bush and his crowd failed in Iraq in large part because they treated Iraqis as just like Americans in their cognitive abilities and supposed innate deep down yearning to live in a liberal free society. Similarly, the Bush Administration's failure to foresee the collapse of civil society in New Orleans and the failure of the New Orleans government and police were foreseeable with race realism. Liberals who are complaining about Bush's performance who also enforce the taboos governing discussion about racial differences in America share in the moral culpability for what transpired in New Orleans in the past week.

Lies are costly. The truth is a valuable commodity. America's national discussion about race would benefit greatly from more honesty about group average differences in behavior due to genetic differences.

The political failures within the political ranks of Louisiana politics extend beyond New Orleans. A Washington Post article about power struggles for control over crisis workers illustrates the fact that a large portion of the workers on the ground in Southern Louisiana were and are under the control of state and local officials and these officials botched their handling of the crisis.

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

This paragraph suggests Governor Blanco has had control of Louisiana state Guard troops for the past week.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

This is staggering. Governor Blanco waited until Wednesday to ask other states for help. Hello? Anyone home? A state of emergency? If this isn't one then what would it take to declare one? A nuclear attack?

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

Also see my previous post " New Orleans Demonstrates Power Of Race Taboo In America".

Update: Over on Gene Expression a poster in a thread references New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's experience in Kobe Japan during the 1995 earthquake. I found a slightly longer excerpt from Kristof's book explaining how in Kobe after the 1995 earthquake which killed 5,200 people the only incident of looting was carried out by Iranians, not Japanese.

Just days after we moved to Tokyo in 1995, our son Geoffrey, then a baby, roused Sheryl for a 5:30 a.m. feeding. A few minutes later our bed began to shake. "Wake up, Nick!" Sheryl urged me with a poke. "It's an earthquake!" I grunted and, in an effort to reassure the household, kept sleeping. But it turned out to be the great earthquake that devastated the port city of Kobe and killed 5,200 people. A modern city as reduce to rubble, and for the next few days ordinary middle-class families were thrown back virtually to the stone age, struggling to find water, food, toilets, and shelter. Homes and shops were abandoned, of course, and in America or Europe the result would have been widespread looting, as well as desperate fighting for water, food, and blankets.

Instead, the people of Kobe were majestic in their suffering. They lined up for water and other supplies, never jostling, and nobody climbed through the shattered store windows to help themselves. Even the yakuza, the Japanese gangsters, suspended their criminal behavior and tried to improve their image by trucking food to the hardest-hit areas to give it away to the newly homeless.

I was fascinated by these displayed of public honesty, and so I kept searching for a case of theft or looting. Finally, I was thrilled to find one. Two young men had entered a shattered convenience store, picked up some food from the floor, and run out. Rumors of this crime spread around town, and finally I was able to find the store and its owner. "Of course, we expect this kind of looting if there is an earthquake in Los Angeles," I noted triumphantly, fishing for a good quote, "but were you shocked that your fellow Japanese would take advantage of the chaos and do such a thing?"

The shop owner looked puzzled. "Who said anything about Japanese?" he asked me politely. "The thieves weren't Japanese. They were foreigners. Iranians, it looked like."

He was right, it turned out. And I always think of that scene when I hear people talk of instability in Asia, because to me it speaks to something very different and something I saw much more often: a more cohesion and a sense pf shared values that together create a considerable degree of social stability in Asia. The social fabric of the East is rent or threadbare in places, but on the whole it seems to me stronger and more resilient than that of the West. And in assessing Asia's prospects in the coming decades, one of the important assets that it has working for it is this social fabric - by which I mean strong families, low crime rates, considerable civility, and a broad sense of shared values and destiny. If I had to offer a shorthand for Asia's path to growth, it would be economic flexibility, brutal drive, and social stability.

The Kobe quake was followed by such a total lack of government response that what local, state, and federal authorities did in southern Louisiana looks herculean by comparison. Yet the Kobe residents remained extremely civilized.

Kristof, faithful to the liberal politically correct Church of the Blank Slate, would have us believe that culture entirely explains the Japanese reaction to Kobe. But East Asians living in America commit crime at rates even lower than white rates and this pattern shows up consistently even in children and grandchildren of East Asian immigrants. So putting this all down to culture just does not fly.

Over on Gene Expression Dobeln proposes that New Orleans collapsed because the smarter people fled and the average IQ in New Orleans dropped below even the black national IQ average.

There has been widespread debate about the reasons behind the rapid breakdown of law and order in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. One factor, however, is consistently overlooked in this discussion: IQ.

Katrina did not merely devastate New Orleans physically – she also most likely caused a catastrophic drop in average population IQ of more than one standard deviation. The drop occurred before Katrina had even made landfall, during evacuation.

Do not expect to hear this explanation on the national news channels or in the New York Times. Such an argument is heretical to high liberal church believers. Their faith requires that they reject the empirical evidence just as many Christian fundamentalists reject Darwinism.

