From the Corner. Emphasis mine.
THE COST OF CRONYISM [Rod Dreher]
It would be very wrong, I believe, to let the ignominious Michael Brown be the scapegoat for FEMA's sins. Check out this front-pager from the WaPo. Turns out that a raft of FEMA's top leaders have little or no emergency management experience, but are instead politically well connected to the GOP and the White House. This is a scandal, a real scandal. How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize? The main reason I've been a Bush supporter all along is I trusted him (note past tense) on national security -- which, in the age of mass terrorism, means homeland security too. Call me naive, but it's a real blow to learn that political hacks have been running FEMA, of all agencies of the federal government! What if al-Qaeda had blown the New Orleans levees? How much worse would the crony-led FEMA's response have been? Would conservatives stand for any of this for one second if a Democrat were president? If this is what Republican government means, God help the poor GOP Congressmen up for re-election in 2006.
For real? I assume, I suppose charitably, that wingers in the media are evil hacks who don't actually believe what they write, but understand that by writing it, they can become rich and powerful on the backs of the rest of us. But this guy sounds sincerely disappointed. Besides saying, "the world is full of dumbasses," can someone explain this to me? Seriously.
Confirmation, if you still needed it, that people really were stopped from leaving New Orleans.
With Catherine moving to Chicago, and Susan all the way in the Republic of Georgia, I hereby declare Mineshaft II: Electric Buggaloo, to be found wherever Kriston and Tom are in the same room.
You know, I'm am having some nostalgic D flashbacks lately. I'm pretty sure it's because we've known each other since we were 14, and now he's about to become a daddy. Here's one his kids will like. A couple of years ago, he and I were over at Unf's place in Chicago, joined by our friend Z, who is mild-mannered and baby-faced to the point of comedy, but who, at the same time, has moved to Alaska and nonchalantly become a mountain man.
As we were walking out the door, D, who is some kind of financial consultant, decided that the time was right to tackle Z. I think it was about three-quarters of a second from the time D hatched this plan, to the time he was flat on his back, wondering what had happened to him. Said Unf, casually stepping over D, "Did you pick up that move in accounts receivable?"
Sometime commenter and old friend D is a master at baiting me into dumbass dares. A few years ago, he and I and Unf were in Atlanta and stopped at a local park because we saw a swingset and, of course, had to see who could swing highest. Then D got on the jungle gym, went to the top, probably about ten feet off the ground, and came up with something like, "I bet you can't stand on one leg here and hop onto that beam there, landing on one leg again." Actually, now I realize that he's not a master at baiting me, it's just that I'm really stupid.
Anyway, here's the thing: we both must have made about ten attempts, attempts where we really and truly decided that we were going to jump, and crouched and started to swing our arms and Pfoomp! something in little base of our brains held us back. (Unf, who was observing this from the ground with maximum Unfian eye-rolling condescension, can probably better describe how silly this looked.) I've since been fascinated by that. As far as I could tell, I was as resolved as could be that I was going to jump, but I didn't jump.
Eventually, D jumped, and made it. So then I jumped, and made it. Maybe fear of humiliation is just a stronger force than anticipated accomplishment. In any case, complicated things were going on on that jungle gym, I can tell you that.
I've wanted to post about this for a while, but I've never had something intelligent to say about it. Still don't. But here it is, for your reaction: Sherry read Great Expectations, and reacted to part of it like this:
It troubles me, a lot, the power of this kind of beauty over good men. I think I fall solidly into the "pretty enough" category, but I've never been and will never be the kind of beauty that could mesmerize someone the way Estella mesmerizes her suitors. My competitive advantage is something else: temperament or personality or brains, I dunno. And the message of the book is: that stuff doesn't matter. Beauty is what it's all about -- even an actively awful personality is not enough to counteract the force of beauty. So the stance of someone like me, who's cute enough but not a Great Beauty, is uncertain. On the one hand I recognize the power of beauty and it's not so far away that I can't imagine it, and so I am envious of it and yearn for someone to see me and be as captivated by my eyes and hands and hair as Pip was. Maybe a little mascara would do it, or a pair of cute shoes? I think all women want to hold someone in thrall like that, in a way that defies reason. On the other hand I feel like my best features are those I cultivate -- kindness, curiousity, humor, intelligence, openness, courage -- and I feel angry and invalidated that those might not matter if I were standing next to Estella. I want to blame Pip for being weak and shallow, and declare that men are pigs.
Well, it's been a great run with the blog, but I think I've come to that point in my life where it's time for me to become head of FEMA.
Wow, Insty really said this. At least I still have Kaus.
I can't say that I recommend checking out this thread, but some of you might be curious. It's a post on the same story I linked below, about the people trying to survive in New Orleans who found the authorities to be the greatest obstacle to their safety, but the commenters are mostly wingers who just can't bring themselves to believe it. Some of their reasons for doubt are head-shakingly stupid, and when their other objections are refuted one by one by BruceR of flit, some are reasonably chastened, but most just ignore the facts. The minds of true believers at work, if you're into that sort of thing.
If a woman asks me how fast I swim a length of breaststroke, and says she's asking because my stroke is "nice," she's totally trying to pick me up, right?
I suspect that most blog readers are, like me, neurotic and likely to hang out with other neurotics. So it's good to be reminded that there are people in the world who are genuinely laid-back, and truly not fussy. Two examples from work:
A while back, we got new chairs in the office. Part of the reason I was the one who got them was that I knew I'd be the fussiest sitter. But I was astounded at some of my co-workers. Some of them couldn't tell the difference between chairs, and most of them would sit in a chair for a couple of minutes and say "this is fine." (That was unacceptable. I made them all try every chair for at least a day, at the end of which they would, "this is fine.")
Second: last week, the white of a co-worker's eye was almost entirely tomato red. She said it had started as a speck the night before, and slowly filled her whole eye. I, and the office manager, nearly lost our beans: "you need to go to the doctor, RIGHT NOW!!" etc. But she was entirely relaxed about it. "Yeah, I'll go to the doctor after work...." (She wasn't afraid to go to the doctor, and there's not an issue of losing pay.) She was back the next day, "It was a hemorrhage, the doctor said to rest it...." Unconcerned, from beginning to end.
Two amazing Katrina stories from ordinary citizens, and the first is a must-read.
College kids road-trip to rescue people.
But: The first story makes me a little nervous, what with its liberal bias. Here's an account from someone else who was on the bridge.
A group of about 200 Monteleone guests decided to try to walk out of the city to the east, and got to the on-ramp at the Crescent Connection bridge, where they were met by Gretna, La., police with shotguns. "They told us the bridge was closed to foot traffic," Scheer said. "Some locals had joined us and became extremely unruly, threatening to rush the officers. They fired their shotguns into the air."
The fact remains that the cops and policy that wouldn't let people out of the city because they didn't want them going through their town are evil, but in one story the cops fire warning shots without provocation, in the other, only after the crowd gets unruly. Just noting.
But: See the update at the apostropher's. Not so bad.
Most of the other people who work in this building are lawyers. When I ride up with them in the morning, they're wearing their suits and ties and shiny dress shoes, and I'm wearing the usual jeans, synthetic shirt, and comfy shoes. Who gets to look down on whom here? Are they more entitled to think that I'm a punk who should get a responsible job, or do I get to think that they're suckers who have to dress up for the Man? Another way to ask this is: are they, in their heart of hearts, jealous or disdainful?
Brad DeLong offers an impassioned defense of Kelly Clarkson. This only makes me love you more, Brad.
Unfogged readers may be interested to know that I have only ever shoplifted one item in my life: a copy of the Enchiridion.
The comments about Epictetus remind me of another fun episode from the same class in high school. We were reading The Prince, and the teacher invited the principal, who was the closest thing we had to someone exercising power, to join our discussion. So the principal came and gave us a little schpiel about how Machiavelli was too cynical, etc. Unfortunately for her, that group of kids was probably the smartest bunch of people I've been around. We got her to admit that she personally thought that property-tax-based funding for public schools was unfair, then that as our principal, she in fact lobbied for property-tax-based funding and against redistributive schemes. We spent the rest of the time badgering her to admit that she was Machiavellian.
At the time, of course we had contempt for her. In retrospect, it was pretty cool of her to come talk to us like that, and, strictly speaking, I'm not sure her dilemma was a Machiavellian one.
Dude! One of the threads below has turned to talk of the Chicago accent. Looking for a sound sample, I found this site. Sound clips of dozens of accents. I love the internet!
Why did I think Gilligan would never die? Bob Denver has passed away.