Update II: Above a Washington Post story relays a claim that Governor Blanco never declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. Well, as Greg Cochran pointed out in the comments that is a false claim made by a Bush Administration spinner. I found two stories here and here from the week before Katrina hit Louisiana that have Blanco declaring a state of emergency on August 26, 2005. Do not trust the Bush Administration's statements in the blame game. They will tell lies if they think they can get away from some of the blame for the inadequacy of the disaster response.

By the way, click here for a high level picture of the municipal buses that sit flooded out in New Orleans that could have evacuated people before the hurricane hit. That link puts the bus count at 255. Put 50 people on each bus and that would have been 12750 evacuated per round trip.

Update III: Regarding whether Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency: Here is the August 26, 2005 declaration of emergency by Governor Blanco.

Update IV: Ged Scott of Liverpool England describes how bad the New Orleans police were. (same article here)

"I couldn't describe how bad the authorities were - just little things like taking photographs of us, as we are standing on the roof waving for help, for their own personal photo albums, little snapshot photographs.

"At one point, there were a load of girls on the roof of the lobby of the hotel saying 'Can you help us?' and the policemen said 'Show us what you've got' and made signs for them to lift their T-shirts.

"When they said no, they said 'fine' and motored off down the road in their motorboat."

The Scotts witnessed people, including hotel staff and guests, returning from looting sprees with mobile phones, radios and clothes which they attempted to sell to the stranded guests.

But the most terrifying aspect of their ordeal was the shooting which broke out at night, when there were no police patrolling.

Mr Scott said police appeared to be operating only between 9am and 5pm, after which the hotel guests had to defend themselves.

"You would hear shots ringing out during the night and that was one of the most worrying things, because we had no security. We patrolled the halls and checked the doors throughout the night in the hotel, but if someone had wanted to come in, there wasn't much we could have done about it."

A September 6, 2005 report from the New York Times claims one third of the New Orleans police have quit.

Morale on the police force is in tatters. About 500 officers - a third of the force and far more than previously estimated - have dropped out of the daily lineup. Some of them may still be in houses cut off by the storm or may have simply gone off to help their families and will eventually return. But most of the missing officers have either told their superiors that they were quitting or simply walked off the job. Two officers have shot themselves to death.

Some officers have stayed on duty and performed heroically. I hope the quitters are not allowed back on the force.

Officer Brian French said that the New Orleans Police Department didn't put extra police on duty to prepare for the hurricane because the department wanted to save money.

Officer French, 25, a native of Ohio, joined the New Orleans Police Department because he wanted a chance to do "real police work."

Although he has heard city and state officials criticize the federal government as not coming fast enough, Officer French also questioned why local officers were not mustered sooner for special duty.

"They told us not to come in on Sunday, the day of the storm, to come in the next day to save money on their budget," he said.

Words fail.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 04 01:56 PM  Human Nature
Entry Permalink | Comments(53)
2005 September 02 Friday
Violence In New Orleans Superdome

An Australian newspaper reports on crime against Australians in the Superdome.

Brisbane's John McNeil, 22, told his family he'd witnessed murders, rapes and stabbings, and feared he would be killed.

Mr McNeil's father, Peter, said his son was with about 60 other foreign tourists who had fled the Superdome.

"They couldn't stay another night, the situation was so bad," he said.

"People were just staring at them and making suggestions that they were going to kill them."

John's sister Susie said he saw shocking acts of violence amid fierce racial tension in the Superdome.

"It's turned into a black against white thing," she said. "My brother has witnessed murders, stabbings, rapes . . . it's like a Third World country."

The BBC similarly reports that British in the Superdome are being targeted for violence.

"Then last night our mother got a call saying the situation had deteriorated.

"He witnessed a good deal of violence, with scuffles going on and people breaking things.

"The group really feared for their safety because they were being targeted because they were the only white people there.

"The National Guard moved them out into the basketball stadium next door where the very sick were being held.

Note that these reports came from foreign news services.

Update: The British wire service Reuters also reports on the hostility.

Valenti and her husband, two of very few white people in the almost exclusively black refugee camp, said she and other whites were threatened with murder on Thursday.

"They hated us. Four young black men told us the buses were going to come last night and pick up the elderly so they were going to kill us," she said, sobbing. "They were plotting to murder us and then they sent the buses away because we would all be killed if the buses came -- that's what the people in charge told us this morning."

Other survivors recounted horrific cases of sexual assault and murder.

Update II: Jamie Glazov interviews Theodore Dalrymple (in real life London psychiatrist Anthony Daniels who works in a prison hospital) about political correctness and the damage that it does.

FP: You make the shrewd observation of how political correctness engenders evil because of “the violence that it does to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe, but must not question.” Can you talk about this a bit?

Dalrymple: Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

One reason why some people become extremely hostile to anyone who violates a political correctness speech rule and utters some taboo truth is that the utterance of the truth serves as a reminder that others have been emasculated and silenced. For some it is humiliating to be reminded of one's own submission to the enforcers of taboos. So they lash out at those who speak the unspeakable.

Read the full interview.

Update III: Personal accounts from the Superdome are coming out. A couple of friend's of John Moore's daughters reported this account:

Hoping to find safety, they set out to find a place to hide. A trash can held the corpse of a 4 and a half year old girl. The mourners nearby said she had been raped and killed. A storage unit looked promising, and the duo hid out for several hours listening to the chaos beyond. Deciding that they would get mauled if found hiding, they left the unit and went down to the field, where they saw Army and National Guard troops. The Army told them they couldn’t hang around for safety, so they went to where the National Guard was forming a ring. The Guardsmen told them they could hang around the perimeter if they wanted, so they sat about 10 feet away from where two Guards were posting entrance to their circle. At some point after, a man came out of the flooded areas of the Dome with a pipe. He hit one of the Guards, a woman, on the head. He then shot the other guard in the leg (origin of gun unknown). The female Guard ran screaming away. The perpetrator ran back to the water. He was found with just his nose above the surface, and locked up.

...

By Thursday, they decided to enter the lines leaving the complex. By then it smelled so horrid neither friend could find a word to describe the odor. They were at first glad to be on the bridge outside, but soon found themselves hot, squished, and scared. A woman behind the pair had two German Shepards that were getting violent, and had nipped at my friends. One friend finally turned around and asked her to keep her dogs away from them. She screamed, “It’s just because you hate black people!” “Uh-oh”, they thought, “we’re dead now!” Luckily, the crowd didn’t turn on them, and they were safe. After 14 hours they made it to the front of the line. The pair got separated, and one got on a bus 4 hours before the other. The last one to get a bus told me of how the bus driver gave every seat a trash bag, asking the people to use them. After arriving in Dallas Saturday morning, however, the bus was strewn with litter.

Update IV: British accounts from inside the Superdome.

Miss Wheeldon, from Carmarthen, South Wales, said that being inside the Superdome was terrifying and that she had been sexually harassed.

“The atmosphere was extremely intimidating,” the Lancaster University student said. “People stared at us all the time and men would come up to me and stroke my stomach and bottom. They would also say horrible, suggestive things. The worst time came when there was a rumour that a white man had raped a black woman. We were scared that we would be raped, robbed, or both. People were arguing, fighting and being arrested all the time.”

The “internationals”, as the army labelled the stranded tourists, were among the few white people in the stadium. Marked out by their skin colour and unfamiliar accents, they were verbally abused, while their luggage made them targets for robbery.

Hiding from gangs in the Superdome.

A musician, Mark Graydon, 26, who had called his father John at home in Essex to plead for help, is now known to be heading to safety in Dallas. Mr Graydon, who proposed to his American girlfriend Gretchen Heiserman, 23, while they sheltered in the stadium, told his parents that they feared for their lives as they were forced to hide from violent gangs for four days.

Speaking from his home in Stanford-le-Hope yesterday, his father said: "When they first made it to the Superdome, they sounded OK. Mark even got engaged to Gretchen while they were waiting there for help.

"But then things turned nasty and it got seriously dangerous. The gang inside the Superdome looked on Gretchen as a typical American middle class girl and they didn't like that at all.

"Mark had to really protect her from them because she was threatened by rape and violence. They had to keep their heads down and hide among the people crammed inside because they knew they would be attacked if they became isolated.

The foreigners in the Superdome were snuck out in small groups.

The young woman explained how the US military had to sneak her out of the stadium in secret at the end of her terrifying ordeal.

She said: "The military got us out of the Superdome. They told us it was too unsafe to stay.

"They got us out in groups of 10, in secret really.

"When we were leaving, people were going 'Where are you going?' and giving us looks.

"But the military got us out, which we were all thankful for."

The US military in the dome foresaw trouble once the electric generators ran out of fuel.

The 22-year-old, who was met at the airport by his girlfriend, Carrie Garlick, 21, said: "It was hell on Earth. The last couple of days in the dome became completely chaotic and it was too dangerous to even queue for food.

...

She said the military instructed all non-US citizens to gather together for security.

"They told us the generator lights were going to go out and told us to get with a big group, because there was only six of us in our little group.

"They told us if the lights did go out and you had a torch not to use it because people would attack for the torch and they would attack for food and water."

Aside for anyone who does not know British English: "torch" means "flashlight". Note that the term "flashlight" does not make a lot of sense since we do rarely use them to flash lights on and off. But "torch" is archaic since a lightbulb with directional mirrors is different from a burning material sending light in all directions.

Update V: The bulk of the reports about hostility continues to come out mainly in the British and Australian press. The US press appears to be downplaying it. Another Aussie report.