I don't know if you've been watching any U.S. Open tennis; the James Blake story is pretty compelling: last year, he broke his neck, got a severe outbreak of shingles that paralyzed one side of his face for months, and his father died. Now, he's having the tournament of his life. Terrific. But no way is James Blake a black dude. Is calling Blake "African-American" just the one-drop rule applied affirmative-actionly? Or has "African-American" just come to mean "fro-capable?"
The body of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was brought this morning to the Supreme Court's Great Hall, where he will lie in repose until his funeral, scheduled for Wednesday.
Referring to bodies is a tricky business. It's the "he" that gets me: referring to the body of Rehnquist as "it" seems callous, but the Times' pronoun suggests that William Rehnquist himself is lying in repose until Wednesday. Besides the obvious metaphysical weirdness (wouldn't dominant traditions say that Rehnquist either ceased to exist or is removed from his body?) the paper hedges its bets by referrring to "the body of..." in the opening but reverting to "he" in the conclusion. Or can corpses take pronouns? Only W-lfs-n knows for sure.
Profgrrrrl's friend and commenters say that some guys make "mix tapes" of their favorite porn scenes and share them with friends. I have only one friend that I ever even talk about porn with, and I respect him less in the morning because of it. Even so, just the other day he told me that he had paid for a subscription to a porn site, but wouldn't tell me which one--so he still has some class.
And there's the relevant fact that ever since I saw a friend jerk off, my feelings of friendship have cooled considerably. Is this my problem, or society's?
No, I have never seen a friend jerk off. You people are sick.
But seriously, while porn is something that a couple (or romantic agglomeration of however many consenting adults) might enjoy in the context of their amorous doings, I wonder what porn is or means to people who trade it with friends. Is it just a masturbatory aid? A tool among tools, such that friends might exchange tips about it as they might exchange tips about good PDAs or lawnmowers? Or is it another locus for community, more like sports fandom, with friends following the careers and exploits of favorite performers, and discussing and arguing the relative merits of this or that actor or scene?
In either case, it sets off my fuddy-duddy antenna, and I'm saddened that people treat something so bound up with intimacy like they would any other tool or topic. But, too late to turn back this tide. Maybe for our next fundraising drive, Labs will send everyone his best-of DVD.
Update: I didn't ask the obvious question. Time for a poll!
Another stunning reminder that poor blacks live in a different reality from most of the rest of us:
"I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue."
via CT comments
Do we have any digital photography wizards in the audience? I took a bunch of pictures yesterday with a Canon A95. On the camera's LCD, the pictures match how I remember the scenes, with bright, vibrant colors. When I upload to my laptop, it's as if I'm seeing them through a gray shroud. Levels, curves, and luminosity adjustments help, but don't quite recover the detail and vibrancy of the color. My monitor (laptop screen) isn't calibrated, but I don't think it's so far off, and I sent some pictures to a friend (who is, admittedly, also on a Dell laptop), who also thinks they look a bit dull. (I have made gamma adjustments to my monitor, however.) In case it's relevant, the camera's default colorspace is sRGB, and I've pulled the pictures out of the camera both with XP's regular drag&drop and with Canon's own software.
Update: It's the monitor. In a triumph of you-never-know pack-rat-ism, I realized I had an old CRT monitor here (behind the wine, next to the old wireless router, of course), and there were my colors. Thank goodness. I spent most of yesterday just driving around taking pictures, and I was going to be Not Happy if they were all ruined. So, to choose a couple that keep topsecretville Top Secret, here's one from the riverside, and here's one of a place I wouldn't mind housesitting.
By the way: While I was looking for ways to "fix" my pictures, I found this page, with some impressive photoshop chops on display.
Reading Marginal Revolution I came across this tidbit. Professional economists apparently do badly when faced with a question about opportunity cost:
I was stunned to read Robert Frank's NYTimes column about a recent study testing economist's knowledge of economics. Paul J. Ferraro and Laura O. Taylor of Georgia State University asked some 200 economists, many with PhDs from top-economics programs, at the 2005 annual meetings of the American Economic Association, a simple question:
You won a free ticket to see an Eric Clapton concert (which has no resale value). Bob Dylan is performing on the same night and is your next-best alternative activity. Tickets to see Dylan cost $40. On any given day, you would be willing to pay up to $50 to see Dylan. Assume there are no other costs of seeing either performer. Based on this information, what is the opportunity cost of seeing Eric Clapton? (a) $0, (b) $10, (c) $40, or (d) $50.