As the Australians left the Superdome, food and water were almost non-existent and the stiflingly hot arena was filled with 25,000 people and the stench of human waste. Gangs stalked the tourists and women were threatened with rape.

"Bud took control. He was calm and kept it together the whole time," Ms Cullington said.

Mr Hopes, 32, said: "That was the worst place in the universe. Ninety-eight per cent of the people around the world are good. In that place, 98 per cent of the people were bad.

"Everyone brought their drugs, they brought guns, they brought knives. Soldiers were shot.

Another British report.

He said of his eventual Superdome refuge: "There was a lot of heat from the people in there, people shouting racial abuse about us being white.

"The army warned us to keep our bags close to us and to grip them tight."

Jamie, an economics student from Sunderland, said he saw crack cocaine being used in the filthy toilets, youngsters breaking into soft drink machines and men brawling. Urine and excrement spilled into corridors where they were sleeping.

Another British report.

Up to 30 British students huddled among the thousands in the Superdome were forced to set up a makeshift security cordon to fend off abusive locals.

Jamie Trout, 22, an economics student from Sunderland, kept a record of his terrifying ordeal. He wrote: "It was like something out of Lord of the Flies - one minute everything is calm and civil, the next it descends into chaos. A man has been arrested for raping a seven-year-old in the toilet, this place is hell. The smell is horrendous, there are toilets overflowing and people everywhere."

Jamie, who had been coaching football to disabled children as part of the Camp America scheme, said people were shouting racial abuse at the Britons because they were white.

Another Aussie report.

They said US authorities did little to protect the innocent victims of the hurricane while they all sought refuge in the stadium.

"Women were raped," Elise Sims, 20, from Adelaide said.

"People were stabbed. A man committed suicide. Soldiers shot people.

"It was like being in a Third World country but we were in the United States."

Another Aussie report.

But Melbourne woman Karen Marks, 25, and her aunt Pamela Whyte, 59, are not so lucky, having been stranded for five days in the New Orleans Convention Centre.

The pair have banded together with 15 other people, who are sleeping fitfully in shifts and looking out for each other in fear of more rapes and killings.

"It's very scary," Ms Marks said. "We've been crying a lot in the past few days."

Did all these Brits and Aussies go into a mass hysteria and imagine all the dangers they are reporting?

Update VI: New Mexico paramedic Greg Hesch recounts his experienced treating the sick and injured at the Superdome.

More startling for Hesch were the attitudes of the refugees in New Orleans. "I saw both ends of the spectrum and not much in between. Either they were ramping up and getting angry and wanting your stuff or they were very helpful," he said. "It's not really something I've ever seen before."

In other disasters where Hesch has worked, people pulled tightly together as a community. But New Orleans didn't seem to know how to do that. "The Dome turned into a den of depravity at some point," he said, noting reports of rapes and people beaten to death.

Some screamed at Hesch, "You should give me your cell phone!" Others demanded to know, "Where are all the resources?" He told them the break in the levees and the heavily populated city had created a difficult problem.

Hesch, luckily, met a few of what he calls "salt of the earth" people who kept him from losing faith in humankind. Two brothers who cleaned up the wreckage. A quadriplegic man in a wheelchair who took care of his cantankerous 84-year-old mother. A circle of people singing hymns.

"That was uplifting, but the rest of the time was like walking in a tiger's den," Hesch said.

Update VII: A Boston Herald report demonstrate that some New Orleans eyewitnesses are angry that the liberal media line is now that the lawlessness has been exaggerated.

Adrienne Long of Holliston said she was ringside when two men wrangled over the last sip of Jack Daniel's whiskey and one beat and stabbed the other to death. Her friend William

``Teddy'' Nichols of Ashland was nearby and saw the bloody aftermath. Long was angry when she first heard of the exaggeration reports on television Tuesday.

``I was sitting here screaming at the TV. Did I imagine everything I saw?'' said Long. ``I just can't believe people would say this.''

Both say they are reluctant to contact authorities with information. They are both terrified by memories of what they said was a lawless city.

The witnesses are scattered all over the United States and the world. The New Orleans police aren't going to receive reports on the vast bulk of the crimes committed.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 02 08:32 PM  Human Nature
Entry Permalink | Comments(101)
Should New Orleans Get Rebuilt And Who Should Pay For It?

The rebuilding of New Orleans will cost many billions and perhaps even tens of billions of dollars. On top of that the levee system and other water control improvements will be needed to prevent a repeat of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Faced with these huge costs a question arises: Is New Orleans an economically viable city? Should it be rebuilt? It is time to look at the tax base and economics of New Orleans.

The New Orleans property tax system shows signs of corruption that prevent the city from realizing all the revenues it could potentially collect. Also, New Orleans does not increase assessed values all that much as market values increase. So the city could have greatly higher tax revenues than it has been collecting. Such revenues could have gone to fund higher levee construction. Worse, still, the New Orlean Times-Picayune newspaper found that people who donate to reelection campaigns of tax assessors enjoy much lower property taxes than those who do not donate.

As a rule, New Orleans assessors put residential properties on the tax rolls at their sales price and then do not increase the valuations to reflect market appreciation. So New Orleanians who own their homes for a long time, whether or not they are donors, generally benefit from low assessments.

To determine whether donors get any additional benefit, The Times-Picayune looked at whether their homes went on the rolls for less than the sales price. Such breaks are fairly unusual, in part because assessors who stray too far from sales prices run the risk of having their tax roll rejected by the state.

Not only are properties owned by campaign donors prone to being undervalued, but they're likely to be undervalued by a larger amount than other properties. For example, properties owned by donors were more than three times as likely as other properties to be valued at 80 percent or less of their most recent sales price.

The breaks become larger when the date of the most recent sale is considered. The average donor-owned home in the newspaper's survey was purchased in 1988. The average sales price of a home in Orleans Parish has increased by 129 percent since then. But the properties in the survey are still valued at an average of 7 percent less than their most recent sales price.

Those numbers suggest that donor-owned homes are worth 136 percent more on average than the assessors' valuations. By comparison, the newspaper's survey found that the average New Orleans home not owned by a donor was worth about 70 percent more than its assessment indicated.

The New Orleans assessors have to keep their cheating from getting really blatant in order to avoid objections from a state-level commission.

Local taxing authorities collect about $2 billion a year in property taxes in Louisiana. Parish millages vary from a low of just over 43 mils to a high of nearly 176 mils in Union Parish and St. Tammany Parishes, respectively (2002). Municipalities also collect property taxes. Millage taxes are based on budget requirements set by local governments and are voted on by the taxpayers in the local communities. Parish assessors, elected to four year terms, have the responsibility of overseeing the proper assessment of properties within their jurisdiction. Under Louisiana state law, all properties within a parish are supposed to be re-assessed every four years in order to ensure accurate, up-to-date valuations. The Louisiana State Tax Commission is responsible for certifying that parish tax rolls are accurate.

Underassessments probably cost New Orleans $100 million per year in foregone tax revenue.

Last year, Mayor Ray Nagin took New Orleans' seven assessors to task for undervaluations of property that he said were costing the city more than $15 million a year. Although the assessors countered that the mayor was ill-informed and acting outside of his authority, the statistics suggest Nagin was low-balling the loss.

Had the properties in the survey been valued at the prices for which they sold and property tax rates remained constant, city agencies would have taken in an additional $2.3 million annually. Assuming the sample is representative, city agencies could have taken in, conservatively, at least $52 million more in tax revenue last year -- just from homeowners -- if assessments were accurate citywide. That's about the total raised from homeowners now.

Moreover, owner-occupied houses amount to about 40 percent of the city's base of taxable real estate. If similar assessment inequities exist in apartment complexes and commercial property, which were not examined in the newspaper's survey, the likely shortfall in city revenue could be more than $100 million a year.

Throw in a tax increase on property and it seems clear in retrospect that the money to pay for defending New Orleans from the sea was potentially available from local taxes. But if New Orleans could not afford to defend itself against hurricanes then the population of New Orleans should have gradually shrunk into a smaller area which can be defended. The people there have no right to demand of the rest of the United States to have their below-sea level lifestyles subsidized by everyone who chooses to live in less risky locales.

The flooding in New Orleans could have been avoided for $2.5 billion which could have been funded with a bond payable with higher property taxes.

"It would take $2.5 billion to build a Category 5 protection system, and we're talking about tens of billions in losses, all that lost productivity, and so many lost lives and injuries and personal trauma you'll never get over," Mr. Naomi said. "People will be scarred for life by this event."

If New Orleans property was all assessed at market value then a levee system strong enough to prevent the latest disaster could have been paid for by the citizens of New Orleans rather than by the taxpayers in the rest of the United States who do not choose to live below sea level.

One reads again and again in the press of complaints by local people about how a lack of federal money was to blame for what happens. But surely the locals could have come up with the money to buy better pumps and backup power generators.

Dr. Penland, the director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said it was impossible to say how long it would take to repair the levees and pump the city dry.

New Orleans has 22 pumping stations that need to work nearly continuously to discharge normal storm runoff and seepage. But they are notoriously fickle. Efforts to add backup power generators to keep them all running during blackouts have been delayed by a lack of federal money.

"Pumping the water out - that's a lot of water," Dr. Penland said. "When the pumping systems are in good shape, it can rain an inch an hour for about four to six hours and the pumps can keep pace. More than that, the city floods."

If New Orleans is not economically viable the absent a large federal subsidy for storm defenses then the city does not have some sort of God given right to call upon the rest of the nation to support it.

Even if the nation decides to fully rebuild New Orleans the city might get trashed a couple more times while waiting for a cat 5 hurricane capable levee system to get built. Al Naomi says a levee fix to prevent cat 5 hurricane disasters would take decades to construct.