I have a hard time believing that this is possible but 78 percent of the economists gave the wrong answer! This is not a hard question. There is no trick. Opportunity cost is central to economics, the people asked were among the best economists in the world, a large majority of them have taught intro econ and yet the correct answer was the least popular.
What's the equivalent question for philosophers? I suspect there isn't one (at least, there's not one that is both sufficiently central and capable of prompting enough incorrect answers), which might or might not say something interesting about the differences between the humanities and the social and natural sciences.
In case you somehow haven't noticed, I don't think anyone is covering Katrina news as comprehensively as Gary Farber.
Look, my point is not just that I can have Mad Max fantasies that are more awesome than yours. My point is: much of the criticism of the people trapped in New Orleans has centered around the idea that they gave up on civilized norms too quickly, that they themselves hastened the city's descent into anarchy with their selfish ways. In retrospect, though, the people who waited until day 5 without food or water from any authorities before they condoned looting were played for suckers. Provided that the decentralized appropiation of supplies were accompanied with reasonably fair distribution, everyone would have been better off with more looting sooner. Also, as my speculations indicate, plenty of people have "looting" in their minds from day 1, and not just poor people, not just desperate people. If I'm ready to countenance being this much of a jerk from my dry chair, what might a person not do in all good conscience?
Now, I'm going to say something that's going to maybe make you all think I'm a bad person or something, but that's what "anonymous" blogging is for. Living in D.C. for much of my life, I've given a lot of thought to the post-apocalyptic, breakdown of society questions. What would I do? I was just talking about this with my sister today; what if we were at our house and the dirty bomb went off? Let me be totally honest. I'd have my babies in the sling, the SKS in my hand, and a 9-mm in my pants waistband. (Well, unless we couldn't get away; then let's say we'd divide the labor and leave the babies at home). Hell yes, I would loot the pharmacy on day 1. Diapers, iodine, formula, food, electrolyte solution, clean water, heavy-duty antibiotics, wound dressings, and oxycontin. Valium too. Would I leave the liquid morphine behind for other, less enterprising looters? No. Fuck the bullshit, people. Would I go around and try to save everybody in my neighborhood, bring the old ladies in their houses to my place, get formula to those other people's babies? Yes. If somebody looked at me wrong, would I shoot them? Yes. If I saw the 20th rescue helicopter pass me by would I fire in the air to say "here we are, assholes! Somebody get down here!" Yes. And now, just to mix things up--would I loot the local jewelry store? The bank, if I thought it was practical? Yes. I'm kind of an amoral person that way. But I'm white! So it's all good. Discuss.
Seriously, stipulate that you have guns and ammo at home, but you're worried supplies will run low, and you know from personal experience watching TV this whole fucking week that you are totally on your own. Are you telling me you'd wait there like a putz? "Oh the government will come soon." With your children? You wouldn't go down to crowbar the front off the CVS? You're lying. All these "shoot-to-kill" warbloggers can kiss my ass. They would be the first ones out there, if they had the guts to go outside. More likely they'd die with cheeto dust on their hands in the basement, having just won convincingly at Risk.
UPDATE: from the Washington Post:
Herbert J. Freeman arrived in a neighbor's boat with his mother, Ethel M. Freeman, 91, frail and sick, but with an active mind. She kept asking him for a doctor, for a nurse, for anyone who could help her. Police told Freeman there was nothing they could do. She died in her wheelchair, next to her son, on Thursday morning.
It was half a day before he could find someone to take away her body, he said. "She wasn't senile or nothing," he said. "She knew what was going on. . . . I kept saying, 'Mom, I can't help you.' "
Next to Freeman, Kenny Lason, 45, a dishwasher at Pat O'Brien's, a French Quarter restaurant famous for its signature "Hurricane" cocktail, took a long slurp out of a bottle of Korbel extra-dry champagne. He broke a store window to get it, and he is not ashamed. "They wasn't giving us nothing," he said. "You got to live off the land."
Would that first man's mother have been better off if he had looted a pharmacy for IV solution, water, the medication she was taking, an umbrella to shade her in her wheelchair, and so on? Would the pharmacy owner be any more likely to claim total loss with his insurers than he is now? Are any of you really mad at the second guy who's drinking the Korbel? With what he's been through, it ought to have been Veuve Clicquot, at the bare minimum.
I can't even imagine being one of these people. And surely there are still people trapped (and dying) in inaccessible buildings throughout the city. People know this isn't over just because some troops have arrived, right?