Until the day before Katrina's arrival, New Orleans's 350 miles (560 kilometers) of levees were undergoing a feasibility study to examine the possibility of upgrading them to withstand a Category Four or Five storm.

Corps officials say the study, which began in 2000, will take several years to complete.

Upgrading the system would take as long as 20 to 25 years, according to Al Naomi, the Corps' senior project manager for the New Orleans District.

Wikipedia's entry on New Orleans provides economic insights into whether New Orleans could afford sufficient flood control measures to protect against a category 5 hurricane.

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 484,674 people, 188,251 households, and 112,950 families residing in the city.

The median income for a household in the city is $27,133, and the median income for a family is $32,338. Males have a median income of $30,862 versus $23,768 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,258.

From those numbers above New Orleans has a total GDP of about $8.4 billion. Could a city with that level of GDP afford to spend a few billion dollars on anti-flood measures?

In the coming debate on what to do about New Orleans keep in mind that another category 5 hurricane could hit the city next year or 5 or 10 years from now. Should billions of dollars in federal aid go into rebuilding the city? Or should the rebuilding aid be held back with money first spent on building levees and other anti-flood measures? Or should the homes in the flooded parts not get rebuilt and should the city just shrink in size into defensible borders?

At this point the assessed value of New Orleans just took a big nose dive. The local tax base just contracted into a small fraction of its previous size. Advocates for rebuilding should explain why the federal government should fund both a large chunk of the rebuilding cost and the development of a levee system and pumping system capable of handling the worst case events.

The US government already spends hundreds of millions per year subsidizing the physical upkeep of New Orleans. Michelle Malkin points to an article from the New Orleans City Business which showed that Army Corps of Engineering spending for New Orleans doubled from 1991 to 2003.

The Corps' New Orleans district in 2003 spent about $409 million on construction contracts, dredging and maintenance for the state's waterways, real estate purchases, private sector design contracts and in-house expenditures, according to the Corps. That more than doubles the $200 million the district spent in 1991.

Also, I do not buy the argument for the economic importance of New Orleans as a port city. I think the argument is based on a fallacy: Most of New Orleans does not need to be protected by levee in order for the port to work. Also, if the port has such high economic value then port usage charges should be raised high enough to pay for the levee system. If some economic activity has such high value then it should pay for itself. If port charges can get hiked high enough to pay for these costs then the market has spoken and ports can get expanded elsewhere to pick up the load.

One other point can be made for federal subsidies for the defense of New Orleans: Projects further up on the Mississippi river have cut the amount of sediment reaching New Orleans to replenish the silt that gets corroded away. Fair enough. But most of the problem with sediment appears to come from human interventions done for the area around and to the south of New Orleans. (and this is a really good article from Scientific American)

Louisiana's barrier islands are eroding faster than any around the country. Millions of tons of sediment used to exit the Mississippi River's mouth every year and be dragged by longshore currents to the islands, building up what tides had worn away. But in part because levees and dredging prevent the river's last miles from meandering naturally, the mouth has telescoped out to the continental shelf. The sediment just drops over the edge of the underwater cliff into the deep ocean.

Back in New Orleans the next day it becomes apparent that other human activities have made matters worse. Cliff Mugnier, an L.S.U. geodesist who also works part-time for the Corps of Engineers, explains why from the third floor of the rectangular, cement Corps headquarters, which squats atop the Mississippi River levee the Corps has built and rebuilt for 122 years.

Mugnier says that the earth beneath the delta consists of layers of muck--a wet peat several hundred feet deep--formed by centuries of flooding. As the Corps leveed the river, the city and industry drained large marshes, which in decades past were considered wasteland. Stopping the floods and draining surface water lowered the water table, allowing the top mucks to dry, consolidate and subside, hastening the city's drop below sea level--a process already under way as the underlying mucks consolidated naturally.

So the city is sinking. Mugnier says the parishes digging water drainage ditches are speeding the drying and compacting of the soil. Hence they are speeding the subsistence. He says St. Charles Parish will probably sink 14 feet. Should the US government spent more money on levees to protect these sinking parishes that are sinking themselves? We need to allow some natural processes to resume working. But all the local communities (New Orleans included) do not want to pay the price in flooding necessary to make those processes work. The delta has too many people living in it for natural processes to work.

Read that previous article. The problem with storm threats and sinking and corroding land in the New Orleans area runs a lot deeper than the blame game blog debate about increases or decreases of some tens of millions of dollars in the federal by the Bush Administration.

Corrupt and incompetent governments in Lousiana have done too little for decades to prepare for hurricanes. At the same time these governments have pursued policies and continue to pursue policies are sinking the land in the delta and causing massive losses of land to the sea. Louisiana has screwed up on such a massive scale that it is time to tell them they have to take responsibility for their problems.

Also see my post "Partisan Politics And The New Orleans Hurricane Katrina Disaster ".

Update: Here's my top question about the whole Mississippi delta: Can the sinking of New Orleans even be stopped or can it only be slowed? Note what the Scientific American article says above. As long as a levee exists around New Orleans and the place is not allowed to flood will it just continue to sink? Will the drying of the soil and the lack of new silt deposited on the surface of the city condemn the city to sink ever deeper?

Maybe the real problem here is that humans simply can't live long term (i.e. centuries) on a large delta of a river.

The levee system built to tame the Mississippi river both causes the subsidence and increases the economic value of ports along the river. A more complicated (and expensive) levee system could prevent (or at least slow) delta erosion. But can a complicated levee system prevent the populated areas from sinking?

If the areas that are kept permanently dry are condemned to sinking at some minimal rate even with the most sophisticated levee system then perhaps the delta should have port facilities but little population. Let the bulk of the Mississippi delta exist for wildlife and use levees to maintain a port and navigable river and for maintaining the delta buffer but not to maintain towns and cities in the delta.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 02 04:37 PM  Politics Money
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Halt To Illegal Immigration Would Increase Convenience In Everyday Life

Steve Sailer argues that Illegal aliens could be replaced by automation that would make daily life much more convenient.

Low productivity labor: The huge supply of cheap immigrant labor in the US means that we lag at increasing productivity, which is the main engine of higher standards of living. For example, in LA it's very hard to find the kind of automated robot car-washing facilities that many gas stations offer in Chicago. In LA, you can only get your car washed by a swarm of illegal immigrants. I'm sure in ancient Rome, you could only get your chariot washed by a crew of slaves with buckets and sponges, but you might think we would have progressed since then.

Further, while Chicago's automated washing systems are open 24/7, in LA it doesn't pay to have the illegals work before noon (when demand for car washing is light). So, if you get told by your boss to go pick up a client and your car is filthy, well, you're out of luck.

Or, how come the waitress has to come to your table four times at the end of restaurant meal?

First, you call her over to tell her you'd like your check.

Second, she brings the check.

Third, she comes back to pick up your credit card.

Fourth, she comes back with the credit card slip for you to sign.

Couldn't this all be done electronically right at your table with no visits at all by the waitress?

Yes, and the automation would save us time and make life more convenient.

I'd like to add some more suggestions: How about plumbing that would bring water dispensers to each restaurant table? Then one would not have to spend a few minutes at a time on the look-out for one's waitress to ask for more water in those small water glasses some restaurants provide. That would be so convenient.

Also, why not have the ability to enter one's order on a touch panel at each table? Again, one would not have to waste time waiting to get the waitress's attention once everyone decided what they wanted to order. Also, each individual in a group could order as soon as they are ready. Also, ordering additional items would be easy. Also, electronic ordering would lead to fewer mistakes with orders.

An electronic ordering system could also provide ways to ask for more napkins, forks, condiments, or other items that might be missing. Can't start your burger without ketchup? If you do not see ketchup at the table request it when you order your meal and it may arrive before the meal does.

An electronic ordering system could get tied in with an electronic routing system that would indicate to a waitress a list of things to take with her on her way out of the kitchen with a map display showing what goes to which tables. An electronic ear piece hooked into a system that also tracks her movements could even optionally suggest that a waitress is passing near a table that needs mustard or a table that needs a glass of water.

Very high levels of convenience and quality can only be achieved through higher levels of automation. Low market price immigrant labor (subsidized by taxpayers who pay for all the external costs) slows progress.

Update: If a restaurant is busy and one has to wait for one's table then a display device ought to provide a way to order before one even gets a table. Imagine sitting down at a table and getting one's food a few minutes later. Imagine drinks and appetizers brought to the table as soon as one sits down.

What I want in stores: A display device and keyboard to enter in searches to find stuff. Even if one can find a store employee sometimes they do not know where something can be found or whether they even have in stock normally.

Can you think of other conveniences automation could bring to everyday life?

Update II: Automated ordering would also eliminate the need for waitresses to bring a check. No paper check would ever get filled in with an order in the first place. At the end of a meal one could punch up the total of the bill on the same device one placed the order. Then a card could get slid through the ordering machine to pay for the meal.

Also, automated ordering would help with kitchen automation. Why not automatically put burgers and steaks onto grills from dispensing refrigerators as the orders are entered by the customers? Glasses could move down a conveyor belt to stop under drink dispensers to be filled and then routed to pick-up stands for delivery to tables. The output of automated dishwashers could feed into the drink dispenser conveyor system.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 02 09:02 AM  Immigration Economics
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2005 September 01 Thursday
Partisan Politics And The New Orleans Hurricane Katrina Disaster

Kevin Drum assumes his duty on the Left in the inter-party blame game for the New Orleans disaster.

  • Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."
  • June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."
  • June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

Does Lousiana have no money? Does the New Orleans government have no money? Why does the state of Lousiana need federal money (i.e. money taken from the pockets of people in other states) to prepare for natural disasters?

So Drum is all huffy. He gets huffier still:

A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.

Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

Drum's post illustrates why I do not often read the heavily partisan blogs on either the Left or Right: Every event is turned into the fault of the opposing side if the opposing side is in control in Washington DC. But this disaster was predicted for decades, and not just by the latest staff of FEMA. Why didn't the Clinton Administration build much bigger levees around New Orleans? Or Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy or Ike? You blame many past US Presidents and Congresses for the weak levee system that made this tragedy possible.

Hurricane disaster budget cuts predate Bush's Administration.

Congress in 1999 authorized the corps to conduct a $12 million study to determine how much it would cost to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane, but the study isn't scheduled to get under way until 2006. It was not clear why the study has taken so long to begin, though Congress has only provided in the range of $100,000 or $200,000 a year so far.

...

Funding for these projects has generally trended downward since at least the last years of the Clinton administration. Congressional records show that the levee work on Lake Pontchartrain received $23 million in 1998 and $16 million in 1999. It was not clear how much the drainage project received in 1998, but records show it received $75 million in 1999.

But this is all chump change. Surely Senator Landrieu and other federal-level Louisiana politicians have gotten hold of much larger chunks of money for a variety of pork projects during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and since 2000. They could have gotten a lot more for flood control.

But I'm a federalist. While I have a fairly negative of view George W. Bush why can't the people of New Orleans and Louisiana finance a sufficient levee system that would handle even the worst case storms? Why didn't the local governments increase property taxes to fund the construction of levees to protect their property? Doesn't the blame rest on local elites and local voters?

In a nutshell: Why should the rest of the American public pay for property protection when a tax on local property owners to pay off some bonds could have built up sufficient levees?

The insufficient levees were a disaster waiting to happen for decades. That successive generations of Louisiana politicians failed to address the known threat says more about the voters than it does about the obviously inadequate Democratic Governor Blanco or Republican President Bush or ditzy Democratic Senator Landrieu.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 01 09:03 PM  Politics Money
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New Orleans Demonstrates Power Of Race Taboo In America

Writing for Slate Jack Shafer notes that TV newscasters steer clear of discussing the race of the people shown in New Orleans looting or just simply trying to get out.

I can't say I saw everything that the TV newscasters pumped out about Katrina, but I viewed enough repeated segments to say with 90 percent confidence that broadcasters covering the New Orleans end of the disaster demurred from mentioning two topics that must have occurred to every sentient viewer: race and class.

Nearly every rescued person, temporary resident of the Superdome, looter, or loiterer on the high ground of the freeway I saw on TV was African-American. And from the look of it, they weren't wealthy residents of the Garden District. This storm appears to have hurt blacks more directly than whites, but the broadcasters scarcely mentioned that fact.

While Shafer at least brings up the elephant in the room he still dances around and gives predictable liberal public lines without shedding much insight on why the events in New Orleans have taken such a terrible turn.

A life long liberal Democrat friend called me up and said "I don't want to sound racist or anything" and then launched into a tirade about black looting in New Orleans. This is how honest discussion of race in America takes place: in private between people who are fearful of revealing their thoughts on racial differences. My friend knows me well enough to know I won't repeat anything he said. So I get to hear what he really thinks. But in public people who disagree with the liberal taboo rules on race stay silent or mouth platitudes that keep them off the screen of taboo enforcers.

Some people express shock about the looting and armed bands of thugs roaming New Orleans. But blacks commit crimes at over 9 times the rate of whites and lower class people commit crimes at higher rates than middle and upper class people. The thin blue line holds back even greater criminality. Take that line away and large scale looting by a lower class black urban population just seems inevitable.

A helicopter evacuation service had to be suspended due to fears of gunfire.

But the ambulance service in charge of taking the sick and injured from the Superdome suspended flights after a shot was reported fired at a military helicopter. Richard Zuschlag, chief of Acadian Ambulance, said it had become too dangerous for his pilots.

FEMA has also suspended some operations due to lawlessness.

FEMA has had to suspend rescue operations in some areas after gunfire broke out.

Imagine an America where the taboo against discussing racial differences did not exist. In pre-disaster and immediate post-disaster planning the need to rapidly bring in large numbers of troops to maintain order in a large lower class black population would have been recognized and acted upon. New Orleans would have gone through far less looting (and likely rape, assault, and murder) than it has gone through under the liberal racial taboo regime. The liberal taboo has high costs. Turn on CNN or Fox or MSNBC and you can watch the costs play out.

Update: Zach at the Our Way Of Life blog makes an excellent observation when he points out the significance of a picture of flooded New Orleans city buses that the complaining mayor of New Orleans did not use to evacuate the city as the hurricane approached. This is pure incompetence.

By Randall Parker 2005 September 01 12:17 PM  Cultural Wars Western
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